After the birth of my first son, the journey into motherhood was not easy.I could not accept help from anyone because the baby belonged to me.I would fuss over him and get angry at any advice or requests for support.Socially, I had locked up myself at home, cutting all contact with family and friends.Breastfeeding in public was a huge No-No in fear of being looked at and judged.I was extremely agitated with thoughts of not being a good enough mum and only felt safe at home, alone with the baby.I couldn’t feel any pleasure in the things I used to enjoy.I felt overwhelming sadness, exhaustion and an overall feeling of emptiness and flatness.
The months were rolling and it was time to return to my work as a teacher. I felt increasingly nervous and couldn’t fathom how I could juggle motherhood and work at the same time.I am by nature an introvert person, and do not usually talk about my feelings to my husband or anyone close.My anxiety and depression started spiralling without control.Looking back, I feel there was no real connection with the baby, except for caring for his physical and practical needs.
At work, I started behaving in panic mode.There wereany thoughts rushing through mind and had the impression that there were msny things to do.It felt as if though I was living in a nightmare where you’re going to drown and gasp for the little air that remains.I had got really thin.I attributed this to breastfeeding.I was not aware that I had not been eating properly.My personal hygiene had also taken the back-burner and I had developed a huge knot in my curly hair, which the haidresser took 3 hours to remove.
My gestures and movements got bizarre as I started doing things at super-sonic speed. There was no time left-my concept of time changed as though something or someone was running after me.
At home, I didn’t feel safe anymore. There were cameras filming me from the chandeliers.My husband was part of the plot and there were men in black suits conspiring against me. There was nowhere to hide.They were planning to kill me and my baby and then put the murder on me.
The police were constantly following my moves. I cannot leave home as they will take my baby, put him up for adoption and lock me away forever.
I did not sleep at all. I would stay up in bed with my heart thumping incessantly in my chest, and do household chores in the middle of the night, without my husband’s knowledge.
On Mother’s Day 2015, my first one, I start hearing helicopters whirling on top of the roof.I go out in the balcony and see policemen armoured in black surrounding the house.They’re coming for me now.No one can defend me, I’m as guilty as hell and that is where I deserve to be.
My son doesn’t deserve me anymore.I’m not good enough fot him and he would be better off without me.I start scribbling suicide letters.I’m out of time, and need to explain that I’m innocent.I also want to explain how my son can be taken care of and which school he can go to.
My mum realises I’m not well and takes me for a walk round the block.I keep turning my head as I walk.My pace is fast; a black Mercedes is following us.The glasses are tinted and I cannot see who’s driving.They’re after me.I tell my mum that my husband isn’t the father of my baby.They will take me to court and no one will defend me.
Mum takes me home and phones the health centre.They give me sleeping pills and refer me to the perinatal mental health clinic.
I spend 2 weeks at hospital.I was heavily medicated and have few memories of my stay there.
I am still on medication, 5 years on. Recovery is a long bumpy ride, but with the support of significant others, medication and therapy, I can now look back and tell myself that I have fought this monster.I feel guilty that I missed most of my son’s first milestones; memories of these are sparse and blurry. However, I feel grateful for having been lucky enough to found the care to get well enough to call myself a survivor. I feel that those dark moments changed me as a person.I no longer take life for granted; I was at its brink and managed to pull through.
I appeal to mothers and their support systems to be aware of maternal mental health symptoms and seek help immediately. These conditions are treatable and with time you will get well. You will emerge a stronger and better person, for sure.