Guest Post – Why I Think I Died In 2016

In this post, I made a call out for guest posts by moms who wanted to share their stories on Postpartum Depression (PPD). Today’s post is by Vicki K, a phenomenal lady who I met during the Mommy Conversations, a forum held by Amira Africa (and wrote about it here). Vicki is a mom to a handsome champ, and has struggled with PPD. She is on the road to recovery, and in this candid post, she shares her journey and the isolation that comes with been depressed as a new mom.

*****

In recent times, I have come to appreciate how amazing life is. Why, you ask?  Because as I look back at my past years I know, my lowest moment in life was in 2016. If there is a year I would have fit perfectly well as an actress on the series walking dead. 2016 is the year I ask myself severally:

“Why was I so uptight for most of the year? Why couldn’t I relate with anyone during this period? Why couldn’t anyone understand me? Why did I feel so utterly alone despite been surrounded by so much love?”

All this was because I had Postpartum depression (PPD). I knew all along I was suffering from PPD, and even did a Twitter thread on the same at some point. Knowing I was depressed, however, did not solve the problem. It could not. I shut it down most of the time all by myself, waiting for it to pass.

I was waiting, waiting for anyone to notice, waiting for a sign that my life is worth it.

I was waiting to be told I matter. I thought all this would solve my PPD.

 

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as these. I guess I was looking at it the wrong way for a whole year. I need not explain what PPD is as there is a lot of information on this website (Read a basic intro in plain and simple English here, the symptoms, stages and treatment options available for moms with PPD).Depression is depressing. Your mind is at play here and whatever you do, it’s is still right there with you. It keeps lying to you, “You do not matter, and you are not worth it. You are the only mom suffering. You are a bad mom, and your child does not deserve you.” And it goes on and on, the unrelenting negative thoughts.

My walking dead experience was filled with tormenting words my brain lied to me on a daily basis. Sometimes, I would just stare at nothingness, waiting for the days to pass. When I smiled, it was rarely genuine. I don’t remember being truly happy, unless I was far from my son which was not often. I always felt like I was on lock down. It was as if society had told me “No, you are not supposed to follow your dreams, you have to take care of your child or no one else well.” It started to become a reality. My mind was playing tricks on me all the time and winning.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Made Me Wear a Mask

The worst part of all this, was that my son always faced the wrath that came with my PPD. He did not deserve it. All he was being was an infant – messy, loud, and demanding like all other infants are. He just wanted my attention. When my triggers surfaced, he never had it easy. Shouting and abandonment were part of it. In many situations where he needed love most, I just was never there enough. Do not get me wrong, I had a supportive family and close friends and I’m eternally grateful for their presence. Whatever I wanted I could have. I did not even have to stress on food, baby clothes, feeding utensils, and even diapers. I even had a 24-hour support system. (This is for the people who tell depressed individuals, ‘ooh, you should be grateful you have a child, so many couples want a child but cannot have them’. ‘You have everything, stop being ungrateful.’, ‘You are very selfish.’-the list goes on and on. This is a reminder, it isn’t that we are not grateful, or do not know all things. We do, we are struggling).

So, why then was I depressed most of the time? I always felt like I did not deserve it all, as if it was not fair for women to bear the entire burden all by themselves. (This, in itself declared that I’m a feminist) It didn’t’ make any sense to me, why couldn’t babies just take care of themselves and be quiet? Does my life even matter? On my hardest days with PPD, I would sleep hoping to die, hoping not to wake up. I did have suicidal thoughts, but I did not have the guts. I did not care whether I was going to heaven, hell or transition into something else in my next life, even a stone. Then morning would come repeatedly.

What was my turning point in all this?

I had many turning points that have made me who I am now. At one point, I had a huge fight with my cousin all because of cockroaches. Yes, cockroaches. The memory is still vivid. This was my first ever word fight and hopefully my last. I realized later maybe I was placing too much pressure on her and I’m the one on the wrong or maybe she is just having a hard time too. Secondly, after an event I had attended in September 2016, I decided to reach out on a blog where the writer was among the panelists, when my PPD got out of control. Getting help and having someone who related to what I was going through was amazing. I followed a platform on PPD and realizing I was not alone, again, gave me comfort.

