Yesterday was the 20th January… an innocuous day for most. It’s not a national holiday or a day when we celebrate a great religious feast. Although, according to the bastion of all knowledge, Twitter, it was intentional Penguin Appreciation Day… yeah, really.
For me, the 20th January has become a day of huge significance and yet I didn’t even realise it was the second anniversary of that day, until again scrolling on Twitter, I saw it was two years since Trump was inaugurated.
Two years since I hit rock bottom beneath the dark, icy waters of Post-Natal Depression and thought I’d never see the surface again. Two years since I all but gave up on life.
I sat for a moment looking at my phone. ‘My God is it the 20th?’ I asked myself. Shocked that I hadn’t remembered until then. It was after 4.00pm and this was the first time I’d given it any heed.
I smiled and then winced as I thought back to that day. There was a time when I thought about it all the time, then a little less, and now I don’t think about it often anymore, although it’s not something that will leave, me I think and as painful as it is, I don’t think I ever want it to leave me. I think I’ll always need it as a stark reminder of where things could have gone.
The year before, I had certainly been keeping the day in the back of my mind. A year on, it was an important milestone. But the fact I barely even registered the day this year, to me, speaks volumes of just how far I’ve come. In fact yesterday, I felt… dare I say good? I’m always scared to even admit that out loud, as if the moment I do, I’ll be back in the bad times, but the truth is, I have been feeling good for a while. Good in myself, good in my relationship with my son, good in my work. Good in life.
Don’t get me wrong there are still lots of tough days where I’m facing toddler meltdowns, worries, anxiety and all the normal stresses of everyday life, some days I cry, some days I shout, some days I question my own sanity, but the point is, I feel more like myself and so I'm better able to deal with things. They don’t send me off the deep end as much or leave me as panicked. In fact, that hot, painful feeling in the pit of my stomach is less. That self-doubt is less. That feeling of being lost is just an echo.
But, I’m not naive enough think I’ll never feel overwhelmed again, I think I probably will. I think there will be times when I lose control and I’m faced with the abyss again.
This is a selfie I took on 24th January 2017... four days after my rock bottom moment. I hadn't looked at it, probably since I took it. But I was looking for an image to pop into this blog and I'm stunned by it. I look at it now and I can see just how tired and lost I was. The huge dark circles under my eyes, the sad smile and vacant look and yet, despite that, I was actually on the road to recovery, it took a long time but every day after the 20th January got better slowly.
Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of something like Post-Natal Depression, or a bout of anxiety, or depression it can feel like you’ll never find your way out of it. As if you’ve slipped under the water, cold and alone you’ll never be able to kick through to the surface. It can be terrifying and I can still remember that feeling of waking up each morning and saying ‘oh no.’ They were the first words out of my mouth and I couldn’t see a time when I’d ever feel normal again.
But the thing is, there is light, there is hope and there is help all around. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my journey so far, is that being open and talking about it can help. Whether that’s talking to a professional, joining an online support group, connecting with other mums, or like I do, just writing about my own story, it’s hugely cathartic.
I’ve connected with so many other amazing mums on this journey, mums who’s words echo my own. I’ve gotten dozens of messages and emails from mums saying ‘I could have written that.’ Mums who say thank you for sharing my story. For being honest for being open, for trying to break the taboo around maternal mental health.
It’s not always easy to lay yourself bare, but I say if I could help just one other mum in sharing my story, in putting myself out there, to me it’s worth it. And it really is.
So if you’re a mum reading this and you’re struggling right now, then I’m telling you it’s going to be okay. You will get through this, you will feel like yourself again. I know today has been hard and you’re feeling alone. You’re wondering how you’re going to get through the endless hours left until your other half comes home. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed, maybe you’re feeling like stranger in your own body. Maybe you feel like you cannot go on.
But you can. You can do this. You can hold on, please, hold on. Send me a message, text a friend, join a community like Mumtribe or get in touch with either of the organisations listed below, all of us are ready to welcome you with open, non-judgemental arms of support and understanding.
You are not alone and you can do this. I’m proof of that fact and if I can get through the fog, I know you can to.
Information on organisations who can help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or going through feelings of post-natal depression –