A decade ago I was at a place you might know well. Rock bottom. I felt totally stuck, overwhelmed and had no idea how to get out. As I sat on the floor listening to my baby and toddler crying out to me from their cots upstairs, over and over in my head went the words, I’m going to kill myself. I’m going to kill myself.I was completely unrecognisable to myself and so full of shame for not coping.
How dare I, I would tell myself, with all that I had – two healthy children, a husband, supportive family, a roof over my head – not be coping. I was also drowning in the shame and guilt for my actions.Punching the brick walls in my home over and over again in a rage I had never experienced. Picking up my toddler and screaming at her that I couldn’t do this anymore.
As I stood by the window of the top level of our skinny, high terrace, having serious thoughts about throwing my baby out.And so because of this shame, I told no-one what was going on with me. Not my mum, my husband or my best friend.When my husband came home as I was in the middle of my rock bottom moment, he came over, held both my hands and gently pulled me to stand in front of him. In a very gentle yet desperate way he said to me, ‘You know you falling apart means this whole family is falling apart. Please go and get some help.’So feeling like a total failure as a mother I made an appointment with my doctor. Expecting her to tell me what I had been telling myself for months to just get over it, I was shocked when she said I had post-natal depression. She gave me my treatment options and just before I left said to me something that I had probably heard many times before but this time I really heard it, ‘You know when you get on a plane and they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others? That’s what you have to do.’
I got home and sat on the end of my bed knowing I only had a few minutes before my family would be home and this rare moment of silence would be over and thought about my doctor’s words. I thought what made me a good mum was being 100% selfless. I thought I was supposed to give to everyone and everything else first. But here I was with a prescription for antidepressants in my hands, fighting with suicidal thoughts, and in that moment I know something had to change. I felt the tiniest amount of grit in the bottom of stomach and made the decision that I was going to find something I could do that would be my oxygen mask. One little thing every day. I was so sleep deprived, unmotivated and overwhelmed and didn’t know if I could do it, but I knew there was too much at stake not to try. I was missing out on this time with my little girls, time I would never, ever get back.
So that’s what I did. It started with a couple of minutes of exercise each day which was my beginning of a very slow journey out of the downward spiral I was in. This led me to seeking more medical help (and not lying on my mental health check which I’d previously done). Then I opened up to a couple of friends and started allowing the fake smile I had permanently stuck on my face when I left the house to come off. Then I began sharing my story which led me to gradually let go of the shame and feelings of failure that would consume me which in turn led me to doing probably the most powerful thing I have done. I forgave myself.