Why postnatal depression was my blessing in disguise
“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” Carl Jung
I’ve mentioned in previous blogs how I have always struggled with this dark cloud of misery hanging over my head and impacting my everyday life.
When I fell pregnant at 19 I was happy, my pregnancy was not planned but I was confident everything would be okay. I finally became a sister when I was 13 years old so I was familiar with the baby thing and was quite content of changing poo explosions and smelling of vomit 24/7.
After a long, painful and scary labour I gave birth to a healthy baby boy in November 2010 and after just 1 night in hospital we were sent home as a family of 3. As soon as I got home I immediately burst into tears, reality hit me like a tonne of bricks and I had no idea what to do with this tiny human who had joined our family. Thank goodness, my amazing husband had organised my mum and little sister to visit for a week which helped lift a couple of those bricks. I cried every day during the week my mum was there but was told it was part of the “baby blues” and totally normal and my hormones would settle in a couple of weeks and I would feel better.
A month passed and I was doing a pretty good job of being a first-time mum but I still couldn’t shake this incredibly sad feeling. I remember being so exhausted of feeling anxious, stressed and negative but it just wouldn’t budge. I eventually reluctantly accepted my husband’s advice to go and talk to a doctor. Straight away the doctor identified my symptoms as being postnatal depression and gave me a script for anti-depressant as well as recommending some coping techniques to use at home and referring me to a counsellor.
Fast forward another month and I was feeling the happiest I had felt since I was at least 15. I had been living with this relentless depression for a large majority of my life but didn’t know it and the happiness I was experiencing from getting help was totally normal for most.
I do have some tips to share which I hope will help others going through some sort of mental health problem but mainly focusing on postnatal depression.
- You are not crazy – I remember thinking that I had to keep my diagnosis top-secret because if anyone found out I had a mental health issue they would think I wasn’t capable of being a good mum or they would see me as being weak. Well I was totally wrong, in fact I’m incredibly proud that I was strong enough to seek help so I could be a happier mum to my son and a better wife to my husband.
- Limit your social media use – I got obsessed with comparing myself to others and wondering why everyone else seemed so much happier than me. Then I got stressed that my son wasn’t reaching milestones at the same time as other children his age and wasted so much time googling to make sure he was normal. It was exhausting and once I restricted the time I had on their I felt much better
- Listen to your doctor – About 7 months after taking antidepressants I decided that I was feeling amazing and no longer needed them so stopped. It wasn’t long before I slipped back into my sad, overly sensitive and super anxious self so I went back to the doctor and learnt it can be dangerous to stop taking medication abruptly and you need to work with your doctor if you want to make the change.
- It’s okay to not be okay – Don’t forget that you’re human which means smiling in the morning and crying by the afternoon is totally normal. Own your feelings, acknowledge them, even name them so when you feel your heart racing and palms sweating you say can say “oh hey their anxiety, back again?” and practice your coping techniques to bid anxiety goodbye.
- Don’t give up – Everyone has a purpose in life and it doesn’t mean you must change the world to have an impact. Sharing your knowledge, practising compassion or even showing off your beautiful smile can make a huge difference to a person which they’ll share with others. Nothing is permanent in life and things will get better! I am grateful every day for my diagnosis of post-natal depression as I don’t know if I ever would have gone to get the help I always needed.