Look at the picture above. How would you describe the girl in that picture? Happy? Joyful? The girl in that picture was in the absolute pits of post natal depression and anxiety. That’s the thing about pictures on the internet, they only show a split second in time. I was at a wedding in that picture so ‘the mask’ was on but a little more on that later. I couldn’t really understand at the time why I had post natal depression with my second child but not my first. In my eyes things were much easier the second time around. I was a single parent with my first son. Survived the trenches of a newborn, weathered the stormy seas of colic and reflux, got used to a baby that could not sleep for longer than 2 hours forever, managed to keep a house running with a baby that needed to be held ALL. THE. TIME. The second time around my partner helped with the night feeds so I could get some rest too. The baby is a good sleeper and happy to play if I want to do a quick tidy up. Life of Riley on me I thought. So what was wrong with me? How could I have post natal depression?
I think one of the big differences the second time was the wider support network outside of the home. Although my partner was home some days I missed the female company, someone to talk to about the same baby nonsense. The first time around I had lots of other friends who had babies around a similar age. I was never short of social outings on maternity leave. This time there were a couple of acquaintances I met once or twice but no regular hook ups. My close pals were all in work in the day and the hectic evenings of the family seemed to tie me up for the most part. I was lonely. And this loneliness was dragging me down.
I booked into a baby massage class and a sensory play group just for the contact with other mums. I lived for those days when I would get to chat with the other mums. But those things cost money and money was something that was very tight on my maternity leave.
Early summer and the hospital where I work formed a choir to celebrate 70 years of the NHS. I joined up as I was still desperately trying to fight this loneliness. It really helped and I do believe that singing is very therapeutic. We performed in July and it was well received. Our video on Facebook of Coldplays Fix You got about 50k views. When that finished the lonely feelings crept back in again. The summer holidays arrived so I had no time to worry about myself and my feelings it was all about the children.
So a bit more about the masks we wear. I mean we all do this from time to time if we are having a bad day. But my mask was on all the time. To look at me I had all my shit together. I was clean and well turned out as were my children. My home was reasonably tidy. I smiled and laughed. I looked fine. But inside I was lonely. And being lonely was making my mood more low. I would meet people in the street looking happy and as soon as the front door was closed I would be sobbing my heart out. I was a hot mess most of the time. Of course then comes the vicious circle of being lonely and depressed but not wanting to be around people because you feel low and then feeling even more lonely. Like no-one could ever understand. It was awful.
That picture at the top was taken when I was at my very worst. Appearances can be deceiving. A recent post by The Unmumsy mum I saw talked about the digital campaign #letstalklonely run by mummy social to highlight loneliness. This is what has inspired me to write this post and be painfully honest with you.
Part of the reason I set up my Instagram account was because of the way I was feeling. I was feeling too vulnerable in my real life to take off that mask but desperately wanted to share my feelings and hence th3secretlifeofme was born. It’s a not so secret life now I know but being open and honest through that account has helped me to throw that mask away in my real life.
I’m not afraid anymore to show I have struggled. I am not afraid to be vulnerable. I want people to see the real me. We are all in this together. Thank you to all of you who are sharing my journey. You keep the loneliness at bay.
Peace and love xx