Postnatal depression: One mum’s story
“I was delighted to be pregnant a third time, and thought that this time round I’d finally get it right. I was feeling confident that I had the baby thing sussed. I was elated after Jamie was born, and 12 hours later I was at home, with friends and family popping in, completely in love with my beautiful boy and feeling relaxed and happy.
“I just couldn’t sleep”
“Then one night a few weeks later, I was drifting off to sleep when my baby cried out from his moses basket. I woke with a start, my heart pounding. After that, I just couldn’t sleep, and the pounding feeling of my heart didn’t go away. Nights went by where I only slept for a couple of hours of sleep, and I’d lie awake with thoughts whirring around my head.
“The fear that I might develop PND made the anxiety worse. How could I be ill, when I had three little boys who depended on me? I felt I had to pull myself together, and get on with being a strong, capable wife and mother. So I’d think through the problem, come up with a plan, then go back to the beginning again. The same thoughts, over and over, like a broken record.
“During the day I’d keep busy, but as the evenings wore on, I’d become more and more panicky, with butterflies in my tummy and a tingling in my body, dreading the sleeplessness and the terror of the night. Some days were fine, and I’d convince myself I was doing ok. But the constant anxiety wore away at me, until after a few weeks I couldn’t function.
“I was filled with a nameless terror”
“One day we went to our son’s preschool sports day. I sat in the sunshine, with my baby dozing on my lap and my toddler running around, surrounded by friends, and I felt filled with a nameless terror. That night, I couldn’t sleep, and woke my husband, rambling incoherently about my fears. That someone was trying to get into our house. That I was crazy, and people would come and take my children away. That he didn’t love me anymore, and would leave me. There was a buzzing in my head, and I couldn’t block out the sound of my horrible thoughts.
“I told him I wanted to die, but what I really wanted was just to sleep for a long, long time, to have some peace.
“That’s me he’s talking about…”
“The next morning, Alex called a family friend who’s a GP. I heard him tell her that I was paranoid, and suicidal. That’s me he’s talking about, I thought. How could this have happened? Where is my lovely life, my happy family? How have I been reduced to this sobbing, shaking person lying on a bed, unable to speak? The friend came round, and persuaded me to take a sedative. The buzzing in my head faded, but I still couldn’t eat, and kept crying.
“The next morning, Alex took me to the GP, and told her what had been happening. I couldn’t say it myself – I could hardly talk. I was prescribed antidepressants, and started taking them straight away. For the first few days, I still felt wobbly and frightened, and couldn’t bear to be alone, so my parents and sister took it in turns to come and sit with me.
“The fog in my head began to clear”
“Soon I started to sleep better, and within a couple of weeks the fog in my head began to clear, and the constant butterflies in my stomach started to ease. A month later, I felt well enough to go on holiday. Once again, I sat in the sunshine, surrounded by my family, and this time, there was no terror. I looked around me, and knew that I’d got it all back: my lovely life, my happy family.
“Since then, I haven’t looked back. I still have hard days, but the kind any mother of three small children experiences. Now I wonder why it took me so long to get help. If I hadn’t let things get so bad, I could have escaped those terrible weeks. But in some ways, I’m glad it did get that bad, because otherwise I might just have struggled on, trying to pretend everything was ok, thinking I was struggling because I just wasn’t a very good mum. When I look back, I know that the day I was at my very lowest was also the day that I started to get my life back, because that was the day I got help.”