I recently launched my search for someone to donate a family session to. I wanted to give something back to my local community and since my own experience of PND is still very raw (and current), I decided to offer a session to a fellow Mum who's suffered. My photos have helped me during the dark times and I want to give that gift to someone else, to help in some small way by showing them the beauty in the everyday, even though it can be hard to see sometimes (I've been there). I want to find their light in the shadows.
Part of the reason for this is helping to break down the stigma of mental health. I was so worried about being judged for my illness and I don't want that to be the case for other women. I think the more we talk about it, the better. I started to feel better just admitting my problem and talking about it. The more of us who share our stories, the more normal it becomes for others to talk about it and in time, I hope people will understand more about it and it'll be less of a taboo subject with less shame attached.
I've already be contacted by some very brave mothers who were willing to share their stories and they've given permission to share here. It is so scary admitting your have depression, to yourself and to others.
"I thought I was coping fine but I became very withdrawn, I thought it was just from tiredness because he was an awful sleeper! I stopped enjoying anything, talking to anyone and struggled just with getting out anywhere."
"I had no motivation to do anything, so I spent a long time just going through daily life at home and I was so angry that this had happened to me [...] I felt like a failure, that he would be better off without me"
"I always thought I would have social services breathing down my neck if I admitted I had problems. But it isn't like that at all. I was so scared if I said how I was feeling they would take [her] away. Or monitor me with her."
"My days blurred. My nights seemed never ending. All while people quip - its just getting used to motherhood. But looking back now - I realise that it wasn't just motherhood. I had feelings within me that I knew weren't normal. And they were not budging either."
"I also lived away from family and had very little to no help from anyone. I just wanted a bath or an hour to myself but i never got it. Whilst hearing my friends say about their mums helping out and giving them time to themselves. It made me so jealous. A few months later, things didnt improve. Her tears and my tears were still flowing. The times i would shut myself in the bathroom and collapse in a blubbering mess. I didnt understand.. i longed for this baby so much. I loved her so much. But “hated” her at the same time. Sometimes i would look at her and regret wanting a child. I thought i would be the best mum until i had my own child..but i was drowning in motherhood. It was consuming me.
Family members were whispering behind my back.. ‘she has PND’ or because i had suffered with depression before this made me ‘the ideal candidate to get PND’ hearing these things hurt me so much. But did me no favours because it just made me determined to prove them wrong. I suffered in silence for months because of my pride."
"I kept the medication secret, again, still not wanting to admit defeat!
I felt an almost instant lift off my shoulders over the next 2 weeks. The smallest things didnt make me snap or lose my temper. I felt calm, chilled. HAPPY!! I actually felt happy. My smile wasnt false, i wasnt pretending. I was a completely different person."
"I could now understand what my partner saw when he looked at our daughter. The love she made you feel. I understood how it felt to miss her. To look at her and just smile because thats my little human that i created. And when she did cry, it went straight over my head. I wanted to comfort her- not run away and hide."
These stories resonate with me so much, I've felt some of these things too and it's horrible, especially when you feel hopeless and helpless. I'm glad these Mums have now found the help they needed and have worked or are working through it.
I'll be selecting a recipient for the family session in October, to give more people time to mull it over and figure out how to write their own story, I know it can be hard.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be considered or have something to share. Thank you to those who have already.