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The black cloud: How I survived my postnatal depression to live again

‘This is what depression does. It feeds you lies.’ In this anonymous post, a mother talks about how her journey through postnatal depression and out the other side – and implores us to talk about it to save other parents going through the same thing.

Content warning: This post contains a descriptions of mental illness. It may be upsetting to people who are struggling with their own mental health. There are helplines at the bottom of the piece – if you are in urgent need please call the Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO).

It’s often described as a black cloud, and for me, that was a pretty accurate description. It was like having this “thing” hanging over me, always looming, always there. It was so heavy, so full of self- doubt, expectation, failure, remorse. It was thoughts, it was feelings, and often those thoughts and feelings were utterly frightening.

It started before my baby was even born. I remember crying for hours on end. Seemingly about nothing, but in fact it was everything.

depression

I had a vision of how the birth would be. Think water baths, incense, crystals, you know, an earth mama type situation, but instead it was an induced, clinical nightmare. I felt like I had failed at giving birth.

I spent three days in hospital. Partners were not allowed to stay at night. Oh, the dreaded night times, they loomed for me like the black gates of Hell. I was terrified of being left alone, trying to feed this little person, trying to sleep. Neither of which I succeeded at. Those nights stretched on seemingly with no end. I adored this little human with all my being – but I waited every day for her real mum to come and take over.

It was like I was living out of my body. I felt hopelessly inadequate. I even kept apologising to her, saying I was so sorry for being so shit at this mothering gig.

The loneliness, the isolation, I felt for sure I must be the only person awful enough to be feeling this way about their life and about their baby. I looked at other women around me, who seemed so ‘together’ like they had it all figured out. I felt trapped in my own home. Not wanting to go out and try and wrestle with baby bags and buggy’s and worst of all; breast feeding in public!

But staying home offered no reprieve from the monotonous boredom of caring for a newborn.

I truly believed that she would be better off without me. The thought now is horrifying, but at the time I felt like I was screwing her life up so badly that without me around she would in fact be better off. All this whilst having the most supportive partner and family that I could have asked for.

This is what depression does. It feeds you lies. It takes a hold so tightly of your common sense, and your rational brain that you can barely breathe, let alone see a way past it.

Eventually I did find a way past it. Don’t ask me how exactly but I slowly began to feel more in control. The older she got, the more sleep I got. We muddled through the days and I slowly started feeling better. I didn’t mention the words “post-natal depression”. Like so many other women in my situation I felt embarrassed and ashamed at not being able to cope. I couldn’t possibly be depressed. The fact that I was crying all the time and having these scary thoughts of self-harm, was just normal. Wasn’t it?

My second pregnancy was worse, but I somehow made it through nine months of hell, all the while knowing that that “cloud” was looming, waiting silently for me.

And boy did it get me.

The tears again, the thoughts of self-harm, the idea that my kids would be better off without me.

This time all it took was someone asking “how are you feeling?” I burst into tears. I admitted that I wasn’t coping, that I felt like shit.

That was the beginning of my recovery. I went to my GP and was prescribed anti-depressants. I know medication is not for everyone, but for me, it was the only way through it.

We all know motherhood isn’t easy. It can be boring, tedious, painful and just down right shitty. And we all have down days, and some days are worse than others and that is all totally normal. However, my advice to anyone feeling overwhelmed or to anyone sitting on the bathroom floor crying her eyes out or unable to get out of bed, please, please, please talk to someone. Preferably someone you trust, like a close friend, husband, doctor, someone who will get you some help.

Drugs might not be for you, but maybe a support group or counselling will be. There are things you can do to feel better, to get away from that black cloud, and start living life and enjoying your kids.

And for anyone who might suspect their wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, auntie might be suffering post-natal depression, please ask them how they are feeling.

Let’s get those conversations going.

Admitting that you are depressed is not a weakness, it’s probably the strongest thing you will ever do.

Where to get help

Lifeline – 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

Samaritans  – 0800 726 666

Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. Text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz.

0800 WHATSUP (0800 9428 787) – Open between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at whatsup.co.nz.

Healthline – 0800 611 116

For more information about support and services available to you, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812 during office hours or email info@mentalhealth.org.nz.

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