UPDATED MAY 2022
Is Mummy going mad? I’m not quite sure when I realised I had Postnatal Depression, the exact moment that I knew I wasn’t coping. It’s a sneaky one, depression, no matter how many times you’ve had it before it creeps up on you and before you realise it’s too late. Yes, you might recognise the signs of depression a little quicker each time. But you also think that you can deal with it a little better each time, and get a handle on it before having to seek help. It never really works like that, unfortunately.
Postnatal Depression is a depressive illness which affects between 10 to 15 in every 100 women having a baby. The symptoms are similar to those in depression at other times. These include low mood and other symptoms lasting at least two weeks. Depending on the severity, you may struggle to look after yourself and your baby. You may find simple tasks difficult to manage.
PND often starts within one or two months of giving birth. It can start several months after having a baby. About a third of women with PND have symptoms which started during pregnancy and continue after birth.
Is Mummy going mad?
My Postnatal Depression kicked in after having Fred. Two babies under two, being at home alone a lot of the time, it all just became too much. I think PND is especially hard to notice in yourself, even after two previous bouts of depression. People expect you to be low after giving birth. Everything is put down to the ‘Baby Blues’ and often (definitely in my case) new mums are almost too far down the line before they realise that it is more than that.
I definitely didn’t want to admit I wasn’t coping. This is silly considering I already knew that depression was not something to be ashamed of, not something that I could have seen coming. However I do think there is the added pressure with PND that it’s not just about you anymore, there is a baby/babies involved. To have to own up and say you are not only coping with your own life but also that you can’t cope with your own child’s life either, is a really hard thing to admit. Especially when a lot of the time it is the addition of this little person(s) in your life that seems to have caused the depression.
So 10 years ago this month I reached my limit, I reached breaking point. I’d clawed my forehead to shreds (my coping mechanism the more depressed/stressed I got) easily covered up by a fringe! My weight was all over the place, I wasn’t eating, I was drinking too much, I’d ‘failed’ at breastfeeding yet again, and couldn’t even manage to have my kids ‘naturally’. Too far down the line to think sensibly.
As well as being away from family, I was away from friends in the village (we’d moved to a larger house, it was only 5 mins away from the village but I didn’t drive at this point), I felt isolated, I felt alone and I felt utterly useless. In my eyes, I wasn’t a good mum or a good wife, and that broke me. It was the final straw (a story for another time), and I finally got the help I needed…
The doctors were amazing, taking the time to listen, to figure out the best treatment for me. After a successful spell of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I was finally able to enjoy my boys, to realise that I was a good mum and how I felt was normal and wasn’t something to be ashamed of. CBT also showed up some flaws in my character that definitely add to my predisposition to depression and have allowed me to work on these.
But throughout all of this, how many knew exactly how I was feeling, how many realised how ill I was, even those closest didn’t! Jo Love raised this point perfectly with the #depressionwearslippy campaign, which is still going strong now. It is not an obvious illness! So during #maternalmentalhealthawarenessweek let’s get this discussion going, share your stories if you would like to, or think it will help you and others. Or simply read ours to help you realise you are not alone. Motherhood isn’t easy, it doesn’t always come naturally, and you don’t get a handbook, but you are not alone!
Hope this helps…
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