I’ve always been someone who loves going out. To events with friends, for sleepovers, out shopping, clubbing, you name it. I was confident. I had been dealing with mental health issues for a long time, but from the ages of 18–23 I was outgoing.
And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and it all changed.
I had my son last April, and started experiencing postnatal depression and perinatal anxiety symptoms quite quickly. I remember having the baby blues pretty roughly — crying at absolutely everything, whether sad, funny, or a cute smile from my baby. Sometimes I would just start sobbing at nothing. But I knew this was normal.
I remember my midwife telling me that if these feelings persisted, and I felt my mood becoming low, I needed to talk to someone, because this was a sign of postnatal depression.
I started feeling my mood drop weeks after the baby blues, but I didn’t tell anyone. To tell you the honest truth, I was very scared. I knew postnatal depression is common, and that a huge percentage of mothers experience it alongside perinatal anxiety — but my intrusive thoughts told me that if I told someone, I would be seen as an unfit mother, and my son would be taken away from me.
It wasn’t until I broke down on the phone after a very normal conversation with my health visitor that everything came out, out of nowhere. To my surprise, she was very supportive and encouraged me to seek help. My fears were still there, but I tried to trust her and go with what she said. So I told my psychiatrist.
I told him all about how I was feeling. How I felt like I was failing all of the time and how I felt like I wasn’t good enough for my baby. I begged him to keep reassuring me that my son wouldn’t be taken away from me. He tried to, but the reassurance wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t until I joined a Facebook group for women with PND, that I found so many other mothers had the same fears. It made me feel less alone and like my worries were ‘normal’, even though they were scary and overwhelming.
While I’m dealing with my postnatal depression and trying to manage the best way I can, my anxiety is still affecting me. I haven’t left the house in months — not properly, anyway. The furthest I have gone in months is 10 minutes to my mum’s, as she is in my support bubble. But the idea of walking or social distance meets scares me. I continue to tell myself I will do it, because I need to, but when it gets to it, I just… can’t.
It’s not the virus that gives me anxiety, oddly. It’s the new world. One I haven’t entered in a long time. And now I don’t know where to start. It’s as if I’m in my own safe little bubble instead, with my partner and my son, and I don’t want to leave it.
I get in my head about people staring at me and thinking horrible things about me. It makes the idea of taking a walk through the town centre fear-inducing.
There have been times where people I know have walked past and though in my head I’ve begged for them not to walk my way, worried about what they will think about me, I’ve just had to suck it up, put a brave face on and say hello.
But, there have been other times where going for walks has been much easier. Usually when it’s quieter and it’s just me and my little boy, so that I can talk to him and sing to him without anyone else trying to get past us on the pavement.
I think what’s hardest is that postnatal depression I can deal with, but I haven’t experienced this type of anxiety before — as I’m sure anyone else living with it now, because of the pandemic, will feel too.
I feel lost in this new world. But it’s one that I know we’re going to have to become accustomed to, because this (scarily) is life right now.
But I am trying.
I have been taking small steps by taking my son round the block when it’s quieter. When I know I won’t walk past people I know, or when I know I won’t have to crossroads.
I am trying by planning longer walks and planning social distanced meets for when it’s okay to do so again. But I’m also not punishing myself if I’m unable to do these things. Planning is enough for now, and when the time comes, I’ll see how I feel.
And I think that’s the best thing anyone can do — everyone knows that getting outside is good for your mental health, according to Mind charity it can help to improve your mood, eliminate stress, help you to become more relaxed while also improving your physical health. But anyone who’s also been in my position knows that it can be hard to find the strength and courage to actually go and get outside.
So my best piece of advice is to to take it slow, and do what you can. Even if it starts with just going to stand outside for a couple of minutes on your doorstep. Give yourself time and be proud of yourself for every small step — because eventually, those few minutes on the doorstep will turn into a five-minute walk, and that five-minute walk into a half-an-hour stroll.
Don’t punish yourself for not being able to do things you aren’t ready for — always be kind to yourself, because being kind to yourself is what’s going to help you through this.