How often do we say this to people in passing or get asked by others? How often do we just say a meaningless – good thanks?
Or more important, how often do we stop and ask ourselves or others if we’re truly alright??
Almost six and a half years ago, I became a mum for the first time. Exciting! Thrilling! Scary! Life changing! Emotional! Uncertain! etc. I could go on and on. Movies, advertisements, people, magazines tell you it’s the best thing that happens to you, you will be in love instantly and usually those messages are combined with happy family pictures, smiling mums and sleeping babies… But for me, that looked a whole lot different. Although I was very excited about my son, it took me a couple of days to feel a connection with him. For me it wasn’t much different to meeting any other stranger for the first time. I felt that even though I had known for nine months that I was becoming a mum, no one prepared me for what was ahead of me. What didn’t help either, was that I was horribly sick after I had him. So with a baby that never slept more than 45min in one go and being sick – I hardly got any sleep at all… I quickly used up all the reserves I had. I didn’t know what sleep deprivation meant until this point. I didn’t know how emotionally challenging being a new mum could be. I might have heard about baby blues before, but I didn’t know it could feel that bad. During the day I was usually fine, but soon I started being afraid of the nights. About two months in, I was facing severe post natal depression including suicidal thoughts and panic attacks. I didn’t know what to do. Usually it would happen in the middle of the night, when I had to feed my little boy again. It was horrible. At first I was afraid to tell anyone about it. I was worried they would take my son away from me. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. One night when I couldn’t bear it any longer I got all my courage together and called a help line – but honestly they weren’t very helpful. So I called a friend and talked to her until the sun came up and I felt safer again. But I knew something had to happen. It just was too scary. I called my GP and she was great about it. She was an older and very wise lady and the first thing she did, was making clear to me that I am not crazy, that this is not very uncommon and that there is really good help out there. So I found a therapist and went for about 2 years. It really helped me to get over it and to treasure more and more that I could be a mum. I learnt how to take care of myself whilst also being a mum. I learned strategies to deal with a starting panic attack and I learned to accept that I was a great mum, although I didn’t feel like one most of the time. Opening up to very close friends also helped. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if they would understand, as I was the first one to have a child, but sometimes I was surprised how understanding they could be. So I encourage you today, if you have any feelings that are bothering you, if you feel low and depressed – Please speak up – don’t suffer in silence. And with the right kind of help things will improve!!! Also if you have a friend who recently or not so recently became a mum, stop and ask them how they really feel. And most of all, find professional help. It’s always good to call your GP first, but I also have the contact information of two very lovely ladies for you, who are both trained to deal with postnatal depression and who you can contact and speak too. Don’t underestimate how much speaking up can help you!!!