Post Natal Depression: There’s Light At The End Of The Tunnel
When I got married just after I turned 18, I was sure that I was on-track to having the life I’d planned.
You know the one. Just like the TV ad families with a happy marriage, beautiful kids, a nice house and permanently tanned and fit bodies.
And 15 months later, when a bubbly blonde little girl made us a family of three I expected her arrival to be the next step towards our perfect life.
But I knew something wasn’t right when I sat there holding this darling little human, feeling empty and confused.
And when my milk refused to come, that was when I started to believe that I’d ‘failed’ at being a mum. I had started taking notice of what I considered were my failures. I was a harsh critic.
My memories of this early motherhood season are selective – selected by me – a person who judged herself so so harshly. I was 19 years old; a new wife, new mum doing her best to make her way in the world and for her child – but all I saw was a failure, who didn’t try hard enough or work hard enough.
I saw someone who simply wasn’t enough.
I remember clearly my failings from that time. Each day I walked and exercised and barely ate, thinking I’d be able to fix how I felt – if I fixed how I looked.
My mum knew that something wasn’t right and she took me along to see the doctor. I couldn’t tell her everything though, I felt sure that if she knew – or if the government knew – how I really felt and the thoughts that went through my mind, that they’d take my baby away from me.
When our second daughter came along, I was terrified.
Would I be the same miserable failure I’d been with our first? After she was born, I felt a bit better than I’d remembered feeling the first time around. She was four months old when again, I realised that something wasn’t right.
I’d thought she was just a fussy baby, until the nurse came for her check up and we realised that she hadn’t put on any weight in 6 weeks. She wasn’t fussy, she was hungry. I remember feeding her the bottle and crying and crying and crying.
Those first years were tough. By the time I was 22 I had three children, having had a third child, our son. We lived far away from family and our marriage was really struggling.
But you know what? Gradually, the joyful moments became more common.
Somewhere along the way I stopped taking account of my ‘failures’, realising that I was human and that we all fail.
Somewhere along the way I began sharing my struggles with new mums. I was the mum saying, “Don’t worry about it. You’re doing great. I struggled with this too. It’s completely normal.” The relief on their faces helped with my own healing.
Those difficult years have given our family so much.
They gave us three precious children who actually did okay and who are growing into empathetic people who understand that life isn’t always perfect.
They’ve grown up with a mother who has her own struggles with mental health and they’ve had just enough insight into my battles for them to understand the importance of grace, kindness and the importance of asking, “Are you okay?”.
And have the years changed me and made me a perfect mum? Have they wiped away all traces of mental illness? Absolutely not. I still battle with depression and am currently taking antidepressants but I’m no longer ashamed of this.
When I look back on those early years, at the young mum bumbling about doing her best, I refuse to judge her. I refuse to echo the taunting voices which for so long caused so much pain. In fact, I’m proud of her. I’m proud of what she’s achieved. I’m proud of the story she’s embraced and I’m proud that she’s made the decision to no longer be ashamed of her story.
Connect with Joni via the following channels:
Joni lives just outside Sydney in the beautiful Hawkesbury region with her husband and their three children. Having journeyed through depression and some of the other curve balls life can throw, she is passionate about cheering others on and encouraging them to embrace themselves and their story. She is terrible at telling jokes and regularly comes down with foot-in-mouth disease while blushing profusely. Joni writes weekly at wordsbyjoni.wordpress.com