Let’s talk about depression
It’s Post Natal Depression Awareness Week (5th-11th September) as launched and hosted by PANDAS and I am typically late to the table. This is for a myriad of reasons. (1) I’ve had a busy week and (2) I’m a bit reluctant to talk about PND (yeah I know, that’s just two reasons but I like the word myriad – just rolls off the tongue miiirrryyyad).
I’m a little ashamed to say that – despite calling myself ‘refreshingly honest’ and being happy to talk to you about my birth stories, my first labour poo and how if I get really drunk I use my stretch marks as a form of ID when I’m out ( – what? I haven’t told you that one – I’m like a tree, my lines tell you how old I am) – I am reluctant to talk about my experience of Post Natal Depression (31 lines if you’re interested, like a good old oak).
It’s not because of the stigma attached to mental health, I hold you in higher regard than that.
Anyone reading this and feeling a little judgey about mental health, have a little look inside yourself and remember ‘those’ times. When you sunk to the floor with your head in your hands, when you cried wracking sobs in the shower, when you worried obsessively about something, when you ate to make yourself feel better, when you didn’t eat to make yourself feel better, when you had a false sense of grandeur, when you felt alone in a crowd, it goes on and on. We are humans, we are flawed. Those things do not necessarily constitute mental illness but experiencing them should provide you with the tool of empathy for those who have experienced the aforementioned feelings, amongst others, for prolonged periods.
And if you’ve not been in that position yourself then have another little look inside yourself and think of a family member, friend or colleague who has.
And if you haven’t experienced them and can’t think of a family member, friend or colleague who has then you, my friend, are probably a Google robot scanning this blog for Search Engine Optimisation. You may as well stop here my little robot friend, I don’t understand that shit.
For me, the silence surrounding PND is because I’m getting more concerned about if/when my daughter reads these blogposts. The worst thing in the world would be for her to misunderstand how I felt after having her. Or rather project how I felt after having her as having anything to do with her at all.
But at the same time, I pride myself on being honest, so in the name of honesty, and so she will never feel like this was anything to do with her, I will address this, directly to her.
When I first had you I had never had a baby before. I thought that I would be good at it because I had worked with children for a long time, teaching them and helping them to behave. Some of the children who I used to work with used to make the wrong choice and I would help them to make the right one. Some other adults didn’t understand why I wanted to work with children who always seemed to make the wrong choice but I knew it wasn’t because they were bad or naughty and that, eventually one day, they would consistently make right choices and people would see that.
So when I had you I expected to make the right choices for you. Other people expected me to as well. Now, I don’t want to put you off but having a baby is hard work. I know you already know that at the age of 5, because after I had Olive you told me not to have any more babies because we had no more hands to hold them.
When I had you I had the perfect amount of hands to hold you. And a lot of time. But we had just moved house and I felt lonely because I didn’t have any other grown up, boring people to talk to. I just had you. And it’s not like it is now because you couldn’t talk to me and we couldn’t drink hot chocolate and have girls’ nights watching films because you were too little.
I didn’t know you then and I think I was a bit scared because I didn’t know then that when you grew up I would love you so much no matter what.
When you were a baby you cried a lot. Because I had never had a baby before I thought that you cried a lot because of me which is really silly. You cried a lot because your tummy hurt. You were crying because you couldn’t talk and you were just trying to tell me that your tummy hurt. I cried quite a lot too. I cried because my tummy hurt too, they way yours does when you are worried. I was worried about being your mum. I didn’t cry in front of other people though, which is really silly, I should have done what you did and tried to tell someone else that my tummy hurt but I didn’t. That is the very first thing that you taught me Lola, even if I only realised it later. When you are hurting you should always tell someone.
That is why I always tell you now to tell me if you have hurt yourself (a big ouch, I don’t mean that teeny tiny ouch we had to use your bug magnifying glass to see). Or if you are worried about something. Because I learnt that if something is hurting a lot and you don’t tell someone, then the hurt doesn’t always go away. Sometimes it gets worse.
And you know how I always tell you that I don’t mind if you make the wrong choice? Or get told off at school? How it doesn’t really matter if we get things wrong because we are all human and everyone, even (especially) adults get things wrong? Well I didn’t know that then, and I thought that if I told anyone how I was feeling then all those people would think I’d done something wrong or that I wasn’t the best parent in the world. And I didn’t know then that I didn’t need to be the best and I was always the best for you.
And I am writing this letter to you just in case there is another lady who has had a baby who is feeling a little worried, or hurting. I just wanted them to know that there was a time when I felt very sad and now I don’t. There was a time when I was very worried about you and I, and now I’m not. And I wanted them to hear what you taught me – that if you are hurting you should tell an adult who can help you.
Thank you for being my first baby Lola,
All my love always
Lola is going to turn 6 in 2 weeks time. Nearly 6 years ago I was feeling scared, anxious and alone with a newborn baby. Last week we got back from a family holiday to Devon and Lola and I relaxed in a hot tub whilst I drank Prosecco and stared at the stars. How my life has changed. If this blogpost resonates with you then please talk to someone, it will get better. One day you too will be in a hot tub staring at the stars with the product of your womb. I mean, sure, you’ll have to play the Little Mermaid and you will have to be Ursula and it’ll be a little less relaxing than it used to be but it’ll be good again. Life will be good again.
And by the way I read this letter to Lola and her response was:
Lola: ’Frank and I are opposite because Frank doesn’t like carrots and I do like carrots and Frank likes cucumbers and I don’t’.
Frank: ‘But I do like carrots now’
I think they’re trying to make a deep philosophical point. Things change.
If you need to seek help then please do so here. You are not alone.