Postnatal Depression – Was That Me?

Postnatal depression is a bit of a taboo subject and definitely not talked about enough. There’s this stigma attached to postnatal depression that means as a mother you are incapable or dangerous. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, some mothers who get to a really bad place can be a danger to themselves or their children. We’ve seen it in the news before about mothers harming their children, this isn’t new news.

Before I start I want to link some information on Postnatal Depression, and if anything you read here today sounds like you please read the advice linked below and see your general practitioner. I am not a professional in this subject, and this post is about my personal experiences only.

Did I Suffer From Postnatal Depression?

I was never diagnosed with postnatal depression, and to this day I wouldn’t say I ever fit in that category of being postnatally depressed. Some doctors may disagree but my counsellor has never brought that term up with me.

I spent four months after Holly’s birth trying to “fix” myself. I’d often say “I’m just broken”. My family hated hearing that. To them, I wasn’t broken, but deep inside myself I truly felt broken. The person I once knew had disappeared and I found myself spending my day trying to survive it. There was no actually living in my life.

Four months isn’t a long time in the big scheme of things granted. But when you are in a bad place it feels like an eternity. I never had any suicidal thoughts or thought anything bad towards my children. I just (excuse my language) felt like crap 90% of my day. And the other 10% was that peaceful time when your children go to bed and you know you have at least 2 hours until you’ll be needed by them again.

When Things Began To Change

I was in bed, not sleeping of course because by this point I barely slept. The only way I could sleep was if it was listening to something on Netflix. My go too was Benidorm, I knew everything that was happening without having to look at the screen so it gave me a chance to at least close my eyes. I’ve got to say I don’t enjoy that TV show now like I used too.

I had a moment of clarity where I knew I couldn’t do this by myself anymore. All the things I’d learnt in my previous jobs were just not cutting it. I was too “broken” to “fix” myself. I knew I needed to see a counsellor, I needed to get out of my own head.

Counselling to me before I attended was my idea of hell. I barely liked to talk or be vulnerable with the closest people in my life so why would I want to talk to a stranger? For that exact reason, it turns out.

Starting Therapy

I have been going to therapy for 8 months now, I see no sign of stopping therapy any time soon. In the first few sessions, I learnt that talking to someone that was impartial and not emotionally involved in my life was so much more useful.

Nothing she says to me I take to heart. That I wasn’t expecting. My counsellor often offers a new train of thought, a new perspective to consider that I am not capable of finding. Giving me avenues to discuss and work on. It is unbelievably helpful.

I started going to therapy to work on my feelings regarding my youngest daughters birth. I will link that story below. But actually there is a lot of other things that I have and need to discuss in the future about my entire life. Not just the past few years.

I’ve quickly learnt that there is no shame and embarrassment involved in counselling or even telling people that you go. If you are mentally in a bad place taking that step to improve yourself is beyond courageous.

For me, the turning point was because I knew my feelings were starting to have an effect on my children. I knew it wasn’t okay that I didn’t want to go anywhere or that they’d annoy me more than they should have. As soon as I realised my issues were having an effect on my ability to be a mum like I wanted to, I needed help.

The Inbetween

I made the decision to go private with my therapy and not via the NHS that we have in the UK. The reasons being –

  • Wanting to be seen as soon as possible I didn’t want to have to deal with the NHS waiting list and assessment process.
  • I feel I didn’t warrant an emergency referral from my GP. I knew from my previous work that I wouldn’t meet the criteria for emergency referrals if I even qualified for NHS counselling would have been debatable.
  • There is a system in place within the NHS, you don’t always see a counsellor straight away. You may have to attend wellness workshops or group meetings. By this point, I knew I was past that.
  • Private counselling offered what I needed. A safe place to go and talk, share my deepest thoughts and try to begin to “fix” myself.
  • We could afford it. Not only did it meet my needs more specifically but as a family, we could afford to pay for private counselling. I’d much rather someone who needed NHS counselling more desperately had those hours available to them.
  • I needed no time limit – on most occasions, there is a time limit or a limited number of sessions available on the NHS. I knew I needed more time and the pressure of having a limit didn’t sound appealing.

By no means am I bashing NHS counselling but for me, it wasn’t the right road to go down.

The Present

So 8 months on where am I at? A few weeks ago I felt I hadn’t made a great deal of progress. Pretty much everyone who knows me would disagree I imagine. But for the first time in a year, I realised I felt so much better.

I used to close my eyes and imagine visualising my brain. It was messy, jagged, scatters and nasty looking. Last night I closed my eyes, I saw nothing but darkness. That may sound negative but it just felt peaceful with no nastiness.

I’m actively trying to be kind to myself, give myself the time I need to deal with the trauma, grief and loss I’ve experienced. We always want to be at the finishing line but it truly is the journey that makes it possible to get to that finish line.

I have to allow myself to be low and anxious and work through those feelings to try and make them happen as little as possible. They say time is a healer, and a few months ago that would have riled me up. But as cliche as it is, time really does heal.

A year ago when I would cry my heart out to Oliver about Holly’s birth, I could never imagine that I’d ever think us both nearly dying would be okay. That those horrible intense emotions would be long gone. But they are. I find myself still getting sad about what happened, I think I always will to some degree. But as time passes I hope the pain eases.

By no means am I fully better, there is more I have to work on in lots of different areas of my life. But these positive steps we make to help change ourselves for the better help us heal. We all deserve, no matter who you are or what you have done in your life to heal from trauma.

No person deserves counselling or support over another, making those steps is a massive achievement and a great place to start. So if anything resonates with you from reading this post enquire about seeking some support. And most importantly be kind to yourself.

Danielle Swan x