I have always been a bit of a planner – the write a list and tick the box type of lady. I’m sure you know the type, to do lists, menu planning, schedules and don’t even ask about my colour coded diary! Some would say it’s a bit ocd, others would say it’s a bit of a waste of time, me – well I like to think of it as organised and proactive, I liked my lists they gave me comfort and stability and that little bit of control over my world. I remember bringing my baby boy home from the hospital and recording all his feeds and nappy changes for that first week – at the time it brought me comfort in unfamiliar territory. At the time it helped me to feel some control over a new and scary situation, or at least I did at the time. As the weeks went by it began to stress me out and I realised I needed to try and go with the flow a little bit more. I did – it felt good and I realised that sometimes trying to control situations so much was having a negative impact on my day to day living.
When I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and anxiety I approached my journey to recovery true to character, in a logical and clear way – I made a list.
I thought about my end goal of being in recovery and then tried to break this down into the smaller steps I needed to take to get there.
It went something along these lines :
To be recovered from PND and Anxiety.
How will I know ?
I will be medication free and back to the old me.
I then went on to list all the things I would do to try and reach this end goal. The list was not short, I did research online on all the therapies available, I talked to my doctor for advice, I went home and the list was made.
It included mediation, group counselling, peer support group, intensive individual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions, exercise, self care time , asking for support . If you can think of something missing it was probably on my list – I was determined to get better and would try anything and everything to get to that place. Some of these things were harder to do than others, but at the end they were all ‘ticked off’ the master list and slowly I began to feel better. One day I woke up and realised I had lots of good days and very few difficult ones – It felt really good and while that bad days still came they were fewer and less intense than they were before. I looked at the list and wondered if this was it? was this recovery? I felt the time was right to slowly reduce my medication, 3 months later I was mediation free and feeling good. HUGE tick on that list, and wow it was a goal his time, Be mediation free.
It was at this point I realised that I didn’t think that I would achieve the other one – to be back to the old me. I had come to realise that this person didn’t really exist anymore. Motherhood changes you – becoming a mum is the most wonderful thing I have ever done. There are times when it is hard, there are times when you are tired beyond belief , there are days when you feel like you are just staying afloat but these are nothing in comparison to the laughs and the love I feel spending every day with my son. I don’t think anyone is ever the same after having a child.
Experiencing postnatal mental illness was the most lonely and terrifying time in my life. My darkest days were prior to being diagnosed and before I started fighting back. It took courage I never thought I had. In the midst of all this struggle, I grew as a person, I faced and overcame challenges I never thought I would – the experience changed me. I was still me of course – you can’t really change who you are but I was a different type of me not the ‘old me’ anymore. It took time to accept this – to me recovery was being back to the person I was before I had my son. I slowly came to accept things and in time I began to realise that maybe the journey of PND had had a positive impact and I came to like this more relaxed me, a me who was less judgemental and more compassionate. A me who worried less about possessions and more about people. A me who would smile more at little things, a me who knew how important it was to look after myself as well as others A me who was grateful and thankful that I made it through the journey to recovery.
If you look at that list now (it has all those nice ticks down the side)
but it also has a big cross at the top and written in pen beside it – be the best version of yourself. Experiences are powerful, they can change you in unexpected way. Sometimes what can start out as difficult path can take you places you would never have imagined. My journey with PND was the most challenging time in my life so far , but it has taught me so much and made me a better person in the end.