Isn’t it funny how we tend to have many faces. I’ve the face I put on to the outside world, it’s the ‘I’m-okay-I’m-fine-I’ve-got-my-shit-together’ face I put on to get through the day. There’s the face I put on for my work, the multi-tasking face that gets the job done, putting all other thoughts aside. There’s the face I put on for my toddler, sometimes that’s good cop, sometimes that’s bad cop depending on the time of day and level of tantrums.
Then, finally there’s the face I put on for myself. When I’m alone, just me. No one else to look at me, no one else to please, no one else to pretend to. Just me. Raw, real and uncovered.
That’s when I realise all the others faces I had on during the day were masks.
It’s funny, when I look in the mirror I see a shy, haggard, round in the middle mum, who hasn’t’ a clue how she got here. And yet, a lot of the time people tell me how ‘strong’ I seem, or how nice I come across. I faced down Post-Natal Depression (PND), I turned all that darkness and despair into something positive with my blog. I’ve got a beautiful, active toddler and a seemingly happy life with my little family and dog by my side.
And then there's my online persona as TheMammyBlogger where people seem to think I’m a tough cookie and sure I can debate my way out of things with the best of ‘em, and I’m never afraid to speak my mind. But when you get down to it, when you peel back all the masks I wear and look at the person underneath, I’m not really any of those things.
I’ve often described PND as feeling like I was drowning. And it really was. I flailed desperately and sank a little more each day. The water lapped under my chin, then it rose over it to cover my mouth and took away my voice, then once day it was underneath my nose with little droplets of water going into my lungs, until one day it enveloped me and I sank all the way to the bottom.
And there I sat. Cut off from the world, in a very dark, lonely, cold place waiting for the inevitable.
But somehow, I managed to find the will to look up to the surface, to kick for it, to fight for the air again.
It’s been a slow process, but I fought my way back and today I like to think of myself as an advocate for Maternal Mental Health and PND. I speak about it often, I write about it, I’m open and honest with my own struggles so that we can break the taboo around it. Part of that means I often find myself chatting online or answering messages from other mums who are in the grips of that darkness. I tell them that they will get through this, that things will get better and while most days that’s true, I’m also honest with them when I say that for me, despite how far I’ve come, PND is not something I’m fully over.
It’s still with me. And some days it manages to break though. Those already shitty days when I’ve had a long week, when I’m stressed, when my life is most challenging, it’s then when PND taps me on the shoulder and says ‘hey I’m not done with you yet’. We all have tough days as mums, but when you've gone through PND a bad day can leave the door open for it to swoop back in. It's an unwelcome visitor. It kicks me when I’m down, makes me doubt my natural feelings, robs me of my confidence and delights in my anguish.
Those are the days when I close the door behind me and I cry. I cry those familiar tears of any mum who’s struggled with PND. The red eyes and smudged mascara hastily fixed. I try hard to silence PND, but some days it overcomes me and I feel as though I’m treading water again.
But here’s the thing.
I have come so far and fought so hard, that I don’t let it take me back under. I ride out the waves, I literally tell it to fuck off because, I know I’m a strong enough swimmer to weather the storms.
So if you’re a mum who feels like they’ve gone one step forward but two steps back, don’t despair. You can do this, you can overcome this, tomorrow will be a better day and PND does not define you or get to break you.
You are stronger than you know.
As always, I am here for any mammy who feels like she needs to talk at anytime.
Information on organisations who can help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or going through feelings of post-natal depression –