This week is maternal mental health week and a lot of bloggers, instagrammers and facebookers have been sharing their experiences, struggles and triumphs regarding their mental health on their journeys as parents.
It has been beautiful reading other peoples stories, whether it be struggling with infertility, struggling with disabilities or just battling their own minds, its all been so humbling to read.
I don’t particularly have a story, which makes me feel a bit like an ass-hat for struggling when there are so many other parents out there who are dealing with, have dealt with or will deal with so much more than I have. Then I read that every parent has their own demons, their own struggles and no-one should compare their lives to others, because we do not know how we would cope in another persons shoes. So rather than demeaning myself, I’ve decided to admire them more, the warriors of parenting.
Despite not really having a story, I’d like to share what little story I do have, the struggles I’ve overcome and just what help is out there.
I was fifteen when i got diagnosed with moderate to severe depression, anxiety and low-self esteem. I knew something wasn’t right, but I buried it. I hid the pain, the anger and the fear until I exploded and finally got the help i needed. At fifteen, I saw both a psychiatrist and a psychologist, I was put on SSRI’s and underwent counselling and CBT for 18 months.
I slowly regained some self confidence and tried to accept who I was, accept my past and my present. Then in my first year of university, I fell pregnant with my partner of 4 years. That is when my depression and anxiety started to spiral out of my control again. Discovering I was pregnant, terrified me, Dan supported me every way he knew how but I’d never felt so alone, so paralysed with fear.
Aria was born, my depression and anxiety got worse, I isolated myself, I became paranoid and I was afraid of not being good enough. Who wants a mentally unstable woman for a mother? Someone who was scared of everyone and everything? Aria deserved so much more. I felt like a failure for not being able to breastfeed, for not being stronger for my baby. Then one doubt, turned into another and it snowballed until one night, I took some pills.
Yet, the second I took those pills, I felt immediate fear, regret and guilt. How could I do this to my baby? To my husband? It wasn’t until the moment I had taken those pills that I’d thought about what would happen after I was gone. How it would affect my baby growing up thinking that I killed myself because I couldn’t love her.
I don’t really remember it in too much detail, it was a dark time and I lived in a trance-like state; i just remember the excruciating pain, the confusion and hopelessness.. I didn’t feel good enough, I felt like they deserved more than me, a better wife, a better mother. I was a burden. How could I make them happy when I was so desperately unhappy myself? They deserved someone who loved and cared for them; that someone wasn’t me.
So, I got the help that I needed. I saw my GP and she helped me find the right people to help me. I saw my GP twice a week until I could be seen by the perinatal mental health team. Once I was under them, my GP still wanted to see me once a week, just to keep an eye on me and if i needed to talk, i could phone up and she would phone me back as soon as she could. I talked and talked about Aria, how I felt like I hadn’t bonded with her, how I felt like I was failing her, how I was just so overwhelmed. They helped me to see that I did love Aria, I did care for her, I just wan’t able to recognise it. So, I did a course of CBT again, I talked about all of my emotions and finally I started to feel like I was bonding with my baby, that maybe just maybe, she did need me and she did want me.
I still struggle. I will always struggle, I know that. The guilt eats me up every time that I think back to that time in my life. It hurts to think back at how much pain I put my family through. They loved me, they cared for me, they needed me; but I was blind to it all. I only saw how much I was failing and how I wasn’t good enough.
Depression trickled into my life and before I knew it, it was my life. I know that my depression and anxiety is mostly triggered by my low self-esteem and self doubt. So when I feel myself creeping back into my self-destructive state, I talk, I listen and I learn. I listen to mindfulness videos online and go over what I learned during in my CBT sessions.
Our children are our worlds and they will always need their mums, no matter how much or how quickly they grow up.
I know that I will most likely struggle with my mental health all my life, but I know that I will never let myself go back to that dark place. I deserve more, I deserve better. When the darkness tries to swallow me, I will fight, not just for me but for every other mum who feels like she’s failing or she’s not good enough or that the world doesn’t need her anymore.
Be open. Be honest. Be strong.