This is a question I have been asked many times since I gave birth to Leo this year following the death of his sister who was tragically stillborn at full term last year. I am asked this often by other mummies who have found themselves in a similar situation and are scrambling to make sense of constant traffic volumes whizzing noisily, constantly in their minds. I honestly can’t give you an answer. I wish I could. I wish I could send you a big manual on how to keep going, jeez I wish someone would send me it if such a thing exists. So, I cope the only way I can each day and no two days are ever the same. Grief is not fun I tell ya! But neither is trying to find your way through the messy emotions that Post Natal depression brings with it either. I was recently diagnosed with this amongst other things such as Post traumatic Stress Disorder following Leos birth in January this year.
I feel constantly overwhelmed with general life and my brain seems to switch into auto pilot to keep itself ticking at times. It functions on fumes. There is constant noise and clutter and I feel like I’m genuinely losing my sanity at times. I know there’s a glaze in my eyes that I try so hard to hide as I don’t want to draw attention to the way I’m feeling. Many times, I have thought to myself If I just ignore this it will eventually go away. But it never does. I have built a hard stone wall around me without really realising I was doing so and it hides the girl I used to be. I am not sure if there is a way back to her now. So, I try to only look forward to a future that may be uncertain but with the hope that there’s a lot of brighter days to come.
I chose not to take anti-depressant medication after Francesca died and looking back now I am not sure if that was the right thing to do as now as since Leo has been born my mind is struggling to accept what happened to his sister. Almost like delayed grief, shock and I have a constant tremendous worry that something will happen to Leo. A fear I’m sure many new mums have no matter what their experience. Being in a charge of a little human can be terrifying all on its own accord. The struggles of living with debilitating anxiety or depression are very real and can affect every little bit of your life. I find that I regularly doubt my abilities as a mum, partner, daughter and friend and I think my self-worth left the building a long time ago.
I struggled alone for the last few months not opening up to anyone as I didn’t want to be a burden to them. I didn’t want to speak to a doctor because I didn’t even know where to begin explaining how I was feeling or make sense of these thoughts. The thought of baring my soul to anyone made me feel ill with worry. Would they think I was a bad mum? Would they start to think I wasn’t capable of looking after my baby? Would they take him off me? I overthink everything as it is anyway. I was convinced no one would understand what I was going through so there was no choice but to get through it myself. I piled on the workload and kept as busy as I possibly could with every spare second of my days accounted for. I wanted to make sense of this “new normal “.
I lasted 6 months. I was burnt out by then and found myself crying uncontrollably in a doctor’s office after yet another night of no sleep, heart palpitations and too many thoughts. And I can honestly tell you it was the best thing I did for me as an individual, the me who is a mummy and the part of me that is a partner to my long-suffering Mr Johnston! The doctor was so understanding, and I didn’t feel “mental” as I had feared I would as I bared my soul to her. She explained that everything I was feeling was NORMAL! In that second, I could have bloody hugged her. After all my worries that there was no hope for me, turns out I was pretty normal after all. If I was to be categorised in the “normal” bracket, then that must mean that other mums had been here before too. Possibly sitting in this very seat, feeling the same way I had. I wanted to know how they got through the worst of times. In fact I needed to know as I couldn’t go on feeling like this much longer. It was then I accepted the help of medication to lift some of the fog in the hopes it allows me to live somewhat of a “normal” life again and become the mummy I want to be for Leo. I know there’s no magic pill to cure me, but I hope it helps this struggle I feel 24/7. I continuously battle with anxiety daily. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread some days and then others I feel a little lighter especially having my wee man around whose smiles can melt my heart, but I always have a constant feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.
For someone who doesn’t find it easy to verbalise my thoughts I turned to writing instead. I started writing and writing and then writing some more and within this I found a self of purpose that I had lost and didn’t know was there anymore. I have sat here at my computer trying to write some pieces in absolute floods of tears making it near impossible to see the screen then other times I have sat smiling and laughing at the memories I’m reliving while putting it in my own words. For me its therapeutic and helps let go some of the pain and trauma. Although a lot of the time though I have sat staring at a blank screen wishing I could write down my thoughts to let the out and clear the brain clutter but found it impossible to do as some days I just can’t function at all. It’s frustrating. It angers me. I hate that I no longer control me, grief and depression now do that for me. I have lost all sense of myself because of this.
I know from reading many of your own blogs that I’m not alone in this but I want to take the time to thank those of you out there for having the courage to be vulnerable and speak out truthfully about your struggles of coping with loss as you really have helped me more than you will ever know.
Author - Charlene Espie is a writer from Glasgow and documents her no holds barred new normal type of motherhood over at www.forfrancesca.com.