Guest Post – Sue’s Story
I wore it, but I certainly didn’t feel like the ‘best mummy ever’, because for the past few months I had slowly sunk into the grip of postnatal depression (PND) and anxiety.
Deep down I felt like a terrible mother who wasn’t coping, who would cry every day and become easily stressed, and who would feel overwhelmed completing tasks that were so ordinary for everyone else; such as going to the supermarket.
I hadn’t always felt like this, before having my daughter and even for some time postnatally, I was an outgoing, confident person. By my birthday I hadn’t felt like ‘me’ for quite some time.
My depression and anxiety grew like a living being. Some days I would wake up in a negative mind-set, other days it would creep up on me leaving me feeling exhausted by the evening. I was withdrawing further and further from everything I used to enjoy like under ones groups and hobbies.
I knew I had to get out of bed and get through the day because of my daughter; a baby who was entirely dependent on me, who needed me to care for her. I think this thought overwhelmed me. My transition to motherhood wasn’t a smooth one, I wasn’t particularly close to my due date when I went into labour, nor did I have a date set such as a date for induction or scheduled caesarean section. Instead of being prepared, I went into labour at 37+1 weeks gestation; I had only packed my hospital bag the day before. Perhaps the feeling of being dropped into motherhood contributed to my mental health issues, perhaps it heightened the petrifying emotions of feeling like I couldn’t cope, like I wasn’t ready.
So, this overwhelming fear of not coping was something I battled with daily.
My partner was begging me to seek professional help but for many reasons, I didn’t. I didn’t want to be judged and I didn’t want to talk to someone face to face, I didn’t want to be seen to be struggling when everyone around me seemed to be doing just fine. Other mums at under ones were full of smiles and made things seem so effortless. I think I was also unwilling to admit just how bad the problem had become, crying every day had become my ‘normal’ but accepting that this wasn’t right took my courage and strength.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back I wish I had got help sooner and started my journey of recovery sooner, but I was too scared. In fact, I battled with my mental health for about four months until I gave in, started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and saw my GP.
It was certainly a long, painful and drawn-out journey, but I know I am not the only person suffering from a postnatal mental health issue who was (or is) weary of seeking help. There are so many negative thoughts which speed around in mothers’ minds, thoughts such as social services will get involved, their child will be taken, they’ll be judged as an unfit mother. I now understand that healthcare professionals only want to help during these difficult times; something I wish I had realised sooner.
I was timid when I first sought help, I felt undeserving of my doctor’s time. There were people other people in the waiting room who needed treatment and as I confessed all of my low moments and my emotions to the GP I barely looked him in the eye. I focussed on the wall of his practice room and occasionally looked towards his sink.
Relief swept over me when he said “postnatal depression is a very real issue”. I was validated and he didn’t think I was making it all up or being delusional. I definitely wasn’t judged as an unfit parent. I was prescribed Fluoxetine 20mg and continued with my CBT, the pair formed an effective treatment and gave me a little kick of confidence which helped me go into town or to the supermarket and not want the ground to swallow me, or to run away and hide for the first time in what felt like forever.
At the same time, I also became involved in peer support and found it to be invaluable. Talking to others and sharing information and experiences became (and still is) a huge part of my recovery.
I am not yet fully recovered. I’m still undertaking the journey, but I am a lot more positive than I used to be. My own experiences led me to create a survey which evaluated sufferers’ opinions of peer support and in turn launch Life With Baby, an online peer support group for anyone affected by a postnatal mental health issue in Kent.
Parenting is something that, try as we might, we cannot truly prepare for. We are launched into parenthood as one minute we are expecting and the next we are mothers or fathers – a rather odd and daunting thought that our lives can change so drastically so quickly. We need to be kinder to ourselves. We need to accept that we will not know everything about parenting; our children are individuals and so will have their own needs and personalities which we will grow to learn. It is easier said than done to be kind to ourselves, but acts of self care can go a long way.
Am I the best mummy ever? No. Am I going to be? No.
I am unique, just like my daughter is unique. I am learning and progressing. I am excited to continue on my journey of recovery and my journey of motherhood. I am excited to provide support for others through Life With Baby and my studies as a student midwife.
The air feels like there are more positives and more opportunities for me to experience but I don’t think there are. I think I’m just more open to the positives and opportunities; at my lowest I never thought I would be.
Thanks you, Sue for sharing your story and for all you’re doing to help and support others! You can get in touch with her and find out more at all these places –