OUT OF THIS LIFE – A photo exhibition on suicide in Kenya

“OUT OF THIS LIFE – Let’s talk suicide. This is an invitation to a necessary dialogue in any society that condemns suicide because of cultural, religious, or social reasons.”

My friend Patricia Esteve is holding an exhibition aptly titled ‘Out of This Life’ to shed light and have conversation on a taboo subject in our community – suicide. According to Patricia, “This is a documentary project, which gathers the experiences of people in Kenya who have tried to commit suicide or who have lost a loved one to suicide. Using photography I collect their testimonies throughout the country, on the stigma surrounding suicide as well as the social and legal injustice they face.”

Did you know that according to the Kenyan Law, anyone who attempts to commit suicide is guilty of a crime? What’s more, the sentence for such a crime is two years in prison, a fine, or both. This appalling, and need I add archaic, decriminalization of an act that results from mental health disorders only does more to stigmatize and shame the people struggling. Often times, a suicide attempt is a cry for help, which is precisely why this exhibition is well timed if the increase in suicide cases lately is anything to go. (See this link). As someone who struggled with suicide ideation when I had Postpartum Depression, this project is dear to my heart.

Read More: On suicide ideation – The hardest post I ever had to write

The exhibition, which opened on 19th April 2018, tells the story of suicide, from the eyes of those who have flirted with the idea, attempted and survived, and the caregivers of those who have died by suicide (Please note, I wrote died by suicide – not committed suicide. It is part of the language of mental health. When we say committed suicide, there is the implication of doing so willingly, yet we are all aware suicide is one of the symptoms of a wide range of mental health conditions. Saying died by suicide therefore, is the very same way we would say someone died from any other health condition. Whew, I feel like I need to do a blogpost on this).

I walked in late (thanks Nairobi traffic), to find the credits rolling to the video Patricia had put together, after which she gave a small speech and thanked everyone for showing up. I took a moment to breathe in and out before going round the exhibition. The very first photo I saw was of this lady, face covered with a black shawl, a red dress and black stockings. I know this lady inside and outside, because that was me, deep in the throes of PPD, back in 2015.

Suicide. Open Spaces. depresión post parto .
Samaine´s story.

Patricia reached out and asked whether I would get on board with her project, which I did and share my story on living with PPD. Seeing those photos (they were two, one where I was with my then 3-year old son) tugged at my heart in a way I cannot quite explain. There was a sense of amazement – at how far we have come with J, and there was a lingering sense of relief. Relief because PPD had pushed me to the very edge of suicide ideation – but we survived because we got help, and can now offer psychosocial support for moms through PPDKenya support groups. The silent tears came and I requested a friend to let me have a moment to myself.

There are a few other photos that really stood out, which I will share below.

Photo Credits: Patricia Esteve

Go check out the exhibition guys! Patricia has done an amazing job with this exhibition. Check out her website here.

It runs up to the 27th of April 2018, between 10am and 6pm at the Kenya Cultural Centre (Kenya National Theatre) on Harry Thuku Road. entry is free!

10 things NOT to tell someone who is suicidal (and what you can say instead)

There is nothing as dreadful, as scary, as heart-wrenching as hearing someone say the words,

“I want to kill myself”

These are words you do not want to hear, at all. What do you do from that point? How do you help? What do you say, and more importantly, what shouldn’t you say? As scary as this scenario is, hearing this words is a subtle gift that a friend who is struggling gives. It is their way of crying for help, it is their way of giving you an opportunity to help in their journey, as hard as it is. Your response is critical as it could either be an doorway to healing, or it could be the end as they know it. Granted, it is an emotional moment and you may not be sure how to respond. Below are 10 common (cliché, need I add?) responses that only make it harder for suicidal people to speak up and ask for help.

NOTE: While these responses/questions are generally deemed to cast judgement on the affected, a number of people may respond in the positive. Secondly, in as much as you can help by been present, it is important to get medical attention immediately. Do not hesitate to do so. Check out this page that has suicide crisis helplines in Kenya.

 

  1. “Suicide is for weaklings”

The truth of the matter is, by the time someone is getting to the point of struggling with suicidal thoughts, they have already gone through so much. By the time one is searching on how to die by suicide, all rationality is gone and that statement is a cry for help. Saying suicide is for weaklings invalidates their feelings and only causes one who is struggling to keep to themselves – with dire consequences.

