Post natal depression made it on the news this week, a report got published which quoted the numbers of women who suffer it and the cost this bears to society. I just read an article in this week Saturday Guardian online, which has irritated me. It is written by a middle aged man, whose mother experienced post natal depression and years of heavy duty anti-psychotic medication, which was common treatment for depressed mothers not that long  back. His article had an edge to it which was saying he had been affected by post natal depression and contributed this to his own depression, it got my hackles up.

Depression had not been something I was prone to, teenage angst and grief is not the same thing and whilst I’d had a dose of both I hadn’t been depressed until after my first son was born. It hit me 6 months after he was born, when my maternity leave was coming to an end and I had to return to work, anxiety began to creep in and strangled me slowly. Leaving the house became difficult and I started to withdraw, feeling crushed by the enormity of everything and just wanting to protect my precious little baby.

I didn’t make it through my first day back, as soon as I walked back into my office, I crumbled and at that point I knew I had finally broken. I was singed off sick by my GP, given anti-depressants and within 2 months had effectively ended my career. 

Depression & anxiety became a feature of my life over the following 11 years, not a constant but they did visit regularly. I had pre-natal depression with my second son, a month before he was born, a much loved friend at the time, gave birth to her stillborn daughter. I remember feeling guilty because I’d felt so relieved when he was born, the whole pregnancy with him had been hard and then when he was finally born, that moment quickly filled with guilt, because he was alive.

I became consumed by black holes that would slowly envelop me until I was barely me anymore, anxiety crippling me, my mind was never quiet, the chatter got louder, its voice reinforcing every negative thought.

The boys grew as did my episodes of depression, when we moved here to the fen was when it scared me the most. Suicidal thoughts seemed the most logical answer, at that point in time I genuinely believed the boys would be better off without me. Yet at the same time, the boys were also both the reasons that kept me grounded to this earth.

Now, it is like it happened to someone else because that person isn’t who I am anymore. I don’t want to become all survivalist about depression, but as human beings we are able to learn and grow. Depression & anxiety have taught me many things, its challenges and experiences have shaped who I am ….. despite everything I didn’t give up. In the midst of depression you can’t imagine that the situation you are in at that point will ever change, it feels like you are stuck and there is no imaginable way out, you feel trapped. But things do change, it is how life is, nothing stays the same forever.

Through depression the boys have learnt about mental health, we have talked about it, they have language they can use to communicate how they feel. Yes they have seen the tears, the hurt and the pain, but they have also seen determination, achievement and change.

I do not dismiss that I may experience a depressive episode again, I think it would be arrogant, but what I do think is that the last three and a half years of not experiencing anything more than the odd minor wobble around the very edges; are a good base to know that I can cope and manage. I have learnt what can trigger my negative thought patterns, I know that worrying feeds anxiety, I know that I am strong, I know that I have come through the other side of previous black holes. I know that I have much to be proud of and that from negativity, positivity has grown, I don’t sweat about the big stuff anymore.

Post natal depression does not mean you don’t love your children, it is the enormity of that love which can be overwhelming. There is no preparation for it, no knowing what it will be like to give birth to a child, all you can do is your best on the journey that it gives you.