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 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.
By Gwen Atkinson