Instead: You can let them know you care instead. Assure them of your love and compassion. Be present. Stay with them. Offer a hug – it creates a safe space for someone who is suicidal

 

  1. “It is all in your head – snap out of it”

This is another common response given from an ignorant point of view. Depression and suicide are conditions that affect the mind. The mind does get sick, just as the physical body does. Do we tell people suffering from diabetes to snap out of it? There you have it. Additionally, people who are not aware of mental health illnesses have the warped view that suicidal people are doing it for ‘attention’ – which is absolutely wrong.

Instead: It is better to admit that you may not understand what they are going through, but that you will offer to be present and seek help for them.

Read More: The hardest post I ever had to write

 

  1. “You should be grateful. There are people who have it worse”

I hate to burst the bubble, but someone who is suicidal has likely thought about that already – and it feels like they can never measure up. This only adds to their brokenness because, while they are well aware they ought to be grateful, their mind just cant reconcile that with the utter hopelessness and emptiness that they feel.

Instead: Show empathy. You may not understand, but that doesn’t give you permission to be insensitive.

 

  1. “Suicide is selfish. Think about your family/kids/loved ones”

Suicide is NOT selfish.

Suicide is NOT selfish.

And there’s a reason why. Suicidal people genuinely feel worthless and absolutely hopeless. They feel like there’s nothing to leave for, and worst of all, feel like a burden to the very people you are asking them to think about. The mind convinces them the world would be a better place without them. Telling them suicide is selfish not only invalidates their struggle, it also makes it less likely to ask for help again.

Instead: Ask how to help, find out what they need and check up on them constantly.

 

  1. “But your life is not that bad, how can you think of suicide?”

Truth is that there are invisible scars that suicidal people carry which you may never ever get to see. The pain is underneath – whether it is getting molested by an uncle, getting raped by a work colleague, losing one’s family or even a still birth. On the outside, it may seem all okay, but the pains and ache remain etched in their minds forever. Asking how someone can think of suicide speaks of disbelief and judgement, not empathy.

Instead: sometimes, all you can do is listen and be present.

Read More: Broken

  1. “You are not praying enough”

I can’t stop saying it, but, this is simply belittling someone’s struggles. It is likely that the depression/ mental health condition that has gotten them to the point of been suicidal has not allowed them to be able to pray in the first place. Telling someone they have not prayed enough/ do not have faith is just judgemental.

Instead: Consider affirming your love and support to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Taking a minute can save a life.

 

  1. “You will go to hell”

Regardless of one’s religion, telling someone they will go to hell when they are suicidal only enhances the feeling of isolation and loneliness (which in many cases, only pushes them over the edge). In any case, the judgemental attitude does not show any compassion or empathy.

Instead: It helps to assure a suicidal person that their thoughts are not permanent (even if the person believes that they are), and then to offer a listening ear without any judgement. This offers hope and communicates empathy.

 

  1. “ Don’t do anything stupid”

This is a very dismissive response for the simple reason that it takes away from the importance and the urgency of someone’s struggles. Often, such a statement only alienates a person even more. You may be worried/ concerned – rightly so, but whatever you do, don’t dismiss it as simply stupidity.

Instead: You may ask, “I have heard you mention suicide, and I am concerned about you. Are you safe? I want to reach out to you, know I am here for you”

 

  1. “How’d you want to hurt me like that?”

First, this is not about you. Secondly, it is likely that someone who is suicidal knows that their absence is going to hurt you and their loved ones. It already makes them feel terrible. Getting them on a guilt trip is counterproductive, and often exacerbates the alienation.

Instead:  You could say, I am sorry that you are struggling and hurting. But I will be here for you. You matter. You mean a lot (to me)

 

  1. Aaaand finally, one of the most cliché statements: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

At face value, this statement ‘sounds’ right, but a closer look reveals it is a fallacy, a popular one at that. First, the statement seems to suggest that suicide is a ‘solution’, and also belittles one’s problem as merely temporary. What of chronic mental health disorders, lifetime diseases and emotional scars?

The bottomline: When someone opens up to you about suicide ideation, it means that they have found a safe space in you. Responding harshly not only makes it harder to speak up, it also alienates them further. Granted, you may feel disappointed, hurt, embarrassed, even betrayed – but how you respond can make a big difference.

