Post Natal Depression (sometimes known as Postpartum Depression), as it has been explained to me, is a biological response to having a baby. It is an illness that can require treatment with medication, therapy, and sometimes hospital admission. Anyone can suffer from it and it isn’t just exclusive to women; men can suffer from it too.
There are many contributing factors. For me, I have suffered depression in the past and had a traumatic birth, which led to me being extremely anxious and wired until I eventually collapsed into a huge horrible ball of depression.
I first realised I had PND a few weeks after my son was born. It was an extremely traumatic and complicated birth, which left my son in the neonatal ward and myself separated from him in a different ward, unable to leave to see him. I was living off of 1-2 hours’ sleep, wasn’t eating or drinking, and was having nightmares and panic attacks. I looked at my son…and even typing this now over a year later it makes me feel sick…I looked at him and felt nothing. I felt nothing. That was the worst part. I didn’t understand why I felt nothing. I thought that my baby hated me, that this tiny little defenseless baby hated me, that he knew I was a bad mother, and I was not good enough for him.
I was getting congratulation messages, cards, people wanting to visit me in hospital and at home, and I didn’t allow anyone to come. I didn’t want anyone seeing how bad of a mother I thought I was.
Two weeks into being a mother I went to my doctor and asked to be put back on my anti-depressants. I explained that I wasn’t right, that I had bizarre feelings towards my son which I wasn’t expecting. I pretty much begged for help and a way out. Her response was: “It’s just baby blues.” I felt sick, judged, and lost, alone and scared. There was no way out. This was it, I was an awful mother.
So I plodded on, getting worse and worse. Luckily, throughout my pregnancy I had psychology sessions because at the beginning of my pregnancy I felt very depressed and the midwife referred me.
I saw my psychologist six weeks after the birth of my son. I don’t even remember the appointment, and in fact I don’t really remember the next two months. All I know is I got very, very sick very, very quickly. My psychologist asked my health visitor to visit me at home as a matter of urgency to assess how I was doing, as she felt I was quite unwell and needed more support. When the health visitor saw me at home and at my worst, she realised I was not well she called for an emergency mental health assessment.
This was about 7 weeks after my son was born, and this was where I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and started treatment with medication and more intense psychology therapy. I was under a service called home treatment, which is an alternative to hospital where nurses come and see you every day in your home. From this moment on, I have been extremely lucky. I don’t feel like anyone judged me; I have only had support from health professionals and encouragement.
My journey has been long and difficult. Unfortunately, it took a while for the right medication to be found and I was admitted into a psychiatric unit and then a mother and baby unit. A mental health hospital where you can stay with your baby- this is where it all started getting better. I finally started to believe I wasn’t a bad mother and that it was just my illness. The thoughts I was having were just that, thoughts. Not fact; thoughts. I met other Mums that were going through the same as me, and I gained the confidence to be completely open and honest with how I felt and my struggles.
I have been discharged from hospital for just over six months now, I still have my struggles and they are still tweaking my medication here and there but I am a million times better than I was or ever thought I could be. I have finally learned that PND is not my fault, and it doesn’t define who I am or my ability as a mother. I am so fortunate and lucky that I had professionals around me at the start who I trusted and could be honest with, so I was able to seek the help I needed.
Without this help, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be alive. With medication, psychology, counselling, hospital admission I got there in the end. Everybody’s journey is different; different things work for different people.
To anyone reading this who feels down, alone, anxious, or not right after the birth of their child, it is ok. It will be ok. Always, always, always, seek help. It is worth it every time. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who isn’t your friend or family about how you feel. Sometimes you need tablets, sometimes you just need therapy. It’s scary, I know. But PND is not your fault, it does not make you a bad mother. It is a recognised illness that you can and will get through. I have an Instagram account “recoverywithbaby”, where I document daily. You can follow me on my journey if you wish.
Written By: Alexandra Gully, a brave woman trying to break the stigma associated with PND
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