I understand that when it comes to depression (and antenatal depression) ‘One size’ does not fit all.
I also understand that surface/aesthetic solutions are definitely not solutions – but perhaps small rungs on a very long ladder to being ‘better‘ – whatever that means to you.
Here is what is currently helping me:
1. Being honest. At first, this scared me, until I realised that if you’re honest there can’t be anything to fear. I told my midwife, I told my GP, I told the mental health team. Immediately I could take the blue whale off my back and I received kind words, tissues, reassurance, support.
If depression is a bug, honesty is a way of squashing it with a large shoe.
2. Realising you’re not alone. When you’re pregnant and you feel you should be blooming ecstatic but instead you feel hopeless – you honestly feel like you must be the only person who has ever felt that way. My midwife kindly said that this was more common than you would think and said a brilliant thing
I’d be more concerned if you told me you were completely happy.
3. Keeping Busy. What’s that saying about idle hands? My worst enemy is the big bulbous prune like sculpture on top of my shoulders (my head).
Too much time to think, over analyse, worry, feel guilty, feel inadequate – is dangerous.
So I have tried to keep as busy as possible by taking my son out as often as I physically could. Especially to activities where there is little time for thought about myself – swimming, soft play, mini movers. For the days when I physically can’t get out of the door I resort to….
4. Cleaning. This is the moment you lose all respect for me and read something else? Right? If you have a toddler you will know that cleaning never ends. I am not ashamed to admit that I absolutely find cleaning therapeutic. I am a hard core cleaner. I start at the bottom of the house and work my way all the way to the top. And I usually re-arrange furniture too! It’s like producing my own little ‘changing rooms’ episode.
There is something satisfying for the soul in bleaching your surfaces (not a euphemism) and hoovering your floors (don’t)
and rearranging your child’s toys – and afterwards sitting at your polished table with a fresh bunch of flowers and writing. Talking of writing:
4. Writing. I won’t go into the obvious benefits of writing. I have always used this as a form of therapy. I have recently revived a love of writing poetry.
Depression and poetry are symbiotic lovers.
I was ecstatic to find out this month that one of my poems has been commended in a writing competition. And I continue to blog and work on ‘the’ novel.
5. Removing unnecessary stress. For example: I canceled my son’s birthday party. He’s only two – so he wouldn’t know anyway. And he still got a bike and cake (so don’t worry about him). But I removed any self made pressure to move to a bigger house (it’s too small for guests) and make amazing ‘In The Night Garden’ homemade decorations seen on Pinterest, cook and bake a buffet from scratch, make a mixed tape, blow up balloons and create party bags. ”
As well as be the hostess with the mostess and put on a show that everything is fabulous – when it isn’t.
5. Embracing my pregnancy. The main symptom of my antenatal depression, I have found, has been a difference in how I feel about being pregnant. There has been an absence of joy or excitement. I have mostly ignored my pregnancy and my bump.
I have acted like someone who isn’t pregnant. I have hidden the signs and hidden my figure – trying to carry on as normal.
It’s silly and little and aesthetic – but last week (at five months pregnant) I bought some maternity clothes and I started showing off my bump. I felt a significant difference. Like giving up the ghost.
6. Bonding with my baby. My partner and I chose a name. Now he (yes we know he’s a he) is real. Our twenty week scan also helped with a Sonographer who was honestly one of the loveliest women we have ever met – she spent so long showing us every part of him.
I am also spending time each day to sit and feel his kicks. He is now someone I am excited to meet.
7. Understanding what lies beneath. Through talking with my midwife about how I have been feeling
I started to understand that my previous labour has had a much bigger negative impact on me than I thought.
My emergency cesarean after a three day difficult and stressful labour was not how I wanted my labour to go. We were so grateful that we were both alive – I didn’t give it much thought. These things happen. But with my next labour on the horizon – the underlying feelings have come to the surface, and I feel strongly, may be the catalyst for my current state. My Midwife actually thinks I may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder linked to my birth experience.
8. Planning for the future. When you are depressed it’s hard to think about the future. I have found planning things for Saturday..to planning things for August to be helpful. I have got things to look forward to.
9. Letting go of the guilt. It is hard to live with depression when you’re pregnant because you know that people would give their limbs to be in your position. I know personally friends who want children and are unable to conceive – I know that we are the lucky ones. How could I admit I was depressed with this knowledge?
But depression has little regard for facts! For logic.
This is why famous, loved, millionaires have depression. It isn’t anything to do with logic. So I am letting go of that guilt.
10. Accepting that all pregnancies are different. When I wept to my midwife that “my last pregnancy was so lovely, I felt so happy.” She said “All pregnancies are different”. Everything about this pregnancy is different to my last. I was sick last time – not this time. I lost weight last time – not this time. My bump looked different last time – nicer, smaller. After voicing this to my partner again this week he said
Right, you need to let go of your last pregnancy.
(He’s such a wise, handsome man). Obsessing over my last pregnancy is a bit like clinging on to an ex boyfriend and not noticing the perfect relationship right in front of you.
So there are my tips for coping with antenatal depression – some days are much better than others. How do you cope?
If you like this post please come and find me at my new blog – http://www.mummyswritingdarling.co.uk
and my Facebook page – Mummy’s Writing, Darling
Twitter – @sivitersteph