PS: This article was inspired by my last post which you can read here. I am, by no means, a health expert, but I struggled with suicide ideation and thoughts of harming my baby when I had Postpartum Depression. Some of the above statements are things I was told when I shared about my thoughts – and I switched off. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel alienated in their struggle with depression, so I put up this list with insight from the following websites:

Speaking of suicide

Purple Persuasions

The Mighty Site

 

PS: Do not struggle alone, reach out for help. Use the contact page or get in touch through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations on #suicide

I really do need to get into the habit of writing down blog ideas on the go. This post was inspired by something that happened whilst my son and I were in hospital last week. He had just got his medication administered when I had some commotion downstairs. For a moment, I let it pass because I thought, the last thing I need is to have my peace disturbed  – and so I tucked Jay in for him to continue napping and get some much-needed rest. But the noise persisted, and it piqued my interest because, what could the people/ patients be talking about so loudly? I hurried to the balcony just in time to see the small crowd that had milled around disperse. Curiously, I asked the nurse what had happened. What she said left me feeling angry, hopeless, defeated, charged and riled up – all in one.

So, the crowd that had gathered had come to pick a patient who had been referred to the national hospital. Naturally, I enquired what had led to that, and she admitted to the patient having overdosed (in a suicide attempt) and requiring specialized attention. So what was the noise all about, I asked. Apparently, a group of his ‘friends’ had come to pick him up and take him home. I say ‘friends’ because of the comments that followed. The nurse went on to share some of the crude and disheartening things they said, things like:

“Tell the medics they should have administered a stronger dose…’ (ostensibly to kill him)

“Be man enough…  relationship woes do not suffice to make a suicide attempt… some of us wish we had those very girls (those girls tormenting your life)…”

“suicide is selfish… you just don’t care about others”

“Suicide is for weaklings!”

I asked her what the administration did about the fiasco and she admitted to having had an intervention before the crowd chose to disperse. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to imagine what the man must have felt hearing such words from his ‘friends’, the people who had supposedly come to help him on his way to get specialized care.

Read More: Masked

Here’s the thing about depression and suicide. Depression is not just something you can ‘snap out of’! If it were, then so many people would get better at the snap of a finger without going through the motions of hopelessness, rage, disillusionment, intrusive thoughts and self-harm. If it were so easy, we would not have so many people struggling.

Many people think and say out loud that suicide is selfish, that it is for weaklings – but I am of a totally different view. It hasn’t always been like this. I too thought, suicide was selfish – until I suffered Postpartum Depression and experienced suicidal thoughts. Then I realized, people who struggle with suicidal thoughts feel absolutely worthless, hopeless and good for nothing. It is not just an ‘I woke up with a bad hair day and I kinda feeling under the weather’. It is believing that one is actually not worth anything.

It is feeling utterly overwhelmed and trapped with no way out. It is hazy and suffocating  – I often liken it to opening your eyes in over-chlorinated water. Worst of all, when one is suicidal, they feel like a burden to everyone around them – their family, friends and even their children. They genuinely believe that the world would be a better place without them. It is this struggle that sometimes pushes people to their limits and they go right over the cliff. In a moment, powerful negative emotions surge, and when the mind is sick, it is often impossible to stop these thoughts.

It is time we had conversations around suicide and suicide prevention. Look out for the signs of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Be aware of what the symptoms are. Be present enough to know when someone’s putting up a strong face yet crying for help. Go beyond ‘ hi’ and ‘I am fine’. Taking a minute to do this genuinely can save a life.

Read More: Taking a minute can change a life

 

NOTE: 10 things NOT to tell someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts in the next post.

 

Today – Taking a minute can change a life

Today, my heart is heavy. Today my heart goes out to everyone struggling with a mental health condition and suicide (thoughts/ ideation/attempts).

Today my heart aches because a number of my friends are struggling now, struggling with their minds telling them they are not worth anything. Struggling to understand why life throws such curve balls, struggling with anxiety.

Today, I feel the pain and the struggles, because I have been there. I know what it is like to feel hopeless and worthless, to be in a dark foggy phase that never seems to lift, and to flirt with the idea of ending it all.

Today, I am reminded I could have been just another statistic in the number of people who die by suicide, but I am here because someone cared to listen, someone cared enough to make a call and to make daily follow-up.

Today I am reminded of how much power there is in a listening ear, how much power there is in just being present (even with no idea how to do it). Today I am reminded that we need to go beyond ‘I am fine’ and really find out how the people in our circles are doing – particularly those who have had a history of mental illnesses.

***

September is World Suicide Prevention Month. September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, and this month’s theme iss ‘Taking a minute can change a life’. This post comes a tad bit late, but I thought to put it up even as September comes to an end. We may not realize it, but behind the emojis and memes online, many people are struggling with depression and a host of other mental health conditions. In many cases, these conditions if unaddressed, lead to suicide. And that is why it is important that we talk about suicide.

