Am I getting better?
When Alex was about 7weeks old and things were really tough I really couldn’t picture a time when I’d feel like myself again. During that time I felt like I was being crushed: crushed by constant unexplained sadness, crushed by anxiety and crushed by the pressure I was putting on myself to have everything together. Of course I didn’t have everything together, I had a very demanding 3 year old, an even more demanding baby and I was trying to juggle everything on almost zero sleep. But I’m so relieved to tell you that I’m not feeling that way anymore. Sometimes I still feel like I’m walking through a swamp, struggling to get from A to B (A being a stupidly early start and B being the kids bedtime) but now the bad thoughts and the almost all consuming sadness have passed, the hard days are just about manageable.
There was a dark time when my fear of something terrible happening to the kids was so bad that I was hardly getting out the house, my anxiety keeping me a prisoner within the walls of my own home. My mind didn’t feel like my own anymore, it had become full of intrusive thoughts and worry and, to be honest, some days I just wanted to sleep the day away so I didn’t have to think anymore. I felt guilty that I had two beautiful children but I felt miserable and I can remember the almost physical pain of forcing myself to smile in front of others. The sheer effort it took to put on a happy face when all I actually felt like doing was hiding under my duvet and having a good old cry was at times almost too much.
For the past couple months I have slowly started to retreat away from the dark place, I have shared how I am feeling with my family (I did manage to tell my Mum eventually) and health care professionals and have even briefly spoke about my anxiety on my personal Facebook account. Each time I open up about my feelings I increase the distance between myself and that depression filled cave I never want to return to. Talking, making time for myself and just understanding that it’s OK not feel ok sometimes have been the three key paths that are leading me back to my happier self. My husband has been amazing, understanding my anxiety has not been easy for him but he has listened and supported me in every way that he can, without him I dread to think how I’d be feeling right now.
I still feel anxious more than I would like, irrationally worrying that something awful is going to happen to my boys, but now I’m feeling happier in myself I feel in a much better place to be able to deal with these feelings instead of letting them almost take over my life. The intrusive thoughts that were leaving me wish I had an off switch for my mind are now appearing much less often and when they do show up uninvited I try my best not to let them get to me. Just by accepting and understanding a bit more everything that’s been going on with me has really helped me in my recovery. When I smile now it’s because I want to and not because I feel like I need to be – I never want to force myself to smile again. If I’m feeling low I am going to make sure I talk about it instead of hiding behind a mask of fake laughter and conversations full of lies like ‘yes everything is ok’ or ‘oh, I’m doing absolutely fine thanks!’.
I am singing (badly) to myself and the kids again, I dance around the kitchen with Leo and make up silly games with Alex. Where only a matter of months a go I wouldn’t take the boys out further than the local park and toddler groups, now I am taking them off for adventures more and not letting the ‘what ifs’ stop me. The mummy I used to be is clawing her way back up to the surface and I am so relieved to see her face every time I look in the mirror. I am reluctant to say I’m completely over the perinatal anxiety as I can still find myself in a bit of an anxious and overwhelmed state quite regularly but I don’t feel that way about my PND. Not so long a go I was crying more than I was laughing, I felt as though my life was full of a dark heavy fog and everything that should have been making me happy was having no positive effect on my mood at all. Now everything is the opposite; I can’t remember the last time I cried without reason, I feel light on my feet again and I am finding enjoyment and happiness in lots of different things.
There is always going to be a part of me that feels sad that for the first few months of Alex’s life I didn’t enjoy being a mother of two and in lots of the photos of his first Christmas I have a smile on my face that I will always know wasn’t real. I will come to terms with this in time though, adjusting to life with two children has been really difficult for me but now, after nearly 6 months, I can honestly say I am really enjoying being mummy to my two boys. I still have bad days but don’t we all? I’m not letting those bad days or negative experiences drag me down to a place where I don’t want to be anymore. It is this determined and positive mindset that has helped me to retrieve my happy positive self back from the dark cave that was my post natal depression and given my boys their happy mummy back.
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive and left me lots of lovely comments on my other mental health posts, your kindness and words have helped me so much. Who knows if I’ll write about PND or anxiety again, for now though I am just going to enjoy my family, enjoy being happy and focus on writing about the things that make me happy.
Have you ever suffered with post natal depression, feelings of overwhelming anxiety after pregnancy or intrusive thoughts? I would love for you to share your experience with me in the comments, maybe we could support each other.
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