I've debated about whether or not to write about this but I decided, it's not a secret and who knows talking about it might help someone else? So lets do this guys...
Lets get it out there, Postnatal depression is a mother f****r!!
It's sneaky for starters! It creeps up on you without you realising it and slowly but surely leaves you feeling like a piece of crap!
Secondly, it doesn't come with spots, a high temperature, a rash or swelling, nothing that lets people know that you're ill. Oh look she's got the PND rash, she could probably do with some help or a listening ear. Nope! It hides away, so only you know. Worse still, with no 'evidence', have you even really got it?! There's no x-ray or blood test to determine your diagnoses. Do people doubt you? Do they think you just need to 'pull yourself together' and 'get on with things'? Maybe you do? That's how PND works, it makes you doubt yourself. It makes you feel weak and useless when deep down you know that's not you, but maybe you've forgotten the old you, before PND arrived like an unwelcome visitor who wouldn't leave.
I have suffered from depression in the past. I don't talk about it often because I don't want it to define me. I don't like to think of myself as a 'depressed' person. I'm a happy, positive, life loving person who just happened to get that illness for a while. I also had appendicitis but I'm not a 'burst appendix' sort of person either despite the scar across my tummy as a lifelong reminder.
Because I'd had the illness before, I knew there was a good chance I might suffer postnatal depression when Caitlin (my eldest) was born and was ready to spot the symptoms early on so I could get help, but they never came. PND must have been paying some other poor soul a visit, and I was spared. I didn't suffer again for a long time, and I guess I became complacent, so when Elle was born I didn't recognise the signs. By the time I started to notice that I wasn't feeling myself, that "black dog", as Winston Churchill called it, had sneaked his way back in!
Had I seen him coming I'd have sent that pesky mutt packing but I didn't, I guess looking after the kids was keeping me too busy to think about myself and how I was feeling. It was only when I was speaking to a good friend, who was kind enough to be open about her experiences that I realised there was no shame in asking for help. If I had high cholesterol (and it's only a matter of time really, given my junk food diet) I'd take medication to lower it to a safe level. I take my inhaler if my asthma is causing me breathing difficulty. Well PND is just another illness. Luckily my doctor was wonderful! Her attitude was 'right lets get this fixed and get you back to yourself.'
Just admitting something was wrong and the doctor reassuring me that we'd tackle it together made the world of difference. I did feel a little ashamed, like I was weak for succumbing to this shitty illness but I know many women who have suffered the same as me who are strong, wonderful women, who I have the greatest respect for! I don't see them as weak so why judge myself so harshly? My new perspective is, Im dealing with it. It's tough but Im dealing with it and that's not weak, that takes a lot of strength!
That is just a brief summary of my experience and everyone's is different but maybe someone will read this and feel a sense of relief that they're not alone, and thats all I hope for in writing this.
Don't be alone. Talk to someone. Don't feel ashamed or worried that you'll be seen to be a bad mum. Be strong and ask for help.
Thanks for reading!