Depression is one thing I find difficult to speak about. I always have a smile on my face, and as they say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. In my case this was true for a long time. I painted on a smile but underneath I was breaking.
This post is difficult for me to write but I want to try and break some of the stigma against post natal mental illness in mothers, and if people are struggling, or know someone that is struggling, they can know that they're not alone, the help they need is out there, no one will think you're a terrible mother, and most importantly, if you get the help you need, you WILL get back to your old self.
I have struggled with mental illness from as far back as I can remember. While I won't go into details about that now, it broke my parents hearts, anyone I got close to didn't understand, and years of therapy, medication and any other help offered to me, whether it worked or not; it became clear to me that what I was experiencing was not down to anything other than a chemical imbalance in my brain.
After having all of my children I have suffered with some degree of depression. I wouldn't class all of these as post natal depression, as I think the fact I have underlying depression anyway doesn't help, but one time was significantly worse than the others, and for us all it was such a scary time.
I'm not sure I want to disclose which child it was, though the PND didn't effect my bonding at all, in fact quite the opposite. I found myself needing to protect my child from things that weren't necessary to protect them from. I needed my baby, I loved my baby so much that I didn't feel good enough, and somehow convinced myself that my baby deserved so much better than me. I think at that point, the only thing that stopped me from ending my own life was that I wouldn't be there to protect my baby, and I obsessively thought that I was the only person in the world that could do that properly. I trusted no one.
I was ill.
This photo breaks my heart, I remember seeing it and thinking how much we both look sad behind our eyes. I was overwhelmed and my husband was holding up the fort, bearing all the weight of family life, whilst supporting me-not to mention having to watch the woman he loves fade away before his eyes.
I seeked therapy quite early on, knowing that what I was feeling wasn't right, but for some reason I didn't respond to the medication. It took a long time to get medication right, with a mixture of anti depressants, anti psychotics and counselling, I still wasn't getting any better.
Things hit an all time low when I rang my husband at work crying that I didn't know how to boil the kettle, then the following day, rang him again wondering round the supermarket aimlessly, not knowing what I was doing there. I just couldn't process my thoughts. He straight away signed himself off work and stayed at home with me until I started to get better. There was nights I cried, nights I screamed, days I wanted a cuddle but didn't want to be touched, days I really did not want to be here any more. There was days, weeks that I didn't speak at all. No words came out of my mouth and I stared blankly into space. I didn't have anything to say to anyone. Nights I cried myself to sleep after saying goodbye to my baby, convinced they were going to die in their sleep.
This went on for months, and was so gruelling for the entire family. But eventually we got there, I started to get better and in hindsight it breaks my heart to think of how my loved ones were effected. My husband especially was my rock throughout it all, and handled it so wonderfully, I am so grateful for him, as it may have been a different outcome had I not had that support.
Now I am happy more days than not. With the right help and support I got better. At one time I could have never seen light at the end of the tunnel, I was convinced that this was how it was going to be forever. But now I can see it was just an awful illness taking over me and I am so so glad I got the help I needed.
If you had an injured leg that was dramatically effecting how you lived your life, you would get help to make it better. Mental health is no different. I urge anyone going through this to seek help, speak to someone, you can even contact me if you needed someone to listen. Just please don't bottle it up.
I hope sharing my story can help someone somewhere realise they're not alone and be an example of how life can and will get so much brighter. Although it's been difficult for me to speak about what was the most difficult time in our lives, mental health needs to be spoken about. I'm not ashamed, it can't be helped. I'm proud of myself for getting myself better, and more importantly I'm so much happier now I'm back to myself.
If I can do it, so can anyone.