“I do” NOT … allow Maternal Mental Illness to have the last word.

Gavin and I celebrated our 6 year Wedding Anniversary this weekend. Sometimes it feels like the time has flown by, yet other times I’m not sure how we have managed to pack so much in. We haven’t stood still in the 6 years, not even once. It hasn’t at all been straightforward.

Since getting married

  • Gavin has had 4 different jobs (public and demanding)
  • I have had 3 and I am now not working.
  • We have lived in 4 different houses – thankfully we are settled now.
  • We’ve had a baby, who is now an active 3.5 year old.
  • I have been seriously ill with Antenatal and Postnatal Depression – for almost 3 years of our time together.

Phew! That’s a lot. If you’d have asked me before we got married, or even before we met, I think I imagined the life was looking for to be more “9 to 5”. That’s not to say that I had a “9 to 5” job or was in the field, but I did imagine my life would have more structure and routine. That has not been the case – I have had to learn to adapt.

Looking back over the 6 years it’s clear that our marriage has changed, struggled, been challenged and grown. I’ve written much more about it in this post – Postnatal Depression & Marriage – Promises that Last? which you can read HERE.

As I’ve reflected on PND and how my struggle with Perniatal Mental Illness has impacted our world, I am aware that it could of completely destroyed us. It absolutely had that potential. It was dark. It was frightening. It was confusing. It was divisive. It wanted to take my life & soul with it and, on occasions, it almost won.

I can still clearly remember, lying on our kitchen floor, May 2015, sobbing in a ball saying

“I just want to die”. Leave me alone to die please.”

Gavin and Reuben’s faces, from that afternoon, still haunt me – I could see the pain they were in and I had no other way to articulate the pain that I was in. For months before that I had stopped sleeping, eating, talking, engaging, and really living. I was on auto-pilot. I did what I had to do, just to get by, but that was it.  I used to constantly beg Gavin to “lock me in a room and never ever come back for me” – he used to grab me, hold me close and tell me he’d NEVER EVER do that and that he LOVED me. I can’t imagine what it was like to hear that. I have no idea how I’d cope, if either of those two statements came from him and not me.

We don’t hear too much about how Dad’s experience of life, as a mum struggles with a Perinatal Mental Illness. (That’s not to say that Dad’s don’t suffer themselves, as I know they do).

I think we need to her from the dads and partners. I have often asked Gavin and he tells me a little but not a lot, of what it was like for him. I think he selflessly feels that I have been through the worst, so he shouldn’t complain. I am still convincing him that I want to know – maybe even going forward I need to know, so that we can learn from it.

I’ve also asked him to consider writing a piece for the website – to help us hear the voice of a dad too. I haven’t got a “Yes” to that… just yet.

I did get a little quote from him, for this post. It’s not really what I wanted (I wanted to hear about him as a Dad) but having asked, and delivered, he insists it now has to be included! grrr.

“For me, Lindsay is a star. I watched her struggle but now see her coming through the other end. What she can’t yet see is that Reuben didn’t suffer.  He always came first.

She still cant accept that no one should feel guilt through illness….. but its a work in progress! :)”

(If you are a Dad and would like to share – please get in touch).

PMH Illness effects that whole family. I know that. We know that. It’s not rocket science.

There is a fantastic report just out by the Royal College of Obstetrician & Gynaecologists “Maternal Mental Health – Women Voices” and it also touches on this issue :

The impact of mental health problems on the whole family unit can sometimes be overwhelming, with a number of women feeling that their condition directly impacted on their partners’ mental health, and in some instances led to the breakdown of the relationship.

I understand that. We understand that. PND wanted the last word, in our relationship and in our family. It was determined to bring death and destruction. We have had to work hard (perhaps Gavin more than me, in the worst of times) to make sure that it hasn’t.

So as I reflect on the last 6 weeks, with my struggle of Perinatal Mental Illness right at the forefront, I am even more determined to invest my time and energy where it really matters – my family and my campaign/advocacy for PMH services and support in Northern Ireland.

“I do” NOT allow PND to have the last word.

“I do” promise to prioritise my loved ones and look for ways to love those around me (practically & meaningfully) who are struggling and need support.

(If you are supporting someone through PND or PMH struggle this post might be of interest – How to support someone through PND. It also contains links to support organisations, if you need help.)