5 years ago I was hanging on, living each day one dreaded day at a time. Everything felt too much, I was overwhelmed by responsibility, feeling completely empty of any positive emotion and anxious each second of the day. I was surviving, just.
During 2011 I was a newlywed, pregnant with our first child, we had just moved into a new family home and my life was, in my eyes, perfect. I had a job in a local school, which I loved, I was truly happy, and life was turning out just as I had planned *rolls eyes at how naive I was*
Then I gave birth and my world was turned upside down. Not because of my beautiful little baby, but because my mental health took an unexpected nosedive. I was plunged into postnatal depression, anxiety so severe I couldn’t leave my home, and maternal OCD which convinced me I needed to carry out routines to keep my precious baby alive.
Instead of looking towards my future with excitement, I was scared. I was constantly looking back and I missed my old life when I was carefree, positive, and thriving.
How could I ever feel ok again? Would I ever NOT be anxious? How do parents have these precious babies and not feel scared 24/7? I couldn’t eat, sleep, I was even crying when she was 3 months old at the thought of her going school.
I was angry and resented my husband for going to work and having adult conversations while I was stuck indoors, alone for 12 hours a day with a newborn. I felt like a robot, mindlessly doing my tasks, just to get through the day, then reliving that same thing the next day, and the next. I hated it, not my baby, just what my life had become.
Leaving the house became near on impossible, panic attacks were happening constantly. I started to be afraid of being alone, just Incase I died and no one would be here to look after my baby.
My picture perfect life had shattered into a million little pieces and I couldn’t see a way to put it back together again.
I felt the only way to escape and free my family from the burden that I was, would be to end my life. So I prepared, and one afternoon when things had all become too much I decided I would go through with my plan. But fate stepped in and I am forever grateful to my daughter for waking early from her nap. Jolting me back to the here and now with one simple word ‘Mummy‘. She sat up smiled and looked genuinely pleased to see me.
That was my rock bottom, a true turning point in admitting I needed help. From rock bottom there’s only one way to go and that’s up. So I began therapy, medication and counselling. It wasn’t easy, and the road to recovery was up and down, with progress and set backs. All in all, it was 3 years (another two babies and bouts of PND again) before I was better and no longer ‘just surviving’.
Today I’m recovered from maternal mental illness, however anxiety has and will always remain. I have leant a lot about myself, about mental health and what it means to me. I know what my triggers are, I know what to put into place to ensure I cope with any anxiety in the best way possible, and I’ve learnt the importance of self care. A valuable lesson I have learnt is the power of peer support and talking. Opening up to trusted friends, family, talking about how we feel and realising that we all have mental health. That 1 in 4 of us will struggle with mental illness at sometime in our life and we need to create a society that supports this and allows us to be open about it.
Today I am thriving. I am happy, and I love being a Mum. I’m no longer depressed, and anxiety, while there, doesn’t control my life anymore. If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d be happy again, that I had the strength in me to overcome this, I would never have believed them. It’s why I now share my story and try to spread awareness.
With the right support, the tools that help you, whether that be therapy, medication or both, it is possible to thrive with, not just survive mental illness.