Before I begin I just need to tell you there are no words I have to describe how nervous I am about publishing this post. None.
I’m not sure where to begin so I’m just going to start typing and see what comes out…
I have never really struggled with my mental health before, I’ve been anxious from time to time and had the odd low day but, on the whole, I am a happy chilled out sort of person. After having Leo I took to motherhood like a duck to water, I loved every second, even sleep deprivation and getting pooed on almost daily didn’t get me down. I expected things would be the same when I gave birth to my second baby. I thought that because I’d done it all before, parenting a second child would be just as easy as the first time around. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
I have found having 2 children SO hard, so much so that my health visitor and GP have both shown concern for my mental health. Post natal depression and perinatal anxiety have both been mentioned. Do I have them? I’m still not sure. I am sure though that I’m not my normal self anymore. My old self wouldn’t be scared of taking her children to feed the ducks for the crippling fear that the older one may fall in while she’s got her eyes on the baby. My old self wouldn’t have spent ages googling secondary drowning after her baby rolled in the bath and dunked his face in the water for all of half a second. My old self would have gone out more, lived in the moment more, wouldn’t have felt overwhelmed by the smallest tasks or felt like crying for no reason almost every single day.
This new me, I don’t like her. This new me is trying to ruin everything. My relationship with Leo, my marriage and I am so terrified this horrible mental state I’m in is going to taint these precious baby days with Alex too. I am a tense, anxious bubble just waiting to burst. Some days the pressure is released and things don’t feel so bad. We go out and have a lovely family day together or Leo and I manage to get some quality time together and I’m not getting an onslaught of mum guilt for not being there for him enough. I love these days. These days my old self is beating down my anxious brain; some battles I win and some I don’t. I need to feel grateful that atleast I’m winning some, the anxiety doesn’t always come out on top.
But then there are those times when it does.
There are days where Leo is complaining and Alex is crying and I just can’t cope. I simply can not do it. So I cry. Sometimes I can hold it in so my kids don’t have to see the tears but then there are other times that I don’t. It just constantly feels like I have this nagging voice telling me I’m doing it all wrong, that I’m not sharing my time between them fairly enough or I’m dealing with Leo’s difficult behaviour the wrong way or I haven’t hugged Alex enough today or smiled and just relaxed with them both as much as I should. The list of things that I feel I’m doing wrong and the list of things I fear may go wrong have become too heavy a burden to carry.
I just want to be able to think about taking them both to feed the ducks without immediately picturing Leo’s little body, face down and motionless in the water.
I just want to be able to drive in the car and not worry that Alex may have stopped breathing in his car seat.
I just want to make it to bedtime without my whole body aching because I have been so tense all day, letting small things get the better of me – letting things that haven’t happened, and probably never will, work me up into a tight ball of worry and stress.
I’ve talked to Oli about it all and a particularly bad morning led me to phone my health visitor in floods of tears. This resulted in a trip to the GP who referred me to the perinatal mental health team. It turns out they don’t need to see me, they think I can manage these feelings with help and advice from my health visitor. This makes me feel a bit helpless. I know I should feel relieved that things are potentially not as bad as they feel. I should be happy that my mental health is not at the point where I need serious intervention. I am relieved but also I am left not knowing how I move on from this. How do I go back to being happy me?
I’m not naïve, I know I will never be worry or care free ever again. I’m a mother, a mother of 2 boys at that, I am always going to have something to worry about. I just don’t want to have to deal with this anxiety forever, this ever present feeling that something is going to go wrong and, when it does, it will be all my fault. These feelings that leave me questioning if I will ever be able to cope with being a mother of 2, these thoughts that can bring me to tears before I’ve even got dressed for the day, I just need them all to stop. I need to be me again. I want so badly to be happy mummy for my boys, I hate being stressed, shouty and sad mummy.
I don’t know if this revelation will come as a shock to you all. Probably. Talk to me in the real world and chances are I will tell you I’m fine. Ask my family how I am and they’re likely to tell you I’m doing great, I’ve got good at ignoring the elephant in the room when I speak to my parents on the phone (I’m sorry if you’re reading this now Mum, sorry I haven’t told you. I just can’t, you have so much to worry about and I don’t want one of those things to be me. Ignorance is bliss after all, I really hope you’re not reading). If you were to scroll through my instagram feed you would likely get the impression that my life is perfect, read the captions and don’t focus on the image and you may get more of a glimpse of the real story. I am just worried what people will think of me, that others will think I am a bad mother or I’m moaning about nothing. I’ve also been worried that people will not want to stop by my blog anymore. Will you all stop reading my posts now they have taken more of a depressing turn?
I hope not.
I pride myself on being an honest blogger and yet for the past couple of months I’ve been lying. I’ve been pretending that life with my 2 boys has been wonderful, if you were to read any of Alex’s monthly updates you would not find a single reference to my mental health because I’ve purposefully left any mention of it out. It’s time to come clean now though. All I’ve ever wanted from my blog is to help other mums, to give them an honest look at pregnancy and motherhood, to show them all the good things but to never shy away from the bad. I have left myself down. I have not just shied away from the bad since having Alex, I’ve completely just shoved it under the carpet, trying to stamp it into the ground and pretend it doesn’t exist.
Well, unfortunately, bad times do exist. That’s not saying how I’m feeling is normal because it’s not. My health visitor and gp have both confirmed my anxiety levels are higher than they should be. We are all hoping with good self care and regular chats with my health visitor that these feelings can be managed. We all have bad days but, at the minute, my bad days can feel unbearable. I am determined to get myself better, to banish this consuming anxiety back to whatever depths it came from and to be the happy mummy my boys deserve. To be happy again because that’s what I deserve too.
So, to all my loyal readers, I’m sorry I’ve kept this secret from you but I’ve been too scared to open up. To any mums to be who have stopped by my blog in search of honest accounts of what is to come, I’m sorry I’ve lied to you. To my amazing husband and gorgeous boys, I’m sorry I’m not me anymore and I’m sorry when my smile is there it’s not always real. It will be again one day, I hope sooner rather than later.
This is me coming clean. Mental health issues after pregnancy come in all shapes and sizes and this is what mine looks like. If you are going through something similar or have in the past I would love to hear your story, you can leave a comment or email me privately if you would prefer. It may be hard but it’s good to talk. It may feel like it sometimes but none of us are ever alone, there’s always someone willing to listen.
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