So far in my battle against postnatal depression, I’ve cried in public in front of strangers three times, yet have desperately fought the tears and hidden my true feelings in front of my nearest and dearest. Daft eh?
Then when I walked through the door of my local Steps2Change clinic, I made it four strangers I’ve blubbed in front of when I sat down in a chair in front of my brand new counsellor. She uttered the immortal words “tell me what’s brought you here,” and my exact response was “I feel like a failurrrrrrre and I’m lettig by children dowd *sob sob*”
Obviously very used to dealing with responses like mine, my counsellor offered me the strategically placed box of tissues and managed to calm me down enough for me to tell her exactly how I was feeling. I explained that I’d felt is way since the day Rory was born, exacerbated by his bad sleep and my struggles with breastfeeding.
I filled out a questionnaire where I was asked to rate how I felt about certain statements (such as ‘I feel like a failure to my loved ones’ and ‘sometimes I think everyone would be better off without me’ on a scale of 1 (never) to 10 (every day) and as you can see, initial score was high on the anxiety scale and slightly lower on the depression scale.
After a long chat, we decided the best course of action was to try some ‘thought challenging’. This was where as soon as a negative thought came into my head, I was supposed to ‘take it to court’, whereby I look at the evidence for and against what could happen.
For example, if I heard Rory stirring over the monitor, my first thought due to anxiety would be “oh no, he’s waking up. He’s not slept long enough.” Which would then turn into depressed thoughts…”He’s going to get overtired now and he won’t sleep well tonight either. It’s going to be another horrible night.”
So I was supposed to look at the evidence for this thinking, i.e. “He slept badly due to overtiredness in the past” and against it “he’s older now and sleeping better” or “he’s only stirred, he’s not woken up.”
I have to say, initially getting my frazzled brain to think rationally was really hard. I’ve always been a worrier and having depression and anxiety had made it so much worse. But slowly, gradually, over the weeks that passed, it started working. I sat and made myself think about the evidence that something bad could happen, and guess what? Nine times out of 10, what I was worried about happening never happened. And I started to feel better. Less miserable, brighter, less hopeless. I could look at my children without bursting into tears because I felt like I was failing them.s
Six weeks later, my counsellor was so pleased with my progress we decided I could be discharged, with the centre’s number on speed dial in case I needed to come back. Am I scared about facing up to it by myself again? Absolutely. I don’t ever want to feel like I did on that horribly low day again. But I’ve been given the tools to deal with my postnatal depression that seem to be working for me, the rest is up to me.