I’m nearly 2 years along my own personal journey with what I like to call my unwanted house guest, otherwise known to the world at large as Postnatal Depression. It’s been one hell of a battle taking me at best, to some of the weirdest places I have had the misfortune to visit and, at worst, to a place I want to erase from my memory, my soul and my very fibres.
It’s this desire for amnesia that’s been one of the things that has gotten me to where I currently live today (in a world that, for now, is no longer ruled by anxiety, self loathing and doubt).
When dealing with PND you need an artillery of armour to shield you from what the illness throws at you. I’m now realising that one of the biggest guns in my artillery is the ability to forget: to push the most difficult elements of my illness around my mind until they have been rounded up into a neat pile and dumped into a box labelled “to deal with at a later date”.
Amnesia has helped me gain strength and therefore my confidence in being able to kick the ass of this God forsaken illness, hopefully for the last time. I say hopefully as the one thing I haven’t been able to forget is that I have been here more than once, only for my house guest to spitefully return stronger and more unforgettable than ever before.
My amnesia has been a friend, however it has also been a foe. Along with the bliss of being able to block out the darker sides of my experiences, I also sacrificed the memories of the happy times.
My daughter’s first year – ouch
For two years now I have found it excruciatingly difficult to revisit the first 12 months of my daughters life (even writing these words now makes me feel nauseous).
I would never have thought that a bag of old baby clothes would be the catalyst that not only allowed me to open this gate but to run my ass all the way down memory lane and back again.
I’ve now been able to revisit the first year of my precious little girl’s life for the first time with unrivalled happiness. There I was, sat amongst the familiar chaos of a toddler and a 10-month-old, whilst I sorted through a bag of clothes I hadn’t seen since my first 9 months of suffering with PND.
Hit by a smell…
As I unzipped the bag of clothes I was hit by a familiar smell that sent me hurtling back to that summer and filled me with happiness and reassurance. Yes, the clothes had been washed, folded and sealed away into a bag for the last 12 months, but it also felt that all the happy memories we’d made whilst she was wearing these clothes had been sealed away with them.
You see, for the last 2 years, the reason I was so scared to revisit this time was the fear that it would confirm what I was most afraid of. That I was a bad mum, that me and my stupid illness had robbed me and my little girl of all the happy memories we should have been making together. That our lives had been so tainted that all that existed was the illness.
The aftermath of my Postnatal Depression has left me picking through these discarded memories fearing I will discover the worst amongst the debris. However, in that one mundane mummy moment of sorting clothes, I found a bit of bloody treasure.
That’s right, I did laugh…
I remembered for the first time since becoming a mum with PND that as well as being unwell I was also at times happy. I had shared some pretty rotten times with my little girl but I had also provided her with hours of belly laughs, gummy smiles and walks in the sunshine.
We’d been each other’s port in the storm – she clung on to me for reassurance in her new little world and I clung to her to remind myself of what and who I was fighting this daily battle for. We were and are each other’s reason for smiling every day (even on the shit scary, gut wrenching awful days).
Postnatal Depression has robbed me of a lot of things. I have spent the last 29 months fearing and believing it had robbed me of the most precious of things – my ability to look back on the beginning of my daughter’s life and feel happiness.
I was wrong; it hasn’t stolen these from me. It has instead held me back from remembering them and stopped me from realising that I was and I am a good mum. Even though this time has gone it will now, thanks to that bag of baby clothes and the scent of a summer gone by, never be forgotten!
- Olivia writes The Baby Bible blog, and is leading a ‘new movement in Motherhood’ – supporting all mums with no judgement