I have been wanting to write this post for a while, but with something so personal, I wasn't quite sure what to say or how to start it.
I'm starting to find this whole process of blogging quite therapeutic. A bit like a diary, only minus the hand ache you get from writing one, so with that in mind, and a glass of wine in hand, I thought this would be the best time to start. What is there to lose?
I was first diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND) around the time my second son was 4 months old. But that was only the official diagnosis. I felt terrible a long time before that.
I remember the day I first felt that feeling of dread, the feeling that so often engulfed me, and sometimes still does. I was sat on a bus home from town, Master L in his pram only a few days old. J was sat next to me, and I remember telling him that around the time your milk comes in is the time your most likely to get signs and symptoms of the "baby blues". He knew my milk had just come in, I'd told him so that morning. I was giving subtle hints on how I felt, knowing full well he wouldn't guess. How could he? I was a moody cow at the best of times when pregnant, and my baby was only a few days old, how was this any different?
The following four months were a blur. I barely remember them and still feel completely cheated out of my new born baby.
Master L was first diagnosed with colic at a few weeks old, but I knew this wasn't the right diagnosis for him. There was no pattern to his screaming like there usually is with colic - he would just scream on and off all day, pulling his legs up with belly ache and constipation, spitting up his milk and very rarely taking more than 3oz at a time.
I knew it wasn't just colic, but I listened to the doctors when they told me it was, and began looking up things that may help him. I bought Dr Browns bottles which helped marginally with his wind. I bought colic drops which barely did anything apart from make it harder for me to prepare his bottles in the night. Infacol, Dentinox, Gripe water and many more things were given and barely helped him.
I then came across a link to a website about cows milk protein allergies and lactose allergies. Master L had symptoms for both of them, but as he had constipation and not diarrhea and because he was still gaining weight, the doctor wouldn't really see us. I continued to make appointments with him, researching what we could do until they finally agreed we could try him on a lactose free formula.
This improved things drastically, but there was still something niggling at him. He would still bring up his feeds and still cry in pain after them too. But there was no constipation or wind either.
Finally after a 10 hour stint in hospital, feeds observed and lots of prodding and poking, they diagnosed, as well as lactose allergy, silent reflux. We had already tried the gaviscon powder in his bottles, but, alone, this made things worse. He was prescribed ranitidine and gaviscon powder, and together they worked wonders. More or less over night it was like I had a new baby. He was no longer in pain, he wasn't screaming for hours on end, and he was taking more than 3oz at a time!
This took 4 months of constant screaming, never being settled. A baby who wouldn't sleep unless on me, wouldn't be put down anywhere. A baby who I had to take the lead with, J couldn't deal with the screaming so it was down to me. Sometimes when he was crying and I had literally ran out of ideas of how to soothe him, I would leave him on the bed to cry & cry with him. I felt so useless, I was his mum and I was the one who should be able to soothe him and get rid of his pain. But it was all left to me to research his symptoms and what it could be, and then approach the doctors. all of it was down to me. Everything. And to this day I can honestly say it was the lack of support that contributed to my PND.
It was a hard few months. But people thought, because Master L was now "sorted" and no longer screaming 22 hours a day, I would instantly feel myself again. The doctors told me that by the time my baby was 12 months, I would be off the tablets I was now taking.
Wrong. Nearly 3 years later I am still on my tablets. Different tablets than I started on, but still on them. The first lot of tablets didn't agree with me at all. You know the feeling when you have had a few alcoholic drinks, and you know your in the room, but it all feels like a dream? Well that is how I felt most of the time. As well as the sickness and headaches they gave me too. After a few weeks I begged the doctors to change them. I couldn't decide what was worse, the side effects of the tablets that were meant to make me better, or the depression itself.
Having depression is the most confusing illness ever. You are constantly second guessing yourself. I felt tired all the time, I just wanted to lie in bed and hide away from everyone. I had no motivation to do anything, I didn't want to play with my boys - I didn't really enjoy being around them - nor did I want to be around family or friends. But was I simply being lazy? Was it "depression" or had I just become a lazy cow?
