I've hesitated whether to write this piece publicly, but let's just write it and see how it goes, hey... A few people know that after Isaac was born I really struggled with low mood. I went to the GP and said I felt like I was low but it could go either way - would it be possible to take anti-depressants, to 'nip it in the bud'? She advised not to do it lightly, because only some were compatible with breastfeeding and 'everything goes into the milk'. So I went away, reflected, tried to pick myself up by walking more, seeing friends. It got easier with Isaac as he got past the 3-month mark and I wasn't confined to a small space with what felt like nigh-constant screaming and mess/sick. Then my lovely friend Jonny died and all hell broke loose emotionally.
When I look back over my diary I can see that for three weeks after the news (14th March) of Jonny, I didn't stick to any of my routines. I'd started this really helpful habit of planning the timings, roughly, the day before, in my handy Moleskine diary and things like that. It all went out of the window. Alongside most other things. I was in shock - and rage. And then I could feel myself plummeting into depression and anxiety again.
I went back to the GP. She said it was early days and it was normal to feel so low after such terrible news. True. She also advised that if I wanted to go on medication then Isaac was 6 months by that point and I could put him on the bottle. That was something I still didn't want to do. So I had a couple more appointments with health visitors, felt that I could just about make it with the help of my friends and possibly a bereavement counsellor, and tried to crack on.
Well, we're now in August and it's still hard. The sunshine did lift it (even though I did, as I've said, complain about the excessive heat). But then about two weeks ago, the sky seemed to just cloud over and I felt an interior panic at the thought of the loss of summer, the onset of cloudy days and another Winter trying desperately to find ways of getting out of the house with two little ones.
Why am I sharing/writing this? It's because I think some of the silence needs to be broken around the struggles you can feel as a mum. It might seem that I focus on all the daily frustrations instead of the joys of motherhood. But I think it's so important to be honest. I feel like if we are all so much more honest about how hard or how lonely or overwhelming it can feel, then we can help each other a whole lot more. Especially in this era, when we're doing it more alone than ever before and the olds structures, the community you would have been surrounded by, back in the day, has gone.
So I'm writing honestly about my struggles. I reached out on a lovely breastfeeding support group (La Leche League) page on Facebook. I asked for advice re. medication and breastfeeding, as it's something I still really don't want to stop doing. It's such a personal thing but I know that for me it helps me in so many ways and the oxytocin produced by nursing must be, surely, a helpful thing right now. The response I got was so overwhelmingly kind and encouraging. It was really touching. A few people shared their own experiences of PND and talked about the routes they had gone down. Some were angry at the GP's response... they mentioned Sertraline, the anti-depressant most recommended for nursing mothers. And so I've decided to stop battling this without the medication (especially with the onset of Winter a few months away) and to take all the extra help I can get. I write this simply in the hope that it can help another reader who might be feeling like they're going it alone, but getting more overwhelmed and low and frustrated. If it helps to be open about how hard it is at times, then that alone is reason to write.