Home Depression After the birth, post-natal depression comes crashing into my life

After the birth, post-natal depression comes crashing into my life

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I’d never really known the meaning of the term “whites of their eyes” until I pushed a pram through a busy maternity hospital waiting room while bawling my eyes out.

A few days previously, things had gone from bad to worse.

I hadn’t had a day without crying for six weeks. I’d stand in the kitchen, letting tears fall in a quiet, exquisite release while visitors cooed over the baby in the room next door. I wanted to flee; all of it. I stayed indoors, avoiding people. The worry about doing the right thing, and doing the wrong thing, was wearying (read enough parenting guides, and you’ll soon start to believe there are 800 ways of doing the job wrong). In a sort of “emotional bulimia”, I’d creep downstairs at night, find old pictures of my dead relatives and wail over them, the enormity of life and death bending my brain.

I’d started Googling “why does my baby hate me?” and “what should maternal instinct feel like?” I began to stalk the house,wild-eyed and with J-cloth in hand, cleaning every surface over and over again, trying to prove to myself and everyone else that I was on top of things.

People would ask what was wrong, and I’d have no answer for them. I could start to see the low-level panic and alarm in B’s eyes when I’d be so sullen or silent. He’d come home one afternoon to find me lying in bed, the pillow damp with snot and tears and sweat, the baby somewhere nearby. In one particularly terrifying and disturbing moment, I could picture myself in my mind’s eye throwing a glass of water over my gorgeous, tiny daughter.

I was circling the plug hole; I could feel it.

It’s thought that about 15 per cent of Irish women experience post-natal depression (PND). Much of it goes unreported, with people dismissing their anguish as the baby blues. Far from being ashamed about a PND diagnosis, or feel like a failure I wonder how the other 85 per cent have managed to escape it. The sleeplessness, hormonal assault, loss of freedom, processing of childbirth, adjusting to a new person, the “high alert” culture shock, the bleeding, crying, breastfeeding, uncertainty of everything and the lack of time to regroup. On top of that, previous traumas or losses can also resurface, adding to the confusion.

Depression or anxiety seems a perfectly reasonable response to it all, if you ask me

Really, how is anyone expected to stay sane amid all this?

Depression or anxiety seems a perfectly reasonable response to it all, if you ask me.

I’ve experienced garden variety depression in the past: the one where you sleep for 18 hours of the day and Google things like, “am I having a nervous breakdown?” I understand it can happen to anyone, irrespective of income, personal circumstances, social life, personality, geography. Experiencing depression is a bit like being up to your knees in cold soup, the whole time. It’s hard to get your mind off it. It’s damp, gross, utterly wearying. A bit embarrassing, even. It impedes your life and movements. You wonder, “why am I the one stuck in soup?” Your friends don’t want to be around you, on account of the whole soup thing. Your nearest and dearest have to deal with regular splash back. Drained from the maddening unpleasantness of it all, you go to bed to escape it, and even there somehow, you’re still up to your ankles in Cock-A-flippin’-Leekie.

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