Like millions of others on this planet I’ve a history of depression. It’s forever recorded in my medical notes; the dominant narrator of my past that has shaped the person I am today and for many years took over my life’s driving seat while I watched on somewhat numb and perpetually medicated.
In a way I don’t mind that I have it (and when I say have it I believe once you do it never really goes away, you just manage it and have blissful periods of relief) because I think it has made me more sensitive to life and more empathetic towards others. When I meet someone who doesn’t ‘believe’ in depression I swiftly come to the conclusion that person is a complete twat – and I’m always right. So I’m glad I’m not a twat (I don’t think!)
Anyway my depressive lapses was something that played on my mind a lot before becoming pregnant. Is it a good idea?? Will the hormones set it off? Will I helplessly spiral into the pits of hell over which I’ve precariously circled so many times before??! Fuck knows!!
I’m a bit stubborn and decided that I needed to take away it’s power and do what I felt I needed for me and not to let it dictate my choices when wanting to start my own family. As it had done MANY times before. It, along with it’s fellow FEAR, that hold so many back from realising their full potential.
Who isn’t depressed these days?! I told myself. And I’m right. A series of events forever readjusted my brain’s chemistry and led to my depression nearly fifteen years ago and so I’ve became accustomed to dealing with it. But the amount of peers coming out of the woodwork who are dealing with it now is truly shocking! I blame Facebook.
For the first few months of my pregnancy, although rough at times, I never felt depressed. Yes! I gleefully thought to myself…I’ve gotten away with it!
Nope. Apparently it doesn’t work like that.
I’m just over 25 weeks pregnant and sure enough the familiar old feelings I’ve gotten very used to have began to surface: chronic teariness, wanting to completely isolate myself, doubting my decision and worrying I’ve made a huge mistake, losing interest in activities and being super antisocial, being VERY irritable and impatient with those around me, fearful of the future, wanting to run away, hating going to work, feeling lacklustre and not putting as much effort into my appearance… I could go on all day!
I know these feelings. I know them like old obnoxious friends who show up to your door unannounced and you get totally exhausted entertaining them because they don’t take the hint when to leave .
People always talk about postnatal depression, but what about antenatal depression? What options are available to pregnant women who are suffering it now?
‘Ack, it’s just your hormones’, people dismissively say when I dare to open up about how I feel, leading me to retract back into my shell. I’ve read its very common for women to not express how they feel during or after pregnancy through fear they will be seen as an incompetent mother. And I honestly get it. And it honestly puts a dampner on what I wanted to be a blissful experience.
I often wonder if my own mother had these feelings when she was pregnant or did women generations ago not ‘think’ so much and just get on with? My mum had two sons before me and my sister. They both died in childhood before I was born due to severe disabilities. She talked a lot about them as I was growing up but never in a sad, depressive way. Not once did I hear her say her life was tragic or that it was unfair for her to have to lose not one but TWO children before she’d even hit her thirtieth birthday. Where did that strength come from?! I really envy the way she never felt sorry for herself – and that she had the balls to carry on and risk having another two kids not knowing if we would survive either?! What a champion!!
I don’t know if it’s the social constructs in place now or that cultural values have shifted but something is definitely off. Lack of stable employment (if you can even get a paying job in this country) post-college and the debts that one accrues from going there; rising cost of living that coincides with falling wages. The pressure on a woman to have a career, carry a child, make a home and run it with same gusto as a fully fledged business woman… Is it any wonder half of us are exhausted from just trying to get through each day?!
My mum was a stay-at-home mum until I reached about ten, when she then became a nanny for a few years and then worked in a care home. I feel like she didn’t have that pressure of ‘time’ on her shoulders that I, and many I confide in have. That idea that time is running out at a rapid pace and I have to achieve everything yesterday. Or if I do achieve something it’s never good enough or even worse, irrelevant?
The problem with having to achieve all the time means that we are setting ourselves up to fail, because that idea is unachievable. Hence leading to feeling inadequate and depressed and completely losing the ability to live in the moment and appreciate the here and now.
I’ve researched options for antenatal depression and know that medication is not something I am willing to do right now. Yoga for pregnancy (which I would HIGHLY recommend!), walking and spending time off work and in the company of like-minded people who really understand what I’m feeling helps. My antisocial-ness obviously isn’t great at the moment; however, I really find it hard to spend time around people who give me bad advice or make me feel awkward – I really don’t want to be told that breastfeeding is a waste of time thank you very much!
It’s easy to lose focus during such a massive life upheaval when becoming a first time mum, but as my cousin keeps reminding me when I feel really low ‘Just keep thinking about your son who you’re doing all this for!’. What simple yet wonderful advice. Sometimes I forget that at the end of the endless tunnel, I’ll get to meet my son and build a loving relationship with him, in ways I never even thought possible. And then a small bud of hope and excitement begins to flower in my heart and the cloud separates. If only briefly, because past experience has shown me that a red sky in a dark night makes for wonderful weather the next day.