For me, the enemy of PND is silence. Here’s why. This isn’t the first time I’ve faced difficult circumstances – I have had many other wars with life. Trauma, heartache, disappointment, grief and pain, like you probably, I have known many of them. I won’t go into detail now – this isn’t the place. But in remembering some of the things I have come through, I have asked myself – “What’s been so different this time around?”, “Why has PND been so destructive?”, “How have I not managed to deal with this, when I have dealt with things that have been equally as difficult, in their own way?”
I’ve come up with one answer: Silence.
Silence is golden…right? Well, not so with PND. In fact it’s the biggest weapon it has. You see, during all the other dark moments of my life I have been able to talk. I know and believe in the value of talking and processing. As a trained Counsellor/Psychotherapist it’s key to recovery, as far as I am concerned.
I’ve been able to share with friends and family, some of whom have been involved in the circumstances, so we have been able to carry each others burdens, listen with understanding and encourage open dialogue.
A couple of times I have been for counselling myself (that was a requisite in training) especially when I’ve known that I could be overtaken by life, if I didn’t face where it had led me. In all of the circumstances, even if they took me time to recover from, I have processed and was able to move forward.
PND is different. I was not able to talk and speak out. As you know by now, the couple of times that I did, I was dismissed by HCP’s – something many of the rest of you also have faced. GRRRRR. Because of that I ended up shutting up. I internalised everything. I blamed and shamed myself everyday. I pushed all my horrible thoughts down as far as I could, until they literally burst inside of me, poisoning my desire for life.
I was afraid of my own voice and my own thoughts. I lived in silence, hidden in the shadows. This perpetuated the cycle of misery, despair and hopeless that PND bestowed on me. Until finally, one day, the door slowly opened, light began to flow in and hope began to rise. That door was only opened with the freedom to speak. It became unstuck and I was able to break the darkness and dome that silence had allowed to engulfed me. It allowed me to face the truth of my own words, thoughts and feelings.
So now I battle the silence. There is still a voice in my head that tells me to “shut up and put up”, from time to time, but I try not to allow it to win. I will, instead, allow myself to process my thoughts, to share them (with family and friends) and to speak out openly, for all to hear.
I know sometimes it might seem that I share too much – especially on here. I don’t do it just for myself. I honestly believe that silence is one of the biggest contributors to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Too many people feel they have to hide their pain, afraid of being judged, mocked or abandoned. I know that for sure, because I was there too. The only way to beat the enemy is to battle it and break it. So, I am determined to play my part, to break the silence that surrounds Perinatal Mental Health.
The only way I know to do that is to openly and authentically share my journey with you – telling of both the bad and good times. I also will continue to give ‘voice’ to anyone else who wants to share their story or experience – the more of us who speak out, the louder we become. I intend to campaign, promote, educate and advocate, for PMH in Northern Ireland, for as long as I can, as strongly as I can. I’m not doing it alone – I have met so many wonderful people, who are standing strong with me. Together we can shout from the roof tops.
I hate to know that there are mums sitting at home; struggling in work; crying in the shower; only just managing to get out of bed; wishing life was over but AFRAID to speak-up and get the help they NEED and DESERVE. I know this is happening because you are telling me it is.
This is not okay. I will not settle for it.
I will use all the energy I have and the strength I can muster to break the silence and beat this enemy – will you join me?