Postnatal depression


I had been of two minds about whether to post this entry, but eventually concluded I had no good reason not to. Blogging, for me, has an emotionally cathartic effect — I do it more for myself than for my readers. So when I confront something particularly challenging, it does me no good to blog about it only after it’s over. That’s like taking a Panadol after the headache’s gone. And I imagine readers find it more engaging to see real-time information — that way, they can join me in wondering, ‘What happens next?’. Also, I believe that while this issue is intensely personal, it’s not inappropriate to blog about — keeping it hush doesn’t make it go away, or even make it any easier.

At this point, I have not been diagnosed with postnatal/postpartum depression. I’m not even convinced I have it. At this stage, it’s just a lingering question mark in the air. I’ve researched its signs and symptoms in an attempt recognise it, but its signs and symptoms are characteristic of every mother with a newborn! We all suffer from fatigue, irritability, distraction, being tearful, and overwhelmed. So how am I to tell the difference between PND, and the ‘baby blues’, and normal newborn parenting?

And does it matter what my difficulty is called? I don’t much care about determining its label — I’m too preoccupied with the issue itself, and getting rid of it. And as long as I don’t have the PND label, I don’t have the embarrassment and regret that goes with it — the guilty feeling that I don’t have a right to be depressed because I’ve had so many offers of help, and ladies saying ‘call me anytime’, so it’s not as if I’m all alone. And, if I did have PND, I’d fear being accused of being a bad Christian or having a weak faith, because evidently I wouldn’t consider God ‘all I need’. Even worse, I’d fear those accusations being true.

I only really started considering my mental state yesterday, when I took a nosedive. Previously, I’d found a good coffee, or just an hour or two out of the house, was a helpful way to restore my sanity and ability to handle the difficulties of parenting. I’d come back from my breaks feeling revitalised, and clear-headed — not at so much risk of hammer-throwing Timmy out a window.

Yesterday though, I discovered those mechanisms no longer work. I’d had a good coffee and spent four hours out the house with friends (granted, I had Timmy with me, but the great thing about a group of ladies is their readiness to take him off my hands) — yet when I got home, almost as soon as I stepped in the door I found the same problems waiting for me with the same vengeance they had when I’d left.

I feel good while I’m drinking coffee, but as soon as the cup’s empty, I’m back to the miserable state I was before I began to sip. I feel relaxed when I’m out the house, but as soon as I’m back, it’s as if nothing’s changed. Following this last arrival home, the calm demeanour was whipped off me at the speed of thought, and all that was left was despair, fatigue, extreme irritability…and rage. Rage not just with the baby, but with anybody and anything in my path, which unfortunately for my husband, was him.

Unable to bear looking at baby, house, or husband, I locked myself in the car where I vented my fury in screams, yells and tears. When I’d exhausted myself, I turned the car radio up so high my ears rung, and I couldn’t hear the world outside. And when I shut my eyes, I couldn’t see it either.

Maintaining my life as it was, was too much. I was tired of doing things for other people. Most of the time those ‘other people’ would be Timmy, but I also felt pressured when I was told to get out the house for a break — instead of feeling happy at the idea, it just felt like another demand I had to meet. And keeping the house tidy (necessary for my happiness — squalor makes me miserable) was an impossibility. Mess was created faster than I could tidy it.

I needed the obligations to stop. But what could I do?

I did the only thing I could think of: I declared to my husband I was off the grid, and my birthday was cancelled. I would not take phone calls. I would make every effort to avoid the trite ‘Happy Birthday’ platitudes the next day. I would not do anything to celebrate it, and I would not go anywhere to celebrate it. The birthday was off. In addition, I would touch the baby only to feed and change him. I would no longer torment myself with futile surplus efforts.

Numbly hearing Timmy’s screaming through the walls, but no longer caring, I went to bed a little after 4pm, intending to live there for the rest of my life.

Then, some sort of wonderful happened overnight.

Timmy slept at least three hours between every feed. The living area of the house transformed from Pit of Squalor, to ordered and inviting. In the morning, the sun was shining. The living area was warm. The baby was quiet and co-operative. And my husband had completely disregarded my cancelled-birthday instruction of no presents, and gave me a pile of them.

I know how my mentality works, these days — I’m not so naive to think that just because today’s fantastic, that my concerns are over. The Beast will be waiting around some corner or other, sharpening his teeth for the next attack. But for now, today, I’m okay. I’m enjoying my un-cancelled birthday.

Even Timmy gave me a present. He finally smiled at me.


(6) Comments

  • Justin Niemi on Facebook
    25 May 2012

    Feel better. Go eat ice cream.

  • Rachel Black on Facebook
    25 May 2012

    Praying for ya Beautiful. Love you so much and wish I could do it all for you. At least you will see Alma soon and can ask her.

    • Barb Bisley
      25 May 2012

      Day by day, just like God’s mercy to us, you and Timothy will grow. Thank you for having me on your list of “Timmy holders” I am blessed to be a part of your lives.

  • Andrea Latoa on Facebook
    25 May 2012

    Timmy smiled – what a clever boy – so early and just for your birthday – love it 🙂

  • Wendy Campbell on Facebook
    25 May 2012

    That is the best present he could give!!!Cute boy Timothy.

  • Andrea Latoa on Facebook
    25 May 2012

    I’m sure I also posted a comment “wow THAT IS catharthis” but it went astray…

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