What can I do for you today? She said. “I’m depressed” the second the words rolled from my tongue I broke down. My head dropped, my body became weightless and the tears wouldn’t stop. I sat on the doctors chair feeling embarrassed. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t cry. But it was the first time I had ever said it out loud. Before I had said to David “I’m feeling a bit down” “I just feel poorly” or “I’m not feeling myself”. I could never say the words out loud before because that would be admitting that I had a problem.
This will probably be the post that will be the hardest to write for me. I can count on one hand people who know about my postnatal depression and anxiety. Most people see me as the happy girl (with an occasional resting bitch face). How could somebody like me have this?
The first few weeks of Oscars life were great. I got used to the night feeds, we was developing a routine and getting to know each other. We had visitors coming out of our ears. I complained at the time that we always had somebody there, but soon I would’ve given anything for a friendly face at my door. Soon David was back at work, working long hours because of Christmas and late nights. Then the novelty of this new baby wore off. The visits faded and pretty soon it was just me and my baby most days.
The first sign to me that something was wrong was when the health visitor came to do the six-week postnatal check and you have to fill out a questionnaire about your moods and behavior. I’m pretty sure I lied on every single question. Why would I tell her that I was struggling? She would take my precious baby away from me, I just knew it.
To me it couldn’t be depression because I saw people with postnatal depression as people who couldn’t bond with their babies. People who wanted to hurt their babies or didn’t want them. Oscar was one of the main reasons why I pulled out of it. We developed the strongest bond from when he was inside of me, but I didn’t want people to think I was incapable of looking after him so it had to be a secret. He made me happy, he was my reason for getting out of bed every morning and for putting a smile on my face.
Depression for me was locking myself in the bathroom, lying on the floor and hysterically crying. It was screaming into my hands until I had a migraine. It was going from the girl who could barely keep her room tidy a few years before, to developing OCD. My house had to be cleaned constantly. I wouldn’t do anything until it was spotless, until any germs had gone so my boy wouldn’t get them.
Depression for me was literally pulling out my hair until I had chunks of my hair wrapped around my hand. It was blocked plugs from my hair falling out constantly because I was so stressed. Depression for me was binge eating some days, then other days forgetting to eat. It was lying awake at night despite the fact Oscar dropped his night feeds, thinking about how much of a failure I was to him. I would be awake for hours whilst the world slept, crying to myself about how he deserved so much better than me, about how I hadn’t been to as many baby groups and days out with him as I had planned before.
Depression for me was scrolling through Facebook and seeing my friends on nights out wishing I was there but knowing that this weight called anxiety wouldn’t let me, or even have the guts to ask if I could tag along. It was taking him to the doctors or the walk in centre constantly because I was sure there was something wrong with him. It was constantly checking milestone ages and panicking if he hadn’t reached them by the age it said online.
Anxiety made me not want to leave the house . For a few months I barely went out unless I was with David. I only wanted to stay in the comfort of my home. My safe place. To me the world was too dangerous for my little boy. The thought of going into a shop and buying something filled me with dread, talking to somebody that I didn’t know who would judge me. I would time going out in public so that I didn’t have to feed him in a coffee shop or cafe unless I was with somebody. People would judge the way I fed him, how I winded him, the fact that he was drinking from a bottle and not my breast. Obviously they wasn’t but that’s how I felt. It was thinking that everybody would be better off without me.
Sitting in the doctor’s office saying these words was the hardest thing that I ever did. I was referred for counseling (in 2016 and even after chasing it I’ve still never heard anything) and was put on anti depressants and anxiety tablets. For two weeks I took these tablets and I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want tablets to make me feel happy. Instead, I got myself out everyday. Sun, rain, snow, I was out. Most days all I could do was go to Asda but I was out. I joined a baby group and I wasn’t afraid of what people thought or how I held my baby or what I was wearing. I knew i was good enough again. For months I stared at the same four walls day in day out. Fresh air, walks, the park, anything to get me out. I would leave a few bits of my online shopping order just so I had an excuse to pop to the supermarket.
Depression isn’t always not bonding with your baby. It’s nit picking, it’s postpartum rage, it’s not being able to sit still, it’s sleepless nights and feeling worthless. People will experience it in different ways but this was my experience. Sometimes I get worried I’ll fall back into it again, I get really down when I’m due on so I usually panic around that time. Esme is 12 weeks old now and I’d like to think I would recognize the signs if it was to happen again earlier. I also wouldn’t be afraid this time. I use to see it as a weakness, I was failing. If anything I think it makes me pretty fucking great, despite feeling like this, I can now confidently say I’m a really good mum. I’m pretty shit at most things haha, but I am a good mum and my relationship with my boy never suffered because of how I was feeling.
If you know any new mum’s, then make sure to check up on them. Visit them for a cup of tea and a gossip. Despite having two little people with me constantly and never being alone, it’s so easy to feel lonely.