I have post-natal depression.
But good news, reading this blog isn’t going to ruin your good vibes.
Depression. Anxiety. Two words that people REALLY struggle with. Why? Because our society associates them with negative thoughts. If we surround ourselves with people who suffer from them, it’ll drag us down with them!
Addie turned 6 months old last week (wow that really did go fast)! She’s at the age now where she’s got a bit more spunk to her and is absorbing so much of her surroundings. And my word, she’s a cute ‘lil fucker!! Like, adorable. Smiles all the time and a really sweet little babe. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t come clean and share the fact that the amazingness of my baby hasn’t made the past six months any easier.
What I have had to learn REALLY quickly over the past months, was that it wasn’t Addie that caused so much stress and anxiety since her birth, it was me. Having a baby isn’t actually the hardest thing in the world, and yes while the lack of sleep sucks – you do manage. What smacked me hardest in the face was my lack of freedom, the uncertainty of each day and the change to my lifestyle. And for that, nothing could have prepared me.
The first couple of months I was in a whirlwind of ‘what-the-fuck’ and #ihavenoidea and really, on that front – nothing has changed – I still feel like that every day. But the first couple of months in particular were a blur. Then by month three, I was hit with the return to work full time. An overwhelm washed over me like a tidal wave and from there I felt like I was drowning.
I started to crave my old life and the ability to make day-to-day decisions, which had no other factors bar me. Should I go for a work out? Nah, lay on the couch instead! Should I take a shit? Yes please, you look bloated AF. Should I call my girlfriend and go out for a quick dinner? Well, she better be free! And I hope I can get a table at that new restaurant.
But with Addie’s arrival, those quick questions became a lot harder to answer. In fact, some I couldn’t answer at all. Something as simple as getting dressed now has to be factored around so many variables and that’s why, some days I haven’t showered or am begging for Ben to get home so I can finally take 10 minutes by myself to go to the toilet.
I started to slide into a hole that I wasn’t even aware existed. Slowly, I started to yell more at Ben, being totally irrational. I would get really annoyed at Addie for crying if she was hungry, I found myself feeling really moody at work because I felt so overwhelmed and talking down to myself became an all day, every day thing.
I still tell myself every day that I am the worst human alive and a shit mum, I feel like I fail all the time. When my milk supply dried up because I had to drop feeds to go back to work, when I have to give her packet pureed food instead of home blended (I’m learning to not give a damn now, thank god), or when I noticed the back of her head going flat because I’d been laying her on the play mat for too long… I could, and still can, can pick myself to pieces over the smallest things.
There was just so much going on and it wasn’t until I said to my husband, “I’m still feeling really depressed,” that he said: “Yeah, and you’ve just had a baby. Maybe its post natal depression?”
Holy shit. The realisation hit me so hard and I was so shocked that I hadn’t identified it already. Normally so self aware, I was so blinded to the fact that I totally have post-natal depression.
For the first time in ages my eyes were wide open and I started to see that I needed to shift my energy. I was wallowing in my filth of mourning for my old independent life; I was festering in my anxiety of running a business with seven staff and trying to not only stay afloat but build towards my pre-existing goals. I needed to find some balance in my life where I could find happiness in my now.
So I started to talk. Slowly. I started to be open about how I was feeling. But quite quickly I came to realise something else. People hate talking about depression and anxiety. When I started to say I was sad, people felt the need to squash my feelings with a positive straight away “but Addie’s amazing isn’t she!”…“But you look so happy!”…“But your business is going so well!”
Yeah, I know… I never said they weren’t, and I never said she wasn’t. I just said I’m fucking sad. Can you handle that? Can I not acknowledge my shit for a second or do I have to pretend, like so many on social media and in society, that my life is amazing and I have nothing bad going on?
Why are we geared this way? Why have we created a society that can’t acknowledge sadness and stress? SO MANY people taking their own lives and being reclusive, shutting themselves off from the rest of the world and we want to know why? Because we, as a whole, make talking about depression and anxiety taboo. As a failure. As a shameful, fuck up.
Why do we have to all pretend we are happy all the time? Because life doesn’t work like that. Life is perfectly represented in parenting: the hardest, worst and best thing ever. When I’m with Addie I can’t stop thinking about how I need my own time. But then we she’s asleep or away from me, all I can think about is how much I miss her.
