Light. Wonderful, wonderful light. Winter babies should come with a warning: may lead to solitary confinement. Take care with curtains. Remember to open them. Get out, for God sake, get out. It may have helped.
It’s only now that I can see the post-natal prison I sentenced myself to. Being my second caesarean section, I came at things with a different attitude. Must rest, I said. Staying in bed, not getting up, watch me. And you know, I healed very well. It took about three weeks and after that I felt much better, more glued, wound sealed. I took care of that, at least.
The problem with staying in bed, for weeks, in the dark, is that humans weren’t designed like that. Mushrooms, we are not. My scar healed. But something else got damaged.
Once out of bed, set free form the bedroom, to the sitting room and kitchen, where I shuffled, quietly, I thought I had made it. But I was only beginning. It’s a long way from the house to the outside world. Those walls are high. The mind is a terrible thing.
Prevented from driving, I used the six week ban as an excuse. Medical advice says I cannot. And why would I? Why climb that mountain of getting three people dressed, pushing my body into clothes that once stretched over a baby bump, and now hung, raggedly on my post baby frame?
I did not want to emerge, blinking, into an apocalyptic world.
It was easier to stay inside. And so I did.
The house became a new mountain. Small tasks became large obstacles to be overcome every day. Some days I succeeded, most days I did not. The baby suckled and slept. I wanted to live on the sofa forever. Nothing held any joy. I was lost. In despair. My husband scratched his head.
Where has my wife gone?
It was the light you see.
Things tumbled. I watched it coming from afar, in the distance. Heading towards me like a giant locomotive, puffing and steaming with the negativity I was building in my body, in my mind, in my home.
The train would crash. I would fall through that wooden barrier, splintering and spitting tracks and steam. The carnage would be great. But it would be the worst part. The loudest bang. The most shocking.
How did it come to this?
It would be the darkest day. The day of the most tears. Publicly, walking, shaking, petrified of the people and the cars and the streets. I was a shell of myself. A powerful engine, lying, on its side, stopped in its decimated tracks.
I couldn’t look the doctor in the eye. I don’t want the label, I said. I’m ashamed.
She was kind. So, so kind. She knew me from before. She knew this was not me.
I ignored calls, put up my arms, I could not deal with anyone else’s problems. I had to focus on me. I had to admit defeat, give in to what it was and what needed to be done.
I cannot believe this has happened to me.
After the crash, the rescue workers set about cleaning up the site. The came in their foil army, daily, helping, cleaning up the spillages in the brain. They wiped away the darkness, bit by bit.
They began to return nuggets of joy. Moments of happiness. It seemed the locomotive in crashing and ripping away the tracks had revealed some hidden gold underneath. An old life. A life I did not even realise has been chipped away, hacked till it was gone.
I began to feel normal. Bright. I began to cope. Again.
Life is wonderful I thought. How could I not see this before?
For two weeks I sailed through this new phase. I bounced around the house, whipping things back into shape, arranging the odd venture back out into the world, overjoyed that I was BETTER. Look at me, I thought. I have overcome this. That was easy. It was so, so easy. Thank God I tackled that. A trip to the doctor and I am healed.
I wasn’t healed. The righted train, back on its tracks, veered off, suddenly again. Not into the dust, not splintered and broken and carnage into the air. But through a tunnel. Another darkness. A path I had not seen coming.
And like any train journey when you are suddenly plunged into a tunnel, the shock was great. The light was there, and then it was gone. I had to wait to come out of it. I held my breath.
It took five days. And I realised. There may be many tunnels on this journey – they could appear at any time. But I had not derailed. I had kept going. Through the temporary dark. Back into the light.
We are some months into this train journey now. No tunnel has been as dark as the first. I can even tell when they may be coming up ahead, the warning signs flash, and I know that I must address it. That I must get out, for a walk, for a chat, to ensure the foil army is in place, to look at what may be causing the impending gloom.
After a long period of straight tracks, I let the foil army retreat. I don’t need you anymore I said. I packed them back to the pharmacy they had come from. And like a rookie army officer, it was a battle mistake. I hadn’t noticed the protection they were providing. Only when they were gone, could I see my vulnerability, how bare I was.
I brought back the foil army. I told myself I might need them for a long time yet. They are hardened, well tested soldiers. They are happy to stick around. I’m not the first general they’ve seen, who thinks they have won the war long before they have.
The train journey continues. Mostly it is smooth. Sometimes there are level crossings, but these are speedy and efficient, a little check to say… don’t forget.
My hair has been falling out. It descends in clumps, gathered in my hands, plastered to the wet shower walls. A hormonal drop.
As I study my temples in the mirror, noticing how exposed my scalp is, I fret that I look haggard, worn, a tired mama of two. But I welcome the hormonal change. I hope that is a return to the old me, a woman without the powerful surge of pregnancy.
I will never dismiss anyone’s tale of anxiety or depression again. I never understood it till now. I had no idea of the difference between a down day and a blackness. I had to feel it to understand it, to live it to learn.
Everything is helping. Talking, walking, admitting and now, this. Writing.
But most of all, it is the light.
The light shining, every day, at the end of tunnel, the target of my tracks.
Let the light never fade. Let me move, forward, blinking, into the light.
Never to return. To that darkest of place.
Nurture are a wonderful charity providing affordable counselling services for post natal depression. Visit www.nurturecharity.org
That’s such a raw and honest post Nicola. It’s so important to keep talking about these things
Well done Nicola for sharing that most painful of experience with your readers. I am sitting at my key board in tears . I have never had PN depression but have very good friends who have endured the nightmare of it and when i worked as a midwife I have certainly picked up some cases . This too shall pass( and the foil army are part of the recovery). I wish you light that bathes and comforts you.
Ah, great. I can say it here now. This is absolutely fabulous! Well done Nicola.