Many assume that depression is a constant state. It isn’t. It comes in waves; like you’re out at sea treading water, barely keeping afloat when it’s rough. There are some days where you’ll feel like you can do anything, but there will also be days where you just want to cry into your pillow and end it all. It’s an incredibly lonely time for any woman.
In my opinion, postnatal depression is the cruelest form of depression. It takes what little time you have to watch your child grow and wastes it. While suffering, you miss all of the wonderful things that your new baby is doing. The fog that surrounds you is all-consuming; it blinds you to everything that is happening within your life. Until something finally registers. You’ll have seen your baby do something every day for weeks but you couldn’t notice properly because of the 'fog'. Then the mother’s guilt hits you. You realize how much you’ve missed in your child’s development because you were too absorbed in your own mental state to see that everything is carrying on around you, while you were stuck in a rut, suffering alone. And that’s what it feels like; like you’re suffering alone. Everyone else’s lives seem to be unaffected by the massive change that’s dominated yours.
You’ll feel resentment towards everyone; your partner, your parents and even random people on the street. They’re going about their lives, going to work and meeting friends. You’ll feel jealous that you’ve been left behind, stuck looking after a baby. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your child, not at all, it just means that you’re human. You need a break. You’re so exhausted from doing your very best for your child, you’ve neglected yourself in the process.
There was one time when I was at my lowest, I’d spent hours trying to put my little boy down for an afternoon nap. We were both frustrated and crying and for a fraction of a second, an image of me shaking my child flitted through my head. I stopped. I put him down, even though he was screaming, shut the door and ran downstairs to try and get as far away from him as possible. I stood in the kitchen totally disgusted at myself, I couldn’t hurt a hair on that beautiful boy’s head. This was the point at which I knew I needed to get help. I ended up talking to my partner and my GP and was prescribed antidepressants. Speaking out was the hardest thing to do, as a perfectionist, it made me feel like everything was out of my control and I was failing.
All of these thoughts and feelings are so frighteningly normal and very common. I don’t know of any women who have not felt these things and if they say they haven’t then you’ve every right to call them a liar (or deluded) because they’re obviously not working hard enough. Every single woman has felt useless, stupid and like they’re a terrible mum. But you need to remind yourself what your child’s life would be like if you were not around. No one can provide for your child like you can. No one will put your child first as you will. No one knows or understands your child like you. And no one will love your child like you do. I have to remind myself every single day to stop and just watch him. I created this beautiful human being. No one else. Me. And he’s absolutely incredible, he’s full of smiles and giggles and learns something new every single day. There are some days when it feels like all he does is cry and it’s frustrating for both of us. But I see the way he looks at me. Pure love. He doesn’t see my greasy hair or notice the stench that follows me because he hasn’t let me have a bath in four days. He is happy to just be near me, to cuddle and babble at me, because I make him feel safe and loved.
That’s what we need to remember, even though we’re struggling and trying our damned hardest, they will never give up on us. So we have to use this as fuel and fight every day so that we never give up on them because we are all they have and we can’t let them down.