I found this letter I wrote a number of years ago and was reluctant to share it with you all. However I hope in share it, you might understand post-natal depression a bit more. You might recognise some of the symptoms in your children’s mother, and maybe even in yourself and use this to help talk about it. Just briefly these are the symptoms of depression:
- Despondent, miserable mood, feeling of hopelessness
- Loss of interest and/or pleasure
- Significant weight loss/gain
- Trouble sleeping/ over-sleeping
- Restless feelings, inability to sit still or slow down, very anxious
- Fatigue, loss of energy, tired “all the time”
- Worthless / guilty feelings
- Impaired concentration and difficulty making decisions (I call it “marshmallow thinking”)
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide or just wanting to be “away”-away from everyone.
The doctors will say if at least 5 of these symptoms last longer than 2 weeks you or your partner may need medication or counselling or both. There is no shame in asking for help. I thought there was and was miserable till my husband finally pushed me to the doctors. Pills and counselling really did help me and our family. Please seek help for you or your partner. It might seem hard but it’s harder not to enjoy life. I still struggle every now and then but I know the triggers and watch for the symptoms. I have plans and actions when those things happen and as a result I know I have help myself, my children and my whole family.
To my darling children,
I’m sorry, I suck as a mum. I’m sorry if I come across as a psycho, raving, bitch-queen-from-Hell. This is not what parenting was going to be for me. There are days, I struggle to get out of bed, I stumble through the day tired and crabby then at night I toss and turn, not able to sleep. Then the sun rises and I have to do it all again. I’m sorry I am not the mama I want to be for you. This is not what I imagined: day in and day out.
I want to be “fun mum” for you and I do try so hard to be. I want to enjoy the games we play, play ball at the park in the sunshine and have hidden secrets whispered under bed sheets. But this anger and frustration, this gray hopelessness; I am suffocated by it. The doctors call it postpartum or post natal depression; Winston Churchill called it the “Black Dog”; I call it “The Crow”. It sits on my shoulder, pecking at me, cawing doubts into my ear – “You’re a bad mummy”; “You should never have thought you could be a good mother”; “Everything you do is wrong, wrong, wrong.”
I know logically it is just hormones, messed up chemicals and malfunctioning neurons. But in reality I have simply forgotten how to be happy. I am unhappy, there, I said it out loud. But I have to reassure you, me being unhappy doesn’t mean I am unhappy with you my darling children. Even at the roughest moments, when I shout at you it’s because I’m so broken. I love you when at your most exasperating, when you’re tired and grumpy, when I’m tired and grumpy, when you’ve broken Great Grandma’s vase or re-decorated your room with finger paint. There are days I feel I’m barely going through the motions; that blasted Crow sucks out any joy.
People can’t see the Crow and its black smothering cloud around me. They truly mean well, but “You’re overreacting”; “This will pass” “Just relax” phrases are their own special hell giving rise to a fear that if I did ask for a life line, people might not help. Your dad is trying so hard to support us all. Trying so hard to understand, but it smothers me and I can’t put into words the feeling of gray. But without him I would have drowned in the “void”.
This condition, that Crow, has stolen from us; it’s stolen time, lost to the marshmallow thinking that I struggle with. It’s stolen feelings and emotions, all of joyfulness for magic moments you give to me every day. It’s robbed us of bonding, a connection heavily promoted in nappy commercials. I am so jealous of what every other mother seems to have and I can’t seem to reach. I’m envious of mothers who love being with their children, love the good and bad times and have so much energy and “light”.
But no matter how dark it is, I have you. I feel empty, but I make sure you know I do love you even when sometimes I can’t feel it. My arms will always be open for cuddles and kisses. I will carry you even when I’m so exhausted I could cry. And you – you give me unconditional love in spite of being a “bad mummy”, you still want me around you, to show me your latest artwork or bring me a flower form the garden. You make me stronger and I promise I will try and be the best mother, no matter how broken I feel, no matter how grey the day will be. Because you are my greatest loves and I want to be the mother you think I am. And one day you and I will pluck every one of that Crows feathers.