I have lost count of the number of times I have thought or said this. You’d think I’d learn. Or at least see it coming. But every time I have a new pang of anxiety, it doesn’t merely feel like another pang of anxiety…
“This isn’t just a symptom of my condition this time. I feel this awful because I really am a disaster and this really is this bad.”
Even though I can see when I’ve calmed down that it was just the latest thing to worry about, whether it’s money or Mabel or my relationship or work or something I’ve said or something I’ve done, I can’t seem to stop another panic from coming. Each time it feels like the real deal and I don’t think I will ever be able to feel better because “this time it’s different”. I worry about everything, but the rate at which these worries gain momentum and spiral out of control is scary. I can start by seeing someone on TV with some interesting job or other, for example, which immediately makes me think about me not being a career woman or ambitious or earning tonnes of money or owning a house or being married and before I know it I have convinced myself yet again that I am a total disaster and have wasted my life and have never achieved and will never achieve anything. It seems ridiculous when I write it down, but at the time it is so, so, painfully real and leads to such self hatred.
“Be kind to yourself.”
Lovely, lovely advice, but so difficult to believe you should be kind to yourself when you really don’t think you deserve it. “Take an hour for a lovely long bath or read your favourite book or go for a walk.” Great ideas, but all of these things simply provide an hour of empty space where I can ruminate over all the bad decisions I have ever made or things that have ever gone wrong, as well as the future. The massive, unknown, scary, daunting future.
What an ungrateful, miserable cow.
I know. And that only makes me feel worse. The whole time I am jabbering on (in my head or out loud) about how terrible I feel, I am completely dismissing anything good in my life; most importantly, beautiful baby Mabel. After being told by doctors that I may have problems conceiving, and preparing ourselves for a long journey to parenthood, we were more than a little surprised to get pregnant as soon as we started trying. So I know how lucky I am, and remembering that so many women would give anything to be in my position makes me feel guilty. But postnatal (and any form of) depression can happen to anyone at anytime and it’s not your fault.`
Although I probably sound self pitying, I’m not writing this for sympathy. I just hope someone who is feeling a bit mad might read it and think, “At least I’m not the only one.” Because you are never alone when you have a baby, but at times you can feel incredibly lonely. So make sure you talk to someone. I am lucky enough to have a partner, family and several friends who I can talk to honestly about this stuff, and a doctor who has been brilliant. I am currently taking anti-depressants and having CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and it’s a big old journey, but we’ll get there eventually. The feelings pass and after each panic, where I really don’t think I’ll ever feel better, I always always do.