Postnatal depression experience submitted by: @rubysuzecreates
I consider myself to be a strong woman; a go getter, focused & hard working. I did well in my exams at school, got a good degree, worked in the fashion industry for luxury brands. I became a teacher in an inner London school. I got married at the start of the worst recession the UK has ever experienced. I have served in my local church for the past 20 years. I struggled with fertility challenges for 5 years, had my fallopian tubes removed and then finally had my children through IVF. Yes, I consider myself to be a strong woman. Imagine then, that it came as a complete shock when I found myself curled up in my kitchen, weeping uncontrollably and unable to speak. It was a terrifying, almost out of body experience – I had suffered a mental meltdown.
Looking at these words in black and white, makes everything seem so real. This is the first time I have publicly admitted what has really happened over the last few years and I am scared. I am scared of lots of things; being thought of as ‘weak’ but most of all I’m scared of being labelled/stigmatised. I’ve struggled with writing this article, literally had a tug of war in my mind. But, I finally came to the conclusion that the possibility of helping someone who needs to hear this message, far outweighs my need to stay safe – secure behind the image I want other people to see.
You see, there’s an image I have been trying to protect – I’m known as the dependable, ‘can do’ chick and I didn’t want to let the team down. After suffering the meltdown I was so angry, annoyed with my mind and emotions for creating such a panic and letting me down.
Counselling helped me to understand what happened to me that afternoon, it encouraged me to be kind to myself and helped me to trace my steps back. I held nothing back in my counselling and it helped me to realise that I hadn’t been right for a long time. I had been running on empty but wasn’t sure how or where to stop. I came to understand that I had been suffering from post natal depression for 3 years and hadn’t admitted it.
You see, during my fertility challenges I was disgusted with my own feelings of envy whenever I would see swollen pregnant bellies and so I felt incredibly guilty that I didn’t feel ‘well’. Here, I was a mother to a miracle and I felt numb. It seems ungrateful to admit that I felt nothing, blank, numb, about something I had once craved. I had a gorgeous healthy child but, there wasn’t this gooey, gushy feeling like you see in the movies. I was heartbroken. I wanted desperately to feel something but, no matter how deeply I searched – NOTHING.
I would feel most depressed whilst breastfeeding my son. It was like a black cloud hung over my head. I hated it. Scared by this stifling feeling, I spoke secretly to the health visitor who suggested I stopped breastfeeding. I said nothing to anyone. I was scared that my child would be taken from me. I was afraid I would be judged as unable to cope, ungrateful and ‘unchristian’ – as anything derived from depression is often seen as a demonic attack rather than emotions/issues that are needing to be processed.
Fast forward about 21 months later; I was a working mother of 2 under 3, experiencing marital challenges and pressures at work. The battle of my mind had become tiring. I was constantly convincing myself that I was a good mum, worthy of having children. I continued saying very little to anyone about my deep feelings, just smiling and grinding through it all. I had to continue to be that strong woman, didn’t I?! Until one day, I collapsed at work and was signed off. I was left with no option but to face it all.
It was and is an ugly process – digging up the past like an archaeologist searching for bones but counselling has worked. In the black community it is often frowned upon and in the African community, it can be deemed as ungodly if it’s not delivered by a church. I have benefited a great deal from professional Christian counselling. I have discovered that I suffered from D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex) which is what affected my breastfeeding as well as post natal depression. It has allowed me to understand that my greatest strength can be to recognise when I’m feeling weak and to whisper, cry, shout, write or wave ‘help’.
I’m not totally there yet. I won’t pretend to say that I feel completely whole. I still have a battle in my mind. I still take the way my children behave as an extension of me but I am so glad I am nowhere near where I once was. I am a strong woman. I’ve said yes when I should have said no. I have taken on more than my fair share. I am a strong woman. I have broken down because my son wouldn’t eat his mashed potato. I am a strong woman. The presence of weakness in me doesn’t eradicate the existence of strength in me. I feel like Jacob must have done when his hip got broke, walking but with a limp. A constant reminder that I cannot rely on ‘me’. I have to look after ‘me’ afterall… there’s only one me.
If you’ve suffered from post natal depression like me and you have dismissed it because you have associated post natal depression with ‘mad’ women who want to hurt their babies and not the numbness that you feel, or perhaps you are afraid that your children will be taken from you, or perhaps you just don’t want the world thinking ‘that’ of you – please – whisper, cry, shout, scream, write or wave ‘help’. I’m sorry that you feel alone but, I’m finally ready to stand up beside you and break this stigma. My name is Ruby Suze – I’ve struggled with post natal depression and I’m still here.
RubySuze is an illustrator and aspiring author. Connect with here here: Instagram: @rubysuzecreates