A Lot of Grey: My Experience of Postnatal Mental Health… So Far…

I’ve started this blog post so many times. So many times. The words have been in my head. But when I try to put the words down I become lost. Lost for words. And as anyone who knows me will know, that isn’t me!

So I’ll give it another go. 

I don’t think that there’s enough awareness about postnatal mental health. I’m not talking about postnatal depression. Postnatal depression is well documented, as it should be. But I think that there’s more to postnatal mental health than postnatal depression or anxiety or OCD. 

A few weeks ago I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by everything. I had a lot to sort out in the house as things are still in boxes since we moved back in after our renovations; I had a tax return to prepare for (which is a job I always detest); I was facing going back to work which I felt was far too early but financially I had no choice because of the job I’m in, so then I was berating myself for being in that job and not one that offered proper maternity leave; as a result of that we were struggling financially; I was feeling lonely – something I’ve touched on before; I was worrying about everything I could think of (I’ve always been a worrier); and I was missing my own family, the majority of whom live in the UK. 

I’m usually a pretty positive person and the reality was that none of my problems couldn’t be solved. As my own mum has always said, every problem has a solution. And I agree. But a few weeks ago I felt that I was hitting a brick wall with everything. And it was getting to me. I was crying, a lot, although I was trying not to in front of my little man, I didn’t want my upset to affect him. 

Was I on the verge of postnatal depression? I’ve never had depression of any kind, so I don’t feel I’m qualified to comment on it as I’ve not experienced it. But although I felt low my gut instinct was that it wasn’t postnatal depression. But from what I’d read it seemed that, asides from postnatal anxiety and OCD, the only other mental health concern for new mums is postnatal depression. So if I didn’t feel it was postnatal depression what was wrong with me? I was feeling so many different emotions. Was it hormones? I just didn’t know. And to be honest I still don’t.

Something I’ve never been good at, and now I’m a mum this is becoming even more apparent, is asking others for help. I don’t know why this is, I think to be honest I just don’t like putting other people out, I always think that everyone else has their own things going on so they don’t need to take on my stuff too. But it’s wrong to think that way, I’m slowly discovering that people like being asked to help. 

On the day I felt as though everything was getting on top of me I eventually found myself ringing my mum and asking her to come over. I told her how I was feeling and we talked. She looked after my little man whilst I prepared the information for my accountant for the tax return. Then mum made me go out. Before I knew it I found myself in Costa Coffee. And it felt good, just to be out amongst others. We talked some more and then by chance I met someone I knew who had also recently become a new mum. That chance meeting led to us meeting up for coffee a week later and then the week after that. And those coffee meet ups have become so important to me.

I think what I’m trying to say is that us new mums go through such a wide range of emotions that are not just confined to the “baby blues” in the early days after giving birth. However these emotions may not be postnatal depression either. But they are there, they affect us but, in my experience, they are not really talked about. In my case I could see that a lot of what I was feeling was due to circumstances, some beyond my control, some not, but would I have felt the same way if I had been presented with the same circumstances a couple of years ago? No, especially as the majority of the circumstances I was facing were ones I had faced in my pre-mum life. 

Before I gave birth I just thought you either got postnatal depression or you were absolutely fine. But that’s not the case, it’s not as black and white as that. There is an awful lot of grey! 

So how am I feeling now? Much better. Circumstantially not much has changed. We still have a room full of boxes that need sorting out; I’m back at work; financially things are still a struggle as we wait for me to get paid; asides from my mum, my family still live in the UK; I’m still a worrier, although I’m finding I’m too busy to do it! But on the other hand my tax return has been done and, thanks to the chance meeting in Costa, I don’t feel quite so lonely as a new mum. I’ve also found myself opening up to my other close pre-motherhood friends and the response from them all was the same: “why didn’t you phone me/talk to me?” So I’ve talked to them about how I’ve been feeling, some are parents, some aren’t, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the talking that counts. 

So I know that’s what I have to do. My husband and my mum have both been brilliant. Lending an ear whenever I need it, and now I know I have others that I can talk to too. Nobody minds. 

I still don’t have the answers as to the way I’ve been feeling. I’m well aware that it could happen again. I’m also well aware that I’m not out of the woods when it comes to the risk of postnatal depression. 

I’m sure I’ll touch on this again but for now I just have to remember to: keep talking!

Colette x

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