Read More: I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

At one point, I decided to reread the Harry Potter book Series. For two months, this was my go to book. I would itch to finish one book at a time. Fascinatingly, this time round, I read it with a different viewpoint to the extent I always noticed when the characters were depressed – how ironical. When you are going through something, you tend to notice others experiencing the same situation. This is for my friends who came before 2016 and wondered why I became excessively quiet in that year.  No, I am not yet fully recovered after PPD yet but life is a journey. So, as I continue to put my trust in the One who is not done with me yet, I begin to understand, I begin to find peace even when my now son who is approaching terrific two wants to ‘eat me alive’. I now speak more positivity into my life than I did in 2016. I believe now that nothing lasts forever and God’s timing is ideal.

*****

Thank you Vicki for sharing your story. It does take courage to open about one’s struggle, but I am realizing just how much one mom’s story is a voice for the many moms who may not be able to speak out. Vicki is passionate about wildlife conservation, and you can catch up with her on her blog here

Call Out.

Hi good people 🙂

Trust the new week and second half of 2017 is coming along well and that you are making progress, no matter how small the steps are – because sometimes you actually need to celebrate the small wins!

Dropping in real quick tonight. Lately, I have felt the need to add a series of guest posts from moms who have struggled with Postpartum Depression, and would love to share their story on the blog. Not only will this add diversity, it will also help speak up for moms who are struggling. It is okay for moms who do not want to reveal their identities as the posts will be uploaded anonymously. The idea is to speak out about #PPD in all its different struggles and to let moms know they are never alone.

Interested, or got questions? Please drop an email over at ppdisland@gmail.com

Every June…

Every June, I have a silent anniversary of sorts.

This June was no different.

It doesn’t help much the fact that this blurry anniversary coincides with my birthday.

* * *

I have vivid memories of that day back in June 2011. In the months that had passed, I lived in a bubble of sorts; reality still hadn’t dawned on me. How’d I been drinking Famous Grouse & Malibu all along without knowing it. It never crossed my mind, at least not at 22. I had these lofty dreams, my career was on an upward trajectory, and there were all the signs of a well-heeled lifestyle. The realization that life as I knew it was going to change had me floating in a palpable fog.

I’d had nightmares every so often since I saw those two lines—piercing screams in the dead of the night, a bloodied mess on my hands, an obsessive worry-packed train of thought that seemed to amplify my incapability to transcend life’s hurdles, and the very nagging thought that I probably wouldn’t pull through alive. I was scared. With every new day that drew me closer to one of my life’s most changing turning points, I grieved at the life I had left behind yet couldn’t embrace with gusto what lay ahead.

Read More: Triggers…

It was a yo-yo of sorts. I was going to be a mom—totally unprepared, and completely flustered by life as I knew it. As the days whizzed by, I felt like a puppet in life’s hands; going through the motions, pretending to be unfazed, but really squirming on the inside.

* * *

That Wednesday morning began like any other…

This post first appeared on Postpartum Progress. Read the rest of the post here.

Guest Blogging over at JoinMQ

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of guest blogging over at JoinMQ. JoinMQ is a UK-based charity organization that continues to highlight the importance of mental health, the need to reduce stigma associated with various mental health conditions as well as spearhead research in the same field. What an honor to be able to share my journey as far as Postpartum Depression is concerned. Feel free to leave any comments or feedback. xx

* * *

As the festive season approaches, I cannot help but marvel at the fact that in my son’s almost four years, this is the first Christmas I will be spending, away from the haziness that is postnatal depression. It is as amazing as it is surreal. It brings tears to my eyes, but not the kind of tears that I shed last Christmas. Instead, it is tears of joy, of gratitude, of hope.

Let’s back track a little to 2011. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew I’d have loved to be a mom, but it never really crossed my mind that this desire would manifest less than one year later. When I realized I was pregnant, a myriad of thoughts crossed my mind. Part of me was ecstatic at the thought of bringing forth new life. But many of my thoughts revolved around fear and worry. Fear of the unknown, fear that this was the wrong time, worry about how I would provide for him and how I would cope with the demands of motherhood.

