Depression: the silent sickness, the hole of hopelessness.
I can talk about this now that I am out of it but when I was in it, I couldn’t. I couldn’t even admit it to myself. The very idea of it was too terrifying.
After my baby was born, doctors, midwives, health visitors, relatives and friends all asked: 'how are YOU feeling?' 'Are YOU coping?'
I would simply brush off the question with a joke, with a long stare or with a polite smile. Hundreds of people asked over and over again in the first few months and I got very good at answering in a way that would convince them I was absolutely fine.
I didn’t stop socialising, I kept myself healthy and active and I didn’t really show any signs of post natal depression - but the story was different on the inside.
I never struggled with loving my son, but for the first few months of his life I struggled to bond with him, cope with him, even like him.
I had harmful thoughts… a lot. It was something I assumed every new mother feels when they are in continuous pain, sleep deprived and anxious by the new life they are entirely responsible for.
I had convinced myself that those feelings were normal. It wasn’t until I sent out a questionnaire to a group of new mothers (part of one of my personal blog posts, ‘Nine Lives’) that I started to seriously consider my thoughts weren’t healthy or normal.
One of the questions was whether they had ever considered throwing their baby out of the window. Most of them laughed it off or were shocked. I remember thinking, was I the only one? Surely I couldn’t be the only one out there who had seriously considered this?
Over time these harmful thoughts evaporated and I’ve spent the last two or three months unburdened by depression.
It wasn’t until a few days ago that those emotions from the first few months returned, and my god they returned with a punch.
I was in a foul mood that day anyway and the smallest of occurrences set me off. I was washing up and my son and husband were playing behind me. My son hit his head and started to cry and something snapped in me. Very quickly. I didn’t say anything.
I just stood there and the depression stood on my throat like a mugger. It flooded back, the stress, sadness, anger, hatred that I had experienced. Those first months flashed at me like strobe lighting.
Then, from the shock, I had a panic attack. Full blown, feel like I’m dying, panic attack. The rest of the afternoon was spent crying. I just couldn’t understand what had happened.
I’ve been mulling it over for days now. What it meant? Why it happened? How can I make sure it doesn’t happen again? The simple answer was to admit that I had post-natal depression.
To put my hand up and say I was the one in ten who experienced it. I can no longer hide from those first months of depression. I can no longer pretend everything was fine. It wasn’t.
I’ve read about it a lot since and to prevent another episode like that happening I need to talk about it.
Admitting it verbally still fills me with burning shame so typing it feels kinder and by confessing it publicly I hope I can reach out to others experiencing it and help to soothe their troubled minds.
To those people:
You are not failing. You are not a bad person or parent for thinking the things you do. Things will get better. If you can collect the courage, communicate.
I was afraid that by talking about it then someone might take my Bert away from me. Tell me I was unfit to raise my son. So I told no one and I regret that now.
Since my flashback and panic attack I’ve researched places to seek help for this horrible depression.
There are so many out there. Organisations like the APNI/ PANDAS/ NCT. Just read about it on the NHS website, they offer so many options. 1 in 10 women. 1 in 25 men. Be brave because you are not alone, help is never far away.