Did you know it’s Postnatal Depression Awareness week?
I think this is a perfect time to be open about what happened after the birth of my son. Unfortunately it wasn’t the “happiest time in my life”, in fact it was almost the opposite. I didn’t fall instantly head over heals in love with him. I didn’t magically learn how to be a parent overnight.
The reality was I went into a downward spiral, my days were filled with sadness, self-hate and worthlessness. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to cope with a newborn, I mean everyone does it – don’t they?!? I beat myself up on a daily basis, telling myself I wasn’t good enough and spent a lot of time in tears. My anxiety was sky high and I couldn’t bare to leave the house. Everyday tasks became mountains that I didn’t have the energy to climb. I felt so much shame about not being able to cope as a mum.
I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for this little human, shocked by the loss of my freedom and caught up in guilt.
My body was also giving me daily pain after a traumatic birth. I had endless tests, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and medical appointments to try and get my body back to health.
It was definitely the hardest year of my life. I wish I could have been open about it at the time but I was too depressed and anxious. I believed I would be stigmatised for having a mental illness and further isolated. My friends would have had no idea what was going on in my life and that’s the scary thing about depression – it’s so easily hidden by a mask.
However, now that I’m feeling better I can see the most important thing you can do is seek help. I did and I was lucky enough to meet a brilliant psychologist at the Gidget Foundation, which has changed my life. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s actually the bravest thing you can do.
I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t got the help I so badly needed. Although, I do know that it’s unlikely I would ever be creating artwork. My journey to recovery has been underpinned by my art. It has been my personal therapy, a way to process the uncomfortable emotions. Please take a look at my artwork below, it’s a piece I drew to express the emotions I felt as a new mum. It’s not your usual image of motherhood but it was my reality. It’s also the reality of so many others, with figures showing 1 in 7 new mothers and 1 in 10 new fathers experience postnatal depression.
I am now passionate about creating art that has meaning and can inspire converstations on mental health. That’s why I created this page, I have lots of ideas for the future and hope you’ll follow me on this journey.
Now at this point in my life I can now see that I’ve grown, I’ve changed and taken a lot of steps to ensuring I stay mentally and physically healthy. I love my son to pieces and couldn’t imagine my life without him. His birth shook things up for me and forced me to make positive changes in my life.
So, please don’t be fooled – parenthood is HARD and we need to talk, we need to share, we need to be open and honest. Because without support there are mothers and fathers suffering in silence.
If you’re having a tough time as a new parent, please don’t suffer in silence, there is support out there – whether it’s a close friend, family member, doctor or charity. Things can and will get better