It took 6 sessions with a psychologist, multiple trips to my GP and a fairly high dose of anti-depressants before I started feeling better. In fact, I hit rock bottom before I started my climb back up.
I'll never forget that day. I was shopping in IKEA with my family. I love IKEA and will always happily follow the arrows and check out the sofa beds even if I have no intention (or money) to buy anything.
This visit, however, was different. The kids were having a good time with their mini trollies. The baby was sleeping (miracle). I was tense, stressed, finding the noise and chaos unbearable, exhausted and fed up. It was day 7 of my new medication. Hump day.
I remember my husband jokingly throwing a cushion at me, hoping to cheer me. I snapped. I threw it back in anger and growled at him to leave me alone. That's when I heard the words I never, ever wanted to hear.
"Oh lighten up Bron!"
Now, do I blame him for saying those words - absolutely not! Do I hold a grudge for him saying those words. No way! It had been 4 months of living with a grumpy, depressed, anxious and whingy mum and he'd had enough. I'd had enough. I had hit rock bottom.
Day 8. Everything started to change. My recovery began that day (if you dare to call it that since I'm still on medication and not technically recovered). And every day, I've been feeling better and better.
BUT. What I've been realising (and learning to accept) is that my experience with PND will be a part of who I am forever. It will affect me forever. Even now, a year on, despite recovery, PND will always be my cloud on sunny days.
A work colleague came in last week to proudly introduce her first baby to the rest of the staff. My first thought "She looks amazing!" My second thought... "Why is she smiling so much? Isn't she finding being a first time mum absolutely awful, like I did?" Then... envy began to consume every inch of my body. She is grinning from ear to ear as she cuddles her little baby up to her chest. She says things like "Yeah labour was awful but so, so worth it!" She giggles as she jokes about sleep deprivation. Her eyes light up when the little fella has a cry "Oh matey, time for a feed?" Her hair looks clean and healthy. She has bounced back to her pre-pregnancy weight. She says she LOVES being a mum.
I smile and nod and say all the right things. None of them are lies - he truly is adorable, soft and squishy. On the inside though... I'm asking the question "Why couldn't this have been me? Why did I have to go through such an awful time when this mum is beaming with happiness and enjoying every minute? It's not fair!"
Sadly, the reality is that every time I hear about a new mum loving it or going really well I can't help feeling overwhelmed with jealousy. I'm jealous that I didn't have that same experience. I'm jealous that I didn't fall in love with my daughter the minute she was born. I'm jealous I didn't think being a mum was the most amazing thing on earth. Why couldn't I feel those things? What did I do to deserve the crap I was served in the emotions department? What gives that mum the right to have a better experience than me?
Depression, although by no means a big part of my life any more, will always be around. My memories of the early days of motherhood will, sadly, always be tainted by thoughts of darkness, isolation, anxiety... although now I can look at my role as a mother with a lot more positivity, unfortunately those first few months of each of my child's life will forever be scarred and bruised by my experience with postnatal depression.
So while it can subside... it never really goes away. While you can recover... you are never completely cured.
That's the hardest reality I have ever had to face.