I have been writing this post for a few months now but haven't gotten around to finishing it. It can be a lengthy process, dragging up the past. I think some mums find it difficult to broadcast their struggle with PND to the world because it's often got a whole load of guilt, embarrassment and self esteem bashing attached to it. I think it's important to share it because there might be someone else who will learn something or be helped by knowing they are not alone.
When JC was born I thought that I wasn't coping well because he was a colicky baby and that I would be fine once he got 'better'. When Christmas came and he was better I realised that I wasn't. I don't believe everyone experiences PND the same way and the stereotypes portrayed in the media are damaging and confusing. I bonded really well with John and put on a pretty good show for the people around me but I was totally numb on the inside. Most days I felt absolutely nothing and other days I felt extreme sadness for no reason. I felt inadequate, hopeless and useless most of the time and guilty for not feeling happier when being a mum was all I had wanted for a long time. I kept looking around at other mums wondering 'how come they are coping and I'm not?' I felt worried about telling anyone about it because I thought they would think I was an unfit mother and a risk to JC. Postnatal Depression, from what I have read, does not mean that the mother will hurt their child. The risk of this is extremely low. So while we are on the subject, for the uninformed and interested, here are the main symptoms of PND . . .
Irritable - getting easily annoyed with partner, baby and other people
Tired - every new mother feels tired but this is the kind of tiredness that leaves you utterly exhausted
Sleepless - you're tired but you can't sleep
Change in appetite - some don't eat and others comfort eat
Unable to enjoy anything - this was me! Total misery guts!
Loss of interest in sex - I won't be divulging any info here! I don't think many of us are really up for it straight away!
Negative and guilty thoughts - you think everyone is talking about you, you're not coping, you're baby won't love you
Anxious - you worry constantly about your baby's health, appetite, sleeping etc and that your PND won't get better
Avoid others - another biggy for me. Don't leave the house and you and baby can be in your safe wee bubble.
Hopeless - you might feel that life isn't worth living, that you are not worth anything and that your family would be better off without you. This might lead to feelings of suicide.
Psychosis - a small number of woman (not me thankfully) suffer from Postpartum (pueperal) Psychosis which manifests itself as rapid mood swings, believing things that are not true (delusions) and hearing or seeing things (hallucinations). This is extremely serious and requires medical help immediately as it can be life threatening.
My main difficulty was not being able to 'talk'. I am a well known chatterbox. Put me in a room with someone for long enough and I could probably make their ears bleed with my incessant chat. Over the Christmas period I was in a lot of social situations where I found myself mute. I couldn't take part in conversation anymore, I couldn't really listen to what other people had to say as I had lost my focus on what they were saying. This was the most difficult part of the condition for me and one that I am still struggling with.It also took it's toll on our relationship because it's not easy dealing with me at the best of times but I have not made Steven's life easy these past 10 months, although I'm sure he would say that he hasn't always been the most patient or understanding of husbands at times either.
I turned to blogging as I realised that I could write down my thoughts and feelings much easier. I have found that blogging is a great release for my emotions. It forces me into having 'conversations' with people on a daily basis and the blog world is a really sociable place. I am not out of the woods yet and I am still working on my face to face conversations but I am getting there. For this reason I isolated myself and didn't want to leave the house. I am much better now and make a compromise with myself. We tend to spend the mornings in the house as it is JC's nap time but I make an effort to go out most afternoons.
I am starting to be able to enjoy life more now and I find that I have good days and bad days. I have found it difficult lately as I have been really busy. It can sometimes be overwhelming. Treatment wise, antidepressants weren't for me so I decided to try counselling. I couldn't afford expensive therapy so I choose to seek help from the charity CrossReach who run a PND clinic in Edinburgh. They offer group therapy, one to one, baby massage, art therapy, Dad's group and a young mum's group. I see a lovely lady every Tuesday and JC stays in their expertly run creche. He always has a ball and gives me a huge smile when I pick him up. I go back to work in August and I hope that I will be in a better place by then. I can see light at the end of what has been a long dark tunnel. I sometimes feel sad that I missed a lot of happiness when JC was a baby but I can't change it, I realise now that it wasn't really something I could control. I just have to look forward. Thanks to Liska from New Mum Online who has been a fab supporter to me and kept me blogging, even when things were tough! She gave me the mumentum (lol) to finish this post tonight!