Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Depression, Anxiety and the Power of Writing

This post was sparked by a tweet earlier in the week by the PSS Postnatal Depression Project on how talking about your feelings can really help you understand the origins of your post natal depression or anxiety.  From my own personal viewpoint, I agree with this statement wholeheartedly.  In my darkest hours since C was born I could have quite easily have gone to the Doctors and been put on medication however I knew that it was being able to talk to someone that really made me feel better, and that things would only really improve if I was able to get to the root of the problem and fix it.

After struggling with infertility for 2 years and being told we have no hope of conceiving a child naturally, my unexpected natural pregnancy with C was a wonderful surprise.  It also unleashed a whole new raft of feelings that I had never experienced before.  These mainly revolved around lack of confidence in my body to be able to successfully carry a baby.  Instead of being a wonderful and exciting period, it was full of stress and anxiety.  Not until I could hold my healthy baby in my arms, would I feel reassured.

I turned to Twitter as a way of anonymously sharing my concerns and seeking advice.  I did not feel this is something I could discuss with my friends as unless you have gone through the pain of infertility, the anxiety I was feeling would be difficult to comprehend.  At times, the feelings bordered on irrational but if I was anonymous then it did not matter, and the reassurance I got from others who had been in a similar situation was worth its weight in gold.  Talking in all its forms is one of the best healers.

When C arrived without warning, a month premature, it caught us off guard.  Although we had most things prepared, I was not mentally ready for this baby.  Despite her prematurity, C was declared fit and well and we were sent home from hospital 24 hours later.  I felt scared and became paranoid that there was something wrong with her and the hospital had missed something.  The anxiety was all consuming and in the evenings especially, I felt like I was going to explode under the weight that I felt was on my shoulders.  I was scared if I fell asleep and took my eye off her for a second, she would not be alive in the morning.  Again the Twitter support base kept me grounded and got me through.

For me personally, my biggest issues revolved around what I felt were a lack of support around me, particularly from my husband.  As many of you are aware, my husband works away from home during the week therefore Monday to Friday I am effectively a single parent.  No-one to give me a 5 minute break from the baby (who incidentally refused to sleep anywhere but on my chest) to have a shower, grab a cup of tea etc, no one to share my fears and anxieties with, no-one to give me confidence in my parenting choices, and no-one to hug me and tell me it was all going to be alright.  When he was home my husband was tired from his week away and out of touch with what was going on at home.  He used to question everything I was doing as he had not been around earlier in the week to see its effectiveness.  If the baby cried, I was told it was because I must be doing something wrong.  I made me feel untrusted and I was constantly on the defensive.  My husband has also never been a great one for helping out with the household chores, the offshoot of being the youngest in his family and the only son.  Naively I expected this to all change when the baby arrived and him to miraculously start pulling his weight around the house when he was home.  Of course this did not happen and I felt resentment for this.

When I occasionally did bring these issues up with him I was told I was making heavy weather of being a parent.  Again this did not help with my self-confidence or our marital bond.  I felt completely isolated.  We were an incredibly strong unit for nearly a decade before C was born.  He has always been my strongest supporter yet when I needed him most in those months after C's birth, I feel he deserted me and I would go as far as saying exacerbated the problem.  I don't think I will ever truly get over that.

Getting C into a sleep routine definitely helped as it allowed me to get some time to myself.  Even now, 18 months down the line, I am still extremely strict about sleep as those moments to myself are the difference between making it through the day and not.

Getting out to baby groups and meeting other mums was a HUGE sanity break for me.  Just having the company of other adults for a couple of hours every day made such a difference.  Even now, I try to get out of the house and do something every day.  Not only does it help me, but it stops C getting bored and playing up at home.

Once C turned a year old, I decided to change my twitter ramblings into a blog as a way of sharing my experiences with others in the hope that it may help others going through a difficult time with motherhood.  I should have done it earlier as I found being able to write things down, especially very negative things, very therapeutic.  I do worry from time to time that I am being unfair to C by putting my negative feelings on motherhood out there for all to see.  Some days it makes me feel quite uneasy, especially when other bloggers write about the wonderful things they are doing with their children, however I hope that writing is helping me to become a better mother and that someday my blog will turn into one of those gushing about how wonderful motherhood is.

I have no magic answers.  I still have dark days, but there are definitely less of them. At 18 months old, C is becoming a little person and although still clingy we get by much better.  My husband has increased his input dramatically since I fell pregnant with baby number 2.  I was suffering from horrible nausea and he started taking C out for extended periods to allow me to rest.  This had the positive effect of allowing him to bond with her more and a knock on spiral of him now wanting to spend more time with her.  It is probably no co-incidence that this also co-insided with me stopping breastfeeding as it allowed him to become more involved and feel less like C was tied to me.  He has reduced his days away from home from 5 to 3 which means my time alone at home is substantially less and things really do feel like they are on the up!

Of course, I worry about the effect the new baby will have on the current delicate status quo.  I do take some comfort in knowing from last time what helped me and what did not.  I am also more prepared as a parent on how to deal more confidently with situations as and when they arise.  My anxiety is certainly less during this pregnancy as I know my body is capable of carrying a healthy baby (almost) to term.  A lot of it will fall back on my husband though and how he reacts to the changes.  I do not think I could cope with another extended period of undermining and questioning.  Maybe that is a blog post for another time.  I still do not entirely understand why he behaved like that, although I am sure it is partly due to him feeling like a spare part a lot of the time.  It does worry me that I have not yet got to the root of the problem, however with Twitter and my blog I am confident I will make it through...

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