I’m not exaggerating when I say that this post has taken me absolutely weeks to write. It was about three months ago that I decided that I wanted to share my story and my personal struggles with post natal depression. The main reason it has taken me so long to actually finish this post is because I’ve struggled to find just the right words to explain everything that’s been going on inside my head.
I suppose another thing that kept me from sharing this any earlier is for the fear of judgement. In my four years of blogging I have been very lucky to not encounter any trolls, but I know that the topic of depression can be a sensitive one and can often attract people that might feel inclined to leave negative or hurtful comments on this post. But after much deliberation, here I am, sharing the toughest post I have ever chosen to share.
I recently published a post entitled “Pregnancy is tough” where I touched upon negative feelings throughout pregnancy. I was so scared to share those thoughts with the world but it has been received so, so well and so many people have tweeted and messaged me since to thank me for sharing it. I am humbled by this and if you were one of these lovely, kind people, then thank you again, so much.
I’m not overly obsessed with horoscopes but I’m an Aries and I think that I am what one would call a true Aries. Fiery and stubborn. Both of those traits I am not particularly proud of and they’re not the best mix for depression. For the past six months I have been extremely stubborn and I am slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that I can’t make myself better on my own.
I wanted to share my story with you about me and my PND so far, in hopes that it will contribute to my own recovery and to help any other mums out there that are struggling to pluck up the courage to ask for help, on whatever level that may be. A little mantra that I have recently been telling myself is “I am not depressed, I have depression” Depression is not who I am, but instead it is something that I am dealing with.
I convinced myself that I did not have PND but that my “regular” depression had just been enhanced by the fact that I was a new mum, whichin some ways, was true, but the reality was that I was suffering with PND and I needed help.
Over the first few weeks of Tyler’s life, I was very tired, but I mean extremely tired. I’m sure the same goes for most new parents but it got to the point where I couldn’t and didn’t want to get up to see to Tyler in the night, or in the morning for that matter. So Jack did a lot of the night shifts and I will forever be grateful to him for that. Having a really good support system around you is the number one best thing for anyone who is struggling with their mental health. I know that I am extremely lucky to have such a supportive and caring partner who will do anything in his power to help me to be the best mum and partner that I can be and I am also very lucky to have my mum who is the best mum going(this is not open for debate, she is the best) who has also been there for me every step of the way doing all that she can for all of us.
With regards to the science behind depression, you can find a lot of information about it online here on the NHS website, about what it’s common causes are and common symptoms, but I’d like to tell you about my personal symptoms, feelings, diagnosis, treatment and where I’m up to right now.
As I just mentioned, following Tyler’s birth I was extremely tired all of the time, no matter how much sleep I managed to get. I was also incredibly irritable, ratty and argumentative. I would cry often for no reason and other times with reason but I simply didn’t have the guts to tell anyone why because I didn’t understand why I was feeling the way that I was feeling.
I thought I was a bad mum, a terrible one in fact. For the first two or three days of Tyler’s life I was besotted. Traumatised by the way he was brought into the world(You can read my birth story here) but still, absolutely besotted.I felt like I was on a high that would last forever but, sadly this isn’t a fairytale and it didn’t last that long.. at all. When Tyler was around four or five days old, the “baby blues” set in.
Whenever anyone asked about the birth, how I was feeling, my recovery or anything to do with me or Tyler, I would burst into tears and not be able to talk about it. I even sobbed on Jack’s shoulder one night for no reason (I really didn’t know why I was so upset) which led me to smoking a rollie, which I hadn’t done in nine months!(I gave up smoking when I was pregnant but now that Tyler was born, I just really wanted a smoke and thought it would make me feel calmer).
I cried a lot and I talked a lot. I spoke of how I felt a bit lost and uneasy all the time and I knew that this was those dreaded baby blues that the internet and the midwives had warned me of, which apparently usually happen when your milk comes in, although my milk didn’t ever really come in but anyway, I digress.
A few weeks passed and health visitors came and went. Tyler was thriving and I was always asked how I was. Most of the time I would say that I was fine and sometimes I would mention that I felt a little down but that was all.
The next thing I am about to talk about is quite blurry so I am going to try and recall this as honestly and clearly as I can(I will get Jack to read through all of this with me to help make sure everything that I recall is accurate). One morning, Jack was getting ready for work and I was caring for Tyler. He was unsettled, he suffered quite badly with colic for a little while and looking back, he was probably crying because of this. I started to cry and quickly became frustrated that a) my baby was crying and b) I couldn’t stop him. I began to try and talk to Jack about what was happening but I just became more and more angry. I started threatening to leave both Jack and Tyler and then threatening to take Tyler with me. I said that I didn’t love Tyler and that I could never love him. Even though I didn’t really understand how I was feeling, I kept throwing all these things out at Jack because it was what was going on in my head. I blamed having a baby for all of my problems and negative thoughts and wished it had never happened.
