The light at the end of the PND tunnel
As I think about writing this I have an old familiar feeling of building anxiety. My heart is racing, I’m clenching my jaw and feeling abnormally hot. The idea of reliving what was the worst experience of my life brings back those old feelings I would rather forget. It was only a matter of months ago that this was how I felt very second of every day, and thinking about it again sends panic through my veins. Fear that I may feel like this once again if I allow myself to even think about it. I could never risk feeling like that again. Ever.
PND – round 1
After the birth of my first son, Teddy, I had my first experience of depression and anxiety. This was my first realisation that I had probably had some sort of mental health problems most of my life, but they had been laying dormant waiting for their first chance to fully reveal themselves. A newborn baby allowed my mental health to unravel completely. I fell apart in a spectacular way. I went from being on an unbelievable high the first week after Teddy’s birth to completely losing myself, my confidence and my will to live in the second week and thereafter. I’d lost control and I no longer wanted to be here. The depression was so aggressive – it took over my whole body and made me think thoughts that I would later realise were irrational and unrealistic. My newborn was hard work! He had reflux, he was unsettled and he honestly wasn’t what I had dreamed of all these years. He had turned our world upside down and I really didn’t like it at all. I wanted to get on a train and never return. This feeling lasted for a few months but after about four months of medication and treatment i started to feel better and I fell in love with my son in a way I could never have imagined. I’ve been obsessed with him ever since. He’s now 6.
IVF, miscarriage and PND
I should mention that our road to parenthood has not been easy. My husband and I were told after three years of trying to conceive, that we had unexplained infertility. Isn’t that an oxymoron? How could it possibly be unexplained?! We accepted this assessment and went on to have our first round of IVF. It was emotional, scary and exciting, and it resulted in our first born son. How lucky were we? It had worked first time! I had to be grateful. I was grateful, but I was also fearful of being a mother.
After Teddy turned one, and I was finally feeling content, I found out I had fallen pregnant naturally. I thought this would never happen and again a mix of emotions filled my body. I should be thankful, this was a miracle, this was everything we had ever wanted. The fact was I was terrified. How was I going to look after two children under two? I had only just managed to get through the first year with one baby. At 13 weeks I suffered my first natural miscarriage. This was shocking and hard to digest. Had I caused this by not being happy that I was pregnant? I now realise these were wasted questions but they were where my mind was at and I couldn’t control it. A year later we had IVF again and conceived once again. At twelve weeks pregnant I started bleeding again and a scan confirmed that there was no heartbeat. I was encouraged to have another natural miscarriage at home. This was so much more traumatic than the first time. I wouldn’t stop bleeding and lost so much blood I passed out and an ambulance was called to take me to hospital. We later were told the foetus had got stuck and my body was trying to force it out. I remember saying to my husband that this was the worst night of my life, and that sentiment still rings true. It is an experience I will sadly never forget.
We went on to the next round of IVF. I was on a mission now to have my second child. I would do whatever it takes. Anyone that has had fertility treatment knows that this is what happens, it becomes an obsession and there is no way of knowing when you should stop. With lots of medication I carried my second son to term and we finally had our family. I felt relieved, amazed, blessed.
PND – round 2
Two weeks after Rex’s birth the worst happened. I was hit again by debilitating anxiety and depression. I described it to my sister as ‘the wheels have come off’ and that is exactly how it felt. Rex was another unsettled baby and I was a mess. I couldn’t cope, I couldn’t be alone, and at times I truly felt I couldn’t breathe. I begged to be spared, my life to be taken. I looked at trees and visualised hanging myself day after day. I hoped that someone would just kill me, that I wouldn’t have to do it to myself. It was and I hope always will be the worst time of my life. I don’t think myself or my family could ever go through this again. After a very close suicide attempt where the right person arrived at the right time, I sought real help. I was done with doctor appointments and went straight to The Priory to get some long term, serious help. I was given the right medication, the right people to talk to and I opened up to friends and family. I was finally not alone.
The thing that amazes me the most is this was only eight months ago. In that time I have slowly, genuinely, started to feel better. I feel I have started again, from scratch. I was stripped back to my most vulnerable and exposed and I had to rebuild myself, piece by piece. I did it! I did it with a six month old baby and a five year old. I looked after them and I found a way to look after myself. I was fortunate as I had the support of my husband and some amazing friends. Without them I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here now, alive.
Depression is evil. It’s all consuming. It takes your soul, your being and tells you you’re not worth it, you don’t deserve to be here. It tells you that no one will miss you, things will be better when you’re gone. It lies.
IT DOES GET BETTER
I have survived this cruel disease. I have gone from my lowest ebb to one of the most exciting, rewarding times of my life. It’s not always easy and I still have days where I have the deepest fear that I am starting to feel sad, low again but I know that things always get better. Those cliches are true. Nothing lasts forever, there is light at the end of the tunnel, time is a healer, the sun will rise again.
I want people to know that things really do get better. You WILL get better. It may take some time and there will be ups and downs along the way, but you will do it. You can do it. I wholeheartedly thought I would never be okay again, and forget being happy. For me, being fine was underrated. That was all I wanted. My road to recovery hasn’t been easy but it has changed me, for the better. I am a kinder person, a more empathetic person and a better mother for it. Motherhood is hard! The hardest thing I’ve ever done by far. The only thing is now I can say that it has all been worth it. My boys are gorgeous. They leave me tearing my hair out most days, but they also give me more joy than I could ever have imagined. Now I can say that I’m lucky, because you know, I truly am.