Long time no write! My sincere apologies for being so lax on the blog posting, but as you should hopefully be aware, I went and spawned a child process!
This explains, in part, why I haven’t been as active as I usually would be. Why I’ve been a bit quiet on here, on Twitter, on Slack, on Reddit, on IRC…I’ve barely had time to shower let alone spend some time on my computer!
However, having my bub and having her take up all my time wasn’t the only reason. I had another rather good reason to step back for a while – the title of this post should give it away.
Yup. I got hit with the big ol’ postpartum depression stick. And let me tell you, it was absolutely fucking AWFUL.
To be honest, it didn’t really come as much of a surprise. As I’ve written about before, my mental health isn’t exactly the most neurotypical, so I was already at a rather high risk of developing it. I hoped against hope that I wouldn’t, but hey – we don’t always get what we wish for!
I experienced the baby blues a bit earlier than anticipated (thanks, Mr I’m-going-to-tell-you-your-newborn-has-a-heart-murmur-and-then-leave-the-room) and it did eventually subside. Life was good, I was happy, bub was thriving (I’ve never heard that term more than when researching what to do and what not to do with a baby) and in general life was peachy.
We did have a few rough starts – as I wrote about previously, I couldn’t breastfeed. That hit hard. Harder than I expected it to. I put on a brave face, but I was honestly a wreck about it. It sucks not being able to do something that is supposed to come naturally to mothers – the ability to feed your child from your own body. So that certainly didn’t help.
There was also the medical issues – miss having reflux was pretty awful, we were lucky we caught it early, but even still…it was hard.
By about week 6, I was bummed. I was miserable, but trying to put on a brave face for it all. I so desperately wanted to be happy. I *SHOULD* have been happy. I had my amazing, gorgeous, smiling baby girl! Why WASN’T I happy?!
I asked someone about it and was told that this is just something all mothers go through. That there is a tough transition phase and it’s hard and the emotions play up and it will get better.
But it didn’t.
I then had my postpartum flare. I was so *so* hoping I’d skip it, but nope.
Who’s got severe pain in her shoulder from an RA flare? *This* lucky lady…
— Jess Dodson (@girlgerms) October 8, 2017
I’m pretty sure that just tipped me over even further. Not only was I miserable and unable to feed my baby girl the way I was *supposed* to, but now I couldn’t even pick her up without being in pain. Added to that was the fact that Alex had gone back to work and I was now home. Alone. Every day. Just me and lil’ miss.
I lasted another 2 weeks or so, then just broke down. I was beyond despair, I dreaded the thought of getting up each day, I just wanted to lie in bed and pretend the whole world didn’t exist. Which just made me feel even worse and even more guilty, because I had this amazing bub in my life now, a little creature who was smiling and starting to gurgle and was just utterly adorable! Again – why WASN’T I happy?!
Alex is the one who finally dug his heels in and said I needed to see someone. I needed to speak to someone as soon as possible. I was lucky that I was booked in to see a child health nurse at my local community centre, who ran me through the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to give me my score, just to see if there was a chance because I was already at high risk.
Sure enough my score was high. I hit a 20. I needed to speak to my GP.
So off I went and Alex came along with me as support – and to say the words I couldn’t say about how miserable I’d been. I even had a cry in her office. I just needed to do *something* to make this awful feeling go away.
So for the first time in my mental health journey, I was put on medication. I’ve been prescribed an antidepressant that (coincidentally thanks to my amazing GP) is also used to treat both anxiety and OCD! So it’s not all bad news.
I didn’t want to rely on medication – I’ve never had a problem with anyone who took any form of medication for their mental health issues. It’s just like any other medication. It’s just fixing something that’s broken. But there was something in me that didn’t want to take them because I didn’t want to change who I was. I didn’t want them to alter me so that I was no longer me. Silly, I know, but that was my fear.
But now I am. I’ve been taking them for the last 3 months. And it is, quite frankly, the best thing I’ve ever done for my own health. What’s an extra pill added in to my already disgustingly huge collection?!
I’m now far more calm. I’m enjoying being a mother. In fact, I’m absolutely LOVING it. I love my lil’ miss so very much and I always have – except now I can show it with a smile on my face.
That’s not to say it’s all sunshine and light. It’s taken a while for the medication to kick in. It had started to have some affect after about a week, but it took another 4 to 5 weeks for it to fully take affect and shift me out of the funk I’d been in. I’ve since spoken to my GP about staying on this medication, especially considering the added benefits of it calming my anxiety and my OCD.
And I’m still me. I’m still passionate, loud, opinionated and (let’s be honest) just a tad obnoxious. It hasn’t altered me except for taking away the ridiculous melancholy I was experiencing, calming my anxieties and fears so I could actually sleep, letting me sit on my couch and take a nap without needing to straighten up the house because things weren’t “just so”.
So this goes out to all the other fresh mums out there who feel like they’re toughing it out, day by day, feeling miserable and unhappy and trying to just get through each day without any joy, with bouts of crying and bouts of rage – you’re definitely not alone. It sucks. It *SERIOUSLY* sucks.
But there’s help. You just need to ask for it. Do it for yourself. Don’t do it for your baby, or your husband, or your family. Do it for you. Because you deserve to be happy.
For links on how to tell if you do have PPD/PND, how to treat it, advice for family and friends and other information:
Australia – HealthDirect
New Zealand – Mental Health Foundation
UK – NHS
US – NIMH
Glad to hear it’s working out for positively for you.
I was also afraid of not being me when I started having to take medications for my mental health issues. (Major Depression and Anxiety for me.) Happy to say we we’re both wrong and I’m still me.