I was sat on the edge of our bath at 3am, crying quietly in the hope of not waking anyone in the house.
I had the baby we’d waited so long for and, to my 267,000 Instagram followers I, perhaps, had it all. I couldn’t explain the relentless tears. I could hear the white noise of my four-month-old daughter’s sleep app and remember holding my body in sobbing convulsions, desperate not to wake her.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone. I clung to the side of the bath like it could stop me falling into a darkness I had started to fear but couldn’t explain.
Initially, I passed it off as the ‘baby blues’ and continued in this routine, until my husband found me, held me and we acknowledged that this had turned into a place neither of us knew how to navigate.
I remember thinking I just need to get the kids to nursery, I just need to finish work, I just need to get to the end of the day, end of the week, end of the year. When you have kids or rent or an elderly mother to care for, you don’t always have the luxury of stopping.
I was a highly functioning depressive. I would turn up to Government talks with a baby strapped to me, thinking I was changing minds when really I was damaging my own. I needed help.
I thought I was overreacting, attention- seeking, perhaps, until my husband asked that night how long I had been crying like this. I realised my daughter was 18 months old and I couldn’t remember anything in that time. I simply wasn’t there.
I had stopped seeing friends and started making excuses. My sister and I fell out because I never returned her calls anymore. I was like a laptop slowly shutting down until only the basic keyboard function was there. I was numbly going day to day, making sure everyone had what they needed apart from myself.
I wince looking back on Instagram at the woman who was piecing together the fragments of her mind in an app; the gap between who she was and what was presented ever-shifting. I never intended that disconnect, I just wasn’t sure how to bridge the gap. I feared standing still because I couldn’t face an emptiness I didn’t think anything could fill.
My GP asked if I had thought about taking my own life at any point – admitting the darkest of thoughts to a stranger was both releasing and terrifying.
I think I felt shame and embarrassment, like I had failed my family. In many ways that was my unravelling. I saw mental health in a binary way – you were weak or strong. I’d been brought up to be the latter.
I didn’t want to admit defeat, so I ignored my husband’s pleas to seek help. I would snap at him when he tried to book me appointments or clear my day to go and see my GP.
One day, my eldest daughter found me crying in her bedroom, scrubbing the carpet because I’d found a stain I couldn’t get out. She wrapped her arms around my neck and said she didn’t care about the stain, she cared about me. I broke down, knowing I had to seek support beyond my six-year-old.
Being diagnosed with prolonged postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis by my psychologist was the turning point, even though there is still a long way to go to recover. I heard my GP ask if I had thought about taking my own life at any point – admitting the darkest of thoughts to a stranger was both releasing and terrifying. I had been carrying photos of my two girls in my pocket as insurance for anything I might do.
I thought I had hidden it so well, but my dad recently told me he’d wake at night scared, adding, ‘We cannot lose you for another three years.’ It hit home just how lost I had been.
I used to think success was financial or job-centred. I think surviving the last three years has been my biggest success so far. Deciding whether to post my diagnosis to Instagram, I concluded that I wanted my two girls to know life is not always sunshine and that they were a big part of that success story. Along with my husband, Matt, who held me in the darkness, saying, ‘I don’t know what to do, but I’m here.’ Until one day, after a very long time, I was there, too.
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