A few years ago I was very poorly. I don’t mean my diagnosis of breast cancer, I mean before that, just after I had my little girl.
I didn’t see it coming, yet it hit me like a freight train.
I had two little ones and I felt like I was treading water. I can remember being tired, so tired I could barely walk us all up the stairs to the bathroom. Too tired to be bothered with food. I stopped sleeping and at first I blamed it on the children, except they slept through the night mostly. I lost a lot of weight and I looked like a shadow of myself.
I remember sitting in the car with the radio on and not being able to actually hear the song playing, no matter how high I turned it up.
I began to feel claustrophobic at home, and this was the part where the guilt set in. An overwhelming guilt. I loved my children and my husband more than anything – and yet I wanted some space. Each day the urges became stronger to get the space that I craved. I began going for walks in an evening for some fresh air, and it helped. A little.
I became very ashamed of myself, ashamed of my feelings, the strong emotions, anxiety and yet at the same time I felt complete numbness. Everyday I reasoned with myself that I shouldn’t be feeling this way – and yet I was completely overwhelmed by the gravity of what I was going through.
I felt like I was dying in my darkest moments I genuinely thought that it was the only explanation for it all.
I wasn’t dying. I had postnatal depression.
From the moment I sought help, it was a month outside the postnatal depression timescale, and so perhaps it was not postnatal. However you label it, I was quite poorly. I wouldn’t admit it because I didn’t want to be seen as a failure as a mother. I did not want to talk about it if I could help it.
Then one morning out of nowhere, I got help.
At first I couldn’t speak. I literally could not speak. I had to write it down. I had lost my voice. As I wrote things down though, it began to come out, and slowly but surely I got better.
I am telling this story because it is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week and it has made me remember. Even though there are hundreds of others who have experienced this, even though I knew all about it before it happened to me – I still didn’t see it coming. It has taken three years for me to be able to say that. I lost a whole year of my children’s childhood. A whole year.
Eventually I got better, but it took a long time. Eventually I shifted the dark thoughts and the fear I had of death. Little did I know I would come face to face with my fears a few months later. Little did I know.
As I got better, I stuck to what I knew. Fresh air, warm baths and snatching time with the children. I was actually proud to make the school pick up or even make it through the day. In a way going through all of that made me much stronger. Stronger to face the months ahead.
My voice came back and I gathered the little confidence I had left.
We took a much needed break to Italy & I remember still feeling the faint urges to leave – even as I got better.
I say all this, not because I need to, but because it is important to. Prince Harry said something that resonated with me last week, he said “Once you start talking about it you suddenly realise that you are part of a big club”. I am not good at talking, I prefer to write, but I know what is right. It is right to say “me too” even though in a way, it is all in my past and I could pretend it didn’t happen to me. There is no comparison between my two illnesses non at all. They were both tough on completely different spectrums. They did teach me a few things though.
I have a new found gratitude for life. I genuinely appreciate the small things. I now realise it is ok not to be ok. More than anything I have realised that it is good to talk.
The day I asked for help was the best thing I ever did.
I have loved very minute of becoming a mum, I do not regret it for a single second and it has made me who I am today.
That, in a way, is the very first chapter of this blog. Back to where it all began. Back to the part I could never talk about, until now. Right back to the very start.
If you, or anyone you know is suffering from post natal depression you can find help here; all you have to do is ask..