Today marks the first day of the very first maternal mental health awareness week #MaternalMHMatters so I thought I would write a post about my experience of postnatal depression now I am out of the other side. This week marks two years since my son was born and the start of my long battle of postnatal depression and maternal mental health problems. A child’s birthday is a time to celebrate and reminisce about all the amazing memories you have made in the first two years of life, but for me as a PND survivor it also reminds me of the very tough battle we had to overcome. I say we, as PND didn’t just affect me, it affected my baby, my daughter, my husband, family and friends. I had everyone rotting for me and encouraging me, but until I found the strength to fight it, they were powerless to really do much.
Many memories of my early days at home are tarnished, I didn’t understand why I was struggling so much more second time around, I didn’t know how to stop the negative thoughts and guilt and felt at PND’s mercy, powerless and broken. I muddled through and painted on a smile, but with my husband I couldn’t keep up the facade and the mask slipped. He saw me broken, distant, fragile and angry, he didn’t know why and he didn’t know how to help. My maternal mental health was at breaking point and I needed help, fast.
One morning I was struggling through the piles of washing, whilst my husband slept off his night shift when I decided to dry the clothes outside in the sun. My garden was full of clothes drying and I finally felt like I had a mini defeat that day, then the heavens opened and monsoon season decided to reach North Bedfordshire. Despite my efforts, everything was soaked through and yet again I was back at square one with wet clothes, nothing clean in the house and Mr T crying in the background wanting feeding, again. I collapsed on the floor and once the tears started they wouldn’t stop. Miss J confronted me and cuddled me and kept telling me it would be ok, which made me feel even worse. I knew then and there I needed to speak to my Doctor and get the help I needed, I couldn’t keep pretending and couldn’t let my daughter keep seeing me like this.
It took me five months to finally get help and I really wish I had done it sooner. I missed so much of my sons first five months of life and let the guilt rip me apart and the anxiety take over. Maybe if I had got help sooner my PND wouldn’t have lasted two years, I don’t know. The antidepressants didn’t work for me, but I just assumed I needed to keep fighting and because the antidepressants I was on was the safest option when breastfeeding I thought I had no choice of changing them. Every few weeks I would have them increased, yet nothing was changing and everything around me was crumbling away. Eventually I saw a doctor who listened to me, answered my fears and changed me on to something that actually worked. It wasn’t an easy journey and plenty of ups and down, but eventually I noticed I was having more good days then bad days. I saw hope and clung on to it.
These two years have been tough, draining, but they have also taught me many other things. I know the importance of life, appreciate people for their faults and I have found who I am again. Sitting in hospital in February of these year with an IV in my arm after attempting suicide made me realise that I couldn’t go this far down again, I was lucky to be found when I was and I have thought so many times how different it could have been. I am unconditionally loved in this moment, I always have been and I always will be. I need to be healthy for my family, let go of guilt, nurture my soul and gradually heal. PND is shit, but it can change, it can heal and you can recover. I did it and I now love my life.
Share you own stories of maternal mental health, support others, don’t stigmatise and we can fight this together. #MaternalMHMatters
Read my blog post on how to help someone with postnatal depression