After my third child was born I struggled. I never thought I could get postnatal depression. I never really thought of it as a real condition. I know how this must sound; mothers often talk about postnatal depression, but back then it was almost like 'I was listening but not hearing'. The information would become so distorted that by the end I wasn't really sure what to make of it. So for me, everything I understood of postnatal depression came as a 'Chinese whisper'.
To be perfectly honest, I never read much about it either but, being around so many mothers, I knew of a few who'd had it. Now looking back I never fully realised what they were going through.
My very first experience of being a mother was all about partying with family and friends and feeling joy and relief at not being dead after giving birth. The immense love I felt for this little baby surpassed everything else. Why would anyone feel down after giving birth to their child? I really couldn't comprehend it.
Even today after having experienced postnatal depression myself, I still don't quite understand what happened. All I know is I was struggling to get to the end of the day. As people would say 'I wasn't coping'. I wasn't coping with the amount of work, the constant attention required of me and the complete annulment of my own self. In the future I will post a few photos taken during my very low days, but today I'm going to share with you the bread work.
That's how it all started. Angry Eyebrows at breakfast.
I wasn't even trying to make my children eat. It just happened and now I have a collection of different bread emoticons. However, this is the one I feel represented me the most. Don't ask me why I was angry, I wouldn't be able to give you a straightforward answer. I guess that at times I felt like life was unfair and as I struggled through my day I was constantly reminded of it. Angry Eyebrows picture is my personal mental note not to take life too seriously, to relax and just enjoy what comes and goes.
This is what happened next:
I felt lonely. My husband working so hard and me back home spending the days with 3 little children... As much as you love them and would do anything for them you still need your space! I gave myself such a hard time thinking I was being difficult and should have got a grip. But in retrospect I think that essentially I couldn't accept being human. It was only human to feel the way I felt. I know that now.
These painted slices of bread talk about my frustrations during those days. Many have random words written on them - words that were part of the thoughts polluting my brain. It's difficult to pin point exactly what or when things went wrong. I just opened my eyes one day and there I was, without a choice left facing this illness. I guess that painting my children, and other random things I related to at that time, occupied my mind and somehow liberated it for a short while. Depression is just a stop on the way to acceptance and I think in my case painting bread sat somewhere between point A and point B.
My third child is now 1 year old and all those feelings have somehow gone. Of course I get my down days but I don't feel 'chronic' as I did last year. We still don't know what causes postnatal depression but one thing is sure, so much is expected from us as mothers; from our choice of birth to the way we feed our children, we often start this new journey being made to feel we've already failed. These days so much more is understood of our children and their world that it's difficult for us to tick all the boxes...
Things could have gone worse but luckily I managed to surface. I knew I was getting better when this work happened, it's called 'Seeing it through'.
© Amy Dignam 2013