Postnatal depression nearly ruined my life
To everyone around me, I had the perfect life. A beautiful house, a wonderful boyfriend, two amazing, healthy, happy little girls. But to me, my life, family and I were crumbling down around me.
I was crippled by postnatal depression. Too ashamed or oblivious to ask for help. Here I am a full year later, telling my story of the struggles, the ups and downs of my recovery.
My dream life
I was in the bliss of family life, a stay at home mother to two gorgeous little girls. I was enjoying having a curious, funny, all-go toddler and a precious new born baby girl. Plus, I had a supportive, loving boyfriend.
The family I had always dreamed of.
But, things quickly went downhill and in all honesty, I have no idea when it all happened. Daily life started to become a struggle and every little task seemed like a mountain to climb.
I assumed it was how every busy mother of two kids felt, juggling breast-feeds with meal times, cooking, cleaning, laundry, sleepless nights and the constant worry.
It was much more than that though. I was struggling on the inside, judging every little decision I made. Criticising everything I did.
Not good enough
Feeling terrible with a constant guilt, for not being a good enough mother, not being a good enough girlfriend. Not being good enough at cooking, cleaning.
I wasn’t good enough. I doubted every little thing I did. I didn’t change my baby’s nappy right, I wasn’t giving my toddler enough time and attention. I didn’t have dinner ready when my boyfriend came home from work.
I was distraught by my constant self-loathing and negative thoughts. I was struggling, really struggling, to keep it together.
Leaving the house? Well that was just a whole other issue in itself! Never mind trying to get three people fed, dressed, nappies changed and bags packed just to go to the shop.
I felt like the walls where coming in on me. That something terrible would happen if I walked outside that front door.
I just wanted to stay inside our little bubble where we all would be OK. On the days I did manage to get everything together to leave the house, I was faced with an uncontrollable feeling.
I would go into a panic. I would start to sweat, shake, heart racing and jumping in my throat, couldn’t catch my breath.
I would end up in a pile on my kitchen floor in tears. I would eventually get it together and get out of the house, praying I wouldn’t bump into anyone I knew.
Then I’d rush around and do what needed before getting home to our bubble, where we were safe.
Bottling it up
These horrible feelings, thoughts and guilt were consuming me. I locked them up inside and hid them away from everybody. Even my boyfriend, who knew I wasn’t myself.
He’d always tell me what a great job I was doing with the girls. But, I shut him out. I couldn’t face the truth- well it wasn’t the truth but it felt like it to me. I thought I was a terrible person who didn’t deserve all the amazing things I had in life.
I thought my boyfriend and my little girls deserved better, much better. I let these thoughts and feelings take over. I couldn’t see any good in me.
Suicidal thoughts and urges quickly became all I could think about. I believed my boyfriend would be so much happier without me. That he would find a beautiful, loving, kind girl who would take care of him and be an amazing mother to my girls. That’s what they deserved, not me.
Then, my boyfriend convinced me to go to the doctor. He knew I was depressed, but had no idea how bad it was. I was drowning!
I really did lock everybody out. I didn’t want to face it. So I reluctantly went to my doctor and I glossed over it all, saying “I’m just not myself and having a bit of a hard time”.
My doctor prescribed me antidepressant medication and put me in contact with a psychologist to talk to.
I’m not someone who likes the idea of taking tablets. I’d hardly ever even take a paracetamol. However, my doctor encouraged me to take them. They wanted me to take it easy and get some help with day to day life.
I’m a stubborn person, and did not like asking for help with anything. I’d always taken pride in that part of myself. But, it nearly cost me everything.
We all need friends
A few weeks earlier, I’d met a girl at a local mammy and toddler group. She was a bubbly, friendly girl with two beautiful kids. She’d introduced herself and was very friendly. We had exchanged the usual mammy stories.
I thought I was able to put on a good front and conceal what was really going on. But this new friend was able to see straight through it. She knew I wasn’t right after that very first time of meeting her.
She tried to contact me through a mutual friend, as I’d missed the toddler group for a week or two. When I met her again she asked to exchange numbers. I thought nothing of it and of course gave her my number. I received a text a few days later asking if everything was OK. ‘Yes of course’ I replied. She didn’t buy it for a second.
Sharing is caring
She opened up to me and shared her own struggle after one of her children was born. I was relieved in a way, I wasn’t alone.
