My husband sent me an article today.
It was titled, “Postnatal depression and anxiety: Why we aren’t talking about mums and rage?” He sent the link in a text message. Two seconds later a second message comes through: “Love you.”
I am 29 years old. I have four daughters aged six months, one, three and four. Yes, we had four under four.
Over the past few weeks I have been struggling. However, these familiar feelings of explosive anger are not new to me. I had almost this exact experience when baby number three was also aged around six months.
The smallest thing the girls did would absolutely rile me. More often than not, their first interaction with me for the day would be me yelling at them. For bursting into my room and potentially waking the baby, for thundering up and down the hallway, it could have been anything. I would wake in the morning, filled with dread, knowing that I had to get through nine hours alone with the kids until Mr came home. I would pray that he wouldn’t wake any of them whilst he was getting ready for work, and then hope he wouldn’t choose to ride the motorbike because the roar as it starts always wakes at least one of them. I couldn’t tell him that though, “Honey, please take the car, I don’t want to see the children just yet”.
What kind of monster mother doesn’t want to see their children in the morning?
They want to be with me. All the time. They follow me around and look up at me with their eager, expectant little faces and I just want them to go away. To leave me alone for five minutes, to stop asking things of me, to stop pretending they can’t do anything so I will do it for them, to stop crying at the drop of a hat. The crying. Oh my God, the crying. Does it ever end?
Even as I’m thinking these things I feel like a dreadful person. After I’ve screamed at my eldest to help her sister put her gumboots on, because I’ve asked her to do it five times, but she’s still standing there watching the bloody television – I feel like a dreadful person. After I’ve ranted at my three-year-old that she should be able to put her own fucking gumboots on by now – I feel like a dreadful person. She looks at me terrified, bursts into tears and runs to her room. It makes me angrier.
Some days it gets to be too much and I cry. I ring Mr at work and sob that the baby pulled my hair, or I’m in the Aldi car park and my bags are too heavy and I can’t lift them into the car. Then I feel bad because I’ve burdened him at work, and made him feel helpless because aside from talking me through it, there’s not much he can do right now except perhaps call one of our mums and ask her to come and help me. My mother-in-law ‘drops in’ regularly on the days my mum isn’t around. She says she was in the area, and we both pretend it’s true, and that Mr hasn’t called her and asked if she’d go and give me a hand. At night I apologise to the kids, tell them I love them and that I’ll try harder tomorrow.
Experiences like these make up our daily life.
The first time this happened my family staged an intervention of sorts, urging me to go and speak to someone. I knew something was up. I’m not an idiot. It couldn’t be the ‘D’ word though. Depression.
I’m not sad. Nothing traumatic has happened to me. People who have depression have had something awful happen to them. That’s not me. I’m not depressed. I’m was then the mother of three lovely girls, the baby being a complete dream. She was (and still is) a happy, easy-going lass who certainly wasn’t getting me down. So therefore it couldn’t be PND either. I was just pissed off all the time, for no apparent reason aside from feeling overwhelmed at times, as do all mothers. Plus I couldn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. If I told someone, they’d think I was a danger to the children and take them away from me. They would deem me an unfit mother and I’d never see my babies again.
Eventually I took my family’s advice and went to the GP for a ‘mental health plan’, which I found totally humiliating. I felt like doing so was admitting I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I wanted the kids, and now I couldn’t hack it. I also made an appointment with a psychologist. It was the best thing I ever did. The vain part of me enjoyed talking about myself for an hour a week, but out of that came some understanding as to why I am the way I am. Before this happened I had never been an aggressive person, an angry person. I have always been an anxious person, and I only discovered a few years ago that not everybody felt this way.
These days the main source of my anxiety is (unsurprisingly) parenting. I worry I’m doing it wrong. I worry that they will worry. All I ever really wanted to be was a mummy. It’s my job, and I take it very seriously. I want to get it right, because I don’t want my kids sitting in a psychologist’s office when they’re older because I’ve messed them up.
Parenting is really f*cking hard. There is so much information available to us now at the click of a button. No matter what you’re doing, which (if any) method you follow, there is someone out there telling you you’re doing it wrong. The main thing I took from my therapy visits is to CHILL THE F*CK OUT! Pick my battles. If they pull every single toy out of the toy box, so what? At the end of the day, we put it all back.
Listen: Hello Bump on the first six weeks and how to recognise the signs of PND. (Post continues...)
I took some antidepressants last time, for a couple of weeks, but stopped when I found out I was pregnant with number four. I make no judgement towards women who take medication whilst pregnant, you do what you gotta do to get through it. Around that time my mum retired to help me, so with that and my continued therapy sessions, I was able to manage it myself. This time has been much the same, except I was able to recognise a lot quicker what was going on. I joined a local gym a few months back and am trying to motivate myself to go at least twice a week.
Another difficult part of this is that I know depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and good diet and exercise helps to remedy that, but I just can't be bothered to be honest. I would rather sit on the couch and watch Outlander with a block of chocolate than go to the gym, but I’m getting there. I’m trying to take some time for myself. I am working with a nutritionist friend of mine, to try some supplements as an alternative to medication, but failing that I would return to the GP for a prescription if things were not improving. I will book an appointment with the psychologist. I have also started a Facebook page called Four Under Four. I use it as a form of online therapy, to prove to myself that I do know a thing or two about raising four girls.
I was spending so much time worrying about being the perfect parent, reading articles and researching what I should be doing, that I wasn’t playing with them, spending time with them, teaching them things, reading to them, being silly with them, listening to them. I don’t think I will ever not be an anxious person, the battle for me is to not let it get in the way.
I’m working on it.
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If you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms of post-natal depression, Mamamia urges you to contact PANDA.