First off I want to begin by saying that this is not a sponsored post, I was not asked by anyone to discuss Bell Let’s Talk Day or mental health. These are my honest thoughts about a topic near and dear to my heart, that I feel need to be talked about and shared.
(Originally published in January 2015 – I will republish this post every #BellLetsTalk day).
In June of 2005, my oldest daughter suddenly entered our lives. My water broke a month before my due date. Just over four hours later I was holding a very small (but strong) 5lb 0oz baby in my arms. We were totally unprepared emotionally for this – we still had a month until she was due. Looking back now it was very traumatic.
Life was supposed to be blissful and awesome. Motherhood was supposed to be this amazing thing. Babies are cute and wonderful right?
I struggled to breastfeed – her mouth was so small, she was so small. Every Lactation expert I saw commented on how small she was. Everyone told me how small she was. I felt guilty – it was my fault she was premature. It was my fault she was so small. I pumped, we tried nipple shields, and a whole pile of weird contraptions, tubes, supplementary nursing systems (SNS) and methods to get her to eat and grow. She was a sleepy baby. We tried everything we could to keep her awake during a feed. She also had jaundice. I felt like it was all my fault.
It was my fault. I worked out every day during my pregnancy – even the day she was born. I ate the wrong things – I loved deli meat and ate a smoked meat sandwich for lunch every day during my pregnancy. I loved diet soda. In my head the reasons my daughter was early and small and struggled to breastfeed were all my fault. I was determined to make it up to her. I didn’t let anyone else care for her. I failed in growing her properly so I wasn’t going to fail her again. I became stressed, overtired, anxious etc… This was the beginning of my battle with post-partum dpression.
A month of pumping later she finally latched! I could breastfeed! I threw out the bottles – everything that could possibly interfere with our nursing relationship. Because that’s the best thing to do for baby right? I had to do the best things I could for her. It was my fault she was so small. I was still stressed and anxious. I couldn’t sleep – it took forever to fall asleep. As soon as I was asleep she was up and ready for another feed. It would take hours to fall back asleep. I couldn’t relax and stop worrying about her enough to sleep. the cycle went on and on. I couldn’t stop my anxiety or brain. I was exhausted. I couldn’t think straight.
My daughter started crying at 6 weeks for HOURS a day. She was colicky. It was my fault. It was my fault, and no one else should be put out by it – I took ownership and responsibility for my actions, I wouldn’t let anyone else care for her, or for me. She wouldn’t take a bottle anyways, so there was no way I could leave her. My husband would come home from work and find the two of us crying on the steps in front of the house waiting for him. He began staying later and later at work. I felt so alone. I had no friends in our new-to-us town.
I didn’t realise it at the time but all of those things are signs of depression. The anxiety, the crying, the sleeplessness, the feelings of overwhelming responsibility. I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through because I didn’t realise what was happening. I didn’t realise that how I felt wasn’t normal. I retreated from people more and more. I was in a new town anyways and didn’t have very many friends. Every one in my family had jobs so they couldn’t help. There was no one around. Hubby was travelling a lot for work leaving me home alone for weeks at a time. Days would go by and no one would call or email to check on me.
Time went on. I tried my best to lead a normal life despite the fatigue, anxiety and foggy brain. Though I honestly don’t know how I did it because I couldn’t remember anything. It took the utmost motivation to get dressed and brush my teeth.
I went back to work when my daughter was 10 months old. More guilt set in. I had been laid off from the job I held while I was pregnant with her. In Canada, new mom’s get 12 months off of work for maternity leave. But because I was laid off I needed to find a new job and I successfully accomplished that when she was only 10 months old. I had to leave her in daycare. I continued to pump milk for her. I cried about leaving her. Again – it was my fault that I wasn’t home with her for the full 12 months. More anxiety, stress and guilt ensued. I cried nearly every day.
I missed her learning to walk. I felt guilty. Everything I missed made me feel guilty.
Time went on, we moved to a new house, we had another daughter (almost full term – born at 38 weeks!). I was still exhausted. Neither child slept. Hubby started travelling for work even more. 2-3 weeks in Ireland, then two weeks in Canada… for 18 months this went on. He was dealing with jetlag, a demanding job, long work hours and I was dealing with motherhood, loneliness, anxiety and depression. I went back to work when daughter number two was a year old. I had to juggle solo parenting with work and depression. How we survived I’ll never know.
I almost got fired from that job – I didn’t tell anyone what I was dealing with. I was ashamed. I missed a lot of work to catch up on sleep. I got sick a lot. The kids got sick a lot. It was just me, home alone – I had to take the time off to care for them and myself. My employer made work hard for me – I felt like they were squeezing me out.
One day I hit my rock bottom. I called my hubby who was in Ireland in the middle of the night. I was screaming at him. He was a jerk for abandoning me. I hated him. I hated life. I wanted to die. I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I needed him home. NOW! Get on a flight, RIGHT NOW and come home. I needed him more than the project he was working on needed him.
That was about several years ago, shortly before I became pregnant with daughter number three. I talked to my doctor finally. With his help I returned to running. I started eating less processed foods. I found a much more understanding job. I found people to run with during my lunch breaks. I started this blog to motivate myself to be active and eat healthy… for my own mental health. I slowly began to feel better. It’s taken years to be myself again. It hasn’t been a smooth road – there are still good days and bad days. I still battle seasonal affective disorder.
I decided to finally share my story here with you today because it’s Bell Let’s Talk Day. This is an important discussion and I feel that we all need to talk and share our thoughts and feelings so that others going through the same thing will not feel alone. I was so alone and my wish is that my story will help someone talk to a friend, family, a doctor etc. We do not need to feel alone and bear the burden of depression ourselves. There are lots of people who care about us, people that will listen if you need to talk. Today, for every tweet using
#BellLetsTalk, Bell will donate 5¢ more to #MentalHealth initiatives. Learn more here: http://ow.ly/I3mvY .
Let’s help to #EndTheStigma.
— Bell Let’s Talk (@Bell_LetsTalk) January 28, 2015