“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to the face the present.
One thing I recall from my childhood are the Saturday nights when my brother and I were allowed to stay up later than normal as a treat. Now a parent myself I’m fairly sure this was just a ploy to get us to sleep in longer on a Sunday morning rather than an actual ‘treat’. The programme that sticks in my mind most from these night is Casualty.
The theme tune. The excitement that I was awake later than you should be. The anticipation …….. What was going to go wrong……..
As a mother who has suffered from PND I felt most days were similar to an episode of said programme. I’d like to think now that my PND status is ‘I am recovered but still medicated’. Therefore the scenario I’m about to lay out is very much in the past. Don’t get me wrong I still have my bad days, but they are just that. Days at the very most. The lows are becoming few and far between and the recovery from them is much quicker now.
Unlike an episode of Casualty, that lasts less than an hour once a week. The relentlessness of being a Mum living every moment in the darkness of PND is truly exhausting but the process is similar. There’s is a very steady build up, lots of different stories are going on, the impending feeling of doom……. and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You are at the mercy of this mind altering illness.
So here’s the scenario….. busy mum trying to cook lunch while her two young children play in the lounge. Youngest is grumpy with unknown illness causing high temperature and a rash….. The mother gives the youngest Calpol and tries not to panic that it might be anything more sinister than just another virus. There’s no way she can take the child into the doctors again as she is worried they will think she is just being neurotic. When you have PND you question everything. Each feeling and thought you have. You even question your mothering intuition which is always a worry as it’s a very reliable skill to possess. Could this be a potential story line……is this child a lot poorlier than the mother suspects????
Eldest child is playing with toy cars, seems innocent enough…..but they have small parts, a few broken pieces, could the child become injured and require medical attention????
Mother takes a break from cooking to change younger child’s nappy in the lounge, elder child toddles out to the kitchen. Boiling pots on the hobb, hot oil, boiling water, sharp knives…… Not to mention that the cupboard under the sink is slightly ajar. All those brightly coloured dangerously tempting chemicals on display, totally irresistible to a young child. Nappy is swiftly changed, cupboard door kicked shut by mum as she walks to the bin with the nappy. Disaster averted. Phew!!!
A quick stir of all the pots and it’s time to put another log on the fire. The mum feels a sense of accomplishment, she’s cooking a wholesome meal for herself and the children even though she hates cooking and would much rather be curled up on the sofa with her poorly child or playing with the toy cars with her eldest. Log on the fire and PING. A message from another mum. She can’t ignore it, this mum needs help and advice. But in her haste to reply she has left the door open on the fire guard…… another potential for injury…..
There’s a knock at the front door, it’s the postman. Mum is fully distracted signing for a parcel while the two young children play in a small front room with effectively no barrier between them and the fire…. As she comes back into the room she noticed the fireguard is not secure and rectifies the situation straight away. In the back ground is still the worry of the youngest child, still ill, still with a rash and a high temperature. So much could of potentially gone wrong but hasn’t yet. The tension is building.
At last the lunch is ready. They all sit together and eat, no one chokes, no one has an anaphylactic shock, no one falls off their chair and gets a concussion. A meal time passes without incident. So now it’s nap time. Both children are read a story and snuggled up cosy and warm. The mum gives them both a kiss and cuddle and heads out of the room and into the bathroom.
All this time we’ve been concentrating on the two vulnerable children, without a thought to the other person in this scenario. The Mum. Juggling the day to day chores necessary when you have two young children, all of the care routine required with two so young. Seeing and rectifying any potentially dangerous situations to protect the two most precious things in the world. All the while struggling with an invisible illness that overtakes your every waking moment, and coming to think of it your sleeping moments too. It seeps into every part of your life, it is total consuming!!!
Both the children are fast asleep and Mum breathes a huge sigh of relief, a few peaceful moments when she can turn off, Or at least scale back the amount of thought she needs to give the two other humans that she’s keeping alive. Just when she thinks she has a little respite from the tasks of being Mum, she crumbles. The pressures have built up since the last time she broke a little. Big tears roll down her face, she sobs her heart out. Convinced that she is the worse mum in the world. She questions all of her choices and decisions that she has made regarding her children. She can not see how well she is doing. She wonders what she could have done differently to avoid become ill. Her judgement is clouded by an illness that she never expected to get and no way thought she’d be fighting for so long. She used to think that sleep would be her escape from the way she feels but now even sleep has deserted her. So many long nights where her brain just will not switch off. Will not stop doubts and fears running around and around and making her restless and exhausted. She sees only one way to make all of this stop…….forever.
She slowly but purposefully makes her way to the bathroom with a very firm plan in her head. She knows exactly what she needs to make this pain stop……. She has contemplated it many times before. This walk is not an unfamiliar one. It’s always good to have a backup plan, a way out. She opens the bathroom cabinet and looks at all the pills. She’s pretty sure that if she takes them all she’ll be free from all the emotional pain and turmoil that she faces every hour of every day. So this is it. The part of the story line where it all goes wrong….. the pain has become too much for her to bare and she feels she cannot carry on.
But as all the times before, she stops. Closes the cabinet door and walks away. Creeps into the room where her children sleep and realises that the blessing of her two beautiful children far out weigh the curse of PND. No one can look after them as well as she can or give them them the level of love that she does. She walks away. She cries the rest of the tears that need to be cried. She lays her head on her pillow and closes her eyes. She gives up trying to make sense of the whats, whys and when’s of the mornings events, or non events that has become her life. She joins her children in sleeping.
It turns out the story of this lady is not to be crammed into just one short episode. The journey she is on is very long and complex. But one thing she hopes is that here story inspires others to carry on fighting and to realise that no matter how bad things seem. They will get better.