The thing about post natal depression, it just kicks your arse completely.
If you had told me a year ago that following the happiest and most enjoyed (and most painful don’t forget most painful!) moment of my life I would suffer with the most awful and foggiest, low and self depreciating feelings I have ever experienced, I would have told you in no uncertain terms to ‘jog on’. There is no doubt about it. I just would have told you that people like me don’t get depression. I am a positive, happy and focused type person. (Copied directly from my CV.) Positive, happy and focused people don’t suffer with depression. (Make sure you spit this word out as if you would the word ‘lazy‘) Because of the person I was capable of being, I believed I was untouchable. My ‘easy go lucky shield’ would bat off any sad, lonely or blue feelings, immediately. I was the happiness superhero! Sponsored by Smirnoff.
Don’t get me wrong. Ive not had a perfect life, but then who has? Ive not had the type of life that incurred no heartache and no sadness. I have had my fair share, in my opinion, of thunder and lightning. Examples? Ok. I’ll give you a few. I have been on the other side of the world from all my family and friends and have been robbed and dumped by someone I trusted all on the same day. (Don’t get the violin out just yet!), I have had my heart carelessly discarded by countless lying, cheating, (do you need a pair of tweezers to get that little thing out?) immature little boys, playing at being men. I have been treated horrendously by work colleagues and bullied to the point of submission. To the point where I spent a year staring at people shoes, my self confidence a big fat zero. (I did see a lot of nice shoes though!) And then perhaps the most painful phase of my life so far (you can get the violin out now), I lived through and grieved for my only brother, who died very suddenly and unexpectedly in 2005.
Now some may look at this unfortunate list of events (just call me Lemony Snicket) and think, ‘it hasn’t been that bad love, you’ve not heard what ive been through yet! You’ve been lucky’. I know in comparison to some people, what I have been through is simply a ripple in the ocean. And if you are one of those people, I feel for you I really do and I hope you have the love of your friends and family, and that in some way you are managing to get out of bed every day. And if you are? I respect you for it.
‘Life just happens’ That’s what my boss once said to me a couple of years ago when I requested an early finish to go and spend time with my sister in law. ‘Life just happens Lex, if you need a cup of coffee and a cake, you know where I am’. I have never forgotten that phrase. Because life does just happen. Bad things happen to good people. But each morning the sun comes up. Whether you get out of bed or not is another thing entirely. But the sun does come up. It certainly helps to have kind, caring friends around you, that’s for sure.
Even after living through all of the above, and feeling genuinely rotten at points, never ever did I use the words ‘depression’. Because on some days I was very, very happy. On some days I was sad. On some days I was drunk. And on some days I would laugh until my ribs hurt. I did suffer with the odd panic attack and the odd bout of the blues but not ‘depression!’ (Remember to spit that word out again!) If you are depressed it is every day! Right? It’s a sign of personal failure right?
There seems to be such a stigma attached to being depressed. Maybe I did see using the word ‘depressed’ as some sort of personal failure, what with my happiness shield and all! Also being out and about you hear the word being banded about with such ease these days;
‘Oh my car won’t start Im so depressed’ – Teenager in car park.
‘Oh my god ive put on two pounds, Im so depressed’ – Friend of family.
‘All the square crisps in the shop were out of date, Im so depressed’ – (this may or may not have been me. Ahem.)
So at what point do you stop, take it all in and maybe admit you have been suffering in silence, hiding the tears and forcing a smile for far too long? At what point is it acceptable to admit to somebody you may be a bit more than ‘a little bit down’ and not have them assume it’s because you laddered your favourite tights? (Although that is annoying!) At what point do you admit to yourself that using the word ‘depression’ is not a sign of personal failure?
They say the first step in recovery (I saw the doctor today and by ‘they’ I mean her) is admitting to yourself you are more than a ‘little bit down’. It may not even be depression. It may just be the ‘baby blues’ but surely admitting it to someone is a good thing? A problem shared is a problem halved and all that? The things is, with this post natal crap (see how angry I am), every time I try to admit anything other than being a bit low, the inner me rolls its eyes and my subconscious whispers ‘God Mammywoo stop being so positively pre teen! You are so lucky, you have a healthy baby boy, a year off work and a loving man. You have to go and ruin it all by being miserable. Ungrateful you missis! Ungrateful!’
So the truth is, I don’t have any words of advice. I don’t have the answers to how to feel better. I guess it’s just another one of those rollercoasters us women (and some men I’m sure) have to ride. But do i feel better ? Knowing that there are lots of people who have dealt with these feelings, who have suffered horrendously and have come out the other side with a smile on their faces, Sponsored by their family and friends. Not booze? Yes I do. Because it gives me hope.
And hopefully I will look back at these months in a few years and smile at the number of times I have shit someone up unexpectedly by bursting in to tears.
- Sorry little old lady in Morrison’s. You saying ‘your son is gorgeous’ is not what reduced me to the foetal position on the floor, sobbing in aisle 2. (Much understood, look of horror, scuttles away.)
- Sorry man in the post office. It’s not your fault I didn’t have enough money for stamps, I shouldn’t have had a full on meltdown and hid my face in the pram, as if the world was coming to an end. Think Nicky Graham in Big brother 7. (He offered me a free stamp to get me out of his shop as soon as possible. This random act of kindness made me cry all the more. Poor bloke.)
- Apologies to my other half. For countless mornings of scratching my eyes out and yours, for being a total bitch. And for crying anytime you are nice to me. Also I apologise for waking up and telling you there is a man stood at the end of the bed. Yes I can see why, in a pitch black room at 3am, this would cause you to suffer a minor heart attack. But really, the sleep talking is all a part of it. Honest.
- Sorry to everybody I shouted at. (There are too many to mention.)
The thing about post natal depression, you can kick its arse!
I am sure we will get there. All of us. Everyone in the ‘mummy club’ who is going slightly mad around the edges, slightly sad around the edges, and in reality, joking aside, suffering in a big way. In silence. We will all get there. I have been told this by many a wise mother. And really, if they can do it. So can we! (Ive never been very good at inspirational speeches.)
But the first step is admitting it to yourself. (According to Dr Quack, it is anyway. (I shit you not. That is her name! Look her up if you don’t believe me!)) You have to actually say the words out loud apparently. There are no secret handshakes in this club. Just honesty.
So ok, I’ll go first. I’ll take the plunge.
‘My name is Lexy and I’m admitting to myself, and you, (ooo get me all brave) that maybe I am feeling more than ‘a little bit down’.
There I said it. Now it’s your turn. When you’re ready, that is. And if you’re not. That’s ok. It took me a while too. As long as, at some point you do admit it, to someone. (NOT JEREMY KYLE!) Because I would not like to think of anybody going through this for longer than necessary, alone.
And in the meantime, I find chocolate helps. Lots and lots of chocolate. and lots and lots of self love. (and i dont mean rude self love, i mean love yourelf. Appreciate yourself if you can, and all the good things you have achieved, even if that good thing is just getting out of bed! ) In fact, I have a bag of revels in the cupboard with my name on it. Ive shared enough for today. Im not sharing them!
Good luck, and honestly my thoughts are with you. I know how miserable it is. I am going through it too.
Click click. Spoc spoc. (Or whatever the trekkies say.) Tommorrow is a new day.