36 year old Therese, mother of two young girls, shares her story and journey through Postnatal Depression.
My husband and I were thrilled when we found out I was pregnant – we’d been trying for 13 months and felt very ready for a baby to come into our lives. When Holly was born I was on a huge high, despite the birth not going as I had imagined. It was when my hospital stay was coming to an end that I started feeling anxious. I wasn’t excited about going home and when I sat outside the hospital with Holly in the capsule waiting for my husband to bring the car around, I felt a wave of fear come over me. The world felt totally different to when I had walked into the hospital five days before – it felt scary and cold and this feeling followed me home.
As those dazed first few weeks of life with a newborn unfolded, I tried to talk myself out of the awful feelings I was having. I thought the reason I felt so anxious was that Holly was very difficult to settle. If I could just fix that I thought things would improve, so I embarked on the exhausting search for the answer. I kept telling myself I would feel better once we got the settling and feeding sorted.
Despite having a strong support network around us, I soon became completely and utterly exhausted emotionally and physically. The days felt endless and despite having friends and family around, I was extremely lonely and felt isolated – like the only new mother feeling like this. I was too anxious to eat and I started to lose weight.
I felt I had completely lost my previous confident capable happy self – like I had been I felt robbed of that , as well as my happiness, health, self confidence, identity and I was fearful that they would never return.
I started to feel really scared of being alone with Holly – I was terrified of how I would handle a whole day of settling her by myself. I was starting to become scared of her and what she would do next.
Ironically to the outside world I looked fine – great even. I exhausted myself making sure that the house was perfectly tidy, our business paperwork was up to date, my hair and make up was done and everything was all still running along just had it had before Holly arrived.
The final straw was when even sleep started to elude me and the escape that sleep had allowed me from the exhausting relentlessness of my thoughts. Insomnia crept in and I spent hours awake, feeling anxious and worried about how I was going to handle the day ahead.
I thought that maybe I should just leave – I was never going to feel better, I was such a failure, and I felt like I needed to escape my thoughts. The fact I even considered leaving what I love the most and doing something I would never, ever consider when I was well, shows how dangerous PND can be.
I dragged myself to see my obstetrician at around 10 weeks and after a few standard questions he paused and asked, “How are YOU, really?” and that was it, I cracked. The tears started and wouldn’t’t stop, I could finally admit that I feeling completely desperate and awful. I had reached rock bottom and finally someone had asked the right question – telling me that it was not normal to be feeling this way and that I could get help.
I saw a psychologist who specialises in post natal depression and anxiety and that was very helpful, however I found that my weekly visits to her were not enough to get me out of the black hole I was in, so I started on medication. It took a long six weeks to get the dose right but once it did, I started to feel like myself again and for the first time began to enjoy motherhood.
I also attended a Post Natal Depression support group which gave me some tangible techniques for self-care, managing relationships and coping with stress.
I love and adore my two girls. I still have my days when parenting seems incredibly tough, however I now cope with motherhood extremely well. I learnt so much by going through what I did – particularly about self-care and I am very strict with taking time out for myself to ensure I stay in a good place.
Most importantly, I have given up on feeling guilty about how I felt.
PND almost destroyed me but five years on and two children later I am proud to be here and see how far I’ve come. I am here and I survived because I was lucky enough to get the right help. Every woman deserves that chance.