Before I had my child, I was a different person. Not just in the sense that well, I didn’t have a child, but in the sense that since, my whole personality, my goals, and who I am has completely changed.
Before the birth of my son, I didn’t have anyone relying on me. Things were different. I really struggled with my mental health, and the thing is, I had no motivation to help myself or to stop things from getting out of control. In my head, the only person I had to save was myself and, in my mindset back then, I didn’t respect myself enough to do that.
Things would shift from quiet to turbulent and everything in between, my relationships and friendships suffering. My outlook wasn’t the same as it is now — back then, I didn’t value myself enough to change things or to turn things around. I had help there but I didn’t take it seriously because I had nobody depending on me and therefore I could just brush it off and ‘seek it another day’.
But when I got pregnant, everything changed. I was in a stage of suffering but suddenly I had this little person in my belly already depending on me despite the fact we hadn’t even yet met. Getting pregnant (by surprise!) was a huge wake up call for me. Suddenly, I knew I had to get things together, not just for myself but for my baby. I wanted to be the best mum I could possibly be and I knew I could be that, even with mental health issues, if I just sought help and kept to having care available to me.
Throughout my pregnancy I was under the perinatal mental health services. I had a consultant who I would meet with, before we entered into the strange world of Covid, but it then turned to frequent phone calls. I had people checking in on me frequently to make sure I was doing okay, to review medication and plans, and suddenly seeking help didn’t seem like a chore anymore, because I wasn’t just doing it for myself — I was doing it for the person I wanted to be for my son.
Unfortunately, after my son was born I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and things were really, really tough. My main intrusive thoughts were around whether I was failing as a mother. Every little thing would make me feel like I wasn’t good enough and I would constantly compare myself to other new mothers and feel like I wasn’t keeping up to the same expectations. My partner says that during the first two weeks of being a mother I looked ‘dead behind the eyes’. I mean, who wouldn’t? I’d had a somewhat traumatic pregnancy due to having hypertension and gestational diabetes, reduced movements leading to an early C-Section which in itself is traumatic enough; coupled with healing and coming home with a newborn, all in the time of Covid when my partner could only visit for one hour a day. Things had changed and my life had completely changed all in the space of a few days, and I guess my mind just didn’t know how to cope.
But the difference is that this time I was proactive, because I had to be — I had my little one depending on me to be the best version of myself that I could possibly be, and therefore I didn’t stall in seeking help. I told my health visitor and I told the mental health services how I was feeling and I got help. And it helped. During this time, I also sought CBT and went back to my old therapist, because I wanted to try to treat what was happening to me the best ways I knew how.
I had a reason to seek help now, and although I should have realised it before, there has always been a reason to seek help — because we as people with mental health issues still deserve to feel happiness.
In my eyes, my son has saved my life in so many ways. Not just by giving me a reason to want to live every day, to flourish and be the best version of myself, but because he has made me realise that I was always deserving of help.
Which leads me to this: You are always worthy of help, love and support. From experience, sometimes the motivation isn’t there because you feel like things are never going to get better, or because you feel like you don’t deserve help, and deserve to continue feeling the way you are. But you don’t.
Seeking help is hard, mentally and physically and it can be a draining process. But stick at it. I’m not saying that your mental illness is going to be cured, but help might just make it that little bit easier. It might help you to learn technique to manage and to build up your self-esteem and to realise that you deserve a reason to smile and to appreciate yourself.
I’m not cured, I still struggle with my anxiety and still have the support of a mental health team — and what I do have is the will to continue working with them, to see my therapist. And this is thanks to my son — not just because he is my son and my one reason to be the best person I can be, but because he made me realise that I was always deserving of being the best person I could be.
But you don’t need to find a ‘reason’ to seek help. You are the reason. And I promise you that when you realise this, your whole life will change.