This is the third time I’ve written this blog post. Why? Because anxiety, the sneaky bastard, makes me feel like a selfish bastard myself for being all ‘woe is me’. That’s the thing with anxiety-you think what the hell is wrong with me? I have a loving family. A roof over my head. Good friends. Everything I could ever want in this life of mine. Yet, there’s this little niggle in your head telling you that everything is not OK. Everything is wrong. And it’s all my fault. I can only speak about my own experience with it and know that there are people suffering so much more than me. But here goes.
Although I have known for a long time that there wasn’t something quite right in my head, I wasn’t made aware that I had been suffering from the sneaky bastard until I had my son. I was so excited to become a mum. It was a dream come true! Yet it was feeling more like a nightmare at the time. When Jack was just a few weeks old, I found that I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I found it hard to bond with my gorgeous little man. And I simply felt overwhelmed by the world. Something I think lots of new mums feel, but in my heart I knew I couldn’t go on like this and be the best mum for Jack. After zero sleep for days, weeks even, I remember saying to my husband ‘what is wrong with me?’. I should be loving this new chapter of my life. Instead I was a walking zombie, living off a few teaspoons of Nutella each day. I was the skinniest I’ve ever been in my life and I could no longer produce milk to feed my son. I felt like shit. I felt like a piece of shit for being this kind of mum to my son. Thankfully I was aware enough to know this was not right and sought help from a local doctor. He immediately diagnosed me as having Post Natal Depression and straight away I started on a low dose of medication. I also sought help through a local mothers group especially for sufferers of PND. Both worked wonders for me-knowing I wasnt alone and talking to people seemed scary at first, but it was so great to know that i wasnt alone. The medication was perfect for me and I felt back to my old self in no time.
So once Jack was around 6 months old, I had finished my weekly sessions with the mothers group and decided to try taking myself off the medication. Big mistake. A few days of once again feeling overwhelmed and one minor meltdown later, I was back at the doctor surgery. Apparently you should never just take yourself off a medication (oops) and after a lengthy conversation with my doctor, he told me that it sounded like I had been battling with anxiety for some time and that the medication was helping my brain to be ‘normal’ again. PND was a heightened form of my anxiety. He explained that sometimes certain people need the help of medication to balance things out in their head and make them feel better. So as horrid as having Post Natal Depression was, it made me aware of the sneaky bastard and I was thankful to finally have a diagnosis. Now, I know that medication doesn’t work for everyone but it certainly did for me-a few days back on the meds and I started feeling well again.
For me, anxiety comes in the form of needing everything to be perfect (which always worked well when decorating! ). Feeling overwhelmed. Biting my nails. Losing my shit over nothing. Worrying. Worrying. Worrying. Which leads to exhaustion and not being able to sleep-not a healthy combination. Especially as a new mum. I wasn’t aware that these were signs of anxiety until I started on my medication. For the first time in forever, I grew my nails. I stopped worrying. And I started enjoying. I was able to stop. Sit down. And take in life. Enjoy it instead of worrying about it. Which I hadn’t done throughout the majority of my 20’s.
Another thing which helped greatly with dealing with PND and anxiety for me, was starting up The DIY Decorator. I’ve never been able to do lazy well. I’m not one to sit around all day and not achieve anything. And so I decided to take my love of decorating and homewares and start something to occupy my time. Wow it worked well! Better than I could ever have imagined. I felt like I had a purpose again. I still regard it as a huge benefactor to helping me with deal with the sneaky bastard.
When I was first dealing with these issues, I didn’t dare tell anyone. I was so embarrassed. My friends all had kids and seemed to not struggle. No one else that I knew of had anxiety. I did actually had one friend who was very open about having PND and suffering from depression herdelf and I am actually very thankful to her for sharing her story with me as I think it helped me seek help during my dark days. Once I started feeling better-the best I’d felt in ages actually- I started to open up to people. And not one person was negative. I learnt that many people I knew suffered from some sort of mental health issue which they were hiding just as well as I was.
So what have I learnt about my own experiences with the anxiety? Always speak up. Nobody will judge you. And if they do, fuck them! They aren’t worthy of your friendship. It’s a hard enough battle without someone not supporting you. Don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault. You can’t control these feelings and sometimes you can’t fix them, so seek help. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family. I bet you will find that some of them will open up to you about their own demons. Be kind to everyone you come across. You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in their own lives and they might be having a really shit time right now. There were times for example when say someone was serving me at a shop were rude to me. I would go home and have a breakdown because of it. They ruined my day without even knowing or trying. And it wasnt their fault but as a sufferer I now know that I don’t want to do that to someone who is also suffering and so I make more of an effort to be polite. Speak openly about PND and the sneaky bastard-because it creeps up on others too! Tell your pregnant frinds to be aware of Post Natal Depression-there’s not enough education for new mums on the subject. Let them know that they don’t have to suffer in silence and that you are a phone call away. Talking is the best medicine!
I can honestly say that I wish I had sought help for my anxiety years ago. I probably would have enjoyed life a lot more instead of worrying about it. Life’s too short to spend it being afraid and unhappy. Please, please, please seek help if you need it. Even if you aren’t 100% sure that you do, go see a Doctor anyway. You CAN feel normal again! I am so thankful for everything in my life even more now and am the happiest I’ve been in a long time. Yes there will still be hurdles and I’ll be completely honest, I am shit scared when I think about having another baby in the future, but I know I’ll have the love and support from those around me and for that I am beyond grateful.
Zoe – THE DIY DECORATOR