Thursday, November 22, 2012

PND awareness week - beyond the first scene

It's like the first few minutes of the movie Twister, when the little girls Daddy is swept away in a tornado trying to protect his family.  I fast forward through this scene because I can't bear it. The screams, the grief on their faces, the silence that follows. I know what happens. I don't want to see it again. "Twister" is one of my all time favourite movies, but the first 7 minutes I NEVER want to watch ever again

This week is PND Awareness Week.

You know I am no stranger to this storyline. I have laid my heart bare here and here and here.
BUT...  I really have to be in the mood to write about my sad days. If I'm having a good day/week/month, I loathe taking my heart and mind back to those days. They feel like they belong to someone else, like a movie I once watched and can only remember sketchy details, but I know it all worked out okay in the end.

Mostly I choose to fast forward through the early scenes. I allow myself to not re-watch the unwatchable. I allow myself some grace.

My time with Post Natal Depression ( aka Post Partum Depression, PPD or PND ) started probably well before our first little blessing arrived. I was so young, inexperienced, overwhelmed and totally without the support systems that a young mother needed. My parents lived over 2 hours away at first, and then 13 hours away. My sister and brother were a full days drive away. We moved interstate when J-man was just 2 weeks old. Crazy.

Another 3 years and 2 more babies and there I was mothering 3 under 4, still with PND sitting on my shoulders like a dead weight. I was hyper-parenting. trying to anticipate and roadblock every for-seeable danger to my children. I was wrecked but could not rest. I had trouble allowing anyone else to take over my vigil and I was so, so, so tired.
And yet, no-one around me seemed to think it was depression.
I wasn't crying all the time.
I hadn't let the house or myself go.
On the contrary.. the house was scrubbed to with an inch of its life and I exercised with determination and purpose. The children were spotless  To others I was simply controlling, fussy, angry, a princess. I KNOW close family members rolled their eyes and were less than kind in their discussions of how controlling and anxious I was in my parenting.

If only I could have shown them the real me.

The 4 am me. The one who paced in the kitchen chanting the CPR drill for infants and toddlers so many times it is forever etched on my heart.
If only I could have let them see the 2am me who sat in a ball crying in the shower so that no-one could hear.
If only I could have told them that the 3 am me was so sure that something awful was going to happen to one of these babies, that she already knew the music that would play, the clothing they'd wear, the special toys that would be included in that childs' coffin.
The 5 am me was very good at telling Lisa what a completely crappy mother she was, that they would be so much better if she just walked away. Everybody, EVERYBODY seemed to be able to do this so much better than her.

The fact is, I was an expert in faking it during daylight hours. In acting like I had my crap together. In evading tricky questions and making excuses for crazy stuff.

It took 6 years for me to finally be myself in front of my new doctor. She was the mother of 5 kids and didn't try to tell me that I was just tired. She believed me. She listened.

And with her help, some medication and many sessions of tear-heavy therapy I finally saw a trickle of light. And that light has just kept getting brighter and stronger and warmer and more lovely.

I have rambled on here but I have two important points to share. 

The first point is that depression does not always look like the Hollywood stereotype. Just because I looked like I was okay on the surface didn't mean I was okay inside. Just because someone is cheerful and capable at mothers group, doesn't mean she isn't literally rocking in the corner behind her front door. Or intensely angry, or sad inside.

We need to step away from the stereotype of what Post Natal Depression looks like and start to open our eyes. We need to learn as a society to recognise and act on emotional crisis. We need to open our ears to subtle but very distinct requests for help. Not all depressed parents are suicidal, or are harming their babies. Not all depressed parents have unwashed hair, messy houses or dazed glazed-over eyes. In fact I believe that many of us, still got on with the business of parenting even while feeling like absolute crap. Many of us would have denied that anything was wrong because it was just another admission of failure. 

The second point - There really can be light at the end of the tunnel. We went on (under medical guidance) to have a fourth baby, depression free and spent her baby years gazing in wonder and saying "wow this is what other people had with their kids. This is how it was supposed to be". 
I am soooooooo lucky to have experienced a baby depression-free and the freedom and lifting of my heart is beyond words. I am blessed beyond measure and I can't really express the healing she has brought into my heart and home.

If you feel like you are not coping ( in whatever way that is... you know in your heart if you are really not coping) please seek help.

Post-natal depression takes many forms. This week is PND Awareness Week.
If you, or someone you know think they are suffering in silence, please be reassured that you are not alone and that help is available.

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