Post-natal depression and me.

So I’ve really gone and given away the ending in the headline, this won’t be about how I’m not sure if I had PND or if it was just the baby blues that dragged on a bit.  It’s my story, and everyone’s story is unique to themselves.  I’m telling it here as I know I read all accounts of individual’s experiences of PND to try and decide if I was doctor-worthy or just needed to cop on and cheer up.  So if reading this can help someone, it’s worth telling.

Picture the scene – The end of my second pregnancy was tough going and I was signed off work early.  Our apartment was sale agreed but the sale wasn’t proceeding due to reasons out of our control.  My next door neighbour was raided by the Guards for suspected drug possession, and we were stuck living there.  There was a large family drama raging which I was being pulled into.  Basically, life was stressful. My beautiful baby was born in the midst of all of this and then when he was just 5 days old, I was re-admitted to hospital with a nasty infection and we were both kept in for 3 nights.

I wasn’t in a great place.  I had my lovely new son, my 4 year old was besotted with him after all my worries that she would feel left out.  I just couldn’t shake a feeling that I was holding my breath.  Waiting for the real enjoyment to kick in.  I wonder if I in fact had ante-natal depression/anxiety too but just put it all down to the stress I was under.  I remember locking myself in the bathroom and bawling my heart out while heavily pregnant.  Like I said, there was a lot going on so I’ll never know if the camel’s back was broken earlier.

When my son was one month old, on my birthday, I had promised my daughter I would collect her from her daycare with him so she could show him off to her friends.  She was so excited.  As I walked down to the daycare centre, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I cried the entire way down behind my sunglasses.  I also cried the entire way back up, while now having to also corral an excited 4 year old.  I snapped way too much at a great kid during this non-fun period of my life.  I still feel so guilty.

All I wanted to do was stay home.  I could breathe at home.  I didn’t want to go out.  I didn’t want to speak to anyone.  I was beginning to think maybe this all wasn’t just baby blues and dealing with all the factors warring in my life.

Perhaps I might have admitted the black dog lurking in the room at that point but instead I woke up one day with a face that was only half working.  My son was 4 months old when I got Bell’s Palsy.  I was pretty much confined to home, which tied in nicely with the PND and not wanting to venture outside.  I wrote about that experience in a previous blog post called Why I embrace fine lines and wrinkles.  All attention was focused on trying to make my face work again.    I had been going for regular walks during the day (as the baby only slept when pushed around) but that was all stopped as I couldn’t risk damaging my eye.  Of course, this dragged me further and deeper down into the PND.

I had an amazing physiotherapist who used acupuncture to kick start my facial nerves again, progress was being made!  I have a distinct memory of the last acupuncture session, things were looking up Bells Palsy wise, I could move my eyelid again – this should have been great!  But I sobbed as I lay on the table for the 30 minutes I was left to let the needles do their work.  One problem being dealt with, another festering.

Life was getting back to normal, family drama was resolved, my face was nearly back to normal, I could go out and about again.  Yet all I did was cry.  I would promise my husband and mother that tomorrow I would ring the public health nurse or the doctor.  And then tomorrow would come and I’d busy myself with something and try to convince them, and myself, I was fine.  Nobody was fooled.

I had also become obsessed with breast-feeding, which wasn’t an easy journey for me at all.  I wasn’t comfortable feeding him away from home, so it was another way to keep me where I felt safe.  Looking back I can admit that I believed that if it was the only thing I could do for him that someone else couldn’t, and if I wasn’t feeding him myself then what was my point in his life?  As if that’s all I had to give him.

The moment when I realised I needed help coincided with me trying to fit my body under his cot to hide and cry.  I would regularly lie down on the floor behind a bed and sob, but I felt like I needed even more sanctuary.  And I finally realised that trying to squeeze under a baby’s cot to sob my heart out for no real apparent reason was not normal.

I rang the GP’s office and kept chickening out and hanging up.  Then I did ring, and the receptionist answered.  I burst into tears and told her I thought I had post-natal depression and it had taken me five months to make the call.  She said they would get me in to see the doctor that day, that I couldn’t be left waiting any longer.  I’m actually crying here as I type this, remembering the relief that washed over me.

I met with my wonderfully supportive doctor and we spoke about all the worries and feelings I had.  She prescribed a low dose of anti-depressants and said they could take a few weeks to work and we made an appointment for me to come back.  Within a week I felt better, I know medication doesn’t work so quickly for everyone but it just resonated with me.  I started to feel like me again, a me I thought was just long gone.

The day I went back for the follow-up I told the doctor I felt so strongly about anti-depressants that I could be the poster-girl for a campaign in their favour.  Those little tablets had turned the light at the end of the tunnel back on.

My son is two now and in the last few months I was weaned off the tablets entirely.  I will be forever grateful for their existence.  I am still my normal self, albeit run ragged but such is life with children, but I am able to see the joy and positives in life.

Please, if you read this and any of it sounds uncomfortably familiar, don’t let it slide.  Life is to be enjoyed, not just tolerated.  Life will small children is hard and stressful, but you need to be able to see the moments of joy shine through the clouds.  If you see nothing but storms, that’s not ok.  Make a call for help.