I’ve spent a lot of time searching online for a face similar to mine in the conversation of motherhood & mental health. I’ve yearned for a woman who was brave enough to bare her vulnerability and share her struggle in the hope of inspiring the next woman.
I didn’t find that woman & so I’ve decided to become her.
My story is raw & ongoing, but I hope by sharing, I can comfort women like me who have felt alone in their battle with postnatal depression (PND). Only recently have I found out just how many of us there are.
From reading and hearing the PND stories of others, I’ve realised that there always seems to be an underlying feeling of loss of control.
A lot of the time it’s difficulty breastfeeding that brings PND on. This wasn’t the case for me, my baby boy latched the first time around like the G that he is, and would even back & forth from boobie to bottle with no qualms at all. Tiredness was also not a major problem, as I can function on very little sleep & bubba started sleeping through the night after 8 (painful) weeks.
To be honest, loving my bubba was never the issue. More so myself. Life had changed dramatically and I was trudging along trying to stay positive. But that feeling of a loss of control began to rise to unmanageable levels when the other relationships in my life began to smother me. At times when I was exhausted & just wanted some time to re-adjust I would be forced into entertaining guests. Early on when I was attempting to get bubba into a routine, guests would invite themselves round & demand for me to wake him up. I would beg for “date nights”- a few hours to feel normal again- but would be made to feel ridiculous for asking for such. I was beginning to feel less like myself & more helpless & misunderstood every day and I was receiving 0 support. In fact I was receiving the opposite: ridicule, shame & a reluctance to understand. I’d become so sick of being unhappy & felt so alienated that on the 29th January 2016 I tried to end my life.
I’ve had a lot of insults thrown my way during my battle with PND. I’ve been called a joke, pathetic & weak. I’ve had my illness mocked, and been made to feel shameful for something I couldn’t control.
I believe a lot of the ugliness that I’ve been through these past few months could have been avoided with the proper support & understanding. But as a member of the black British community, this isn’t a privilege readily on offer to me. Black women going through PND (or any form of MH issue really) are labelled angry, bitter or difficult - we are not offered empathy. As men & women who have been taught to work hard, assimilate & ascend by any means, we tend to bottle up our feelings, so preoccupied with ego & outshining the next person that there is little room for vulnerability. Mental health issues are rarely recognised by black people and they’re discussed even less. But not discussing our issues means we’re not recovering from them; this is probably why we see so many POC with poor mental health wandering the streets, and why in the UK, black people are 44% more likely to be sectioned than any other race. We are suffering; we’re just refusing to address the matter before it’s too late.
It pains me to think that there are hundreds, if not thousands of UK black women suffering with PND alone because they don’t understand what is happening to them & are afraid that no one else will. Its 2017, the stigma needs to disappear; an education is needed.
It made my day seeing an influencer like Stormzy bravely speak up about his depression. What those who are insensitive to mental health issues need to see is that everyone has a mind, and yes you can be black, successful & cool & still suffer internally; it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
So, back to my story: There have been a lot of changes, but 5 months post-partum and I’m now in a better place. As the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I’ve definitely grown through what I’ve gone through & come out the other end more certain of who I am, and what I need. There are good days and not so good ones, but I now know how to cope with the latter.
What did I do to get there? I was honest with myself. After realising the only person that could help me was the woman in the mirror, I self-referred myself to the NHS talking therapy service & now attend counselling for my PND and anxiety. Other women I have spoken to find that group therapy with other mums battling mental health issues helps too. I’m helping others, I’m setting goals, I’m loving my son and I’m learning to love me again. There are resources out there, you just need to address the situation and go and get them. Be kind to yourself. Be patient & be strong; and by that I mean be vulnerable.
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