Thursday, March 17, 2011
I drew a cartoon with the above text about ten years ago. I tried scanning it this morning but the quality was really poor. I have a lot to say on this subject and I've just spent hours dicking around with all that stuff above so now I'll get on to what I really wanted to do - which is to reach out to anyone who might identify with what all that says.
Ten years ago my son was six, my daughter one. I couldn't say I had post natal depression. Saying you think you have post natal depression feels like saying you don't like being a mother. I couldn't separate the two. Now I can. I loved being a mother. I hated the drudgery that went with it. I loved the smell of my children, their perfect skin, the things they did and said, the way they lit up for me. Sometimes I found reserves of patience. Sometimes I didn't.
I hated that the white noise in my head wouldn't allow me to listen to music, the white noise of a cry, the constant demanding, tantrums. I hated that I never managed to achieve what I had hoped to achieve on any given day. I shrank my goals until they were tiny and I still failed. My world became tiny. The endless repetition of daily chores, the Sisyphean weight and pointlessness of them. It was like showing up for a job that I was massively under-qualified for and failing, day after day after day.
At some point I went under. I could neither breathe, nor scream.
The cartoon I drew was as close as I could get to saying it out loud. I showed everyone and they laughed and told me I was clever and I wondered that they couldn't see the terror in my eyes. Or the shame. The cartoon was me screaming.
I waited another three years to get help.
It's not like those years were joyless, they were just really hard. Harder than they should have been. Even today I play it down. "I think I had mild post natal depression" I say. I have massive difficulty owning it. I know women who had a much harder time than I did and I don't seem to be able let myself off the hook on that one. Just because other people were having a harder time than I was didn't mean I didn't need help.
I asked for help the day I felt my body catch up to my mind, it stopped coping. It refused step into line and continue pretending everything was okay. I started having panic attacks.
Yesterday, driving over the bridge into Freo the traffic stopped and I was next to a woman with two tiny children in the back seat of her car and I was hit by a wave of relief that those years are done for me, and, hard on the heels of that, a wave of grief that I hadn't enjoyed them as much as I could have.
Post natal depression doesn't mean you're a bad mother.
And just in case your mother or your husband or your mother-in-law or your sister never tells you that you are a wonderful mother could you please say it quietly to yourself now, because you are. Don't be afraid to ask for help.