This post is inspired by a Twitter contributor who commented on my previous blogging. She was generous enough to say I give life and meaning to words. As other Twitter friends will know, I am always keen to hear positives about my writing with that huge ego of mine. However, this Twitter lady also said she was emerging from the fog of post-natal depression. As I am out the other side of PND, I feel comfortable talking of my experiences.
When my first child was born, I sailed through the whole process. The birth was enjoyable and he just slotted in making our contented two into a happy three. As I am very much the baby of the family, caring for a child was totally new to me. Mum and Dad relocated to help me with childcare so I could combine parenting with a new job.
Three years later, I had my little girl. It was a difficult labour but resulted in my adorable and angelic daughter. She was and remains an easy child smiling, sleeping and eating lots. My boss at the time suggested I should take 4 months off work. I did so reluctantly as work is my passion. Having moved to a country idyll, I felt totally cut off and isolated. My partner had a long commute and I knew nobody.
I am not clear when the black clouds descended but I can share how I felt for months and possibly years.
I would wake up and not feel any motivation to get out of bed. Logically, I could see that things were going well for us but I was unable to engage with any of it. As soon as my partner left for work, I would pull the curtains to live in a state of semi-darkness to match my mood. If somebody knocked on the door, I would hide in a special spot where I had worked out nobody would be able to see me even if unusually the curtains were open. Personal hygiene took a nosedive. My thinking was that as I did not have a life, why bother to take a bath or put on nice clothes. I feel embarrassed admitting this but if someone else is going through it and reads this, maybe they can sense that there is hope and PND does pass.
I had heard of post-natal depression but was loathe to admit that such a thing could have taken control of me. To be honest and I don't think this reflects badly on him, I think my partner was so busy that he was fooled that I was just tired or being difficult for much of the time.
One day having had another baby and on the school run, the sun was shining. I looked up and felt joy of the pure, unadulterated variety. I realised I had not had the feeling for such a long time. I think in all I was in severe depression for two years.
I wrote to Fern Britton from ITV's This Morning programme and she replied the same day! Clearly, she knows what I had gone through. I am now reading her autobiography and realise that she had some very similar experiences of the condition.
So, what mistakes did I make?
1. Believing that I would walk into parenthood with no troubles or need for support
2. Not seeking the help of my health visitor or GP
3. Not disclosing my feelings to my partner or other family members
On the other hand, I do feel that my partner and family members might have asked questions when there must have been signs of me totally letting myself go and a change of personality. Particularly in the case of one of my brothers who has had depression, I think he could have been there more for me. However, perhaps it was all too close to his own experiences and he wanted to turn away.
The key message is that PND or any form of depression can and does pass. I am more than happy to hear from, listen to or support anyone as they make their journey out of this debilitating condition. Talk about it, seek help - escape it.