“She was putting on an act and laughing a lot.”
Synonyms: pretence, false display, show, front, facade, masquerade, charade, guise, posture, pose, affectation, appearance; sham, fake, bluff, hoax; make-believe, play-acting, feigning, shamming, posturing, posing, counterfeit, subterfuge, dissimulation, dissemblance, fabrication, falsification; informala put-on.
I was a master of deception when I first was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. Why? Because I was trying to get, my head around the diagnosis myself. I couldn’t explain it in my own head let alone trying to explain it to any one else. I was also totally exhausted, I didn’t have the energy to talk to anyone at all. I was having a constant internal battle with my own emotions. I knew how I felt but as soon as I tried to put it into words it made absolutely no sense what so ever.
I still to this day feel guilty that I deceived so many people, close friends and family had no idea I was struggling until I wrote my first blog post. To all of these people I apologise. I honestly didn’t have the strength to tell people and it’s not exactly a good conversation opener is it? People expect you to be over the moon with the new arrival not for you to be so down in the dumps that you doubt your own existence. After my first blog post I was totally overwhelmed by the support I received from people. Do I wish I’d told people sooner? No. I’m glad I waited to share my secret with others as only now I have the energy to deal with it.
So the ‘easiest’ thing to do was put on an act every day. I would drag myself out of bed every morning after a sleepless night and put on my ‘Happy new Mummy mask’. It looked very similar to my normal face apart from the eyes. They could never lie. Only people that knew me very very well could see past the mask and into my eyes to realise that I was struggling with the day to day basic tasks in life. I was once told that, my eyes looked ’empty’ and ‘haunted’. I think these two words sum up very well how I was feeling at the time. When I look back at photos of myself in those really troubled times my eyes look hollow and dark. These photos make me very sad even now and bring those feelings flooding back instantly. I look at my eyes and don’t recognise them as my own. I wish I could go back to those times and give myself a big hug and say ‘It will get better. I promise it will get easier.’
With more and more practice I became very good at deceiving people about how I was feeling. The mask got more and more comfortable to wear and the lies tripped off the tongue automatically now. It was a knee jerk response, “Hi, how are you? ” ” I’m fine thanks, how are you?” It was an awful lot easier than telling the truth. It’s not because I didn’t trust people with the truth. I didn’t want people to worry about me or be burdened by my problems. At this stage I still believed that having this illness was down to something that I had done wrong and therefor it was something I had to deal with myself. I also became very good at quickly diverting the conversation away from myself. I would ask people lots of questions about themselves as a defence mechanism. Put the focus onto them and away from myself. I didn’t even like myself so why would I want to talk about myself.
I developed my own PND language, it was a kind of graded response to the question “how are you.” The responses are listed below ranging from a good day to a bad days responses……..
- Im really well thanks, how are you? : So far so good, but things can change very quickly. I’m enjoying this rare positive moment while it lasts. Please don’t ask me anymore questions about myself.
- I’m good thanks, how are you? : so far today I haven’t wanted to scream or shout at the children even though I feel absolutely terrible. I doubt every decision I make regarding them and have no confidence in myself as a mother. Any minute now I’m going to burst into tears. How can I end this conversation so you don’t see this? Please don’t ask me any more questions about myself.
- Good, you. : I had practically no sleep last night, I sat and cried because my baby wouldn’t sleep and I don’t know why. I’m fairly sure it’s because I’m a terrible mother. I’m struggling to string a sentence together because I am truly exhausted. I have no idea how I will make it through today. I barely have the physical strength to put one foot in front of the other but somehow I need to care for two children. Please don’t ask me anymore questions about myself.
- OK, How are you? How’s your Mum? Did you have a nice holiday? : Seriously struggling today. I don’t know how I got out of bed, let alone got myself and two children fed, dressed and out of the house. I can’t even remember driving here as I’m so out of my mind with tiredness and depression. I’m having some really intrusive thoughts and hate everything about myself today. Please don’t ask me any more questions about myself.
- Pretty tired, but hey ho that’s having a newborn and a toddler for you. : I’m walking, talking and acting exactly as a new Mum should. However I would much rather go and bury my head in my pillow, hide under the duvet and sleep for a year. I need a break from thinking and feeling like this. It’s so tiring. I’m drained. I’m exhausted and I can’t see a way out. I’m doing my best I really am but it isn’t good enough. I have nothing more to give, but keep giving I must. Please don’t ask me any questions about myself.
- Im so tired, please tell me it’s gets easier… : Im trying to make a joke of my dire situation. I’m hoping this will fool you into thinking that I’m my happy, jolly old self that you’ve always known. Have I fooled you? Seems so. Result. Basically though I’ve had enough. Every thing feels like too much for me and I can’t cope any more. I’m having thoughts that if I killed myself I would get a rest. A break form the storm of thoughts and feelings that are running through my body. Will I ever act on these feelings? Absolutely not. I have the two most beautifu children I’ve ever set eyes on. They are my world. I would feel like this every day for the rest of my life and they’d still be worth every second of my own personal pain. Please don’t ask me any more questions about myself.
- You know what, I’m absolutely shattered. Is it bed time yet? : Again I am trying to deceive you with humour. Ha ha ha?!?! Help me please. I have no idea how I’m going to get through the next few minutes yet alone the rest of the day. What am I doing next? I’m so tired I don’t know which way is up. Do I really feels like this or am I just really tired? Or is it the medication making me feel like this? Or is this the PND talking? Or is this really me? Will I always feel like this? But do I actually feel like this? I feel like I’m talking really slowly and can’t get my words out, have you noticed? I feel dizzy and sick, anxiety attack coming on…… Will I be able to hide it from you? Aarrrrrgggggghhhhhh!! I’m so confused!!!
That was how I got through the ‘deception days’ I straight out lied to people. Probably a lot of you lovely people that are reading this now. It was my way of protecting you and myself from the truth. I later have learnt that by doing this I was using up and awful lot of energy (energy I didn’t have.) I was also confusing myself. By acting one way and feeling another I was confusing and already muddled brain. Now I am being a lot more honest when people ask me how I am. I hope my honesty doesn’t make others feel uncomfortable but I’m finished with lying to myself and others.
This is also the main reasons that I decided to start coming off of my antidepressants a few months ago. It will be a very gradual process to avoid any set backs. But I’m ready. I want to know that my feelings are my feelings not what the drugs are making me feel. If I have a low day it will be because I have Post Natal Depression and not because I’m a bad Mum. Infact I believe I am damn good Mum, it’s taken me a long time to believe this though. My children are thriving inspite of my illness and they fill my life with the deepest love that I never knew possible. They are the reason I am still here today.
Dropping the dose of my antidepressants has been really really tough at times but I will not give up. I will not be beaten by this illness. Of course I will write more about this part of my journey in future blog posts. But for now I can tell you I am moving, slowly, in the right direction. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger and brighter every day. I haven’t thrown my mask away just yet as some days I may still need it. Let’s just say it’s ‘in storage’ one day I will no longer need the mask and I cannot wait for that day to arrive.