Depression seems to me to be such a taboo subject. I suffered from this (mostly without realising that I was ill) throughout my teens up until the present day. I remember trying to speak to my tutors at university about my unexplainable feelings of sadness, and then to a uni counsellor, both of whom told me, ‘don’t worry, you haven’t got much longer to go until you graduate’. Because of their response, I continued plodding along with this sense of despair until my late twenties when I moved to London. My anxiety had gotten so bad that I couldn’t leave the house. This is when my GP referred me to a counselling service called Mind. With CBT, I slowly felt more myself, but not without dredging up things from the past which may have contributed to my low mood.
A year later I fell pregnant with my first baby and was referred to the perinatal service, but didn’t click with the doctor, so discontinued treatment. Eventually, after non-stop crying with the birth of my son (both him and me!) my GP prescribed me with anti-depressants. Although I had the prescription, I was too scared to take them. What if I became numb? What if I couldn’t love my baby? What if, what if…..
I would try to talk to other new mum’s about how I was feeling, but they all said that, even though they were tired, they loved being a mum. What was wrong with me?
Then one day, when I was feeling particularly desperate and didn’t know where to turn, I took my first pill. It felt as though I was finally helping myself, and I felt relief. Weeks later, I actually started to feel like myself-it’s as if I had forgotten what ‘myself’ was. I was now able to focus more on positives, such as my son smiling, or the sun shining.
Fast forward two years and I have just had my daughter who is now 5 weeks. And guess what? Post-natal depression rears it’s ugly head again. It became so bad that I couldn’t be in the same room as my daughter, through no fault of her own. Because of this, my mum looked after her for two nights. Some may say that this was cruel to separate myself from my daughter, but I believe that a mum or dad who is suffering from post-natal depression must do whatever it takes to safeguard themselves and their babies.
It does get better…..
The past few weeks have been so hard, but having just spoken to a psychiatrist today, and after having some space, I am again starting to feel okay again. I realise that I need to lower my expectations of myself as a parent, and perhaps stop following celebrity mum’s who seem to have the perfect life!
What is interesting is that there is a lack of support groups in London for people with depression, especially in West London where I live. London is a place where people can easily become disparate from family, unknown to neighbours, or too busy to see friends. Surely it is somewhere like London where more support is needed? Such groups are needed as, in my experience, trying to speak to friends about how I felt was often met with a lack of understanding of the illness, or the response of ‘what do you have to feel sad about, you have a great life!’.
This post barely touches on my experience of depression, but I just wanted to let people know that it does exist and it is okay to talk about it.
More awareness is needed, more support, and more encouragement to be open about the illness. I am therefore looking into setting up a relaxed support group for those suffering with depression, with various themes each time. I hope to hold these ‘chats’ in a relaxed environment as opposed to a sterile room, maybe even at my local pub! If anyone has any ideas, please do contact me, or keep an eye on this blog for more developments.
Where to go for help
For those mums or dads suffering from persistent low mood since having a baby, I would recommend seeking help. Speak to your GP, health advisor, or midwife if you have one. As I live in Ealing, I was referred to Ealing IAPT which is free service that provides psychological therapies, however, the service is available throughout the UK. Details can be found on the NHS Choices website. It is also possible to self-refer, but this process can take a while, so I would recommend seeing your GP to be referred. Furthermore, if any pregnant women are feeling low, it is best to speak to their GP or midwife so that treatment (talking therapies, possibly medication if safe) can be started before birth. This would mean that support is already in place.