Well, I said I’d explain what’s been going on recently, so I shall. Here goes. *deep breath*
The dreaded PPD has struck again.
Thankfully, it’s nowhere near as bad as the last time. And, it feels different in many ways, too – part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to figure out why I’m angry most of the time, and why everything feels wrong.
It’s taken me a while to realise that not everybody feels the same way as me. I feel as though there are two versions of myself – there’s the responsible wife and mother, devoted to her young family. And then there’s the “real” Imogen – the reckless, irresponsible, loud and vivacious life and soul of the party who’s always looking for an opportunity to escape the humdrum of her normal life and plummet head first into whatever crazy situation happens to present itself. I crave my childless past in the same way that a smoker craves nicotine – with an insistence and a ferocity that causes everything else to fall by the wayside. It’s an itch that I have no way of scratching.
The good news is that I don’t feel as though I need medication this time. Not yet, anyway. I am struggling to cope but I am just about keeping on top of things at present. Instead of heading for the meds, I am going to try to focus on diet, exercise and other constructive ways of lifting my mood.
Don’t get me wrong – I am in no way anti-medication, especially for mental health issues. I have taken depression medication in the past, on two separate occasions, and responded well both times. I had few side effects and they really helped me dig myself out of the hole I had fallen into. This time, however, I feel as though I can kick this myself – my issues are definitely exacerbated by circumstance, so if I can just get myself energised enough to “power through” for a while, I think things will improve vastly. Medication won’t help me now – I need therapy, and when I can afford it, I will have it.
Having said that, I will not shy away from taking medication if things don’t improve soon. The last thing I want to do is put my children through the hell of living with a mother with untreated PPD.
This whole thing has really shown me how varied the symptoms of postpartum mental illness can be. There are so many different symptoms, and it won’t necessarily feel the same way each time you suffer from it. You might be “textbook”, or you may have just a handful of the symptoms along with some others that you might not have read on the lists. A fantastic resource for postpartum illness and support is Postpartum Progress, and this post in particular explains the symptoms of PPD in “plain mama English”. I read this a few days ago, and with each sentence it felt like I was being hit in the chest, bam bam bam, with the realisation that it isn’t normal to hate your life most of the time. It isn’t normal to lose your temper at the drop of a hat. It isn’t normal to honestly wonder why on earth you were blessed with these wonderful children that you don’t deserve. It isn’t normal to adore your children but simultaneously rue the day you chose to have them because you just can’t cope with the responsibility, and it isn’t normal to pine after days gone by with the kind of sadness that brings tears close to escaping. Of course, it IS normal to experience these feelings SOMETIMES – but as the exception, rather than the rule.
I am very grateful that I feel able to tackle this without medicine, at least for now. And I am grateful that I have (and continue to develop) a fantastic bond with my kids.
So, lovely readers, this is why I haven’t really been on top form recently. I hope it goes some way to explaining why I have gone through periods of time where I simply cannot bring myself to check the facebook page or twitter feed, let alone update it, or why I can’t seem to motivate myself to churn out more than two or three blog posts each week. I will try to post about my journey to kicking PPD’s backside into touch for good on a regular basis, so that at least something constructive can come out of this.
I know that many would feel that this is oversharing, attention seeking or otherwise self-serving. I guess it is self-serving in a way – it certainly makes me feel better to share this. However, more than that, I really feel that sharing this will serve a purpose. It pains me that there is still such stigma surrounding mental health issues, so more than anything I have to share this to do my bit in showing the world that mental health issues are not “pretend” illnesses, they’re not just something you can “get over”, and they are most certainly nothing to be ashamed of.