It was entirely unexpected that when I embarked on researching and collecting stories for PND week, that I would come face to face with my own dark emotions, mirrored perfectly in the words that shone out from the computer screen. I wasn’t even aware of how deep into the murky waters I had submerged but reading these words, despite their desperation and heart ache, were what threw me the life jacket of acknowledgement and the realisation of how isolated in my own head I had become. What have I done since? Talked. To my husband. To my family. To my friends. To strangers via my blog. But it has given me enough power to keep my enemy at bay. Sometimes that is all it needs. To reinstate your voice and for that voice to be validated and I hope, like me, you find that validation here….
I tried to write about Post Natal Depression but I couldn’t do it. It was too hard. As I started to write I was pulled down, pulled back into those emotions and into that dark place as if it was happening to me right now. It was overwhelming. Maybe I’m still fighting my way out of the tail end of it or maybe I’m just hormonal and sleep deprived, or both! So instead I’ve written myself a letter…
I know that right now you feel like you will be stuck in this black hole forever, I know that you can’t see a chink of light. But I am writing to you to tell you that the light will come. Slowly, with an ebb and flow that at times will make you feel worse than if it had never been, but it will come. In fact, although you can’t feel it, you are crawling towards it right now. You don’t have the energy to lift your head so all you can see is the dripping of your own silent tears and all you can hear are the barrage of hateful voices inside your head but soon, soon, you will have a moment when you think, ‘you know, I didn’t hate myself quite so much today’ and then you will have a small smile.
I know this because I am you. Today I still fight against those sad and angry voices, that paralysing black cloud of depression and the self loathing that feels all consuming but now I can see them coming. I can look at those thoughts, feel those emotions and see them for what they are. They are not you. They aren’t even a true reflection of reality. Yes, yes, you believe every negative thought and can’t accept that you’re doing anything right but I ask you, is that realistic? What you have is a dementor living in your head, sucking the colour and joy out of your world and leaving behind a fragile skeleton of despair. I need you to know that the black things the dementor tells you about your mind, your body, your house, your life, your parenting, your relationships, they aren’t true. Don’t believe them.
I know you look around at your messy, dirty house and hate yourself for it. I know you think you are judged on those cobwebs and that pile of washing up and maybe by some people you are. But you are surrounded by people who want to help you if only you’ll ask. You know who I mean. They’d be round in a shot with a cupcake, a kind word and their rubber gloves and never think any less of you. You don’t want to trouble them, in your mind you’re a burden on the world enough but here’s a newsflash, that’s what friends are for. You’d do the same for them, you know you would.
You think you are unlovable, I know. You say hateful things to yourself, replay conversations in your head and wish you’d never opened your mouth, you worry all the time, every day that your friends are angry with you and don’t know how to make it better. The truth though, is that some of them are doing the same. And the rest? They haven’t given that conversation another thought! Seriously, not one thought!
Ok, we have to talk about going out. You haven’t been doing that as much lately have you? And because I love you I’m telling you that you must. I know it’s hard, I know all three of you end up crying every time. I know it doesn’t feel worth it. But it is. So put your shoes on, tuck the baby in the sling and the boy in the buggy and leave the house. Go and see one of those friends we’ve been talking about, walk to the park, go to tesco, whatever. This one is non-negotiable because it WILL help.
I know you’ll go to the doctor and talk about all of this. You’ll put on the mask you show the world and talk professionally about your depression and anxiety as if you’re talking about someone else. He’ll tell you that you are heading towards agoraphobia just to add to the fun and you’ll calmly acknowledge that. You’ll discuss medication and how you don’t want to take it because some days you feel like breastfeeding is the only thing in your entire existence you can do right and you don’t want the drugs going to the baby. I’m here to tall you that the HOURS of agonising are not necessary. There are drugs you can take and still feed your boy if you want to or you don’t have to take them but please, PLEASE stop torturing yourself over the decision.
So what I want you to do now is cuddle your big boy next to you on the sofa, give your baby boy another dose of Mummy milk, watch reruns of Thomas on youtube and tell yourself, ‘this is ok’. I understand this isn’t what you want your life to look like forever, but it won’t, it really won’t.
Today things are better. Not perfect by any means, there’s still too much washing in the basket and yes, I cried yesterday but the dementor has gone so I can forgive myself for those things. The world is still often grey, sometimes dark but I am clinging on to the light and I WON’T let it go. It’s a hard road but we’re doing well and the most important thing I can say to you is this…
You are loved. And when you love in return, really, what else matters?”