I was rarely eating, but when I ate, it was junk food. I wish I lost weight from not eating, but the amount of sheer junk I ate when I did feel like it - for example, at 12midnight - made up for it.
I completely lost my temper at the most random of times. I couldn't cope with the children making noise. God forbid if I ever had to go to a children's party.. the thought of all the noise would give me palpitation's. My heart would race and my palms would get sweaty. I couldn't do noise. At all. If the kids were happily playing, but being noisy in the process, I would end up snapping and screaming at them.
And then the guilt I felt for shouting at them would be unbearable, the look my boys gave me when I lost my temper and screamed will be forever ingrained in my memory. I felt like such a useless mum. I didn't want to play with them, be around them, I wanted to stay in bed instead. I would lie in bed and just cry myself to sleep with the guilt of being a complete waste of a parent. If they boys were - what I would call - a handful, I would lock myself in the toilet and just cry because I couldn't cope with them.
But I felt like I had no reason to moan. I wanted both of my children, and they were well behaved boys. There are people in the world who would kill for children, who cant have them for what ever reason, and there I was, crying over nothing and not being able to cope. I was a mess. I felt like such a failure. Such a pathetic excuse for a mother and a woman.
With the first lot of tablets not working, and having to change them to something else, it took a lot longer than usual for them to start working. And then I began to feel happier. I looked forward to days out with my family. I laughed again, and wasn't crying as much. My anger wasn't always simmering over. It wasn't instant. And this wasn't how I felt every day. I still had my down days, but very slowly, I began to feel myself again.
But then, with the feeling of happiness, and being "me" again, came the whole "well I fell much better, I must not need my tablets now" cycle. That is another nightmare they don't tell you about. The constant yo-yoing of taking tablets to feel better, to then feel better and stop taking the tablets, to then quickly decline and be back at square one. It was awful.
I had been off my tablets a few months when I found out I was pregnant. The doctors didn't know this. I told them I had stopped taking them when I found out I was pregnant. See, when you have depression, you become a great liar. Fabulous at covering up. You become so good at getting on with your day to day life, making out that your fine, when inside your completely falling apart and dying.
I was petrified of declining whilst pregnant. I knew with all the hormones flowing around my body, it would be so much worse, and a lot harder to distinguish between "normal, pregnancy hormones" and my depression. I wanted to be better for the baby growing inside me, and for my two gorgeous boys who deserved better than a crappy mum with depression.
I was also petrified of feeling like I did after having Master L. Of being completely unable to cope. I couldn't be like that again, I just couldn't. I needed support this time.
At 23 weeks I was put back on my antidepressants. I began to feel calmer, less anxious. I was back to, mainly, being me again. And after having Miss DL, I had the support I needed too. I never even had the "baby blues" they so often warn you of. I was happy and complete, with my baby girl and her big brothers. I could have took on the world at that point.
Nearly 5 months after having my baby girl, I am still on my antidepressants. I am no longer ashamed to say I have depression, and the fact I have to take "happy pills" to get me through the days is just something that has to be done. Some days I still feel like spending the whole day in bed, but, thankfully, they are few and far between.
I wont say these 6 weeks holidays have been easy, I have noticed my temper simmering over again, and "shouty mummy" has reappeared more often than I'd like her to. I've been slacking with the housework and there are probably more things I could have done with the boys too, but I wake up in the morning happy to still be here. I now know when I am declining, and when I need to speak to the doctor. That can only be a good thing surely?
I am so thankful for my children. If it wasn't for them I probably wouldn't be here today. It is the thought of them being without me - no matter how useless I was - that got me through those really really dark days.
All I can hope for now, is that I continue to get better. For me, as well as my children. I can't say I will ever be the person I used to be, having depression has changed me completely as a person, as a mum, but I hope, in the not too distant future, I will have that dark cloud that used to engulf me, so tightly locked away that this will all be a distant memory.