Almost 3 years ago, I was lying in bed in the psychiatric ward, thinking to myself… “How did I let all this all happen?” My husband and I were separated and on the brink of divorce. I had attempted to take my life 2 days prior before being admitted into psychiatric care. I felt so disconnected as a mother to my son that I told myself daily I was not a good enough mother for him. In fact, I felt like a complete failure. Leading up to labour and the first year of being a new mother, I constructed this fantasy, this endearing desire, this desperate pledge to be the perfect mother. Yet I was always on edge, convulsed with angst, doubt and uneasiness. My post-natal anxiety thrived and overpowered on my vulnerability, which produced obsessive compulsive thoughts, dominating every decision and outcomes of my parenting and everyday choices.
“… I constructed this fantasy, this endearing desire, this desperate pledge to be the perfect mother.”
I knew something was wrong, yet I was in denial of it being a mental disorder. I mean, in my European culture, there are cultural stigma’s attached to mental illnesses. Mental Health is not spoken in my family. My grandparents came from war torn countries and came here to provide a life of freedom and opportunity – so how can I be depressed and find motherhood hard. And there is a social stigma that surrounds perinatal health, where motherhood should be the most happiest time of your life. I would never of dreamed of telling a friend that I was not coping. I mean, what if I told them I was having problems? They never admitted to me they struggled being a mother. And there was a personal stigma. I was paranoid they might go and tell everyone that I problems? What good would that do? Did I really have a problem? Or was it all in my head? I used to tell myself this too shall pass and ignore it.
“I did not want to accept I had a problem.
And so, I ignored it and found a comfortable place in my mind
and let post natal anxiety take over me.”
Despite seeing my GP and being referred to a psychologist, I did not want to accept I had a problem. And so, I ignored it and found a comfortable place in my mind and let post natal anxiety take over me. The guilt of being a full time working mother. The regret of having my son so unexpectedly. The torment of finding out I was pregnant the night before I handed in my thesis. The frustrations. The tears. The emptiness. The constant arguments with my husband. My model of The Perfect Mother smashed into a million pieces. I desperately tried to catch the fragments with my bare hands, but they slipped through my fingers, and disappeared. As much as I frantically scrambled and searched for them, they.were.gone.
Then, I began to lose my mind. I began to hate my husband. I would look at my son and felt helpless and started to disengage with him. I hated myself for that. I hated myself more than I hated anyone. I wanted to run. I wanted to escape from it all. I wanted to run away to the ends of the universe where no one could find me. The truth of the matter is, I wanted to run away from myself more than from anything.
Post natal depression had completely consumed me. Not just mentally, but physically as well. I often looked withdrawn, bleak and exhausted with sunken cheek bones and eyes. I would manage a fake smile for photos. I looked like I had it together when I really didn’t.
My whole identity was devoured by the disease, where it infected the role of the wife and the mother. Above all else, I had lost myself. Me, Yvette, woman, human being….. it was all diminished. It was consumed by anxiety and depression. My PND fed on all my rage, fear, doubt, and prospered on my obsessive compulsive thoughts, infesting every decision and outcomes of my parenting and everyday choices.
So I completely snapped – and attempted to take my life and ended up down the rabbit hole all the way into the emergency department. My health professionals officially diagnosed me with severe Post Natal Depression and Anxiety and was admitted into psychiatric care. In despite of this – I was still in denial of my mental illness and what happened, until one day I was at home and my husband noticed I was completely spaced out. I could not comprehend properly. I was heavily dosed up on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets and was just existing, not living.
I knew I had to do something and by doing this I confronted my mental illness. I finally accepted I was completely not well and realized the destruction the PND left – a blazed trail of tears, broken hearts, and almost death.
How did I get my life back on track? How did I began the road to recovery from severe PND?
I’ll be candid, it is not easy.
In fact, it has been one of the most challenging aspects of my life.
I began by nourishing my soul.
I began to find myself again.
Most of all, I began to love myself.
It was so hard to do any of these, yet I extracted strength from my faith, from the love of my husband and son. Most of all I had to find that strength from myself. Even though I was completely broken, I found little rays of sunshine gleaming in the darkest parts of my mind and soul.
“I am finally loving being a mother to my son.
I have finally turned my back to perfectionism, the deluded notion of “The Perfect Mother”
and embracing this beautiful mess called motherhood in all its glory.”
I relapsed 2 1/2 years ago, attempted to take my life again and found myself back in hospital. But this time I begged to not be admitted. I used the tools I started to get myself back together, and made a real conscious effort to recover. Yoga retreats, quality time with my husband and with friends that matter. Parts of my old self are being rediscovered – reading, gardening, cooking and most importantly – my writing. And there are new things I am discovering – I am finally loving being a mother to my son. I have finally turned my back to perfectionism, the deluded notion of “The Perfect Mother” and embracing this beautiful mess called motherhood in all its glory. I may not be a perfect mother, but my son thinks I am perfect for him. His excitement and laughter when he sees me makes all of my anxieties and doubts melt away.
Raising awareness of PND and mental health have been so important since launching my blog. I have discovered organizations, like The Gidget Foundation who play an important role with raising awareness of perinatal health and providing care to not just those suffering the disease, but also care to their loved ones. I would appreciate if you donate to Gidget Foundation – every donation is crucial in assisting those who are suffering PND and their families need assistance.
*This piece of writing was spoken by myself at The Real Mothers Club event on March 4th 2017*
All proceeds from The Real Mothers Club was donated to The Gidget Foundation