Saturday, 4 February 2012

I'm clean

Fifteen months after being referred to the doctor by the Health Visitor for post-natal depression I've been signed off. At my appointment yesterday I felt such a weight lift off my shoulders knowing I would no longer be taking support from Citalopram to help me navigate the hardest job I've taken on in my life.

It's such a shame that there is still so much ignorance of post-natal depression (and depression in general) - you'll have heard the ads on the TV and radio encouraging us not to judge those of us who suffer with it. I was therefore amazed to be sat in the waiting room at the doctors a while back to bear witness to unabashed ignorance alive and kicking, and from NHS staff. A real kick.

Minding my own business waiting for my turn, I'm half listening to the conversations of others, as you do. Tuning in and out to snippets of something and nothing. Then I focus:

"I don't get all this fuss they make over post-natal depression." said one Receptionist to the other. She's in her fifties.

"Me either. In our day we just got on with it, didn't we?"

"We did love, we did. I mean, you have to don't you? No use crying and feeling sorry for yourself."

I couldn't believe it, and to talk about it in full earshot of the waiting room. Hell, my blood was boiling and I wanted to get up and go and have a little word in their ear telling them to mind the topics of conversations they choose to have with no regard. I didn't. Instead I bit my tongue and mentioned it to my GP. I can't blame them - they're only talking about what they know. It just frustrated me.

PND for me was nothing to do with crying and feeling sorry for myself.

1) I felt I failed in childbirth - first I was induced and then I hit inertia at 4cm and had an emergency caesarian some hours later.

2) I felt I failed in breastfeeding - the one natural thing I could do for my newborn, and I couldn't. I was pushed from pillar to post by various people, the midwife, the health visitor, the breastfeeding support line. None of them diagnosed thrush in the nipple to be the cause of the excrutiating pain and it was only by chance I diagnosed myself and got treatment from the GP. By which time the skin on my nips had sloughed off completely making breastfeeding utterly impossible. I lasted 10 days and I still remember the nightmare of this experience clear as day.

3) I gained a beatiful child, perfect in every way. I lost my identity. My career. My routine. Unchartered territory that left me feeling resentment and dispair.

So next time I hear someone missing the point about PND, I won't be a shrinking violet and say nothing. I'll be up at that reception desk in a shot to put them straight. And so should you.

I have a new life now, a different identity, a new routine and it's far more fulfilling than my past life. Having Grace is more rewarding than anything else I've encountered and the rewards I get from being a Mother trump my old life hands down. Totally. After all, my Outlook Calendar and To-Do List never gave me a 'cuggle' or gave me a look that says simply 'I love you'.


  1. What a brilliantly written piece. Can't believe those receptionists!! I wouldn't have been able to bite my tongue! From one fellow sufferer to another-well done you for getting through it x

    1. Thanks Chloe! Funny isn't it how if we have a physical problem, broken leg/whatever - people see it, understand it and know you're in pain. Mental illness is such a closeted thing. Good on the people who came up with the idea for the current PR campaign.