I called my doctor the other day – I needed an updated referral to ensure I could continue seeing my psychiatrist. It was fitting that I needed a new referral, as I was seeing my psychiatrist to discuss the beginning of a new era: the weaning-off-my-meds-era.
After ‘The’ appointment had been made with my psych, I sat and reflected on how much I’d changed in the 14 months since my daughter’s birth.
I thought about my newfound patience, resilience, compassion, obsession with the TV show Pawn Stars; and it was just as I was considering how steep of a learning curve I’d navigated, that I came to a somewhat startling realisation: I was thankful for my mental illness. I might not be completely rid of my demons, and I certainly still have bad days, but I’m mentally stronger and more balanced than I’ve ever been in my life.
Frankly, I prefer the new me, and the new me wouldn’t be here without PND.
Here are my top five reasons I’m thankful I was diagnosed with postnatal depression.
I put on 18 kilos with my daughter, but I was already the heaviest I’d ever been before she was even conceived.
Needless to say, I was a loooonnnggg way off fitting into ANYTHING in my wardrobe after she was born. Difficult to worry about pants not making it up past my thighs though, when I was slamming doors so hard, bits of paint were chipping off the frames and fluttering, like snowflakes, to the floor.
For the first time in my life, my mental state was more of a priority than my physical appearance. I. Just. Didn’t. Care.
And to be honest with you, despite the mess my mind was in, it was liberating.
Perspective. image supplied
NEW-FOUND APPRECIATION FOR FAMILY.
Before I started my meds, I was angry. I had a rage in me that I had to fight to control (see slamming doors in point above).
I was just so mad at the world. But as soon as my meds kicked in and provided me with the chemical stability my brain had clearly been craving, I realised just how much I needed my mum. And dad. And sister. And brothers.
My appreciation for them knew no bounds. My mornings, once fraught with tears and boredom, I filled with visits to my parents’ house, whereupon I was immediately relieved of baby carrying duties and force-fed homegrown figs.
I honestly do not know where I would be without my parents, siblings, and those bloody amazing figs.
My depression helped me understand that I can’t take care of another human if I’m not taking care of myself.
I eventually learnt that cleaning the house + feeds + cooking dinner + grocery shopping + play dates + laundry + no rest/sleep = meltdown in the middle of Target when I can’t find the bandanna bibs.
Carving out time for myself became a non-negotiable. I painted my toenails. I sat on the couch and drank coffee out of my favorite cat mug. I left baby girl at the gym crèche and ran. I drank nutrient-dense smoothies – I nourished my body and mind so I could be in the best possible state to do all the things I needed for myself, and my child.
MASTER OF MY MOOD.
I learnt that happiness doesn’t just happen: you need to choose it, then you need to work for it.
I also learnt that I can’t rely on anyone for my happiness – it needs to come from within. Not only is it an unfair expectation to place on another person, it’s simply not a feasible way to live. So, I filled my life with things that made me happy – like writing, chocolate, and cats.
Then I brought that happiness to my relationship with my husband and daughter. This is not to say that they are not a source of happiness for me – they are – but I am mindful of the fact that any happiness I feel from their actions is a beautiful bonus. My happiness should come primarily, from within.
When I was finally able to gain some clarity thanks to my antidepressants, I realised that I hadn’t been mentally well for a long time.
In fact, now I believe my depression actually started just before I made my career change - years prior to having my baby, but I simply hadn’t dealt with it. Well, I might have been plodding along, ignoring all the sad feelings in my 20s, but, as a mother, I simply couldn’t do that anymore.
My mind was so full of crap like regret and embarrassment that it started spilling over. And guess who copped it? My family – and yep that includes the precious bundle I birthed.
I wanted happiness for the people I loved, but my baggage was making me miserable, which in turn made them miserable. So, I started to sort through all the rubbish in my mind: I marched my demons out one by one and slaaaayyyyed.
Today, I am a different person to who I was a mere 14 months ago, and I really doubt I would have undergone my transformation had I not being diagnosed with, and met my mental illness head-on. It took and still takes work, patience, and courage. But once I emerged from the darkest place I had ever been – I was profoundly changed. For the better. So, to anyone fighting their way out of the clutches of PND – please believe me – there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is brighter than you could ever believe.
Marina is a freelance writer living in Melbourne. She splits her days between the written word and (s)mothering her toddler. She has previously been published on Scary Mommy, Mamamia, and The Good Mother Project. Visit her website, Slay-at-Home-Mum, to connect with her and read more of her work.