Round about the time this photo was taken was the first time I thought about disappearing.
I’m not sure what you think post natal depression looks like, but this is it. On the surface it’s smiles, it’s laughter, it’s a big effort to try & make everything appear ‘fine’ when in reality, much of the time you feel anything but. Facebook offers the brilliant opportunity to edit your life & only pick out the best bits, so although I might not have looked depressed, at this point I would go to bed hoping that I might not wake up, because I thought my family & loved ones might be better off without me around.
I never actually thought about committing suicide, but I understood why people did. Many people think suicide is selfish – I certainly used to – but actually I think it is the complete opposite. It is getting to the point where you genuinely believe that the world & those around you would be better off without you & when I realised that I was starting to think that way, I knew I needed to get help.
I felt immensely guilty for feeling like I did when I have 2 healthy children, a loving husband, a wonderful family, great friends, a job, a house & many other things I know some people aren’t so lucky to have. The thing is, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It doesn’t discriminate between the people who have these things & the people that don’t. Basically, it’s a bastard.
I also felt embarrassed; that I should be able to ‘keep my chin up’ or ‘look on the bright side’ as I was told a few times (once by an actual doctor), only it’s a bit more tricky than that when you’re in the throws of feeling completely overwhelmed by life, terrified by even the smallest task, doubting of every decision you make – when even what to have for tea seems a question too big to answer.
Keeping your ‘chin up’ when you feel like you’re never good enough, like you’re worthless, like you’re a terrible mother & an awful wife.
‘Cheering up’ was the thing I wanted to do most of all, yet it seemed the most impossible.
My first step was to talk to people about how I was feeling. I talked to a doctor who prescribed antidepressants & counselling. I talked to my wonderful husband & to friends & family, some of whom had guessed what was going on, some not. Regardless, they were – & still are – amazing.
I feel like I’ve almost come out of the other side now & as I look at the photo & remember how I felt at the time I feel sad for that girl & want to tell her it will all be ok & – most importantly- she’s not alone. It seems a lifetime ago, only it won’t ever be. I still have bad days when I want to shut myself off & ignore the world, when I feel like a fraud at work & as a mother & someone might discover at any point that I have no clue what I’m doing in either role, but thankfully these are becoming less & less & I can now recognise the signs earlier & earlier.
I’ve thought long & hard about writing this as it’s about as uncomfortable as putting up a naked picture of myself, but as today is World Mental Health Day, it seemed as good a time as any. Too many lives are lost because people don’t talk about it & that’s not ok. It’s time to end the stigma behind mental health & see just how important it is.
If you’re feeling any of these things, then the first step is to know you’re not on your own & to talk about it to someone. Anyone. Just talk.
If you suspect a friend might be feeling like this a) you’re probably right & b) just ask (& c) take tissues & maybe cake/wine/biscuits).
If you’ve been through this & come out the other end, you’re awesome & don’t ever forget that.