POSTNATAL DEPRESSION

EMOTIONAL, MENTAL HEALTH, MOTHERHOOD, PREGNANCY, BIRTH & BABY'S

Amongst the whirlwind of hormones, emotions and sleepless nights after having a baby, it can be hard to know how you’re really feeling. After my eldest, I was exhausted, lonely, terrified and felt like I was walking through glue, but assumed this was normal; this was how all new mums felt, wasn’t it? It was only later, when I looked back, I realised it’s quite likely I had in fact been suffering from postnatal depression. Why didn’t I ask for help? To this day, I don’t really know. Perhaps I was trying to convince myself I was ok? Maybe it was fear of being judged or a bit of embarrassment? Maybe it was a combination of all of the above.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week starts tomorrow and with that in mind Iwona Pinkowicz wanted to share her incredibly honest story about how she had to reach breaking point before she was diagnosed with PND…

  • Writing this was the hardest and it took me a very long time before I could sit down and put “pen to paper”. 

  • I knew I’d have to go back in time to the most confusing and challenging period in my life. 

  • The time where I felt the most helpless, lonely, scared and overwhelmed. 

  • The time where I hated my life. 

  • I had to revisit painful and sad memories, but I knew it was necessary. 

  • Without knowing, I suffered from postnatal depression for 18 months. Just writing this sentence, I feel tears welling up, and my throat is getting tight from trying not to cry. 

  • From the outside, things might have looked like everything was OK. 

  • Apart from the occasional complaint about how hard I found things, I don’t think I gave much away. And to be honest, I didn’t even think there was something fundamentally wrong. 

  • I just thought that that’s what all new mums feel like, and that’s just the way it is. 

  • I thought it was normal and genuinely believed that’s how I was going to feel forever. 

  • Eventually, I was referred to a psychiatrist in October 2019. 

  • I went, not thinking much of it, but when I got there, I fell apart. 

  • I couldn’t stop crying, and the words just started to spill out. 

  • It was as if someone had given me permission to say things out loud. It was a place where I felt safe because I knew no one would judge me. 

  • I felt enormous relief because finally, someone was listening, and I didn’t have to pretend that I was OK anymore. 

  • Suffering from a mental illness while caring for a baby was nearly impossible. I still don’t know how I did it. 

  • When I was at my worst, all I wanted to do was just lay down in my room and not do anything, even the things I usually like. 

  • The thought of spending a whole day looking after my son would fill me with dread and anxiety. 

  • All I wanted was to be left alone. I wished my time away, waiting for each day to end. It was horrible because I felt empty and guilty for that at the same time. 

  • I cried almost daily in my early weeks, especially when my husband would come home from work, and we would spend hours talking about the same thing over and over again. 

  • Before each night, I would have a panic attack because I knew that I would not get much sleep. Your brain is used to knowing that after a hard day, you will go to sleep and get the opportunity to rest at the end of it. But that was just impossible with a baby who was waking up every 45 minutes. 

  • It felt as if I was in some sort of trap without a way out. 

  • Everything just seemed difficult. 

  • I felt overwhelmed by the simplest things; getting out of bed was hard, dirty dishes in the sink would freak me out, getting ready to go out would fill me with dread. 

  • For a long time, I didn’t want to see anyone because I felt so anxious about the visits, and even though we did see some friends and family, I was never fully relaxed, nor did I enjoy it.  

  • My body didn’t feel like mine anymore. I felt pain everywhere; my arms, shoulders, back, neck, legs, even the soles of my feet. Everything felt heavy and unnatural. 

  • I suffered from insomnia, so the “sleep when your baby sleeps” just wasn’t an option. I still don’t know how I functioned with barely any sleep for so many months. 

  • On many occasions, I remember sitting in our flat feeling super lonely and detached from reality, thinking to myself: what the hell have we done? Why did we think that having a baby was such a good idea? 

  • I felt guilty, like I was the worst mother in the world, that I didn’t deserve to have this baby. I understood that so many people struggle to get pregnant or suffer from a miscarriage, and here I was, feeling so unhappy. 

  • I struggled to bond with my baby, too. The love everyone was talking about just wasn’t there, so I started to believe there was something wrong with me. 

  • I envied all those mums who had what I was missing. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and the sense of guilt and sadness was immense.

  • I desperately wanted to feel better. I knew what sort of person I was before I gave birth to my son; happy, positive, full of energy with a massive zest for life. 

  • I missed that old Iwona, and I seriously wanted her back. 

  • In December 2018, I reached a breaking point. I can’t remember exactly what triggered my reaction, but I completely lost control over my emotions and threw a toy against a wall, which bounced back and smashed our brand new TV. 

  • I then sat on the sofa and sobbed uncontrollably for hours. I felt like a complete failure. I kept saying that our son deserved a better mum and that I should have never even become one. 

  • That day, I said to myself; enough is enough. I had to take control of my life and be the mum my son deserved. 

  • In January 2019, I read my first self-help book, which was the beginning of my recovery journey, although I still didn’t know I had postnatal depression. 

  • I wasn’t diagnosed until October that year, and right after that, I started therapy.

  • I went on a quest to look for that old, happy and positive Iwona. It has taken me a long time and lots of commitment to turn my life around with lots of tears and frustrations along the way. 

  • Although I haven’t found the old me, I’m happy again. The old me will never come back because the moment my son was born, I also gave birth to my new identity. 

  • Sometimes I feel sad thinking about my first months of motherhood. It’s as if I was robbed from experiencing it in the way I had imagined it’d be. 

  • At times I wonder, what sort of mum would I have been if I didn’t suffer from depression? Would I enjoy it more? Would I soak up the baby phase more instead of wishing it away? I won’t find answers to these questions, and that’s OK. 

  • I’m focusing on the present and the fact that I’m finally the mum I always wanted to be. Happy, full of energy and optimistic about life. I can’t change the past, and although I know it’s a massive cliché, I’m grateful for this experience. It has changed me forever, and I think I’m a better person for it. 

  • There is still so much stigma attached to maternal mental health, even though, according to the NHS, one in every 10 women can be affected by postnatal depression within a year of giving birth. 

  • I’m sharing my story, hoping that it will encourage and inspire mums to talk honestly amongst each other, not only about the beauty of motherhood but also about the hard parts. When we open up and dare to be vulnerable, we connect to each other in a more meaningful and profound way.

  • Depression isn’t something you can snap out of. It won’t get better with time, and it won’t go away by itself. If you are reading this and feel like you are not yourself, please don’t wait as long as I did. It’s worth speaking to someone about how you feel. It can be your friend, partner or your GP. 

  • There is help out there, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.

 

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-natal-depression/

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/about-maternal-mental-health-problems/

 

** “But why… don’t I feel happy all the time?” is one of the many tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to preorder now  and also on audiobook.**

 

Fancy some more?

Read Anna Mathur’s list, from a few years ago, about her experience of suffering from postnatal depression.

Listen to Matt Haig on But Why? as he discusses navigating mental health issues.

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