According to NHS UK, around 1 in 10 mothers suffers from postnatal depression. I am one of them. I wrote about my struggle to bond with Lucas not long after he was born. I was diagnosed with posnatal depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder resulting from Lucas’s birth, when he was around 5-6 months old. Luckily, I was able to access cognitive behavioural therapy quickly via GP referral, and this helped immensely, but it was a long journey to feeling like myself again.
When I was pregnant with Aurora and Jake, I thought I was prepared for it all to happen again – after all, women who have previously suffered with PND are more likely to ‘relapse’ with subsequent children. But when they were around eight weeks old, I realised I was wrong: I wasn’t prepared. How could I be? My life had suddenly changed completely, again but in a different way to when I had Lucas. The strain of trying to keep things normal for Lucas was more exhausting than I could have imagined. Caring for two newborns was, unsurprisingly, much more work than caring for one had been. It was and continues to be physically and mentally shattering.
What I was prepared for was how to deal with it when the old black cloud started to descend again. For me, this means talking to my husband and family; my close friends who know what I went through last time around and were there for me during my tough twin pregnancy. It means going to see the doctor and health visitor and being honest about how I feel instead of pretending everything is fine. It means keeping my three babies close, even if my instinct sometimes is to run away.
It is my hope that as more women talk about their experiences of PND, mums (and dads) who are struggling will feel more able to share how they’re feeling. As well as writing about my own experience, I asked some friends to share how it feels to live with PND. Their honest, brave words are below.
“It’s horrible. It’s never ending, always lurking. It ruins lives, families, couples. It’s cruel.”
“It feels like there’s a fog in your head that makes it hard to reason, remember, react and feel. Some days the fog lifts and others it thickens but its always there.”
“It’s like being in a glass box. Away from everyone, but still there. Invisibly isolated.”
“Overwhelming. Such powerful urges that control your whole world. Trapped, no escape, it can be truly terrifying. It’s also exhausting for me and those who have to support me. It’s only when it leaves you that you really see how much it affected you, your family and your friends.”
“I feel like it’s like trying to run really fast through tar, or really sticky stuff lol with your head all foggy and confused…You lose all ability to see things from a rational point of view at times, and the smallest of issues can become the most confusing and stressful things on earth! It’s isolating and frightening.”
“I was so lonely. Really, really lonely. The fact that I was always covered in babies and always followed by my dog didn’t go any way to ease my isolation. I would go to bed feeling wide awake, pumped and full of adrenaline which was always frustrating as I had dragged myself through the day. But I was ready to tackle another night. Ready for the fight. How many times would I get up? How many bottles of milk would I make up? Would I record who woke and when? Would I write down how much milk was taken and by whom in an effort to try to understand what had happened the morning after? Would hubby and I spend any time in the same bed? Would I sleep? Probably not. Even if the twins had an ok night, I probably wouldn’t cos I would be full of fight. I could have run a marathon in those early hours. But come the morning, I would be a wreck. I would barely be able to get up. I would hear them stir and think “fuck off”…. “Just fuck off”. I cannot do another day. But I HAVE TO. I HAVE to do it all over again. Five million nappies. Two babies who need me as fiercely as the other. No way of satisfying both. Where was everyone? Why isn’t there anyone here to help? I’m so bloody angry. I could scream and I cannot be arsed to do anything…. But off we go again. Another impossible day. Staring at the clock all day long. How long would it be before I saw another adult? Spoke to another adult? Roughly 8 hours and 37 minutes. Tick tock tick tock. Am I ill? Or just knackered? How do I tell if it’s exhaustion or depression? It feels like hell but perhaps everyone feels this way after 8 months of no sleep? I’ll consult my twin mum facebook friends. Do they feel this shit? Yes most of them do. I must just be knackered then. I won’t tell anyone that anything is wrong today. They can’t help me anyway. Nearest relative 2 hours away. No point saying anything.”
For information on PND and links to support resources, please have a look at the Mind website. If you would like to share your own experience in the comments of this post, I would love to read them.