Depression is so hard to talk about, its one of those illnesses that people just don’t understand, and much of the time they don’t WANT to understand it. I have been on antidepressants for approx 2 years now, on and off. I do know though that I have suffered from Post Natal Depression in various forms for the last 12 years, I just didn’t seek any help for the longest time for a number of reasons which I’m not going to go into too much here.
There is much out there with the current NHS support system for new mums that makes post natal depression hard to notice and to deal with. I have always been someone who finds it hard to ask for help and admit that they are not good at or struggling with something. So to find being a first time mum exhausting, overwhelming and downright difficult is made more so by these facts :
– Health professionals such as midwives and health visitors calling me “mum” or “Baby’s name’s mum” I’m a person, not just a mum. Please take the time to learn my name or at the very least read it from your notes in front of you. Calling me by my current job title is neither professional, polite nor helpful.
– Constantly being told that I am doing so well. If it was hard to walk in to see my health visitor and admit that I was finding being a mum difficult it became even MORE hard once they had finished telling me what great job I was doing and how everything was so good. That just made me feel like even more of a failure. How can I feel this bad when everyone around me tells me how good I am?
I wonder how my life would be different if I had asked for help sooner, but I didn’t. It took a hell of a lot for me to walk into the doctors surgery and ask for help. It was June 2010 that I finally felt desperate enough to actually admit I had a problem. I’m too ashamed to admit to the final piece of the puzzle that made me go and ask for help but it took 3 visits before I finally said what was in my head. Twice I sat in front of my lovely GP and complained of headaches instead of asking for help. The third time I had written down on a piece of paper “I think I am suffering from post natal depression, I feel totally wretched and void of emotion and want to leave my children with my husband and run away to make everyone’s lives easier. I don’t know what to do but I’m really bad at asking for help and I’m scared and lonely” and I just walked in and gave it to her before bursting into tears.
She was amazing. Really, fab. She told me that she had suffered from post natal depression herself and that she knew what I was going through. She asked me how many other mums I thought would be able to cope with depression, 4 children under 10 and running their own million pound business? She made me feel as though I wasn’t a total failure at everything and that I was in fact a very clever and capable person who just had a medical condition that needed to be treated.
People who have not suffered from depression don’t understand it. It is so much more than just feeling a bit down. The total detachment from everything around me was the most frightening. To look at my children and know that I was supposed to feel something for them but that I actually didn’t feel anything at all was horrific. It felt as though I was on the outside of my own life, looking in and watching myself fall apart.
Depression is an illness. Telling someone with depression to snap out of it is like telling someone with cancer to just stop it and get better. It is impossible. You cannot just snap out of depression. I am aware that this is something that will be with me for ever but that I now recognise the signs of and feel confident that I’ll be able to manage.
I can now visualise my depression as a cliff. Most people I see in life seem to me to walk through the middle of this beautiful meadow and if something goes wrong in their life it wobbles them a little bit off their track but they are OK. I feel as though I am walking along a narrow path in between the meadow and a sheer cliff and if I wobble a little bit I feel as though I am falling off the cliff and my life is over. While every month on antidepressants moves me off my path and closer to the middle of the meadow where I can deal with the little wobbles, it doesn’t take much to send me hurtling back to the edge of the cliff where I stand there and look down at my imminent doom and wonder how the hell my life got this complicated.
This is what depression is like for me. Knowing that even if I’m walking through the middle of the meadow this week something could easily happen next week that sends me back to the edge where only my love for my children actually keeps me moving forward, one foot at a time and one day at a time until I’m back away from the edge and sitting on the grass again.