I’m not a stranger to the dark

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I’m not about to burst into song don’t worry!  I am, in fact, not a stranger to the dark.  I have had episodes of depression before over the years. I would say my first major bout was in 2008 where I needed medication and counselling to help me through. Fortunately, there are very few severe episodes that required tablets and therapy over the years.  I have managed to keep myself fairly balanced for a lot of the time with mindfulness, keeping active (I won’t say exercise but lots of walking) and trying to keep talking about my feelings.

I never expected to get post natal depression with my second son. I never had it with my first son who was born into a much more difficult situation (I may talk about that one day) so why on earth would I get it with my second baby when my circumstances were absolutely different? I think this may have been how it took me by surprise.  Actually, thinking back, I suspect I was depressed for most of my pregnancy (it was difficult for a variety of reasons and also probably another post).

When my son was born I felt quite ‘normal about it’ happy etc and didn’t feel like there was anything amiss.  I had a C section delivery and was quite unwell afterwards and was kept in hospital for a few days before I was finally released at 4pm on Christmas Eve. Christmas day came and went in a blur. I can hardly remember being present really. I was really not how I imagined I would be feeling with my new baby and family at their first Christmas. I felt quite deflated and it was an anti climax of the wonderful Christmassy scene I held in my head for the months before. Silly woman!

Now I know many people get ground down by the lack of sleep and the demands of a new baby but I can’t even say that was it. The new baby was an awesome sleeper right from the start. He hardly woke to be fed in the night, once maybe twice for a few weeks. He was not a fussy baby, so easy going, the complete opposite of my first baby who never slept for more than 2 hours, had colic for 16weeks and had to be held ALL THE TIME. (He is still a crappy sleeper by the way). I mean how could I be depressed about that? Maybe it’s because my partner had me doing everything? Nope, not that either. He was amazing. A better father I could not imagine. While he was on paternity leave he got up alternate nights to let me have some sleep. He did his share of everything, maybe more than his share actually. No-one could be depressed about that I  told (lied to) myself. Our 5 year old son adored the new baby. A bit too much at times he wouldn’t stop kissing him!  All the worries about there being jealousy were relieved. So what was the bloody matter with me? Why was I crying all the time? Baby blues, must be I told (lied to) myself.

I’m not sure if everyone worries about loving their second baby as much before they are born. wondering how you could possibly have anymore room in your already full heart for another little person but with the miracle of birth comes the miracle of love, and of course you do. But as love multiplies, time divides. This is something I found extremely difficult. Our 5 year old and I had been on our own together for a long time before I met my current partner. We have an amazingly close bond. Most days I felt torn between spending the same amount of time with him that I would normally (bearing in mind that it was the Christmas holidays) and caring for the needs of a newborn baby. Now while my son absolutely loves my partner it was me that he needed the attention from right then. And I wanted to give it to him but I was starting to feel like I wasn’t bonding with my baby. The guilt of being torn. I wanted to do it all. Why couldn’t I do it all? What was wrong with me? This is a problem that I have often and then I beat myself with a stick when I can’t do it.

It probably wasn’t until about March, 3 months later, when I had sunk down further into the grey swamp that I began to realise that actually I needed help. I started to want the baby all to myself, not let anyone else do anything for him. I started having thoughts that my partner was trying to take him away from me. Crazy stuff I know. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone about this, I had isolated myself from my friends because it was just so exhausting trying to put a front on. I have never been good at talking about my feelings. It was causing pressure on my relationship so eventually I did open up to my partner about it who was extremely supportive. I went to see the GP and started back on some medication that had worked for me before. I was referred to the perinatal mental health service.

Slowly my mood lifted somewhat. I didn’t feel quite back to my usual self but from where I had been it was a great improvement. I can’t exactly put my finger on what happened in July or why my mood plummeted so low. We did have some financial issues going on. The crying started again. Snapping at my partner, wanting to isolate myself. It can’t be depression I told (lied to) myself as I was on medication. I had never felt so low. Some days I wasn’t sure how I would make it through the day. Some days I just didn’t want to exist at all. Had it not been for my beautiful children, who are my reason to live, I would have probably just stayed in bed. This went on for maybe 4 weeks until I knew I needed to see the GP again. She was amazing! She started me on some new medication and chased up my referral to the perinatal mental health service.

Its been a little over 2 months now since that GP appointment. I haven’t cried for about 2 weeks now. My mood feels really good most of the time and when its not it’s a ‘normal reaction’ to what is going on. I am still struggling a bit with the anxiety but I  have started Cognitive Behavioural therapy CBT and I really think it is going to help a lot. I am learning .to balance my time with the family and am working on including me in the equation. I have been reminded that I can’t pour from an empty cup. That self-care helps me to care better for those I love and that loving myself is also part of taking care of my family. Because we are all worth it.

Peace and love xx

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