About a 1/4 of women experience post natal depression. I knew I was at risk because I have experienced depression and anxiety in my past and mental illness runs in my family. Something not spoken about very much is ante-natal depression which joined me on and off throughout my wanted, planned and wonderful pregnancy. It didn't cloud every moment, I was just on edge and unable to cope with very much at all. I stopped working mostly, the odd gig and recording/writing day but nothing like I have done in the past. I went to counselling. I stopped looking after my Dad two nights a week (he has dementia and is now in full time care) and I pottered. Went to yoga. Breathed. Walked. Waited.
When Jude was born I was instantly in love. I loved him while he was in my tummy but I literally found it hard to let him go when he came out of me, one beautiful spring morning. We felt safe together, he and I. We liked it when it was quiet. I tried to go out but quickly retreated back to the safety of home. I was obsessed with his every move, I cried when he threw up his milk, I cried when he cried, I cried when I had to make dinner and I sat there looking at my massive washing pile and cried some more. 'It just never ends!' I sobbed to my Mum.
I knew I had post natal depression when Jude was about six weeks old. There comes a point when you pass 'stressed' and cross over into it. I felt unworthy to be his Mother. I felt so sorry that he had to put up with me. I felt useless. Hopeless. I felt worried and anxious a lot of the time about something happening to him.
One of the traits that I believe makes my songwriting come to life is my vivid imagination. I used to spend a lot of time playing on my own when I was a little girl in my own special world. It was safe there, I wasn't judged and I fit in perfectly. I have often in my teenage and adult life spent lots of time daydreaming, which I believe is where my songs come from. I am very connected to that space which is why when I do sit down to write it often flows very easily.
It's hard when you're not in a good place to switch that imagination off. It can get stuck on horrible thoughts and fears. Usually it was picturing terrible things happening, horrible thoughts creeping in before I went to sleep or just going about my day. I kept my eyes open a lot, watching the rise and fall of Jude's chest. Trying to breathe myself. Knowing that if anything were to happen to him, it would be the end of me.
Now as I have healed and we have grown together when I feel those fears (not as strongly I might add) I go to a place of gratitude. I switch off from the fears and remember to be grateful. Gratitude for all that he is and all that I have. My darling almost-three-year-old. The most beautiful person I have ever and will ever know, the love of my life.
So here I am, working again. Singing again. Sleeping again. Being a Mum, a great one mostly. Accepting of my mistakes and being gentle on myself. I am still recovering from post-natal depression. But i am definitely not in it's depths anymore. More like I am sitting on the sand, wondering how I ever got so very lost in that sea and knowing all the things I need to do to stay on the shore.
That was really hard to write but I hope it helps somebody out there feel a little tiny bit less alone.