What the hell? Why have I built this world of not appreciating the hard and the easy, the good and the bad as just all the same. To be present in whatever I have then and there and be so fucking grateful for it. And why have we all decided that we have to live it all with a smile on our face, the pretence that its perfect and that we are perfect?
Since realising that a lot of people struggled to have a conversation with me about my depression and anxiety I have been quietly talking about it one-on-one to clients. The more I open up this discussion the more I hear that they too have their struggles but feel they can’t be open about it. Mothers everywhere feel so much pressure from the minority of mums that feel the need to broadcast their perfection (as a way of hiding their imperfections). But don’t say anything because they don’t want to be judged. And not just mums, everyone.
Poor, poor, poor young adults and teenagers. The pressure and comparisons they must feel all the time to be perfect… surely it would destroy them. What children and people are we as a society raising? But then we raise this and then expect for them to be ok? And if they aren’t then we just ignore the situation or talk about them under our breath like they suffer from a shameful disease? Here’s a wake up call! We ALL suffer from all of this. To varying degrees, and in different ways. But it is always there.
At what point do we have to say enough is enough? We all live different lives, with different beliefs and we do this because that’s our choice and that’s what freedom is. But if someone else lives their life differently, then we judge. So we can live with the choice of freedom but they can’t?
I am personally getting to the point, that in my confidence to speak loudly and openly that I will call it all out.
To you: Me saying I am struggling is not my weakness. It is your judgement that is yours.
To you: It’s ok to say your sad, it is not going to ruin my day. Rather than want to run away from your sadness, I’m going to just be here for you. I’m not going to judge and I’m not going to try and fix you.
Our society has an approach (and I can be honest and say I am very much like this): when someone is sad we feel like we need to fix them. We become solutions-based. And these past couple of months have been a revelation for me, with my own learnings. Whenever I get faced with a situation I always come at it with looking for a solution.
But what I have learnt with my own depression and anxiety is that when I speak up about it, I’m not inviting you to tell me what I should do to fix it. I am simply just wanting you to listen and support. And sometimes support just comes through listening, through offering support, through suggesting to go for a wine so you both can laugh, through offering to come look after Addie so I can have a shower, through just being there. And if you don’t know what to do then just simply ask “Are you ok? What can I do to be there for you?”.
So now with so many women opening up to me about their mental health, instead of trying to fix them I just offer my support. I ask them what I can do to support them. Because, everyone’s needs are different and they most likely don’t like support the way I like it.
As for me, its been a couple of months since I realised that my mental health had taken a huge hit and since then I have been working hard at finding balance to the situation. I am starting to accept that this life, forever more having children will mean I’m not in control. To be ok with whatever the day throws at me. To just roll with it and laugh at it.
Early on I went on anti-depressant’s, which at the time helped. They knocked the low parts of my depression off but personally felt like they increased my anxiety. I’ve realised that anti-depressants don’t work for me as I feel like they block my spiritual growth but can see how they would really support others. I am starting to see a psychologist to deal with some childhood trauma of mine that has reared its ugly head since Addie’s arrival. A massive help for me has been getting back into exercise, I now sleep better and find confidence in my body since toning up again. And to be honest, I think just getting some oxygen in my brain really helps! I am also seeing a kinesiologist and regularly get osteo treatments to align my body.
A huge message in the HHM brand is #backyourbeauty and this has been a really big one for me. With the support of my INCREDIBLE husband Ben, I have been giving myself guilt free self love and scheduling time for me to get my hair done, work out and do things that make me happy. All these things help towards managing my mental health.
We have been all geared all our lives to have poor mental health. Everything about our world tells us we aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, wealthy enough… and the list could go on. And yes, “first world problems” hey! What do we have to complain about? We have so much to be grateful for. But again – I’m not saying that we don’t. I’m saying that in amongst all of it that its ok to be sad, it’s ok to be angry and its ok to be anxious. What’s not ok is that we would rather judge someone than offer a supporting hand, we would rather laugh at other’s failures than build them up for success; we would rather avoid conversations that may be harder to have because we don’t want them affecting our own day.
Don’t you think it’s time that we started being a bit more gentle, a lot more kind and whole lot more honest? We really don’t know how so many of those around us are feeling but everyone needs to know they aren’t alone. And when they know they aren’t alone, that they can beautifully breed conversation. And maybe when that conversation comes we can all realise that it doesn’t have to be a negative thing, it could create a lot of love and beauty through all that kindness and support.
And right now, we could all do with some of that xx