At some point, Jack needed to leave for work, although he said he wasn’t going to leave, to which I told him not to be stupid and to “just go” but then got annoyed that he had left.. I know, I sound ridiculous but I was just angry, upset and confused at myself and taking it out on the person closest to me. By this point, Tyler had stopped crying. He was in his bouncy chair just staring at me as if nothing was going on, I’m pretty sure he even cracked a smile at one point too. I looked at him and I felt nothing but emptiness and fear. How can a mother not love her own child? A child that she created and carried for nine whole months. How could I be this person?
One thing lead to another and for some unknown reason I decided to throw everything off of our coffee table. I am not a violent person and I never have been so this was particularly out of character for myself. I was angry at myself which in turn, made me angry with the world. Jack had come back home by this point(he never actually left, he just sat in our car outside) and I began to sob and sob and sob. Jack picked up Tyler who was still just loving life in his bouncy chair and held him like I’d never seen him hold him before and with his back to me, he too began to sob.
That was probably one of the toughest days of my life. I had failed. I had failed Jack, I had failed myself and most of all I had failed my baby. I’m pretty sure I called my mum and she came over that day and I just let it all out to her. Around this day was when I called my GP practice to book an appointment to see what my options were for help. I didn’t know what I wanted from the appointment or even what options were available to me, so when I was diagnosed with post natal depression and offered CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and anti-depressants, I took both. Why?Because I was scared. Scared of myself and scared of the way that I was feeling, although I wouldn’t have admitted that at the time.
I started on a 50mg dose of sertraline daily which honestly, did not help me initially. I felt no different for the first four weeks of taking anti-depressants so I was then upped to 100mg a day and now I am on a 150mg daily dose. Anti-depressants can take a while to build up in your system but in all honesty I think it has taken a good four months to really start to feel the effects, for me personally anyway. Everyone is different so everyone will take to different drugs differently and maybe my body did just need that slightly stronger dose to really feel the positive effects.
As for CBT, it just wasn’t for me. I tried one on one CBT over the phone (as this was the service that was offered to me) and I just personally did not find it helpful at all, if anything, it made me feel worse. I did speak to someone within the organisation that were in charge of my therapy about maybe speaking to another therapist as maybe me and my therapist didn’t click but I actually decided against that the more that I read about CBT. I know that a lot of people swear by it and it has saved their lives, but for me, the CBT was not a hit but I really wish it was. Maybe sometime in the future I will try alternative therapies but for now, I’m happy not having therapy.
Over the first two months of taking sertraline, my mood would fluctuate, which I was told was not uncommon, and I even became suicidal. Well, I say “became” but the truth is that I had already been this way prior to taking any medication. I just didn’t feel that I was positively contributing to anyone’s life, so why be here? I never acted on any of my suicidal thoughts but they were still there. They still scared me and they were still very real.
Now, I haven’t ever told anyone this, not even Jack, so he’ll read this whilst proofing this post with me. I hate to sound like a cliché, but when the news broke that Chester Bennington (the lead singer of one of my all time favourite bands, Linkin Park) had taken his own life, it shook me to the core. It really did break my heart. I was suddenly overwhelmed with a deep feeling of mourning for the loss of one of my favourite artists, not only for myself but for his wife, for his children and his whole family. I know it is selfish of me to say that I mourned the loss of someone I had never met, someone who was in the public eye but was just as human as I am. I feel truly awful saying this next sentence but Chester Bennington taking his own life made me realise that I shouldn’t take mine. I’m not sure if that makes sense and I don’t want it to come across badly, but what I mean is that the thought of his family grieving for him made me think of how my family would grieve for me. I had never really thought about anyone else when I was thinking that I would be better off not being in this world anymore. But the truth of the matter is that I would be missed and that my son would grow up not knowing his mother and that I did have a purpose in this life.
I wholeheartedly understand that one can reach a point in their life where despite their surroundings, things do not feel worth living anymore, hand on heart I do, but I am so grateful and thankful to be here writing this post and telling you that I didn’t give in to those thoughts. It has been a long while since I have contemplated taking my own life and I am hoping that I never do ever again.
I love my son. I love my son more than anything or anyone in this entire world. Now that the fog is clearing and I can finally see a little clearer, I am starting to really grow the bond between Tyler and I and it is the most beautiful thing in the world. I never want anyone to feel like they can’t get through post natal depression because you can. Sure, I’m not 100% better and I may never be, but I am trying to be. Maybe one day I will be able to get through my days without my medication, maybe I will be taking medication for the rest of my life? But if it helps me to get through life and make amazing memories with Tyler and all those that I love then I’ll keep taking them.
So where am I now? I’m actually going to see my GP today for a review appointment, but do you know what? I do feel a huge deal better and I am so bloody happy to be able to say that. I don’t feel 100% amazing by any means but I am finally embracing and enjoying motherhood and all that comes with it. It’s been a tough year so far, but I’m hoping that the next few months will be filled with plenty of smiles, laughter and happiness.