A Motherhood Taboo: Antenatal Depression

It’s funny, since I picked up the phone to a therapist in 2014 at three months pregnant, a number of people have said that I shouldn’t talk about ‘thinking’ I had antenatal depression.

Apparently it makes me sound bad, unloving and ungrateful about my pregnancy. I’ve even been told by healthcare professionals that I shouldn’t say I suffered with antenatal depression as I wasn’t diagnosed – so much so I place a million caveats ahead of broaching the subject with anyone and this really is the first time I’ve spoken about it to most of my friends. While we’ve made huge in roads with talking about post natal depression, my experience has been that the less common antenatal depression still has a load of taboos attached.

Prior to getting pregnant I had never suffered proper anxiety before. I had always been pretty up and down with stress, but proper debilitating can’t breathe anxiety was a new one on me. I first became aware that I wasn’t OK when I was sitting in the shower, tears streaming down my face unable to stand… I’d missed every sign up until that point but I couldn’t miss that one. It’s like my brain was screaming for help and as a last stand for me to take notice, it resorted to physical breakdown.

Of course, the crying in the shower wasn’t the moment it all started. No, no. With fresh eyes and perspective I can trace it back to the very moment the sonographer told me at 12 weeks, ‘It’s twins’.

The out of body experience I felt from that moment should have been my first clue. I saw my plans for me and my little baby disappearing before my eyes –  living simply and travelling the world. You see for anyone that doesn’t know me, I’m a planner and a control freak and a virgo (sorry for stating the obvious for those that do know me!). This huge life curve ball rattled my plans and the well oiled machine that was my life, and it did not sit comfortably.

As the weeks went by and the excitement from everyone around me intensified I felt myself disappearing. No longer feeling like a person people cared about, now just a vessel for these two little beings to come into the world.

Long story short, I did get through it. I found help quickly in the form of a wonderful therapist who created an open forum for me to say everything I felt too afraid to say to anyone else. Who listened and didn’t judge and offered me incredible coping mechanisms to help me put one foot in front of the other on the path to motherhood.

Now I’m going to resist the caveat of stating the obvious – that never for one moment have I not loved both of my boys – that I would take a bullet for them, and that they are my world – because you know that already. (Oops looks like I didn’t quite manage it) Mental illness isn’t about that. For mothers it’s the worst, because it’s just about me, and as soon as that stick turns blue you know it’s can’t just be about you anymore.

Fast forward four years, in fact from the time I gave birth – those feelings of anxiety have subsided and the attacks that had been frequent in pregnancy have eased. Most importantly I know the warning signs and the triggers so I can (hopefully) start working on myself long before I’m crying in the shower.

Occasionally it does happen though. I’m learning that’s just me. I am a work in progress, I’m not perfect but I’m constantly striving to improve and evolve. I continue to have epic highs, but  you have to come down eventually. By taking time to talk I’ve learnt the crash doesn’t have to be too great.

In honour of #timetotalk day today I wanted to make it clear that I will always have Time To Talk to anyone about mental illness. It’s OK, it doesn’t make you sound bad, unloving or ungrateful. It makes you real and honest and brave.