Thursday 14 October 2021

Postnatal Depression and Me - My Journey

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Having a baby is probably one of the biggest changes and toughest challenges many of us will face. Take away the sleepless nights, financial responsibility and the fact you will probably never get anywhere on time again, its a huge toll on anyone's mental state too. Overnight you go from being responsible for only you, to suddenly becoming a parent, in charge of a whole new person and all of the emotions that go with your new role. 

Overnight you become the provider for a tiny new baby who is dependent on you for everything from eating to comfort. So with all that in mind, its not really surprising that more than one in ten women suffering with varying degrees of postnatal depression and anxiety. 

For me, having a baby was a complete shock. Despite having 8+ months to get used to the idea, nothing quite prepares you for that moment they place a baby into your arms and you suddenly become a parent. It's a wave of emotions, but not everyone feels the same way and for me, that instant wave of love was consumed by worry, pain and exhaustion. But this in itself made me feel "wrong" in some way. Most likely because of the pressure we place on ourselves and the many of the books, videos and shows we watch depict this "perfect, instant connection". But that doesn't always happen, and that's ok, but we just don't talk about it and this in itself leads to a whole range of other issues. 

The face of the matter is we need to talk about all aspects of pregnancy and parenting. The good bits, the bad bits, the weird and unpredictable bits. Lets share honesty and understanding and not what we want the world to see. 

I will hold my hands up and admit I struggled. I was 19 and I felt like everyone was waiting for me to fail and that asking for help was almost like admitting my failure. But please if you are reading this know that this is not the case. Ask for help, ask for advice, let people in and never apologise for wanting to learn. You are worth it and taking it one day at a time is ok.  

For me personally, all of the pressure and expectations (mostly from myself) added to my eventual diagnosis of postnatal depression. I put so much pressure on myself to be happy, to feel how I should, how people told me I should feel. I allowed an ideal of what a parent was, to take over my actual parenting and I felt utterly exhausted. I became paranoid about everything, my baby choking, not waking up, getting poorly etc, the list goes on. But that's the thing with postnatal depression, it actually often presents with very similar symptoms to depression except the worries and stress is often centred around baby and your own parenting. 

When I first went to the doctors I was sent away with "baby blues" and whilst this is definitely a thing, its important to trust your own instinct. You know when something isn't right, you know when its more than just a low mood or a bad day, don't be afraid to speak up and go back. My symptoms included extreme low moods the majority of the time, exhaustion even though all I wanted to do was sleep all the time. Getting out of bed to start the day felt hard, but not just because of night feeds and a new baby, because I just didn't feel like I was sure if I could get through the day. I went through a cycle of not eating, then binge eating and I lost all interest in everything. 

I became paranoid that everything I was doing was wrong and that everyone was judging me for it. I began feeling like I wasn't good enough, that everyone would be better without me. I distanced myself from everyone which created a vicious cycle of loneliness and then feeling down because I had no support. I felt utterly consumed by sadness, stress, worry and anxiety. But it is of course important to know that symptoms will be different for everyone and its so important to trust your own instinct. 

If you do have postnatal depression there are a number of ways that you can use to cope day to day and get help more long time. These including talking to friends, visiting your doctor for help or medication or even help such as private psychiatry. There are even dedicated groups you can join to chat to other parents etc. The biggest step you will ever take is asking for help, everything after that is a little bit easier. 

Do you have any experience of postnatal depression? If so (and you feel you can share) please do share your experiences and the help you got below in the comments. 


**This is a collaborative post.**

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