At about 5 months of pregnancy, it became apparent that I would be a single parent. The financial implications of this new reality sent my world into a spin. I was still on probation at my new place of work then; they were less likely to grant paid maternity leave. To say that my distorted dreams of sailing through motherhood were a grim reality is understating it. All the while, dealing with the changes that came with pregnancy while trying to comprehend how I would cope.

I am a stickler for plans, the kind of person who likes to have details beforehand, so I can plan accordingly. But here I was, my thoughts seemingly spiraling out of control. This fear of the unknown would later morph into Postnatal Depression (PND). At the time, I had no idea why I had a bad feeling about the whole experience. I attended my anti-natal clinics faithfully. In many Kenyan hospitals, these clinic sessions largely revolve around the mom-to-be’s physical health – blood pressure, position of the baby, heart rate, weight and the EDD.

“In retrospect, my mental health was a non-entity.”

My mental health at the time was not of much importance, and even when it came up, it was not a screening process as such. It was merely a by the way, a casual ‘How do you feel?’ To which I’d answer okay and move on swiftly to the next procedure. Deep down, I kept hoping the nurse taking me through my clinic sessions would seek to delve deeper, find out whether I was facing any challenges as my due date approached. I hoped she would ask whether I had any fears pre-partum, and consequently assure me it would be okay. But this did not happen. For the most part, I felt alone.

Things did not change much post natal as the checkups shifted focus to my new bundle of joy (although my new bundle came with more tears and confusion than it did joy). In my case, it has been a struggle, a constant uphill task to come to terms with loving my son because he was never a bad child; mommy suffered from a bad mental condition. He was never a mistake, but I admit I did find it hard to enjoy a healthy loving relationship with him. I lost it on many occasions, the frustration, the sleeplessness, the new loneliness that most moms suffer from, the hopelessness, all these culminated in a relationship that placed both my son and I in jeopardy.

“The intrusive thoughts of killing my son, my own suicidal thoughts, it was too much to handle.”

One of the most persistent traits of living with PND for three years was waking up with absolutely no zeal. It was hazy. Living seemed to have lost meaning, and all I did was exist, mechanically shuffling between soiled diapers, dirty bibs and tear-soaked pillows. The worst aspect, admittedly, was feeling alone. The thought that no other mom could possibly want to harm their child like I did haunted me. In its vice-like grip, this loneliness prevented me from enjoying my son’s milestones, from appreciating the beautiful moments that we had.

I had the internet, and that is where I got help (albeit virtually). I was so overwhelmed and frustrated that all I could think of, that fine day, was Google ‘Why do I hate my son so much?’

“I was more than overjoyed to find out that, at the very least, I was not the only mom who suffered from this condition. Many others did too.”

I read, amid loud sobs, stories of hope, of courage and of conquering PND. This gave me the boldness to ask for help. While I am grateful I got help online, and I am now on the path of healing, I write this with the hope that research will shed more light on the impact of PND on mother-child relationship, as well as how this mental condition affects children later in their lives.

Looking back, I wish that screening for depression during antenatal clinics would be more stringent. Perhaps researchers can delve deeper into this field and help come up with multiple screening tools for expectant women who are at risk of postnatal depression. It would be comforting to know that there are ways in which the likelihood of PPD can be diagnosed before moms find themselves caught up in this hazy stage. Aside from the questionnaires used presently, it is my hope that reliable techniques can also be incorporated into this screening process. More importantly, medical practitioners can be more equipped to handle women diagnosed to be at risk of PND.

Research has steered strides in the mental health department, no doubt, but I am hopeful that improved techniques can make it easier for screening during antenatal clinics. I imagine that new moms would be better placed to deal with PND if it is diagnosed during the pregnancy. This way, moms will be better equipped to handle the challenges of motherhood in case they are predisposed to PND.

I am doing my part to change things, and I will continue to raise my voice, creating awareness for PND in Kenya through my blog; reaching out to new moms who may feel alone in this journey, one post at a time.

IMG_20151226_105359

Always amazed when I look at this lil’ man <3 <3 (Image taken at Olooseos)