My daughter was born in April 2002.
I had a happy marriage, we had a lovely home and now we had a beautiful baby daughter. Life couldn't get any better. I had very high expectations of motherhood. I thought I would be a natural.An ever doting mother who would do absolutely anything for her child. And I was. For a while.
The pressure is immense. There is an element of having to portray yourself as the perfect mother, who can look after a new baby, look after the house and maybe return to work. I began to portray this picture quite well. To friends and family I was coping, I was happy, I was loving every minute of it, but behind closed doors I was sobbing, crying my heart out most days and not understanding why.
Not understanding why I couldn't soothe my crying baby gradually chipped away at me until I had no confidence in my own ability to become a good mother. The only way I could describe it is to say I felt a complete failure.
It was my husband that contacted the health visitor. He had noticed I wasn't myself after one particular phone call to his place of work. I was inconsolable and screaming at him to come home as I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't keep up this charade of being a happy coping mum. He spoke to the health visitor for some time and got some great information about PND from her and he looked at various websites to learn about it.
I read through information again and again and scoured the websites for hours. I completely identified with the long list of symptoms and feelings they were describing. Crying for no reason, irritable, angry, confused, anxious, guilt. The more I read, the more it became real. I was ill. I needed help. I was suffering with postnatal depression.
My doctor was great. She had a great understanding of postnatal depression, which gave me alot of confidence in her ability to treat and help me. I was put on medication which made a significant improvement quite quickly. I was on medication for about 5 months. I hadn't fallen back into the black hole of postnatal depression again for this time so I was weaned off the tablets. I can see now that I shouldn't have been. It was too soon and I wasn't ready.I was ok for a while and everyone thought I was coping well again but I was very good at putting on a brave face. I began to recognise that my symptoms were returning. Extreme tearfulness, very low self esteem, constantly tired and exhausted. I was put back on medication.
Again I improved quite dramatically. However in November 2003 I experienced the worst weekend of my life. I came crashing down like I've never known before. I felt weak, I felt like nothing. I wanted to walk away from everything, I was convinced my family would be better off without me- it was the most desperate I have ever felt... It was then I realised I needed additional help.
My doctor talked to me about my options- one of which was a support group. I did have my reservations. I felt isolated, lonely, useless, tired, and completely inadequate - why would I go to a group and tell complete strangers that I felt like that. My doctor assured me that I could just sit and listen, I could ask questions or I could talk about my feelings if I wanted to. I could leave the room anytime if I didn't feel it was for me. It was purely a support group to help me through the postnatal depression. I agreed.
A couple of weeks later, just before the course was about to commence, Liz, the group counsellor, contacted me and introduced herself- she was instantly warm and friendly on the telephone which helped tremendously. She then met us all individually on arrival on our first day- another personal touch that made me feel welcome and at ease. The first meeting was the hardest. But it was also the best thing I could have done. I was taking a positive step towards my recovery.
It was much more relaxed and informal than I thought it would be. I had never been to anything like this before so I didn't know what to expect. I remember speaking much more than anyone else, which really surprised me, but it felt good to talk, it felt really positive.
The thing I found most useful about the group was knowing that there were other people out there who felt the same. I wasn't alone. And it was ok to feel like this. Being able to talk to other women who are going through the same roller coaster of emotions and not understanding them was strangely encouraging. Being able to get support and being able to support others has helped me. And not being judged. Just being listened to. Undestanding that we will get better- this illness won't last forever.
Attending the group has made a significant difference to how I feel now. I have my self confidence back. I can look to the future with eagerness and determination- feelings I thought I would never get back. I also have much more realistic expectations of motherhood. And I do love it. It is the most rewarding job I have ever done but it is also the hardest. No one said it was easy.