Thursday, 24 September 2015
Can't you just smile and put your worries to the back of your mind?
Or maybe you should just drag yourself out of bed and you will feel better?
Or just pray more. That should do the trick.
Haven't you got enough faith?
It's a choice, surely?
Mental illness is still so misunderstood and such a taboo so I have decided to write about my experiences and even include some telling photographs. Pictures explain more than words ever could. My memories are raw but I want people to know that this is real. We can't shut it away. There are women in our communities suffering right now.
Almost 14 years ago, my beautiful boy was born after a traumatic emergency caesarean and my first words on seeing him were 'is that mine?' This baby was like an alien to me and I was a disappointment.
No amount of antenatal classes or well meaning advice could have prepared me for the weeks and months of darkness that followed. Post natal depression took over as irrational and scarily angry thoughts swirled through my mind. I resented the intrusion of this screaming baby who never slept. I cared for his daily needs but I didn't feel this mythical surge of love for him I was meant to feel. I watched other new mums cooing over their babies and felt jealous. Instead of nursery rhymes, I sung songs of destruction over him and thought about how to escape.
Some days I raged and cried. Some days I numbly got on with the tasks in hand. I knew I had already failed and he was only months old. I was never going to be the mum he needed, so what was the point in trying? Actually, he would be better off without me.
Support came from my health visitor and a few friends, but no amount of cups of tea and putting on brave smiles ever removed the emptiness, anger, guilt and sense of failure I felt.
It was only after a dramatic sleepless night where my anger spilled over to my precious baby that my kind and patient husband marched me to the GP who prescribed anti depressants and counselling. By that point I was so numb and so desperate that I followed like a sheep.
And slowly, slowly, over time, the days began to be less dark. I discovered I could find joy in small things again. I could sing songs of hope and faith over him. I began to fall in love with my little boy. And, instead of finding me rocking in a dark corner after his return from work, my faithful husband would see I had made the tea or hung the washing out.
I began to heal.
Post natal depression is an illness.
It is not a choice.
It is not simply tiredness (although sleep deprivation certainly doesn't help).
It is not difficulty adjusting.
It is not a lack of faith.
It is not laziness.
It is not failure.
And there is hope.
My boy, almost 14, stands taller than me. His grin makes my heart melt inside. He sleeps. He makes me laugh. He makes me so proud I want to shout to the world about him. He hugs me with his long gangly arms at just the right moments. Despite my failings and my illness, he has exceeded all my expectations.
And that surge of love isn't mythical anymore. It happens every day.
If you are suffering post natal depression, get some help from your GP. Take someone else with you to the appointment so they can help you to explain what is happening. You are not a failure. Hold on tight. It's not going to last forever, I promise.
Thursday, 10 September 2015
Our holiday this year was eventful. Camping in Dorset on the site with the UK's most unhygienic toilets (I will not go into detail, suffice to say we nicknamed them the '$#€¥holes'.). We experienced beauty, hot sunshine, relaxing beaches, drenching rain and the occasional breathtaking sunset.
Without a doubt, my favourite excursion was to visit a lighthouse on Portland. Jutting out on a cliff edge, this lighthouse is still in use and we (much to the boys delight - 'this is boring mum, why can't we just explore it ourselves?') took a guided tour to the very giddy top. The view was extravagant. Open, glittering seas. Bright blue skies. Endless possibilities.
As we made our way round, singing a well know Rend Collective song just to embarrass our teenage son, we found this poster.
This tickled all my bones of adventure so I immediately snapped a photograph and lodged the quote at the back of my mind to ponder.
Speaking a few days later to some friends who have spent years working on boats across the world, I discovered an interesting fact:
If a boat is moored in the harbour for too long, it rots away. Not only is a boat not built for staying safe at the shore, if it hangs around longer than necessary it is detrimental to the very workings of the boat. My learned friends went even further and explained to me that the Captains they knew would choose to 'island hop' with their boat rather than keep it in one place for too long because of the negative effects to both the boat and the crew.
I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.
As followers of Jesus and as a church, we are not called to stay safe in the harbour. We are called to go. Our lives are not supposed to be 'safe' but we have the opportunity to partner with a God who takes us on the most thrilling adventure we could ever go on.
I know that, for me, when I stay still for too long I begin to rot. I become introspective. I find myself becoming anxious about circumstances beyond my control. I trip up over small obstacles. I begin to think rotten thoughts which in turn start coming out of my mouth. I feel dragged down by an anchor that holds me back rather than being set free by the wind in my sails.
But when I look out to sea from the heights of the lighthouse, I see adventure waiting. I see the unknown beckoning it's finger to me and calling me to set sail. I see the potential for storms and for calm waters.
I see a whole, broken, bleeding world and I know that I cannot stay safe in the harbour anymore.