After a hard, long day, something struck me: caring is hard. That’s not to say that it’s not natural and hugely important to care for those around you, but it can be supremely taxing on your mental, and physical, well-being. That’s why we find the news so difficult sometimes, the constant posts about the world can be truly painful and it’s not surprising friends of mine are tailoring their social media to avoid the negativity.
And yet, post-natal depression, in my experience, is numbing. I knew I loved, and love, my new daughter but there were definite points where I couldn’t completely feel it. It was like I was caring for a stranger – it was still important, still necessary, but I didn’t know them or why they were in my life at that moment.
After two months I started on daily medication which actually seems to be working. I’m not a fan of pills, but mainly for the annoyance that I have to remember to take something regularly than an ideology against the professionals (being a daughter of a GP has taught me better than that). A small dose has allowed me to stop crying quite so often, get myself back into occasional social situations, feel more able to see the positives (even to the point of annoying my husband with Pollyanna-like replies), and simply more able to cope with the extraordinary task of mothering a lively toddler and her baby sister (as well as a saintly long-suffering dog).
So what’s the downside? I can feel myself caring again, loving again, and love hurts. I am emotionally and physically attached to this beautiful little person for the majority of my current life. I am aware of how I might let her down, invested in her future, and desperate to be the best I can for her. Being numb was in some ways easier because I was going through the motions. People grab all sorts of things to numb themselves: alcohol, non-prescription drugs, sex, even reading and other escapist activities. We struggle to care constantly so occasional numbness, letting your brain float away in binge watching the latest soap or drama series, feels necessary.
I am not writing to belittle medication nor will I ever suggest that if you have been prescribed anti-depressants or similar that you should stop taking them: DO NOT. Keeping mentally healthy often means working with physical health, and taking what is basically a pain-killer for your mind is important.
I am saying that the complex mix of life is the midst of PND is confusing. The numbness is something I hid in. At times I would put up my hands, leave my baby to my husband, and try to tune out the feelings of selfishness, failure, and pain. It was also a part of self-fulfilling prophecy: the more I hid away the less I was able to do anything, anything at all.
Effective anti-depressants have presented me with a downside: the numbness is becoming a colourful and painful awareness of life. Now they need to give me the time and stability to work through my life. I’m hoping eventually I can see less of the painful side of love, and more of the joy. It will come, as it did before, I know it.
I didn’t know it before. Now I do.