“What I should have said just wouldn’t pass my lips
So I held back and now we’ve come to this…
I should have found the way to tell you how I felt
Now the only one I’m telling is myself…
All I can hear in the silence that remains
Are the words I couldn’t say.”
Rascal Flatts, Words I Couldn’t Say
It’s over 2 years since Reuben was born and this is the first time I am publicity admitting that I have been struggling with a mental illness. It’s been a long road to get here. In truth, I knew when I was pregnant that something wasn’t ‘right’. But there was so much else going on with my antenatal heath (which you can read about here) that I didn’t have the time or energy to face it. I wonder how different things be now, if I had?
It hit me like a ton of bricks, as soon as Reuben was born. After my c-section, when they handed me my baby to hold, the only reaction I would muster was “Oh”. It felt surreal, but not in a good way. Not in a “oh my goodness I’ve just met Brad Paisley” way, in a “this is not my baby” way. As the visitors left Reuben and I alone in the hospital ward, the darkness set in. Fear. I was utterly terrified. I knew in my heart that “this wasn’t going to work”. I looked at Reuben and felt nothing except a desire to turn back the clock. He lay asleep in the plastic crib and I lay awake, texting a friend who was up feeding her 2 month old baby, hoping that some of her excitement would rub off on me. It didn’t.
My first night home, as I sat on the sofa chatting, I had to resist the urge to hand Reuben to my husband, walk out the door and never come back. I angrily told myself – “tough luck, you got yourself into this mess, you’ll just have to put up with it”.
So that’s what I tried to do. I learned how to practically care for Reuben, telling myself soon all the other feelings would flood in. I longed to talk to another Mum, who felt or thought some of these “awful” things I carrying, but I could not bear to vocalise them to anyone else and felt I had no one to reach out to anyway.
I rationalised that even if I didn’t feel a bond with Reuben, all I did for him was me showing care and concern, and that’s what he needed most. When the disconnection was so deep that I feared what might come next, I told myself that I don’t believe that love is all about mushy feelings, it’s a choice, an act of will, so I would ‘choose to love him’ no matter how I felt. Still none of that worked to fill the dark hole that was inside of me.
You might be wondering why I didn’t just speak out and tell someone. Well I did. Two people, in fact. When Reuben was between the ages of 2 and 4 months, I spoke to two medical professionals, both woman. I had to summon the courage to do so. Both of their reactions were far from helpful – one rolled her eyes and said “You’ve just had a baby, what do you expect, you’re all over the place”, the other asked “Is it because your baby is so badly behaved that you feel this way?”. I was gutted. So that lead me further down the path, as I began to assume this is “just me”. That there was something internally flawed about me that meant I couldn’t be a mum. And once again, having got both Reuben and I into this dreadful situation, I’d just have to deal with it.
So that’s what I have been trying to do for the last 2 years. And it has made me very ill, severely mentally ill. For the last 8 months it has even made me physically unwell to the point where I have wondered if I have another serious illness. I have had some very dark days and weeks, I have been living under a cloud of death for too long.
Back in September, just in time for Reuben’s second birthday, I was diagnosed. Since then, I have started taking antidepressants, seeing a Psychiatrist and started talking therapy .
I am on the road to recovery. It’s going to take time and a lot of it. But each day is a little bit of a step up, rather than a leap further down.
I’ve decided to share my journey on my blog, in a sense to break the silence there is around mental illness, especially this one, which many of us worry “makes us a bad mum and a rubbish person”. Reading other people’s truth has been a lifeline to me, so if this helps even just one other mum feel not so alone and that someone understands, it’s definitely worth it.
If you come back here again over the next few weeks, you’ll read more of my story. I hope to share the mental, emotional and physically effects; the depths of despair it can lead you to; my experience of medication and treatment; and things that are helping me to move forward.
If you are currently struggling, you’ll find lots of support HERE.
I have struggled to admit and accept that I am ill, for too long. For too long I have lived in silence and fear. For too long there have been countless “words I couldn’t say”. That stops now. So, let me share my illness and my road to recovery with you…