As my daughters birthday approaches I’ve been reflecting on her life, our life so far.......
Thats a lie, I reflect daily, but I have been thinking that for over 75% of her life so far I have been depressed.
That horrifies me. Makes me feel sick.
I’ve a tonne of bloggs lined up regarding maternal mental health as it’s something that is so significant to me but I don’t really know in what order to publish them. I’m not sure how to start revealing them and revealing me in probably one of my most hardest episodes of my life, not only for what I experienced but the added responsibility and worry of another life was something I haven’t really had to think about.
I knew I was depressed when I was pregnant. I tried playing it down while telling my midwife as I thought other people’s problems were greater than mine. I kept a baby diary, in it on many days says ‘today I’m so happy because’ I wrote it meaning the total opposite as I was already feeling ashamed that if my daughter ever read the book when she was older I wouldn’t want her feeling that I wasn’t happy to be having her.
I was induced early due to my anxiety (I was still 10 days over) and I remember how empathetic my midwife was, apologising that I couldn’t get in there sooner. I still knew that I was unwell but I really underestimated what was happening to me.
I’m crying while writing this, I’m not saying that for pity, I want you to understand how this experience utterly broke me and completely made me all at the same time.
I stayed in hospital for four nights, I slept for 45 minutes in those days. I put my feeling down to sleep deprivation. Everything I felt I made an excuse for but at the same time I was telling people that I was struggling. No one listened. It was either baby blues or ‘how could you be sad when you have her?’
Every time I left the house I would sweat uncontrollably- I now realise that this was my anxiety. Historically I would have panic attacks so I didn’t realise. I thought it was because I was over weight. Everyone did. Or hormones. But it was anxiety.
I would go to the shower and cry so no one could hear me. But no one wanted to hear me. No one could hear me. I couldn’t hear myself eventually. Every internal thought sounded like I was underwater. I can’t even describe the physical sensation that was going on inside my head . I could feel the disconnection.
You see I didn’t not love my daughter, I adored her. That was the problem. I didn’t feel good enough. I felt like I would let her down. That I couldn’t protect her and that, my friends, is the most heart breaking feeling in the world, that you can’t protect your child.
I came from a household where love was an insignificant and a distorted emotion and I didn’t know how to give it as a parent and I finally had a chance to let this little baby girl feel all the things I wanted to feel growing up but I didn’t know how to do it.
Professionals struggled to help me as I was deemed ‘high- functioning’. Mental Health services rejected me, I was lucky that I met an absolute diamond of a community mental health nurse who re-referred me and fast tracked me - although I was still in a waiting list for over a year. I only managed to meet this MH Nurse due to a number of unfortunate events, one being while I was on the phone to my local doctor surgery trying to get an appointment to get an extension on my uni assignment as I was suicidal and broke into a full blown panic attack and she said ‘ oh you really are unwell’ .
As I started to watch my world around me crumble I quickly began to unravel, losing control on reality, losing friends, a sense of identity, dreaming of no longer existing as the pain of my heart breaking was too much.
I was angry that I couldn’t express myself as I had a baby to look after. I wanted to break down and cry or drink myself into oblivion or cut my arms. I felt suffocated which only fed my depression.
Shortly after I was assessed and put into the right path to get well. My daughter was nearly two years old. I struggled for all that time. Nothing could of prepared me for that loneliness.
I look at her now and at times I am riddled with guilt; guilt that I subjected her to a version of me that I would never of wanted to of subjected her too or guilt that there are things I can’t even remember due to being ill, memories that just don’t exist for me. I feel guilty that I could of passed this illness into her.
There’s lessons to be learned here as in every story....... check in with parents, happy parents, sad parents parent that are lonely And parents that have support. Check in with mums and dads.Happy photos and big smiles can conceale a million things. Also, I realise MY FEELINGS MATTER. I speak out now when I have just an inkling of depression or anxiety and I surround myself with people that support that attitude.
A small leak is easier to fix than a full blown flood.
Eventually my daughter’s percentage of her experiencing me being unwell will decrease and the memories will stop being so raw but what was the one of the worst times of my life became the best as I love hard- her and myself and don’t take one moment for granted.
This is also a shout out to the friends who have and who continue to stand by me. Thank you for picking me up on my worst days. Thank you for giving me hope. Thank you for sticking around and making me feel I was worth sticking around for. Your kindness and love is what helped me get through, helping me to realise that I was worthy to be a mother and that whatever bits I lack you guys make up for it in abundance and I couldn’t be more grateful and proud to have you in my life as well as Charlottes.