Recently I discovered that it must be extremely stressful to explain what is going on in your head when you don’t even understand it yourself. Thanks to one of my readers, maybe more people will understand that post natal depression is an illness and not a reflection of who you are as a mother. Her story is raw, brave and thankfully she is willing to share it with you.
“Our twins turned 10 earlier this month. As their birthday approached I looked at pictures of them with a gut-wrenching sadness because so much of their early experiences were tainted by my inability to be happy. A big black cloud appeared (that’s my nickname for depression) and I cried. It’s not the first time the black cloud has taken over my life. It arrived when my babies were around 18 months old.
The twins were conceived via ICSI-IVF. The first cycle didn’t end in pregnancy, or even eggs. It was soul-destroying and my husband and I were left to battle through the disappointment on our own without any professional help. Trying to get pregnant can become such an important part of life when you want it so bad. If you go through IVF treatment and it isn’t successful, you can feel like your world is falling apart, particularly if everyone around you is starting families.
We were offered a generous cash gift and tried a 2nd cycle and amazingly fell pregnant with twins. It was a frightening time emotionally, hoping that everything would be ok but we were so delighted. When it was time, they were breach but I ended up going into labour naturally at 38wks +5 days and delivered them via c-section. I couldn’t believe our luck when they arrived looking so beautiful and at such a good weight too. Our dreams came true and our lives were finally complete.
Our two had become four in such a short time and nothing can prepare you for the challenges that newborns bring. Circumstances led me to return to work after just 12 weeks. I did three days and my husband had the two weeks paternity leave. I thought three days would be achievable but the sleep deprivation, constant need to nurture two children, running a business and running the home too completely took its toll.
Our son also developed a bad period of colic. At 3.30pm each day he would scream the house down and nothing would settle him. I remember calling my husband and sobbing down the phone. I know that many new parents find the early days tough and have shed tears but I think this was the start of my battle with depression. Of course I wasn’t aware of this at the time.
We had a fantastic network of family and friends around us who helped with twin life whenever they could. However, I am naturally a strong person who doesn’t always accept help so I just carried on until, what my counsellor would later say, ‘the bath overflowed’.
One Sunday I felt so low, angry, sad, and I hated myself. Potentially because I knew I should be happy. All I wanted was to be a mum and I felt I was failing at it. I got in my car and drove off and I’ll admit I didn’t want to go back. I had no idea where I was going, just away from my responsibilities with an overwhelming sense of despair. I finally pulled over, and went home to my loving husband and the next day he persuaded me to call the doctor. This was a major turning point in getting help. It’s so hard because no matter how many people offer support, you try and fight back and get better on your own. I remember my father-in law sitting me down one day and saying how sad I looked, apparently the glint in my eyes had gone and there was no one there anymore. I really needed professional help.
I was put on anti-depressants and joined a waiting list for counselling, the waiting list was a minimum of 12 weeks, which was a really long time in the mental state I was in. Luckily, I was offered the option to go private. If I hadn’t have started therapy at that point I really don’t think I would be here today. The cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was once a week, then it spaced out to every month as I improved. It’s important for people and those around them understand it wasn’t something which would yield instant results but it worked over time.
I reduced my anti-depressants as soon as I could to decrease any side-effects. My mental state had changed and I started to like myself again and had the drive to get better for both my amazing children and my wonderful husband. I’m a lucky lady and have been blessed with my kids. They are happy and loved.
The black cloud is something that reappears from time to time and I have therapy like a top-up. Life just throws things at you and a switch in your brain makes you hate yourself for all sorts of reasons. I can see it coming now and so I’m more comfortable with acting fast.
Looking back, I should have accepted help earlier. Depression, PND and mental illness is something that needs to be talked about straight away and not hidden from yourself, family and friends.
If one person reading this seeks help or opens up to their husband, wife, friend, mum, dad, sister or brother about their feelings, then my experiences may help others.”