Right so here it is, THE post. The post that I have been building up to. The post that will explain exactly why I wanted to start my blog. I always knew I wanted to write this but I haven’t felt ready and there were, and are, other things that I want to write about that relate back to teetering on the edge. The time is right now for some reason. Mental health is ‘trendy’ right now. Bryony Gordon and ‘Mind over Marathon’ are making it all quite normal to talk about mental well-being. I’ve also been inspired by good old Instagram, with people like @thepsychologymum, @mumologist, @drjessamy, @mrshhayward, @thefashioncraver and @luckythingsblog to name but a few, writing openly and honestly in a positive way, inspiring me. So here it is.
So if you know me, I am a pretty bubbly outgoing kinda gal. I love to have fun and am really social. I’m also a real homebody and secretly quite private, so putting this on paper is quite a big deal really. But someone recently said ‘it’s not about being brave, it’s about releasing the truth’ and this has totally stayed with me. Thank you, Emma, if you are reading this.
Through my teens I would get a black cloud every so often, but coming from a family where you don’t really talk about your emotions, I just thought it was PMT and teenage angst. To be honest it probably was both of those. I would lie on the floor of my room and listen to massive attack as loudly as humanly possible or I would draw some deep, dark and meaningful stuff, like you do when you are a teenager. I would read Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood and Ben Okri thinking what a clever twisted soul I was. Then I hit my twenties, and after having a late termination (I was in denial about being pregnant) when I was 20, the black cloud really became part of my life. Lucky for me, I had an AMAZING friendship group (you know who you are, Mel, Lisa, Jess and Kim) and with a year of counselling and getting wasted with my mates, ALOT, I got through it.
True, bestest friends who got me through dark times
Then through my 20’s I suffered horrendous PMT every so often. I just thought it was the aftermath of getting drunk 3 nights in a row, or I was getting my period. So I just cracked on with life. I met my Hubby at 24, and he must have thought I was a total psycho at times, because I was. I would just go into a black hole, usually when alcohol was involved, I would be completely irrational and at times feel suicidal. (For no. god damn. reason). I would try and level with myself; I had a flippin great job, great mates and great boyfriend, and we had a brilliant life, but sometimes I would fall down a well that had no way out. In hindsight I wish I had seeked help then, but it just wasn’t talked about. In my head you only had depression if something awful had happened to you. I couldn’t justify how I was feeling. I felt like I was being a fake and people would be cross that I felt that way. So I just carried on.
I then became a mum, it was obviously life affirming and completely changed everything. I had a little life to care for. The black clouds still came but I could bat them away, the minute I saw his little face everything was ok. Even after little sleep or horrendous toddler illness, I could fight it. I teetered on the edge so many times as a new mum, but the joy of my baby always pulled me back.
I then got pregnant with Jesse, my second son. After 2 years of trying, a diagnosis of PCOS and a miscarriage later, I was finally pregnant. I then had a rough pregnancy; morning sickness and bouts of real lowness. But again I just carried on. The only person I talked to was my husband. I just felt like my feelings weren’t valid, I was growing a new life. I was soooo happy to be pregnant, but was feeling so black inside at times. I remember my lovely friend who had just had her third saying to me at the end of my pregnancy ‘you know, you will feel like you again, I promise.’ Would I? Once he was born, I did, the joy pulled me back. I was so happy.
Final week of pregnancy with Jesse and baby Jesse
It wasn’t until I went back to work after 11 months that the black cloud came back with a vengeance. What I used to class as PMT was lasting 3 weeks of the month. I was completely hiding it on the outside, good old bubbly Lucy, always smiling, always there for everyone, always with the banter, but inside I was dying. I felt like a bad mum, a bad wife, a bad daughter and a bad friend. (There’s a post coming on ‘The Guilt’) I was talking to my hubby a bit about it, but it was actually my boss, who I thought had completely dismissed me after having had 2 babies and only working 4 days a week, who took me for a coffee and asked what was wrong. He asked me if I had post natal depression? That I wasn’t myself. Bloody hell! How did he know? I didn’t have PND but I did have the D.
The other turning point for me was my eldest son. I don’t know if anyone else has this with their first born? But there is an invisible channel between us. However I am feeling, no matter how hard I am hiding it, I can see it in him and his behaviour. So could my husband. When I was low, he would be totally out of sorts. When I was on good form, so was he. So, for him and my husband, I decided to see my GP and it was the best decision ever. I am very lucky as my GP is an advocate in caring for your mental health. He was truly amazing. He didn’t make me feel silly or invalid. When you have depression you are so ashamed of it, well I was. I felt like if I told someone they would somehow belittle how I was feeling. He treated me, told me I was brave, and let me cry all over him. I was so relieved. He told me that some people just don’t produce enough serotonin and its nothing to be ashamed of.
My Beautiful big boy – Bobby
I discovered the joy of exercise too. Martin had always said it would help, but I just hadn’t found the right thing. I started to swim and do circuits. It needed to be outdoors, come rain or shine. The combination of the endorphins and citalopram I started to find my balance and keep it.
We had always wanted 3 children and decided to go for number 3, my husband was worried about my mental well being, but I just thought I can be strong and get through 9 months. Golly gosh I was wrong! It was a very tough 9 months for us all. If you have read my piece for the Mama Tribe you will know I suffered from perinatal depression. I didn’t even know that this existed. I just thought you had to be happy as you were pregnant. I felt naughty as I wanted my baby so badly, and was so pleased to be having him, but that doesn’t make the black cloud go away. Without the medication and the exercise I seriously struggled. It was a trainee midwife, who I had met before, who noticed me drowning and referred me to a maternity support worker (I used to call her the mental midwife). She was lovely and supportive but didn’t make the black cloud go away. I wish I had known of PANDAS then, it would have made such a difference. But her noticing me and how I was feeling really made a huge difference.
6 months pregnant – having had a chest infection for 3 weeks. One of my lowest points. I hoped the pink sheets and matching pjs might have helped me. They didn’t!
36 weeks pregnant with Charlie, days before he was born – even my chin was pregnant
When Charlie was born – I was so happy to have him and get on the road back to being myself again.
Charlie was born and for various reasons, after 3 days, I chose not to breast feed him. I had fed both of my other boys, but with Charlie it just wasn’t right, and one of the main reasons was so that I could get back on the citalopram and get back to being me again. Finding the balance and the consistency. I have it now, a year on. I still teeter on the edge all the time, but I rarely fall. So many things can make me teeter, confidence in my appearance (I’m not vain, I’m human), parenting decisions. Making the right choices for my boys with school, friendships, behaviour etc. Relationship worries, not spending enough ‘nice’ time together. Not getting me time, alone. To read, write or stare at the wall. But I’m in a place now where I can recognise these things. I’m also in a place where I can recognise it in others too. We have to talk about how we are feeling. We cannot be afraid of judgement or criticism. So far on my ‘teetering on the edge’ journey all I’ve encountered is love, support and empathy.
The Mumologist and The Psychology Mum’s campaign called #howcanihelp is a positive way to share how you get through each day as a mum. Whether you have suffered with mental illness or not. Everyone has different ways of getting through each day and it can be the little things that keep you a float. Being aware of them and also reading others is truly inspirational. It can be anything from Pilates to eating a cheeseburger. So if you know anyone who feels like they are teetering on the edge, please share this. And to all the critical Instagram haters, it can be a positive, supportive virtual place if you want it to be.