Dear reader: I am a control freak. Always have been, always will be.
I need to plan, organise, write lists, re-organise, make decisions and I always have a spreadsheet of goals on the go.
So when I found myself crying at the laundry, unable to fathom how to get myself and my six month old ready to meet a friend for a coffee when I had two hours to prepare, and not only that, but then sobbing uncontrollably, paralysed at the thought of ACTUALLY leaving the house, I knew something was wrong.
After a week of emotional outbreaks at seemingly trivial and minor things (not being able to find my shoes, running out of milk, the weather etc..) my husband sat me down and very calmly suggested that maybe I wasn’t very well and I should go and see the doctor (he was remarkably tactful and sensitive in this delivery, regardless of me getting angry at the suggestion that maybe I had lost control – I was defiant!)
I sat, resigned, in front of the doctor, telling her this was all really silly and there was nothing wrong – I was just a little tired. But then the crying started, and I became apparent that really I wasn’t alright and actually, it was ok not to be ok.
I have a huge amount of respect for my doctor – I am lucky, my GP is almost as blunt as I am and I feel I can have an honest, lively debate if needed.
“How old is baby now?” she asked. “Six months”, I replied.
“Ah, so it’s about the right time for you to get post natal depression then, this is completely normal.”
I’m not sure if I was more shocked that she labelled it, or that she was a little blasé. Not in a condescending way, but more in a ‘this is completely normal and it’s not because you’ve done anything wrong, it happens to lots of people’ way.
My doctor went on to tell me that the reason I was feeling the way I was (hopeless, useless, complete loss of control, not able to function, panic attack at the thought of having a shower and getting dressed), was due to a chemical imbalance in my brain.
There. Simple science. We like simple science.
Three years of no sleep due to my daughter, (still not sleeping through at four and a half by the way), and then a new-born on top equals a serious serotonin depletion due to lack of sleep.
So I was to take the tablets and address the chemical imbalance and maybe start to feel better.
I already felt better leaving the doctor’s surgery. Firstly I had a medical explanation for my perceived lunacy and also, I knew it was temporary and that I was going to feel better.
The next month was strange, the meds hadn’t ‘kicked in’ yet, so the lunacy prevailed, yet, I was resigned to it and more accepting. Friends and family made exceptions for my irrational behaviour and life at least felt somewhat manageable again.
My diagnosis was in November 2015, and by January the following year, the medication was working and I began to feel more ‘normal’ – you know, the normal that is my control freak make up!
The most positive thing I did during this time was my own sort of therapy. I committed in my new years’ resolutions, to spend half an hour each day doing something ‘creative’, just for me.
I have always been a ‘frustrated creative’ and forcing myself to commit time every day to ‘escape’ into my own creative world helped my sanity no end. I began to learn calligraphy and experimented with all sorts of crafts, it was my own version of therapy.
Fast forward to nearly 18 months post my diagnosis and I am much better. I have to keep taking the tablets, and there have certainly been wobbles along the way. I have been back at work for a year and have had to reduce my creatively time to one or two times a week whilst juggling a full time job and lots of travel with two small children.
I know a lot of people have written about their experience with PND and they are all so different. It’s a personal disease, similar to no two cancers being the same. And yes it is a fair comparison – as both can be life threatening.
I think my message is that whether you do or don’t want to get help, that’s fine. Whether you do or don’t want to take the drugs, that’s fine.
Whether you want to talk about it or not, that’s fine. But understand; it’s not your fault, it’s WAY more common than you think, and you can and will get better.
Plus if there are any dads out there feeling exactly what I’ve described – you can get it too, and lots of dads do. So don’t be ashamed. Just because you are a dad doesn’t make your journey or challenge any less important.
If you’d like to read more about my creative adventures then you can do so here: www.thefrustratedcreative.co.uk Or drop me an email if you just fancy a chat.