When I volunteered to take part in this project that Marlene brought together, I was wholeheartedly into it. I wanted to help and share my experiences in life so far. Then some time passed and the more I thought about it, the sicker I felt inside. I didn’t want to take part at all, and to be honest with you, right now as I sit typing this, I still kind of feel that way. The only thing pushing me is knowing that this may just help someone else.
I didn’t expect to find this difficult, I naively thought that I would type up a few words of support and encouragement and that would be that. However that’s not the case. I guess I buried these emotions and memories far back in my head to overcome my illness at the time. I say “at the time” because I am so far removed from “that place” now that it is hard for me to share it.
My life has moved on. I never dreamt that it would. I thought that life would always be dark and unhopeful. Few people in what I shall call my new life know the extent of how ill I was and to some degree, I wanted it to stay that way. I guess I didn’t want anyone to change their opinion of me. However, if I had read something honest when I needed it the most, it could perhaps have pushed me to being well and having hope sooner.
My name is Hollie. Today I’m 29, married, have three children, a full time job and a cat. My life is crazy busy but in a good way. My husband and I take the children to exciting new places; we have friends, social hobbies, and are very much in love. Rewinding back to eight and a half years ago. I was a loved-up newlywed with a beautiful baby girl and another on the way. But beneath the clever façade that women who are suffering with post natal depression (PND) are able to put on, I was withdrawn and down with what I thought was the baby blues. The only social scene I interacted in was Mumsnet and that was only if I could get it to load onto my teeny tiny mobile screen. I had moved away from my hometown and knew very few people, so the only support network was my mum or husband on the other end of the phone. I would force myself to attend baby groups, some miles from home but I would rarely revisit the same one, making me even more isolated.
When baby girl number 2 arrived, due to complications after her birth I didn’t bond with her straight away like I did with baby girl number 1. This is something that even now, as I sit here typing upsets me greatly. From that point on, as I adjusted to life with two, no matter how busy I made myself, I still struggled. That, and with huge financial pressure, plus moving, being burgled and moving again was what broke the camel’s back.
If you are reading this now and are “struggling” you’ll perhaps understand me when I say that I couldn’t explain myself very well. It was like this dark grey cloud was slowly suffocating me and no amount of busying myself could force it away.
Eventually I couldn’t work and became further withdrawn. This next part will be sketchy, because a lot of what happened in this time is still a blur. I was always on edge, tearful, addicted to eBay and chatting online to mums. My husband watched helplessly as the woman he fell in love with was fast evaporating before his eyes. It was only when he quite literally picked up a distraught and suicidal me off the kitchen floor that my road to recovery started. He took me straight to the GP, who was amazing. We were there well after closing and I remember feeling terrified that I was going to be seen as a unfit mother and my children would be taken away.
It was around this time when the medication started and this is when things got even hazier. It was a few more weeks before the medication kicked in and the best way I can describe how they made me feel was “numb”. Over time, my medication changed. I hit the limit on one and had to switch to another that was so strong I could only take it at night due to the hallucinations I would sometimes get before falling asleep. I started becoming irrational and would argue left, right and centre for no reason or not talk at all. Quite often not at all. The anxiety was ridiculous, and I hit an all-time low when I was attacked by a group of teenage girls whilst walking my daughters home from nursery. The police took us home and after that day I was terrified even if just to answer the door.
My husband took redundancy so he could care for us, as quite honestly, I was useless. Even though I would sleep, I was constantly tired. I would wake up feeling like it was just lost hours and that I hadn’t slept at all. I was short with the girls and would say hurtful things I didn’t mean to those I loved. I attended therapy sessions and felt they were pointless and that I wasn’t understood. Although now as I look back I know they spoke sense and I often will remember the fight or flight theory. My community health nurse referred my husband and I for therapy together and this was the most refreshing thing to have come out of the whole mess. We looked forward to it – which according to our therapist was rare and I think it further shows the bond we had. It was there that I realised I was being selfish and that I had to show my husband I still cared. It helped him to understand me a bit better too.
I can’t give you a defining moment when suddenly everything was ok. It took a lot of work and self-progress, I had to learn that there was no perfect life and the expectations that I put on my own (self and life) were unrealistic. People have sometimes asked if it was the tablets that made me better. I don’t believe it was. What pulled me together was the faith and patience that my husband invested in me, and the love that my girls showed me. That and the willingness to get better.
Eventually the fog lifted and I began to believe my husband when he said that we would see the other side. Things began to seem possible again and I started to laugh with my babies instead of cry. I eventually was weaned off my medication. One thing that did feel like a switch for me was when I found out I was carrying my baby boy. Although we had lost a lot and had such hard work ahead of us, I realised that I have such an incredible family unit and this is what it is really all about.
We have had a hard slog but we are now in such a different place that everything from the past doesn’t seem real. These days, when I stress or panic over silly things, my husband will smile and remind me of how far we’ve come. So if I were to give any advice to anyone, whether you are that person suffering or watching the person you love suffer, it would be that you have to be patient. You need trust, hope, love and patience. If you have that, you will have courage, strength and healing.
Hollie also blogs at Mummy wife and chaos.
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