Statistically, if you have experienced PND previously you have a 50/50 chance of experiencing it again during a future pregnancy and/or postnatal period. I’m not pregnant but I hope to be one day and I wanted to write this letter so, if I am unwell again and consumed by PND’s lies, I will have something concrete to read. I plan to do everything I can to prevent or reduce PND but it’s good to have a Plan B.
I know you’re frightened, I remember it. Perhaps I don’t remember it well as when the anxiety leaves you the memory fades too. Self-preservation, I suppose. But if I close my eyes and take myself back I can remember the terror and panic and feeling of wanting to claw myself out of the world. The way you are feeling again now.
You are scared that you can’t cope with this new baby. You are afraid that you can’t stand to live another moment in your crawling skin. Every hour feels like a week. But please remember this – it doesn’t last forever. I am proof of that. I’m not afraid right now, my skin is not crawling, my heart isn’t racing and you will get back to that too.
I know you’re angry that this has happened again, frustrated that you couldn’t keep the monsters at bay. You cry angry tears in the dark. That’s okay, cry those tears, feel that rage – allow yourself that moment and then…let it go. Let it go before it eats you up. I know being positive feels like a mountain you don’t have the energy to climb but remember you have no choice. Positivity is the only way out, and it works. If you have to fake it at first, that’s okay, eventually it becomes real.
I know your thoughts are racing, you can’t concentrate. You can’t read a book or watch a TV show right now. But remember this passes. I’m good at my job and I read every day and I always guess the killer in a detective show. I listen and focus on others’ problems and I reach easily for sound advice. You will learn to quieten your mind and feel capable again.
You can’t sleep well, can you? The insomnia is driving you to madness it seems. You wonder how you’ll ever sleep again, if you’ll be an insomniac forever. Remember I felt this way too, I didn’t see a way to rest. Now I sleep every night and you will too. Stop trying to, stop caring about it, and it will come.
I know you don’t want to eat. Your stomach is in knots and everything you put in your mouth is like cardboard and sand. Remember you will eat again. I eat and I love it and I consume too much!
Nothing feels real at the moment. You feel you are stuck in this horrible bubble, locked outside of your world, and it feels so uncomfortable and frightening. This is simply derealisation, your mind protecting itself after prolonged anxiety. It will fade away. I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way, it ends and life is real again.
You think you don’t love the baby, don’t you? You look at them and don’t feel overwhelmed by love. You assumed it would be different this time, that the mythological lightening bolt of devotion would strike but it hasn’t really. You’re tired and sore and resentful and convinced you made a mistake. That everything was perfect when it was just the three of you. You still don’t love motherhood the way you thought you would. But remember that I love it now. It’s hard, sometimes Caterpillar pushes my buttons too much but I love him with every beat of my heart. He is funny and clever and gorgeous and when he holds you you never want to let go. This will come with the new baby too, you will fall in love and it might be slow but it will be so true.
Do you feel differently about Caterpillar at the moment? Do you look at him and wonder where the love went? Do you feel like you don’t want to be around him, that you need more space? That’s the anxiety, the panic, the lies your unwell mind is spinning. You are too full of fear to feel the love that is right there, but it is still there. And when the anxiety eases it will flow freely again.
Try not to worry. Do the things you know will work. Take your meds. Do some exercise, go for walks. Accept help. Call PEWS. Make a therapy appointment. Reach out to your online friends. Rationalise your thoughts, practice CBT. Learn. Encourage your inner adult to be stronger than your inner child. Be positive even when it feels ridiculous, write down three good things every night. Don’t listen to the lies and the distorted thoughts. Hold on tight and know in your soul that this won’t last forever. You will find your way back to who you were. I’m right here, waiting.