Before March of 2015 I had no idea that antenatal depression even existed. I had heard so much about postpartum depression; but never a single thing about depression DURING pregnancy.
Depression was very different than what I had understood it was. I thought that depression was just crying all day, not being able to get out of bed, and hating your life. And while there was definitely a lot of crying depression was not what I imagined.
Antenatal depression for me can primarily be described as debilitating anxiety. It felt as though I could not shut off my brain, not matter where I was or what I was doing or who I was with there was always this looming sadness and edginess that I couldn’t shake. So I spent every waking hour trying to figure out why it was there. I thought that if I could get to the root of what was bothering me then I could stop the discomfort I was experiencing.
The Harder I Tried to Be Happy the Further Away it Was.
It was awful. I was never hungry, but knew I had to eat to keep my baby healthy. I had difficulty sleeping, which was made worse by pregnancy discomfort. I would cry every night after work (and really not know the reason why). But probably the hardest part of antenatal depression was the lack of joy. I couldn’t access the feeling of happiness if my life depended on it, I couldn’t touch the feeling of goodness no matter how hard I tried.
It actually seemed the harder I tried to be happy the further away from it I became; I wanted it so badly that I became consumed with trying to fix myself, trying to get back to who I know I was before; get back in touch with the old me. All I wanted was to feel like myself; which is a symptom that I find is hard to describe…. that you just want to feel like yourself, rather than being this person who you are; but don’t want to be.
Finally Understanding What Was Going On
It wasn’t until I was actually diagnosed and started receiving treatment for Antenatal Depression ( Sudbury has a fantastic Perinatal Mood Disorder Program) that I was able to find any refuge from the struggle. Being diagnosed was both incredibly difficult to hear as well as beautifully welcomed. At last I knew what was going on with me, and that it wasn’t something I had done wrong or something I could have prevented.
When my nurse practitioner explained to me about the signs and symptoms of antenatal depression it was like having someone read to me from my diary. Every single thing she mentioned was like she pulled it straight from my experience.
What my Honours Degree in Psychology Couldn’t Have Taught Me
I have my Honours degree in Psychology, and through my education I truly thought I understood and knew all there was to know about mental illness, and developing antenatal depression humbled the crap out of me.
There was a big difference for me between what I learnt in school and what I experienced for myself. While school helped me understand so much about depression and about treatment and how to help other with it; it could never have helped me understand how much the person is suffering.
Until I experienced the hardship myself I couldn’t accurately understand what it is that makes depression so debilitating; the way it takes you away from yourself, the way it robs you of joy and leaves you grabbing for anything to help make it better.
I cannot honestly say I am glad I got antenatal depression because that would be a blatant lie, because it was awful. But I can say that I am grateful to be on the other side of it, to have walked through the challenge and made it out stronger.
This experience has helped me connect and relate to the client’s that I work with who are going through a Perinatal Mood Disorder and allowed me to understand how difficult it really can be.
To find out how I can help support you throughout your pregnancy, birth and postpartum click HERE.