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How Does Postnatal Depression (PND) Feel For Me?
Drowning… that’s how it feels to me. Slowly drowning in Post Natal Depression (PND) and Anxiety. Losing the ability to keep my head above water. The wet liquid coming over my face and taking away the ability to breathe. Seeing my life in front, as well as behind me and not being able to grab a hold of it. To slowly drift into darkness and never again see the light…Seven years ago, that is how I felt. I compared it to drowning because many years ago, I did nearly drowned and the associated thoughts and feelings of that time came upon me again during my PND. Nearly drowning was bad enough the first time around, but to be going through it again was beyond belief.
I work as a counsellor and my passion and service in life is working with those affected by PND. It has been no surprise to me that women often refer to PND as being in the midst of drowning. How do many bring that association especially when they haven’t been in a drowning incident?
I think I’ll start by saying it is the overwhelming feelings that prevail inside someone that brings a sense of losing your breath, or something completely swallowing you up. Something not dissimilar to drowning when the water engulfs you.
Slowly the ‘water’ or the depressing anxious feelings creep upon you. You fight to keep them away, push them down, pretend none of it is happening, that it will go away, you can carry on regardless. But the watery depressing feelings continue to swirl ever closer.
Each day is a battle. If you have managed to sleep at all, you wake up to the nagging gut wrenching thought that you have another day ahead of you where you must swim for all of your might against the opposing tide that threatens your existence.
My anxiety was my biggest opponent. It would churn out big lies about me and my life. It would con me into believing I was a worthless individual that could do nothing. Its biggest lie was that I was going to die. Something was going to happen that I would not be able to control and I would be dead. It was correct in one way, because those swirling rapids of watery depression where lapping ever closer to me.
There were times I could not eat because I could not physically swallow. The anxiety cut off my throat and nothing could pass. I found it hard to draw breath, let alone eat. The anxiety rose up though my body as I became rooted to the spot unable to move, until it had reached my throat and gagged me. I always found a spot to stand in front of my window facing the street. It meant I could watch the world at work doing its thing, while I stood frozen to the spot. I was secretly waving to anyone that I could see; waving in desperation to anyone passing by to save me. Those that are drowning wave their arms in an effort to draw attention for help, while the onlookers simply think they are merely waving and often wrongly just wave back.
But in my case, no one could see me waving because I wouldn’t dare wave. I couldn’t draw attention to myself. I must get on, cope and do this all by myself. So I stood in my bubble of a world trying to make contact, but the water cut off my voice.
My temporary inflatable ring was people because I couldn’t bear to be alone. Solitary time meant the water came ever closer and I had to fight harder and swim away from it. If I had people, then I couldn’t drown because they would save me. They would keep me lifted above the water line or tether me to the shore. People were encouraging me to swim – to believe in myself because they believed in me every single day. But the voice of anxiety would take away the life raft in one swoop with one of its degrading statements about myself.
This went on for weeks, the slow drowning, the water unrelenting and never giving me rest.
Until one day when I could fight no more. The water had come over my head because I could not hold it back any longer. I had gone on for far too long. I now began to have weird thoughts in my head. Thoughts that weren’t what you might call normal. Thoughts of drowning myself if you get my meaning. It was a relief, because this time it meant I didn’t have to fight to keep the water back. I could take it in and swallow it until I could swallow no more.
But just before that moment, something happened – something very similar to my actual physical drowning all those years ago. Something pushed me back, something said no. Something catapulted me back up the waterfall. The first time drowning, I had no idea what that physical sensation was or where it came from, it just happened and I had no choice on the matter.
This time, I was pushed by some force inside me. Something that refused to be drowned by this watery monster. A life raft arrived at my side or to put it another way – a person. A person who saw I was drowning and pulled me onto a life raft. So I decided at this point to reach out and take their hand. I was terrified what might happen to me, where would I end up, would I ever survive. I was transported on a sea of care. There I found many people who were refusing to let me drown no matter how much I protested or moreover, the anxiety or the PND protested. I had found help, support and hope.
That was the very last time I looked at the drowning waters. My life raft formed saviours in the form of medical attention, medication, therapy and support from friends and family.
Eventually my raft turned into boat, which I had built myself with the tools given to me by my saviours. I sailed the wellness sea until I found shore. It was at this point I could finally get away from water and onto dry land and more specifically living, functioning and engaging in my life again.
PND is for me, very much like a drowning on a very slow and painful scale. Those waters lap at you and pull you under those waves. For those that have some swim within them, they can hold the tide and keep going even for years at a time. But for those like me, it sometimes is a case of hoping a rescuer might see you and invite you to take their hand and help you onto a survival craft, where you can be held up until you can swim in your own right.
But however you survive PND, I know one thing – you can do this, you will survive. You can swim in your own style and eventually you will find something to grab onto to keep you going until you find land. Never doubt yourself, because you are stronger than you know and quite simply now is not your time.
Bio – Beverley Moorhouse
After my daughter was born, I developed Post Natal Depression and Anxiety. Despite being a counsellor, I felt lost, alone and very scared.
Since 2012, I have run my own online support group for women encountering pre-natal/post-natal depression/anxiety. In early 2016, I founded Mother Thrive, my professional counselling service for women experiencing post-natal depression/anxiety as well as those not yet diagnosed, but are enduring emotional difficulties around pregnancy and motherhood.
My Website: Mother Thrive
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Edited By Mummyitsok