Six weeks after giving birth to my second child, eighteen months ago, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND).
I don't remember a great deal about this dark time to be honest. I had half worried that my GP would tell me to pull myself together and send me on my way. Luckily, he was (and still is) incredibly supportive.
I was prescribed Citalopram and slowly started feeling better. Just over a year later I felt it was time to stop taking the medication. My main reason for this, rightly or wrongly, was that I wanted to know that I could "do it on my own", without depending on chemical assistance.
I was feeling fine, in control and back to normal (whatever that means). So under my doctor's supervision I weaned myself from the tablets. It didn't take long at all before things really fell apart for me in a big way.
I went to meet our newborn in hospital
I'd been getting worse and the familiar dark feelings had returned when there was lovely news. On the evening of the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics my husband and I went to meet our newborn nephew in hospital.
I remember walking through the post-natal ward and feeling some really horrifying memories come flooding back. I felt like a panic attack was on its way but I did my best to push it away. We met our beautiful nephew and went home.
It was then that I really went to pieces. Crying hysterically and not knowing what to do with myself. I had so much anxiety in my head that I remember literally feeling like I wanted to remove my head and wash it out, strange as that may sound. It was just awful.
The following day I was back on my medication but it took quite a while to start feeling normal again. My relapse came with the new addition of extreme anxiety, for which I was also prescribed beta blockers, and eventually Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help me cope.
Reading blogs about the experience of others' helped
Six months later, I'm pleased to say that I've finished my course of CBT and am no longer taking the beta blockers as the anxiety is under control.
One of the things that really helped me get through this dark time was reading. There are so many incredible blogs out there, where people speak honestly and truthfully about what they've been through. I hid my depression from almost everyone in my life, even my closest friends.
In my experience, PND is very closely tied in to feelings of failure as a mother. I felt that admitting I had it was like admitting failure and inadequacy. Like I wasn't good enough for my children and I didn't deserve them.
I shared my experiences of postnatal depression as a blog
About a month ago I decided to share my own truth by starting a blog. It's called Mummy Kindness. I "came out" about my PND which was a big shock to lots of very important people in my life.
Some of my closest friends felt very hurt that I hadn't confided in them at the time. I had to explain to them that it wasn't that I didn't trust them, far from it. The reason I was unable to tell them was that I knew the advice and support they'd offer, but I wasn't able to take it on board or accept their help at the time. I suppose I didn't feel worthy.
I think that PND can really damage a woman's sense of self-worth. Other than having my children, I haven't done much in the past few years that I have felt proud of. But, dare I say it, I am proud of my blog.
The response has been incredible
The response to it has been incredible. I have had messages of congratulations and support from strangers and also heart-felt confessions of depression from people I've not seen for years. People have told me that in reading my words they feel I've visited their inner thoughts and written them down. To know that sharing my story is helping people is amazing.
But my blog is not just about me. I want to encourage mums to stop competing and comparing with one another, realise that we're all in this together and can help one another. I want people to read it and realise that, despite outward appearances, lots of people are going through struggles that we know nothing about.
A few kind words from you may be the only nice things they hear all day. Your smile to a stranger on the street may be the highlight of their week. Someone you know may well be putting on a brave face but screaming inside. By being kinder to ourselves and each other, we really can change the world. I think it's Time To Change. Are you in?