I’d been seeing the psychologist then for a week or two and I couldn’t keep it together when we met. I would break down in puddles of tears because she knew just by the look in my eyes I had given up.
I didn’t even have to speak, she just knew. My psychologist contacted my doctor and boyfriend and said I needed urgent help. By this point I thought that they wouldn’t have to concern themselves about me. Soon I would be gone.
My baby saved me
That weekend, as I lay in bed waiting for everyone to fall asleep, the demons in my thoughts took over. This was it.
I waited for my boyfriend to fall asleep so I could sneak out of bed to do the unthinkable. I was at peace and I could feel the relief. I wouldn’t be a burden on anyone anymore.
I had one leg out of the bed, and suddenly my baby woke up screaming. I ran to get her out of her cot. My poor baby was burning up with a fever.
Her screaming had also woken my boyfriend. My concern was of course for my little girl as we sat up all night nursing her and tending to her. But, I had missed my deadline.
My little girl had just saved my life.
Earlier that same weekend, my doctor had put me in touch with a psychiatrist, who’d giving me an evaluation. She suggested I be hospitalised but I absolutely refused.
She gave me an alternative treatment method. The Homebase treatment allowed me to be at home in my own surroundings with my family while I received treatment.
My medication was altered and I was going to be monitored through the Homebase team and with regular appointments to the psychiatrist.
Tuesday morning arrived and two lovely, friendly girls arrived at my home, to aid me in my recovery.
They came into my home and gave me their hope. I sat at my kitchen table hugging my legs and tears were streaming down my face.
They asked me simple questions to which I was just able to nod my head to.
I was a broken girl. I was just a shell of a person, I had no fight left in me. But, I was reassured by these girls I would get better and I wouldn’t have to live like this. I didn’t believe a word they said, at first.
My Boyfriend had taken some time off work to be at home with the girls while I got treatment. Mainly because I think he was too scared to leave me alone. But, never once did he show it. He was so strong and supportive for me and the girls.
I had visits every day from the Homebase team, my toddler looked forward to the visits. I was glad one of us was excited about it! Facing people every day was such an effort, and I still couldn’t open up at this point. I trudged on just existing, not living.
The benefits of friends
I had reached out to a childhood friend, my best friend when I was a kid, who I could talk to about everything. I told her about my depression, but I couldn’t even tell her everything.
In true style, she would show up with chocolate, walk straight in and put on the kettle. Every day, there was somebody in my house. Some days all of them were there at once. I just wanted to scream at them get out! But, they were all there for me, which I couldn’t understand.
I slowly started to confide in the Homebase girl about my suicidal urges, and my thoughts. They listened and reassured me this was all normal, as strange as it sounds. This was her job, she sees it every day.
I then started to open up to my boyfriend, he was attentive and supportive and patient. He let me talk in my own time. Slowly my days started to get a little easier. I could go for a walk with my friend, and take the kids to the park.
It wasn’t all good, but there was hope, and I grabbed on to it with everything I had. The weeks were passing and with the support of my amazing boyfriend, friends and Homebase worker, things really started to get easier.
Daily life really wasn’t so bad after all. I looked forward to visits from my friends and family. Trips to the shopping centre at the weekends. Even grocery shopping became fun!
Finally getting easier
I was rediscovering myself and I loved it. I could crack a joke and I didn’t take myself so seriously. I was enjoying being a mammy and a girlfriend again. Now, not every day was great but the hard days were getting fewer and further between.
The suicidal thoughts and urges started to fade away. I learned how to manage my anxiety and negative thoughts. I was living life again! I never thought it could get better, but it did.
I was loving watching my little girls discover that mammy could be fun and not so serious all the time. The sound of their little giggles as I played and messed with them. Such a joy.
As time goes by
A year on I couldn’t be happier. I didn’t think I would be here. But, I couldn’t be more thankful that I am.
Thankful for my amazing boyfriend and our two beautiful daughters for being so understanding and patient. My best friends for believing in me. Homebase for their constant support and guidance, always at the end of the phone to listen.
I’m still learning about my journey with depression and about myself. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to face in my life. I count myself lucky I got the help I needed when I did.
This week is a milestone for me in so many ways. This time last year, I had my plan for my suicide. This year, I just got discharged from treatment. Not everybody is so lucky.
If you are reading this and can relate, please reach out. Don’t not be ashamed or embarrassed, it’s not too late to get help.
Or if you know somebody who might be going through something similar, reach out to help them. You never know who or how you could help.