I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety over eight years ago. Looking back I probably had the condition for many years before then, but what brought it to a head was actively trying for a baby. In short, the things that caused my mental health problems in general became a crisis when my mothering instinct kicked in. This actually makes sense for a couple of reasons, which I now will try to explain. But I need to stress that I am not medically qualified, let alone a mental health specialist. This is my story, and it may be similar to yours, but equally it may not be. If you are in any doubt, seek help because the quicker any health problem gets treatment the easier it is to recover.

Firstly I suffered from the ‘things will be better when’ syndrome. I’m unhappy because I don’t like my job, my house, being single. Once I fix those external factors I would be happy. The problem is that when I ticked the boxes that I thought would make me content, and I still wasn’t, it was devastating. My life goal was becoming a parent, and what should have been the most wonderful time of my life wasn’t. It was devastating but it made a twisted kind of sense.

What depression really looks like

What depression really looks like

Secondly, we need to remember that our bodies and minds evolved at a time when there was danger everywhere. Humans have been around for half a millions years and for only a few hundred have we started living without man eating predators, marauding invaders, lawlessness, and had the benefit modern medicine. The mother who was scared to put her infant down, kept the baby out of harm’s way and it was in turn more likely to live to create the next generation. We now live in a much safer environment, but our caveman (and cavewoman) brains are still looking for dangers to protect our babies from. As there isn’t a sabre tooth tiger living round the corner, my brain looks for ways that I am not a good mother.


What I find most upsetting about this is the industry that has been created to profit from a mother’s insecurities. Whether it is junk masked as a breastfeeding supplements or baby food, companies offering to ‘test’ your milk to check it’s nutritious, or the numerous gadgets offering to solve problems you didn’t know existed. They have carefully created a warm and fluffy image so you trust them, but I made a decision early on to be sceptical of advice from an organisation that wanted to sell me something, and you would be surprised how many there are.

I want to stress that the right amount of anxiety is beneficial. It makes sure I look after my son to the best of my ability and give him the best start in life. Unfortunately, too much causes problems and turns into a feedback loop that is discussed in many mental health articles. Depression is surprising similar. So if you are reading this, worried that the situation you find yourself in means you are not a good parent, stop that right now. I have been through what you are going through and while it is the hardest thing I have ever done, it made me re-evaluate my life, realise what is important and this has ultimately made me a better person and parent. In many ways I was lucky that I was able to work through this before parenthood.

Accepting and embracing depression can make you a better person

Accepting and embracing depression can make you a better person

What prompted me to write this article was seeing so many new mums doubt themselves. Some were having a hiccup in their breastfeeding journey and were sceptical of their ability to feed baby, others had stronger symptoms, such as tearfulness or anger. Maybe you have a healthy level of anxiety and just need to believe me when I say you are doing brilliantly, keep going. If you think it has got to the point where you need more of that, I have some further reading and links that may help you. Help comes in many forms, so you don’t have to think you will automatically be forced down a treatment route that isn’t right for you. If nothing else, the Can I Breastfeed In It UK Off Topic Discussion community has thousands of members. Any time, day or night, you can be sure someone who has been through what you are going through will be online and ready to help if you just log in and ask for help.

By Gwen Atkinson



More on the ancient brain theory

Depression self assessment test

Breastfeeding Network Post Natal Depression Factsheet

Breastfeeding Network Anxiety Factsheet

Natural treatment for depression

PANDA – Pre and Post-Natal Depression Advice and Support

Spike Milligan Legacy – about depression

Samaritans 24 Hour confidential helpline



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