As May marks the month- long awareness campaign about Mental Health, I thought it was important to share my story and experience of postnatal depression, drawing attention to Maternal Mental Health. My story won't resonate with every mum but might reach a few that need help and keep the conversation going, out in the open where it belongs free of stigma and judgement.
I wore a mask. I could have shown a picture of me angry but that would not have been a true reflection because I hid behind my smile.
The people around me knew there was a difference but couldn't quite put their finger on it I had a baby, right? Sleep deprivation has a lot to answer for.
What people could not see was that inside I experienced feelings of being vacant and detached. I was there but no one was home.
I didn't feel worthy to be called a mum, have the responsibility rested upon my shoulders - I just wanted to run in the opposite direction and leave someone else holding the baby - which happened when I had my first born.
I didn't want to be loved, to be helped, I should have been able to do and feel the most natural thing in the world on my own, right?
I told people to go away and leave me on my own. Alone is what I wanted, so that I could prove to myself and have a justification for wallowing. On a few occasions I demanded this, when my mask slipped of course. It made me feel guilty and added a brick or two to the wall of pain that I was already building around myself.
I was desperate to be me because I didn't recognise myself, I didn't know who I was. I was lost!
The years that followed and the realisation of what I had missed made me yearn to do it again, be better the next time around. I would recognise it surely and be able to fight.
A near death experience brought it again with baby number two, add a dose of struggling to breastfeed and a lack of control into the mix, the mask had gone but I was joined by a shadow. It was the same but in a different form one that I didn't recognise, identify or could fight. The anxiety gripped me once again.
It wasn't all doom and gloom because it didn't take me years and years to recognise it and there were memories of smiles and enjoyment.
By the third baby I knew what it was, it came but didn't catch me so off guard. I had to ride the feelings and get help because what I learned is, it doesn't have to be like this.
Self-care is important, I bang on about it a lot especially for mums, because you cannot give from an empty well. I am writing about maternal mental health because I love a mum who suffered.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists state that between 10-15 percent of women suffer from Post Natal Depression (PND). I would question how this can be an accurate picture, when we know that so many women are not even aware that they are suffering from Postnatal Depression. The baby blues, as it can be known can manifests in so many ways and doesn't always happen when your children are babies.
I will leave you with a thought, I remember being in the doctor's office and answering no to the generic list of questions he had in his hand, that cleared me of having Postnatal Depression. I was fine.