Sitting in our kitchen a week or so after my daughter was born, I had a conversation with a health visitor about how I was coping and how life was progressing with our new addition. I completed the Edinburgh Test which is the routine screening for postnatal depression (PND). I thought I may as well confess all and let her know my secret. I am already a fully paid up member of the depression club, not a new recruit but one that has carried this around for most of my adult life. I also let her know that I live many miles from my family and therefore have little support close by. You could almost hear the sirens going off in her mind. She pretty much told me that I was a dead cert to develop PND.
There’s a definite stigma attached to this condition and depression clearly takes many forms and shapes in so many lives. My own mild case is what I view as a bit of faulty wiring. It’s not a weakness or a worry, it’s simply part of who I am and something that can be largely controlled with drugs and positive activity. It is neither caused by a particular event nor likely to ever go away.
Writing this blog post is a bit of a risk. I’ve never really spoken out about this issue before or put my thoughts down on paper. People may judge me or worry about me unnecessarily because of it. But, I believe that the stigma would diminish if more people were open and honest about themselves.
Following the health visitor conversation, I was on red alert. Would I find myself unable to bond with my daughter, cowering in the corner of the room? Would I lock myself away and forget to eat or wash my hair?
A funny thing happened. I got happier. Now, I won’t lie and say that this last year has been easy. It’s been the worst of times and the best of times. I have sat in the park at the end of the road and sobbed at 1am, leaving my husband to babysit. We have argued like cat and dog. Almost the minute evening descends and the exhaustion kicks in, the bickering begins. But this is all normal for new parents. On the whole, I have actually taken a massive step forward. I now have a purpose and the desire to seize life with both hands. Or at least with one hand, I’m probably carrying a baby with the other. I have a list of things that I will achieve this year rather than procrastinating or being too afraid to live life to the full. Adults get so caught up in grown up things, the mortgage, cleaning the house, putting meals on the table. What my daughter has shown me is how to enjoy the simplest of things. Her view of the world is so uncomplicated and pure. Sometimes i’ll notice her looking at something, giggling, something that I haven’t even spotted. The things that I now look forward to the most are jumping in puddles with wellies on, collecting seashells on the beach, pointing at planes in the sky. Those are all of the things that I had forgotten while I was busy being lost.
I do feel that I have been lucky, PND could have hit me hard. I know that my family were expecting it to. And yet here I am a year on, feeling pretty happy. I am exhausted and I would love some ‘me time’, but otherwise it’s so far so good.
One of my favourite things to do now is to sit in the park (the same one that I have sobbed in), overlooking the estuary, watching the boats and the birds, just breathing in and out. And I have my daughter to thank for that. It was my time to change.