When I went to see my GP in June I began with a very rambling and stream of consciousness rant about how I was feeling. I was tearful, I explained, and exhausted. Anxious too – and even when my children did give me a chance to sleep, I was too wound up to drop off. I felt angry, irritable and pretty fed up with my life.
‘The thing is’, I said, ‘I am extremely sleep deprived, my baby has been an inpatient in hospital for a month, he cries all the time, my toddler is very jealous – it’s no surprise I’m feeling rubbish. Maybe it’s not depression after all. Just a reasonable response to circumstances’.
‘Does it matter?’ he replied. ‘Your symptoms exist, regardless of what you want to label it.’
He was right. I had been in this situation before, almost two years to the day, when my first son was 6 months old. I went to the GP, feeling a failure for not dealing with motherhood as well as I should. For not being grateful enough to have a child at all, when so many women struggle with their fertility.
On both occasions I was prescribed the anti-depressant, Sertraline. And both times, after about a week, I began to feel much better, more human. I remember the first time being terrified of what might happen to me. I was afraid I would be unable to feel anything, or turn into someone else.
As it happened, I just ended up feeling strong enough to start looking at my situation and trying to do something about it. I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about medicating PND, or are very anti, but I can safely say that both times I have hugely benefitted. As the doctor said, ‘they won’t change your situation, but they’ll make you a bit more resilient’.
Although the ADs have been fantastic, they are only part of the picture. So much about my feelings is mixed in with other issues: my identity, my child’s health, sleeplessness (of lack of it), work, and the very fact of being a mother in 2011, and what that means for my role in society.
I want to use this blog to explore these different issues, and to see where I can help myself. Some are existential, and can’t be altered (such as the fact of my being a mother) but others may be more practical.
I love solutions, lists, exercises – doing things. That’s why I subtitled this blog ‘doing something about postnatal depression’. Because I want to help myself through it, and hopefully others too.