Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Daily Bread ♥

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


  1. Wow. wow. wow. As always Amy you display your feelings so beautifully through words and artwork. Breathtaking. And brave! xxxxx

    1. Thank you Kate! I really appreciate your encouraging words xxx

  2. ..."I think that essentially I couldn't accept being human"... on a completely different level, but I can totally relate to these words. The problem is, depression is an illness like many others (chronic or temporary - it doesn't matter), and yet, it carries this stigma that makes us feel it is shameful to even admit of suffering from it. And it's wrong, because like every illness that affects our body, it simply is part of our being human and imperfect. I strongly feel that one big step towards recovery is accepting our limitations and then freely talking about them. Your art throughout this period beautifully (and sadly) expressed your emotions and it looks like eventually helped you decipher those emotions that you were probably struggling to express to anyone else... You're blessed to have such a gift. Many people have no outlet and struggle to find their way back when they go through such hardship... You writing this post is truly inspiring... <3

    You raise another really interesting point where you state that a lot is expected of mothers, "from our choice of birth to the way we feed our children"... It's interesting how we view this as advancement, a sign of freedom and emancipation, and yet, at times, it's actually an extra burden on the mind of a woman who might be feeling overwhelmed by all the choices, responsibility and subsequent impact this might have on her children... I'm not a mother, so I have no idea of what it feels like, but I just thought this was a great discussion point... maybe for a future post?

    Love your blog. Keep it up girl! Your writing is beautiful. xxxx

    1. Thanks for your incredible insights Betta. You truly grasped the nature of this post and you're right, I also feel that there is room for further writing. I'm sure this topic will come up again in future posts. xxx

  3. Hi Amy
    Just found your amazing blog!, After my third child I went into super woman mode and went back to work full time after 7 weeks moved to England from Australia at 6 months and completed a one year degree after 18 months then cracked up and walked out on my husband with my kids in the car and looking back now I must have had a complete breakdown! I couldn't do anything except survive for at least 6 months my friend said I was in my yoga moment where I could only think an hour a head or behind! I am terrified that this will happen to me again but I think the shock of being pregnant unexpectedly after having a still birth put me in denial and after he was born I still couldn't accept that Id had him until one day I woke up and realised he was the best thing that ever happened to me and over compensated by never leaving his side! Crazy thing this motherhood lark but once the gloom of sleepless nights and nappys fade it all starts to feel much calmer, as a creative type myself it is hard with no moments of quiet to put down our ideas in the ways we once may have but with that lack of time we become inventive and your bread is fantastic it does look like that was what was at hand at the time and I really think many will relate to that. x

    1. Thanks Ruth. I've always thought your story is unbelievable and I have so much respect for you as a mother and as an artist. I can totally relate to you when you say you went into 'super woman' mode. I think I did (and perhaps still doing) the same...I am a bit worried when I think of how will I feel once it will all calm down...where will I be emotionally? How will I cope with what I am glossing over today - in terms of my feelings and my own person. xxx