I’ve not been speaking publicly about how I’ve felt in the past couple of months because I’ve wanted to try and get my head around it in order to accurately talk about how it is for me living with post natal depression. With the fact that I’ve sought out help for myself, it seemed like the right time to start talking about it.
PND, for me, is like a dark cloud lingering on the horizon, floating towards you so slowly it’s virtually imperceptible until one day, the rain comes and you look up to see that the cloud is right above you.
I’ve felt like a fraud a lot lately; How could I have PND now with my ‘easy’ baby when I didn’t have it with Toby? How could I have it when I get lots if support from Phil and my mum especially? People with more children, fewer family members nearby, who’ve experienced loss, it’s understandable for them to struggle but I must just be useless.
Except that PND can strike anyone and it’s not about whether you have an ‘easy’ baby or not. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about how I’m feeling and the fact of the matter is that I’m not useless, I’m bloody exhausted and worn out and overwhelmed and my head – the chemical balance – just isn’t right.
Thankfully, I’m experiencing the symptoms fairly mildly and I recognised them in time, but it is still hard to live with sometimes. I realised I was more than just tired when I was full on sobbing in the middle of a very busy park one Saturday, triggered by having had both kids needing new nappies at the same time. The following week I was crying in a car park, my mum helping me when I was telling her that Martha’s projectile vomiting had me not wanting to leave the house.
Then the next Saturday all hell broke lose. I basically just cried the whole day and I can’t even remember what the initial trigger was. I blamed the laundry pile, Martha’s puking, Toby’s tantrums, lack of sleep. Phil tried coming up with practical solutions but what I couldn’t find the words to tell him was that I knew I was physically capable of dealing with these things, but my brain was shutting down when it came to doing so.
Totally overwhelmed, if both children did a poo (because they work in tandem these days) then I’d be getting worked up in my head over who to change first, who needed seeing to more urgently. Leaving the house became an internal dialogue of how Martha was going to puke and I’d end up on my hands and knees in a shop or cafe cleaning it up, of how Toby would scream at having to go in the pushchair but if he didn’t then I couldn’t keep them both safe near roads. Going to groups on my own with them both resulted in a sweaty mama crying in the car afterwards because I’d spent the whole time juggling Martha’s need to breastfeed and Toby’s need for help with his painting.
In the end, not going out on my own became the solution but then I felt isolated, stupid, useless, a burden to others.
Those thoughts fester, they linger in your mind like a virus and they attack rational thought. On the weekend that I’d broken down over laundry, I called PANDAS and for the first time – through tears – I said the words “I think I have post natal depression” out loud. Saying it to a faceless person who cared but wasn’t emotionally attached to me helped so much. It gave me the strength to see my GP that Monday, to tell close friends and family how much I was struggling and to complete the self referral form for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through the local NHS Trust. Sadly, when I had a phone assessment with them I was told that the waiting list for counselling was 3 months. I cried, that was Martha’s whole lifetime over again and whilst I wasn’t about to harm myself or anyone else, I had visions of me getting to the point of panic attacks and a very slippery slope of never leaving the house, shutting myself off completely.
Thankfully Phil has private health insurance through his work and by some miracle I’m covered for CBT through that. Fantastic news for me and one less person for the strained NHS team to worry about, but I worry for the people who can’t go private, who are struggling more than I am, who don’t have a support network. 3 months is too long and yet from speaking to friends up and down the UK, sadly this is the norm and 3 months isn’t the worst it gets.
I hate to think of someone in a very vulnerable state feeling alone and without support, which is why I want to talk about my experiences, because if you’re reading this and it resonates with you then please know that you’re not alone, not failing and that support is available. I’ll be writing updates throughout my journey and together we can start to get rid of the stigma that so often surround mental health issues and be open about living with post natal depression