They say the first step to recovery is admitting your problem.
So here I go…
I have Postnatal Depression (PND) or as I like to refer to it ‘the mum funk’. (The word depression tends to make me feel worse)
I’ve been hiding this for over three years from everyone including myself, and now that I have finally accepted my illness and opened up about it, its a relief.
I started suffering from the mum funk when I give birth to my first child over three years ago. It was a horrendous birth which left both me and my baby exhausted and distressed. I remember from my antenatal classes the midwife advising to place your baby straight on your chest after birth as being close to mum would soothe them instantly. When my daughter was placed on my chest however she screamed, and she continued to scream like that for over six months of her life. This screaming bundle terrified me as I felt I had failed as a mother already, not just in birth, but in being able to comfort my child.
That rush of love you hear gushing mothers talk about didn’t hit me the first moment I set eyes on my daughter. It still didn’t hit me our first day in the hospital. What I did feel was fear, exhaustion and anxiety. Fear that I wasn’t cut out to be a mum and anxiety that I’d continue to fail at every step. Coupled with the fact I hadn’t slept in over 48 hours and experienced a grueling labor I was a mess. Even when I brought my baby girl home my head still didn’t clear in fact it got worse. As the days rolled on and my daughters screaming got louder I found myself begin to crumble. I continually cried wishing that I could go to sleep and never wake up. I hated myself because unlike other women basking in the glory of their new beautiful child I was secretly wishing someone would take mine away so I could sleep for the rest of my life. My brain couldn’t get past the thought of what a horrible mother I was and how everyone in my life would be better of without me. My mum seeing how much I had fallen apart talked to me that I might have PND but I laughed it off. I was just exhausted not depressed. Or at least that’s what I told myself and others for the next three years.
Somewhere within me I knew I wasn’t coping and that I was suffering from some form of depression or anxiety but I was too afraid to admit it. I was afraid of being judged and everyone realising that I wasn’t a good mum. Looking back now I see how much PND ate away at me. It tore my confidence to shreds making me feel worthless when in fact I was a great mum who loved her daughter endlessly. It wasn’t until my second child came along that I realised what PND was doing to me.
I was terrified when I found out I was pregnant again. I had suffered through my mum funk for over three years and it had scared me for life. As my daughter got older I had begun to feel somewhat normal again but the thought of feeling how I had previously made me never want to have kids again. I wanted a sibling for my daughter though. I loved having my sister in my life and I wanted that sibling bond for my daughter too.
Throughout my entire second pregnancy I was filled with dread.
How was I going to do this again?
Would I be miserable?
Would I fail again?
Would I fall apart?
For months I tried to prepare myself for the arrival of my second child talking myself through all my previous mistakes and how I wouldn’t stress and get myself down. And it worked… for all of two days.
My son was perfect, we had a stress free relatively easy birth and he calmed instantly as soon as I cradled him. I was filled with so much pride, I’d proven to myself and the word that I could be a great mother from the first step. The difference in my mood when bringing my son home was astounding and I thought ‘Yea I’ve got this I’m a bloody fantastic mum!’. Then two days in my good mood started to fade. It started with little niggling worries about how much he was feeding or sleeping. Then every time he would cry I would begin to panic and break down feeling I couldn’t cope. I fell into such a downward spiral feeling worthless again telling myself that I wasn’t good enough and couldn’t look after my two children. I even sat one afternoon just searching for nannies (not that I could ever afford one)
All the horrible feelings I had with my first child came back 100 time worse. I’d lie in bed at night just thinking how my husband and children would be better off without me. The simplest tasks of washing the dishes or making bottles became over bearing. I felt like I was walking through treacle my mind was that slow at processing things. Worst of all was the overwhelming guilt I had for my daughter. I could no longer give her the attention I once had and when I tried to I found it so hard to concentrate in her imaginary play that I would end up just staring into the abyss. I thought I had done the worst possible thing in giving my daughter a sibling and I would break down in tears constantly at all my thoughts attacking me. I knew this time something was seriously wrong and for my two children I had to get help. This time when my mum mentioned that I might have PND I broke down and let it all out how I had been feeling for years.
I’m in my 12th week of recovery now and although I’m still not my old self I am at least able to enjoy things in life again. I thought admitting about my mum funk would make me feel judged and isolated but that hasn’t been the case. I have received so much support and in a way it has brought me closer to people as they can now understand why I have been so distant for so long.
What I have found difficult however is finding other mothers going through the same thing as me. Its not a case of no one having PND as I know from my health workers and doctors that many women in my area are suffering. I’ve tried attending support groups to meet these people but I was the only person to turn up to the only support group I could find.
Why do women continue to suffer in silence?
Probably for the same reasons I did. For me it was scary to admit that I was finding something as natural as motherhood hard, and that I was suffering from a condition that most describe as a ‘weakness’. But in coming out and getting help I now understand that it isn’t the case.
Sharing my story on this blog is possibly one of the most frightening things iv ever done, but my aim in this is to show the true side of depression. Not the 1950’s stereotypical version that is ingrained in our minds from society. Having depression doesn’t make me a horrendous parent, I can and do love my children endlessly, I’m not a danger to society and NO social services are not involved with me and have not come to take my children away at any point. What it does mean however is that some days are harder to cope with than others as I carry two weights around with me, one a low mood and the other extreme anxiety, making the smallest everyday tasks more difficult to undertake.
I want to make a positive out of my mum funk so women aren’t scared to talk about it and people aren’t afraid to talk to me about it either (I wont bite and I wont break down into a puddle of tears either if you ask how I’m doing). This is going to be a bumpy ride, but hopefully if you can stick my horrendous grammar, occasional moaning and the odd foul language I hope you can join this roller coaster with me.