Guilt is a five letter word I hate and something that has consumed me for 3 long years since I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. I didn’t choose postnatal depression so why do I feel guilty about it and why do I struggle to let it go?
The thing is every mother feels guilt to some extent and we’ve all heard of the phrase ‘mummy guilt’, but the guilt you have from postnatal depression is magnified, it’s like it becomes a core belief and even after the trauma of postnatal depression has gone the guilt can still linger for years after. I’m writing this post as a way to try to heal from my own guilt and hopefully help others, because that is what my blog is to me, it is my ramblings and most importantly it is my therapy.
The most important thing we need to remind ourselves as mum’s is that a perfect mother does not exist, she is a fictional character we may have appeared to see in the flesh or on social media, but the reality is she is faking it and it’s a big lie we are selling to ourselves. We all know now that social media is not real and that we only include the best bits of our life and we all know that we can all appear on a good day to have our shit together, but it is not sustainable for every minute of everyday for anybody. Everyone has their own struggles, own problems and own tears, just some are better at hiding it than others.
Guilt is a destructive emotion and when it sets in, it is hard to hold it back. It causes us to feel inadequate, unworthy and flawed. It can start to define who we are as a person and as a mother. What I have learnt through therapy is that we do need to sit through these emotions, but we do not need to accept them as fact. All emotions serve a purpose however painful they can be. The emotional of guilt for a normal purpose is to remind us we have done something wrong, which makes us fix our mistakes, in the hope we do not make the same mistake again. Guilt can serve as a very helpful emotion to help us re-evaluate ourselves to be better. Guilt through postnatal depression serves no purpose as we are mentally unwell, we have not done anything wrong and there is nothing we can fix, as we didn’t choose this mental illness. The guilt stops us from bonding with our babies and getting the support we need from others around us. All we are doing is punishing ourselves for something we had no control over.
When the postnatal depression has gone how to we get rid of guilt forever? For me something I felt I needed to do was to apologise. I told my baby I was sorry that mummy wasn’t well, I said sorry to my daughter for not being there as I should and I told my now ex husband I was sorry. It was healing, even though I know now I was unwell and I couldn’t have done things differently, I felt better to have apologised. What I did next was I said sorry to myself, I listened and I accepted it.
Once I was able to apologise to myself I realised that the guilt wasn’t just guilt it was a lot to do with regret. I regretted not having those moments with my baby, that instant bond and I was mourning the loss of the time wasted whilst sucked in by postnatal depression. The expectation you had versus the reality was not what was expected and that is something you regretted. Once I realised it was more about regret than guilt it took the need away for punishment. I had successfully changed the emotion to something that was far more easier to process.
My guilt of postnatal depression is regret and is something I am sad about. I am able to forgive myself for this as I do not deserve to be punished for a regret I have. Sadness about the situation is an emotion I can tolerate and something that is easier to manage to move on from.