This is a really hard topic to talk about. I've done some things I'm ashamed of. Things that make me feel like an awful mother. Things that this illness made me do.
I've had postnatal depression, twice. After the birth of my first baby, I assumed the depression was situational, being that I was a single mother living with my parents. Fortunately, my depression was picked up early and managed by hard-core exercise and diet.
However, after my second son was born, I wasn't so lucky. I think the birth trauma I experienced really set things in motion- a downward motion.
The first few weeks after giving birth to Corbin (my youngest) were consumed by cleaning. Frantic, obsessive cleaning. As I didn't feel depressed, I was sure I didn't have post-natal depression. However, I felt insanely anxious. I was constantly worried about what visitors thought of the house. The thought of my mother coming over sent my into an anxiety attack. What was she going to think when she saw the bin overflowing? Or the floors covered in dirt? Would she realise I'm a terrible mother? Would she realise I'm not capable of looking after two young children?
These thoughts clouded my mind. But I felt ok. I could manage, after all having a tidy house wasn't a bad thing, right?
It got worse. Progressively worse. But so subtly that I didn't notice myself falling into an deep darkness. My cleaning became frantic, my baby would cry and I wouldn't pick him up unless I had finished cleaning. It was so easy to ignore him. My anxiety attacks became frequent,simply leaving the house became a big ordeal.
As my 2-year-old’s behaviour became increasingly more challenging, I couldn't pee without something happening. At 6 weeks old, my baby was pushed out of the bassinet (which was in my bedroom, door closed) whilst I used the potty for 5 minutes.
I started resenting my children, I didn't want to look after them. I felt so trapped. I couldn't do anything alone. Someone ALWAYS wanted me, but I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to run away. Almost every day I fantasised about driving away from everyone.
My husband was suffering in his own kind of depression. He was emotionally void, sleep deprived and stressed. As much as he tried to help, he couldn't.
He wasn't the one sitting up at 11:30pm with a baby that had been screaming for two hours. He wasn't the one getting up to the 2 year old for the 4th time in two hours.
He wasn't the one who was home alone, all day, with no one to talk to.
I felt so lonely. The loneliest I've ever felt. I had one friend I felt that wasn't judging me, but I didn't want to burden her any more. I couldn't call my mum, she was always working. I didn't have anyone else I felt comfortable to express my inner most feelings.
I remember most mornings, standing in the shower crying, because I wanted to go out and spend time with someone but no one was available. I felt so rejected and unwanted.
My only source of external communication was Facebook. Dear old Facebook. I would post every few hours about how hard my day was, how naughty my child was, how stressed I was feeling. Of course no one wanted to be around me, I was a dark hole of negativity.
One day, I was sent a message from a friend which said “you need to stop posting these things on Facebook about how annoying your children are, everyone thinks you hate your children. Can't you just talk to someone in private?”.
This gutted me. I cried and cried. It confirmed all my fears, that a) everyone was judging me as the awful mother I suspected I was and b) I had no body.
When Corbin hit 4 months old, my postnatal depression had consumed me in its entirety. I survived each day by eating a block of chocolate. That was the only joy I felt. I also slowly gained weight and became the biggest I have ever been. This of course carried more shame and anxiety.
My depression wasn't typical, I didn't feel sad but I was angry. So angry. At everyone and everything.
My poor little toddler copped most of my anger outbursts, which in turn made him act out on his baby brother. My life had become a living nightmare. Yet when I looked around, everyone else seemed to be coping. Why were they so happy, when I was miserable? I didn't want to be a mum anymore. I didn't want to be alive anymore. I felt like a failure.
At the peak of my depression, my marriage was failing. I remember the number of shouting matches we had at 2am. I remember how terrified my little boy was. I remember being SO angry I punched a wall, it hurt, but it was the only real feeling I had felt in a long time.
Sometimes, I scared myself. The thoughts, the awful thoughts that invade your mind. The thoughts you HATE yourself for thinking. The thoughts you are so ASHAMED to tell anyone. The thoughts about hurting yourself, or worse, hurting your child. Just writing this makes me cry.
My children deserved better. My husband deserved better. I deserved better.
It took me 7 months to get help. 7 months I will never get back.
I wish the child health nurse had asked me honestly how I was feeling. I wish they had given me the Edinburg test. I wish someone offered to take me to the Doctor, as I was too afraid to go alone (thanks birth trauma). I wish someone had asked me if I was ok, instead of judging my outcry's on Facebook for being "attention seeking". Maybe they were "attention seeking". I was crying out for help, because I was too ashamed to ask for help.
I am, however, thankful for that one Postnatal Depression Support group on Facebook. That group of women who made me feel like I wasn't alone, that I wasn't an awful mother but just a mother suffering from an illness.
This, is my story.
If you can relate to this, and haven't received help, please do. Don't let postnatal depression rob you of your life.
I've decided to share my story, in hopes we can bring some light to this illness and remove the shame and stigma many of us mums are carrying around.
If you need help, please call
PANDA Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Network Australia 1300 726 306
If you have a story you'd like to share (anonymous or not), please email firstname.lastname@example.org