Like millions of others on this planet I’ve a history of depression. It’s forever recorded in my medical notes; the dominant narrator of my past that has shaped the person I am today and for many years took over my life’s driving seat while I watched on somewhat numb and perpetually medicated.
In a way I don’t mind that I have it. It has made me more sensitive to life and more empathetic towards others and their needs. But on the flip side having it does open up a whole wealth of overwhelming worries, fears and anxieties that any new mother faces… even amplifying them to super scary levels!
My depressive lapses was something that played on my mind a lot before becoming pregnant. Is it a good idea?? Will the hormones set it off? Will I helplessly spiral into the pits of hell over which I’ve precariously circled so many times before??!
Fortunately I’m a bit stubborn and decided that what I needed to do was take away it’s power and not to let it dictate my choices when wanting to start my own family. As it had done MANY times before. It, along with it’s fellow FEAR, that hold me and so many others back from realising their full potential.
Who isn’t depressed these days?! I told myself. And I’m right. A series of events forever readjusted my brain’s chemistry and led to my depression nearly fifteen years ago and so I’ve became accustomed to dealing with it. But the amount of peers coming out of the woodwork who are dealing with it now is truly shocking!
For the first few months of my pregnancy, although rough at times, I never felt depressed. However, now, at just over 26 weeks pregnant, sure enough the familiar old feelings I’ve gotten very used from the past have began to resurface: chronic teariness, wanting to completely isolate myself, doubting my decision and worrying I’ve made a huge mistake, losing interest in activities and being super antisocial, being VERY irritable and impatient with those around me, fearful of the future, wanting to run away, hating going to work, feeling lacklustre and not putting as much effort into my appearance… the list goes on!
I know these feelings. I know them like old obnoxious friends who show up to your door unannounced and you get totally exhausted entertaining them because they don’t take the hint when to leave .
Then I realised: People always talk about postnatal depression, but what about antenatal depression? What options are available to pregnant women who are suffering it now?
‘It’s just your hormones!’, they dismissively say when I dare to open up about how I feel, leading me to retract back into my shell. I’ve read its very common for women to not express negative feelings during or after pregnancy through fear they will be seen as an incompetent mother. And I honestly get it.
I don’t know if it’s the social constructs in place now or that cultural values have shifted but something is definitely off. Lack of stable employment post-college and the debts that one accrues from going there; rising cost of living that coincides with falling wages, or the deconstruction of the family ‘unit’. The pressure on a woman to have a career, carry a child, make a home and run it with same gusto as a fully fledged business woman… Is it any wonder half of us are exhausted from just trying to get through each day?!
My mum was a stay-at-home mum until I reached about ten, when she then became a nanny for a few years and then worked in a care home. I feel like she didn’t have that pressure of ‘time’ on her shoulders that I, and many I confide in have. That idea that time is running out at a rapid pace and I have to achieve everything yesterday. Or if I do achieve something it’s never good enough or even worse, irrelevant?
The problem with having to achieve all the time means that we are setting ourselves up to fail, because that idea is unachievable. This ideal is leading us to feeling inadequate, depressed and in a chronic state of dysphoria, where we have completely lost the ability to live in the moment and appreciate the here and now – the vital component of contentment.
Yoga for pregnancy, walking and spending time off work and in the company of like-minded people who really understand what I’m feeling helps. It allows me to reconnect with my inner self and soothes the noise and negative brain chatter. Even writing down my thoughts provides me with a channel through which I can find some clarity, and in this space a better connection to my unborn child – something I had been struggling to do up until this point through lack of time and work pressure.
It’s easy to lose focus during such a massive life upheaval when becoming a first time mum, but as my cousin keeps reminding me when I feel really low: ‘Just keep thinking about your son who you’re doing all this for!’. What simple yet wonderful advice. Sometimes I forget that at the end of the endless tunnel, I’ll get to meet my son and build a loving relationship with him, in ways I never even thought possible. And then a small bud of hope and excitement beings to flower in my heart and the cloud separates. If only briefly, because past experience has shown me that a red sky in a dark night makes for wonderful weather the next day.
Maggie Russell is passionate about writing, reading and all things animal related! Her studies of literature compelled her to continue her search for a deeper, more honest & meaningful understanding of life and the magic it holds.