When you think of people who may be lonely, parents aren’t probably the first who come to mind, but many are struggling with loneliness and isolation.
I always imagined when I had children I would be out at baby groups, meeting new mummy friends at cafes and living a sociable, fun life. My reality couldn’t have been more different.
After my first child was born I struggled with PND and severe Anxiety. The Anxiety lead me to suffer agoraphobia, and I soon became fearful & unable to leave my home. I quickly became a Mum who often spent 12 hours alone while my husband, and every other person I knew was out at work.
I had worked until my 36th week of pregnancy, and I’d been in a busy role as a school receptionist. I loved it, there was never a dull moment and I was surrounded by people. I’ve always enjoyed chatting, and socialising, so to go from one extreme to the other was a difficult transition for me.
I soon became resentful and angry at my husband for being able to leave the house and have ‘a life’. I envied him, that he could have conversations with other grown ups, while I sat at home with a newborn. If my mum didn’t pop in to see me, I felt upset and abandoned, I started to feel that no one cared about me, this only adding to my depression.
When my daughter was 2 months old, I braved a baby massage class, and while I enjoyed it, I came away feeling deflated and more isolated than ever. I expected to meet mums like me, but many had attended with a friend and the ‘cliques’ you often find at groups was something I didn’t expect. I exchanged some polite small talk but found it difficult, I felt so different to the other parents there. They all seem to be enjoying motherhood, they didn’t seem completely overwhelmed and terrified like I did. I know now that many put on a mask and they may very well have been feeling like me, but at the time, in my eyes, they were relishing their new life while I was fighting to enjoy mine. I was mourning my care free days, torn between the love I had for my child, and the desperate want just to be ‘me’ again.
When my eldest started nursery, I had come a long way in my recovery, and leaving the house was becoming easier again. I had no choice, I knew I would be now be doing a school run, so I made a decision to try and talk to others. Even if it was just making a point to say ‘Hi’ to neighbours or those I would see regularly on the walk to school; soon I was having conversations and it felt really good to be interacting with other people.
I had also met a huge community online via ‘PND and Me‘. Talking to others, even if just online instantly helped. I suddenly didn’t feel so alone.
Even now, there can be days where the only adult interaction I have is a quick ‘hello’ on the school run. But I know that there’s always someone to talk to online, or in my watsapp chats with friends. When I’m out shopping and an elderly person stops for a chat, or another mum tries to make conversation, I know it may be the only interaction they get, they might be lonely just like I was, so I happily talk with others. There’s many mums out there struggling with isolation, and it can be so daunting walking into a new group, but please know you’re not alone in feeling that way.
Check your online local Mum groups, or children centre groups. Join the online community with “PND and Me” if you’re struggling with maternal mental illness, or join online non judgemental Facebook groups, our local Essex one is “Mummy Buddies” (I particularly love this one!). Even though you might feel alone, you aren’t – I promise. There are so many who feel the same (over 90% of mums we surveyed last year said they felt lonely) so please, reach out, look at what’s around you and take the brave step to join if you can, it will be so worth it xx