Hardwork is my remedy

Over the past year, the very meaning of depression has become apparent to me. I have previously defined my experience of depression as ‘postnatal’ after all as a Mum of three children under 7, that seems like the less daunting reason for the way I feel. This would be completely justifiable in my circumstances and in the circumstances of many women. Now, I wouldn’t usually accept a male perspective on the intensity of labour, however my Father said something to me that changed my outlook on birth from my second child. The empathic man that he is, he told me as I dwelled on the fear and anticipation of giving birth for a second time “the thing is Beth, labour is called labour because it is laborious. It’s hard work but you can do it” – in that moment, I was so focussed on the pain of labour that his comment completely stunned and rationalised the situation for me. He transformed my approach to labour, he turned my fear of unpredictable pain into something I could hold and control.

Hard work is a constant within motherhood, it builds up resilient, dedicated and selfless individuals. How then, could such an experience cause depression. For many, postnatal depression, anxiety and trauma is a very real part of their ongoing experience. We can however embrace the hard work of motherhood as an experience like no other, one that not only makes us fulfilled Mothers but skillful individuals that have an abundance of maturity and experience to bring to our careers and relationships.

The reasons behind my depression are deep and personal. I do however, feel immensely grateful for the hardwork I have in front of me, from toddler tantrums to university papers; I feel a huge sense if fulfillment in my role of Mum and truly believe it is a constant remedy for the depression I experience.

Thank you Dad for being the rational, caring and bold individual that you are.

Speak your Mental Health.

Depression feels like a loyal acquaintance. The friction of its presence sands me down gently, sometimes roughly. The gentle whittling of its character, transforms my physical self into sediment rock – unyielding yet fragile. My shoulders hunch forward and my chest draws in, as I protect my heart from the pain in my mind.

Speak your truth, Speak your mental health.

Washed away

Washed away by emotions. They’ve tugged at me left, right and from my centre. My core tense like rock as I’m left in this open space, running a cycle that never let’s up. All I see is bleakness, so much motion yet nothing to grab on to.

I express my worries, the room caves in. As a voice bellows over my concern, I wish I wish I never spoke. How do I stand strong as I am? How can I be me when my words are belittled and blamed.

Yet my pain throws me further into this open space, what does it matter if you let it all go? Allow the fire to burn this room? Your shadow raises up towards me, I retreat trembling like the prey of the lion. Put in my place once more, apologies flow from my eyes and bounce off my lips.

The life of so many, if the power of this pain could be bottled up. The world would implode, life would be free. My God holds me.

For as long as our bodies are living, so is our mental health.

According to the NHS, 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer with postnatal depression within the first year of having a baby. The evidence shows that this is an issue impacting many women but I really struggle to put a timescale on postnatal depression. I believe that pregnancy, birth and being Mum presents experiences that can be traumatic on many levels and prompt ongoing feelings of anxiety and depression. We also have to factor in hereditary conditions and personal circumstances external to motherhood.

Postnatal depression is indeed a prevalent condition for this generation but I believe many women feel safe holding on to the diagnosis of ‘postnatal depression’ because it presents the idea that eventually it will come to an end and like any other physical injury it will heal over time. This is the narrative I used to tell myself about my own experience of being a Mum, yet 8 years down the road I have come to the realisation that in fact I do suffer with depression. From a young age, I remember moments where I struggled to understand why people had such a big problem with my shyness and quiet nature. The consistent unintentional attack on my character gave me a complex that was hard to shake off. Every social situation I entered into, I anticipated people to view me as a shy individual who had nothing to say and would have limited opportunities because people would not want to invest time in understanding me.

As sad as this story may sound, today I am a proud quiet natured person who enjoys speaking my mind when I know it is relevant and beneficial for myself or others. Unfortunately I am left with a number of experiences that stay in their place in my memory, reminding me of how I felt when people pointed me out, the embarrassment and the judgement can be recalled.

The same way, when the midwife told me “to get up and take responsibility” as my 20 year old self tried to snooze and understand the dynamics of feeding and caring for my first baby. The judgement and tone of her voice tore through my sensitive, prone to anxiety and sadness type of character. These examples of mine are mild and at times quite amusing, but there are moments that will wipe me out and turn my attempts to sleep a time for distress and tears as I recall the traumas.

When we try to define our mental health, just like in school we are looking for the right group for us to fit in to. The group that sounds most like is, the group that is most welcoming. We have to understand that our time is never up, we do not have to define ourselves by our current circumstances. Look left and right, see how our traumas of the past and hope’s for the future are effecting us today. Our stories are wealthy in education, the past is gone but the emotions very much live on.

Do not be afraid of seeking further help from your support systems, do not be afraid of judgement. Whether you are returning to work or to the playground, it is no ones business to tell you how long you should be suffering with postnatal depression for. The timescale for mental health is non existent, for as long as our bodies are living, so is our mental health.

Take some time to think about mental health and what it means to you. How do you define your mental health, is it by a diagnosis, is it by your personal understanding? Whatever your experience is, start a process of accepting that there will be ups and downs, people may judge and say hurtful things but these things only see you for face value. Your mental health story holds so much richness, so much value and during lifes spinning wheel things will be rough and smooth, we will be small but develop as more substance (experience) is added.