I’m currently in that awkward stage where I’m waiting for my antidepressants to kick in, meaning, the tiny glimmers of hope I see from time to time, are still being snuffled out by shitty side effects, heightened anxiety, and sort-of-receding depression. It’s rough. I’m spending a lot of time trying not to be a slave to my negative thoughts. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I feel is dread in the pit of my always-clenched-up-stomach. As it threatens to overwhelm me, I fight to ignore it so that I can get out of bed and function the way that is expected of me – I have a toddler to look after, after all. But because I don’t want my daughter to know that I’m down, I fake it. I smile, laugh, draw with her, take her to the park, and generally act like I’m having a great time. And then I feel guilty because I love that little person so damn much, but deep down I just feel so broken. And she deserves a better version of me. She deserves for me to not feel broken. Come onnn meds work your sciency goodness.
I was diagnosed with PND when my daughter was 11 weeks old and pretty much went straight onto medication. After 15 months I weaned off the meds – I was feeling fantastic and had just secured plenty of freelance work to keep me occupied. Then, bit-by-bit it crept back in. The loss of purpose and meaning. The lack of motivation. The breakdowns. Then eventually the CONSTANT fight or flight mode, and of course, the exhaustion. All of a sudden the anxiety and depression were back. It felt like they came out of nowhere. I had been speaking to a psychologist, but clearly, it wasn’t enough. So here I am - back on the drugs I thought I didn’t need. Feeling like a bit of a failure, but most of all, scared they won’t work – petrified in fact.
Since becoming a mum I’ve either been nostalgic for a time long gone, or looking to the future. Everything in the past seems beautiful – like I was happier – and I long for it. Everything in the future seems easier – and I want things to be easier.
Strawberry picking with my faves: no place I'd rather be.
I think I look to my past and future to escape my present, which is filled with challenges: a loss of identity since quitting full-time work to become a mother, the relentlessness of being a mum and doing the same thing day-in day-out, and a lot of soul-searching to discover what it is that I want to do with my time on this planet other than being a mother. Then there’s constant grappling with the pressure I feel to be a ‘good’ mum, and to show my daughter how to live a meaningful and rewarding life.
In comparison, my past seems perfect and beautiful – unblemished. But of course this is not true - it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. I had my ups and downs just like any other person. I had restless days, sad days, happy days, and days where I struggled with life direction and identity. It’s simply because I’m more down than up at the moment, that my mind starts telling me that what I once had was ‘better’. And I start to believe my mind. I start to miss my past and I get to the point that I want my past back.
Deep, deep down in my gut though, I know that this mode of thinking is wrong. If nothing else, it's wrong because I truly believe with my heart and soul that my daughter is the best thing that’s ever happened to me – so how could my past, where she didn’t exist, be better than my present, where she currently resides?
And the future. Oh the make-believe future where the problems I have now will be gone. I’ll be light, unencumbered with thoughts of worthlessness and guilt. My daughter will have overcome her dummy addiction – she’ll be older and potty trained. Depending on how far ahead I look, she’ll even be making her own lunches and eating some vegetables. In turn, I’ll be free of the difficulties that plague me. Again, I know that this is the wrong way to think because I may not have the same problems I do today, but as life has consistently shown, I will have different ones. I’ll be fretting over homework, and school, and bullies, and too much screen time, and parent-teacher meetings, and who knows what else. She might stop wanting to hang out with me. She might start believing that it’s not a cool thing to be friends with your mum.
Fast forward 10 years and I'm certain I'll be reminiscing about lazy afternoons filled with snacking on popcorn, strawberries, and left-over Easter chocolate, while drawing our little hearts out. Current fave: Hey Duggee.
People are never problem-free. Problems just change with the passage of time. If there’s anything that life has taught me it’s this: when I am in the future I will look back on this time with my daughter as golden. I will blur out the sharp edges, forget all the problems I faced, and just remember her small hand reaching for mine, her sloppy kisses, her loving cuddles. I will look back on this time and I will miss it.
I don’t think that anyone can always live in the present – it’s impossible. And sometimes, to get through a rough time, it’s necessary to focus on the future or remember a happy time in the past. I also like looking back on tough moments in the past and realising how far I have come as a person. BUT, I recognise that at this stage of my life I am spending an unhealthy amount of my time time travelling – and I think this has a lot to do with my current mental state.
My next steps are clear: I need to do everything in my power to fight this mental illness so that I can live truthfully rather than faking my happiness. I need to do everything in my power to bring my mind to the present and stay in the moment as much as possible. I need to accept that working on my mental health will be a lifelong thing for me, because when my mind is happy, I am a better mother. And my daughter deserves no less. Right here, right now is the best place to be – and I don’t want to wait for time to pass me by so that I can see that.