I'm Vicky, I'm 28, I have a gorgeous seven month old son, a loving partner, a fluffy pet cat, a good job, a nice house, and post natal depression. To everyone looking in, it probably looks like I'm ecstatically happy. Bar my GP, my partner, and my most understanding friends, I haven't told anyone. Not my friends, not my family, not my colleagues, no one.
I'm terrified to talk about it, but at the same time, not talking about it is all consuming. It seems to me, by way of poorly written parenting blogs, sensational gossip magazines, and misguided comments on social media sites, that people think post natal depression is about the bond someone has with their baby and their ability to "parent", or it's just "baby blues" and the inability to cope with a huge life change. But it's not like that.
Sometimes I become convinced that I'm a terrible mother
My baby is my world, my motivation, my raison d'être. Sometimes I look at him and just cry and how perfect he is. But sometimes, I become convinced that I'm a terrible mother, I'm anxious that my baby doesn't like me, I can't sleep at night, I feel detached from the world, and like I'm failing him. And at my absolute worst, I would think about harming my baby, and then about taking my own life.
How am I meant to talk to people about that? How do you casually bring up something that heinous in conversation with friends, who have come to visit to gush at how chubby his little cheeks are, how happy you must be, he's an angel, you should be so proud. I couldn't even tell the understanding level headed GP at my post-birth check up without bawling my eyes out, I felt so ashamed and full of self-loathing, and full of fear that my son would somehow automatically be taken away from me, that I would be branded an "unfit mother".
Knowing that there are people who know and who still love me gives me some hope
After my initial diagnosis I told a couple of friends via email about my appointment and the things my doctor had said. I couldn't bring myself to tell them in person, or even over the phone. Saying words out loud would just make things more real, and it's taken me a long time to feel ready to talk about it. Both the friends I told are parents themselves, and although neither of them have had post-natal depression, I know they've been affected by depression and by other "invisible illnesses", and knew they would be supportive. I haven't been able to tell them about those darkest moments, and I'm not quite at the point where I can call them on a bad day, but knowing that there are people who know and who still love me, gives me some hope.
But on the flip side of this, there have also been times when I've skirted around the issue, tried to steer a conversation with someone towards the point where I can tell them, and then just as I'm about to close my eyes and utter the words "I have PND, I'm taking tablets, it's been tough" they say something that stops me in my tracks, and makes me steer away the conversation back to something less emotive and evocative. Without realising what I was trying to say, I've had friends tell me that post natal depression "is just tiredness", that those suffering "just need to snap out of it", "need to realise how lucky they are", and the absolute worst "some people don't deserve to be parents".
No one with post natal depression is suffering through choice
No one with post natal depression is suffering through choice. No one wants post natal depression. And even just knowing that some people don't think I "deserve" to have endured everything I have in order to have had a child, makes everything even harder.
I would love to be able to tell my all of my friends, explain to my family, but I don't know how to. I would love for someone to admire my son, tell me he's adorable, and then ask my how I'm honestly doing. But more importantly than that, I want people to realise that post natal depression isn't a weakness or a lack of facing up to responsibility, it's an illness, it's a terrifying, numbing, dark and twisted illness, experienced by normal people."