Being vulnerable sucks. I mean it really sucks. Especially like me you found yourself in the middle of a breakdown without even really knowing why at the time, I didn’t even know I was pregnant when it hit!
Say hello to the bump blues, they’re brutal but help and hope is there. Here’s what helped me.
I was particularly vulnerable to antenatal depression apparently. I’ve had episodes in the past of depression before and come out the other side, but I’d also had a very tough two years previously including losing two babies, readdressing my career goals and bearing the brunt of some very nasty behaviour during these times of vulnerability. I think it was safe to say that I was dealing with a lot, but I was coping – just. Though some might say I was virtually on the brink and they’d probably be right. What I didn’t realise is that my body was starting to change enormously already to accommodate a growing baby and that was a rather large catalyst is pushing me down the spiral I found myself where my hair was unwashed for 2 weeks, my teeth unbrushed for 1 week and then one day, I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the house and found myself at my dining table sobbing without knowing how I got there. I started to ring members of my family in a panic that I had lost my mind. I was carted straight to the doctor that afternoon. I’m fortunate to have an incredibly understanding family. But this is just my story… I’ve read so many different ones.
Here are some things that helped me and put me back on track to feel at the very least; ok that I wasn’t ok.
1. Take stock of what your body is trying to do…
Wow bodies our bodies are amazing! In just 37 short weeks, your body cooks a whole new life with gazillions of cells all working together to do what our bodies do that can fully function outside our bellies. It’s a tremendous feat, it’s ok that this change affects you. It’s ok to be tired, needing a hand and to think about what you need to support this immense task. Needing help is not failure.
2. See a professional to understand more about how you feel
You may hear from a lot of people that hormones are the villain in antenatal and postnatal depression. Don’t accept this as a fact – go and see someone who can assess you on an objective level. I went to my GP who didn’t even mention antenatal depression but immediately saw a person who needed help in coping with depression, no matter the root. The answer is currently Citalopram, counselling and CBT but the options are vast and your healthcare support are the people to help you.
Happiness and coping is subjective to you alone not anyone else – if you are struggling, you are not a list of symptoms; you are a person and your doctor, midwife, Samaritans, local mind charity can and want to help you.
3. Hello you! Do you remember you?
We have lots of different names, and when we become pregnant we gain a new one: Mummy. Often expectant mums and new mums find themselves the focus along with wife/girlfriend,/daughter, and forget about those other named parts such as ‘Me’, ‘Kirstie (your name here)’ and ‘I’.
What does ‘Kirstie’ want to do today? What does ‘Kirstie’ need in order to feel good right now and what support does ‘Kirstie’ need to cope with this monumental and heavily responsible task? Ask those questions of yourself, is it simply space?
Doing things for you are important to achieve that sense of completeness and well being. I love makeup so I make time for it. If I haven’t made time that day to make sure I feel good about myself, I know I haven’t got the balance right. Do at least 1 thing everyday just for you.
4. Build up your support network and ask ‘what would you do?’
How would you react if your friend/partner/parent/even stranger expressed the need for help and support? Would you walk the other way? Would you help but resent it? Most importantly, would you think that person was a failure?
More often than not, the answer to all those questions are a resounding ‘no’. You would support that person as much as you could and congratulate their well being from that. It’s important to realise the impact a support network can have on someone who is struggling and the small things matter so much. The first step is again, talk. Tell people you are having problems and how they can help you. Is it a listening ear? Is it help with looking after the kids? Is it a pep talk? These things can work wonders…
I haven’t told an awful lot of people about the problems I had but I built a network of support from those closest to me and they’ve been amazing. I also told my boss – your workplace can help too, but they need to know.
If you feel like there’s really no-one, mumsnet, samaritans, babycentre and countless other services are there to answer questions and listen.
And lastly, in the words of Bill S Presont Esq.: Be excellent to each other and to add my own words: including yourself