As you have probably seen across social media, Thursday 4th February 2016 was Time to Talk Day. Promoted by Time to Change http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalkday #timetotalk
The idea being to get the nation talking about mental health to help end the misconceptions around it. Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people every year, yet too often people are afraid to talk about their experiences because they fear it will affect their jobs or relationships. That’s not right and it’s why the charity have encouraged people to break the silence and end the stigma.
So I thought it was fitting to share my experience with postnatal depression.
I began writing my own person Mum blog ‘The Little Book of Sick’ when my reflux baby was ten weeks old. Looking back a further five months down the line I can honestly say that this blog saved me. It saved me in more ways than one. It saved me from the anxiety and paranoia of living with reflux, the clutches of postnatal depression and it saved me from a life without creativity.
Recently I attended a Blog festival sponsored by Mumsnet –Blogfest 2015. I arrived full of hope and desperate for inspiration… I left full of inspiration and desperate to write. A day for me. And I don’t mean because I was a new mum and I enjoyed a day away from the baby – yes that was a bonus – what I mean was a day to be the true me again. The me that has passion and desire to be a writer. The me that used to aspire to be a journalist, to write, to publish a novel. I always used to have this feeling and I haven’t felt it for such a long time. Blogfest reminded me of the thrill of writing, brainstorming, pitching, sharing and being creative. I wanted it so much. I wrote and wrote and it brought me to life. But for twelve years that life has been suppressed.
As I sat in the session called Motherhood and Creativity and listened to Margaret Atwood, (who I wrote my dissertation on) and Meera Syal speak about Motherhood and Creativity I wanted to stand up and shout out and exclaim my joy and excitement at just being there. Motherhood has given me my mojo back. Yes. Motherhood has given me the head space and ironically the time (albeit in the middle of the night) the time to think, to be creative and the desire to write.
Looking back, I was clearly on the brink of Post Natal depression. Or maybe I was already there. At ten weeks in, severely sleep deprived, battling hormones, reflux and my own anxieties; this blog was a turning point in not only my creativity but my experience of motherhood and as I say, potentially saved me from a further decline into PND.
Coping with a new baby and dealing with the new me was the hardest thing I have ever dealt with. Meera Syal spoke about the Punjabi belief of childbirth involving the birth of a new self. That is exactly how I felt. Not only was a new baby born. A new mother was born. And I didn’t have a clue how to deal with her. The baby was fairly straight forward. But the new mother was a mess. I only knew how to live my ‘normal’ life so I just carried on and hoped the mum thing would just sort itself out. Which it didn’t.
Three weeks in I was desperate for my old self. The other half went on a stag do… leaving me alone. With the baby! And wine! I had never felt so much fear in all my life. My sister came one night, I went out for afternoon tea… but Saturday night I was alone. Reflux was ready for action and beginning to manoeuvre its way into our lives, but was an unknown enemy at that time.
She screamed. She was sick. She screamed. She didn’t poo. She screamed some more. I was at my whit’s end. So I drank two glasses of red wine and booked a £3000 holiday to the Dominican Republic. (A holiday that we cannot afford) I have always been a traveller and so the single wanderlust in me took over and ignored the nagging doubts of the new mum. Of course a 10 hour flight would be fine, It would be amazing, we could afford it… urgh no we couldn’t!
Five weeks in and I was on the edge; but didn’t yet realise it. I went to my friend’s house for Bridesmaid duties and stayed overnight. A break away from the baby was just what I needed. But I kind of forgot that I had one. It was too easy to leave her. Was I weird? On the way home the next day I sobbed all the way home. I was being led back to my prison cell. The nursery prison cell. My bed cell. I spent all night trying to sleep and then all day unable to sleep.
I sobbed. I looked at the baby and felt guilty that I hadn’t missed her. Wanted to run away. I wanted me back.
Two weeks later, after two weddings and a million visitors and a stupid amount of days trips with the seven year old in tow I sat on the beach and sobbed. The baby was seven weeks old. I was exhausted, delirious, desperate, happy and miserable. All at the same time. I sat on the beach and sobbed and sobbed. My head was dark. The sun was shining but it was dark. My robotic experience of motherhood was not what I’d hoped for. The monotony of nappies, bottles, sick, poo, no poo, sick was all consuming. Days ran into one and other. I was miserably happy. Lying to other people, to myself. Creating a facade of happiness on Facebook. Pushing people away and feeling alone. Isolated but claustrophobic. And now it makes sense. Was it PND or was it just me getting to know this new person? Learning to accept my mother self?
Amy Ransom (who I had the pleasure to meet at Blogfest) from Surviving Motherhood actually saved my life. At the turn of Week 8, I sat in my Nursery cell and couldn’t see a way out. My boyfriend (in my then darkened mind) had abandoned me to go to sleep; leaving me alone to fight another night of reflux pain. I was awakened by reading her article The Fourth Trimester. It saved my motherhood life. Those words gave me the wake up and realisation that I needed – to accept that I was a Mum. That life had changed, I had changed and my new self had been born. I had been nurturing the baby but hadn’t been nurturing myself. This had to change.
So I started to put the baby and myself first. I started to do something to try and make sense of this crazy new world that I was immersed in. I started my blog. For the first time in twelve years I wrote, I was creative and I loved it.
Going to Blogfest made me realise that motherhood has allowed me to be reborn creatively and my new self is alive in a way that I haven’t been for a very long time. Yes, I am on anti-depressants and I am not ashamed to admit that, but the best therapy of all has been this blog. Every word I type is medicinal and every sentence heals the wounds that I’ve inflicted on myself in the past through not writing. Every comment from a reader makes me feel more confident both as a writer and as a mother.
I left Blogfest happy in the knowledge that Motherhood and Creativity are my soul mates and will I will nurture them both with the sensitivity and passion that they equally deserve.
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