I have had personal struggles with suicide ideation when I suffered postpartum depression, and on several days, I wanted out, I wanted to do away with the pain of not loving my child and hating myself for it. In the midst of all these chaos, my friend, the dreadloc’d one in this post, constantly checked in to find out how I was holding up. It was a mix of chats, texts, and calls, sometimes late into the night when I found solace on a wet pillow with a nursing child on a tired boob. This year’s theme on ‘Taking a minute can change a life’ plays out in my life. All I needed to know at the time was, it mattered that despite what I felt, someone cared to listen, cared to talk to me and cared to check on me.

Statistics show that more than 2 million Kenyans are depressed [Link], that’s 2,000,000. Approximately 5% of the country’s population is struggling with depression. 7000 Kenyans will die by suicide each year [Link]. Isn’t it time we talked about mental health and suicide? Time we let others know there is no shame in struggling? Please reach out (on any of the social media platforms, or use the contact page to get in touch), do not suffer in silence. It is not weakness to ask for help, it is immense strength to realize that one cannot make it alone.

 

NOTE: I posted my struggle with suicide ideation in this post.

Secondly, inspired by Sitawa’s post and with her permission, I reposted ‘Crisis helplines in Kenya and Africa if you are feeling suicidal

 

 

 

 

 

 

#postpartumdepression: The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

“I believe we need to get to a place where maternal mental health will not be stigmatized, and struggling moms can know that they are not alone, that help is available for them”

In my darkest days when I struggled with postpartum depression, this is the one thing I really wanted to hear, the one thing I really needed to hear: that I was not alone, that I could get help, that I was not a bad mother for my inability to bond with my son. Sometimes I wonder, what if I had heard about #postpartumdepression before? What if, by chance I saw someone tweet about it, or vent about their struggles on Facebook? Would that have made me better placed to handle it? I will never know. What I do know is that I would never want any other mom to go through PPD, yet the sad glaring truth is that 1 in 9 moms will experience PPD [source]

This is the reason I am glad to have been part of a panel on Victoria’s Lounge hosted by the ever graceful Victoria Rubadiri. Alongside these phenomenal ladies, the conversation centered on PPD. What are the risk factors associated with this form of depression? What are the symptoms you need to look out for? What treatment options are available? What does it feel like to be depressed when you just had a new baby?

The show airs on Thursday (22nd June 2017) on NTV at 8:00pm. Tune in and tell a friend to tell a friend.

 

Update: The wonderful team at Victoria’s Lounge put up the link on YouTube, so you might want to check that here

 

Changes

The only permanent thing in life is, change.

The first time I read this statement, I found it ironical, because changes are transient, yet the element of things changing is one of life’s permanent fixtures. The thing about change is that it upsets our norm, it gets us out of our comfort zones and projects us into the unknown. This is scary, but my friend Carol always tells me scary is good.

We are creatures of habit, who fall in love with routine and familiar places, familiar people and familiar territory. Anything that threatens to upset this balance is frowned upon, and certainly rubs us the wrong way. But, as I am realizing, there in the scare of change lies the opportunity to grow afresh. It is a chance to grow as an individual as well.

The past few weeks have been an incredible number of days, for many reasons, which I will not divulge on here, at least not now. It is a phase of transition that will upset our normal routine, for the better, thankfully. I am scared, I am uncertain, I am unsure – but what I know is that this is an answered prayer.

Read More: I remember

Looking back and realizing, depression, Postpartum depression included, takes away the ability to see life in all its fullness. It makes us doubt who we really are, how dare you dream that big? How dare you believe you deserve *that*? Who are you to ask as much of life? So what do we do, we stay masked, hidden behind a façade of IG posts and flowery FB updates while struggling to come to terms. It is dawning on me that, actually, who am I not to ask so much of life? Who am I not to dream big? Who am I not to be all that?

And so, in this, I am swimming with the waves of change, not against them, taking every ebb and flow in stride, because change is scary, but change is also good. I am incredibly grateful for the support system I have had in the past couple of days, the amazing friends who kept in touch and checked up on how we are holding up after that depressive episode, and to W for been an amazing pillar in our lives lately.

Featured Image

I remember.

I remember seeing the two lines and spending the rest of the day in a haze, alternating between contagious excitement and intense anxiety,

I remember thinking twice, no thrice, actually multiple times about my abilities as a mom-to-be,

I remember getting through the craves and aversions, and always having an excuse that ‘baby does not want this or that’,

Then the fluttery kicks began and I fell in love with someone I was yet to meet,

Read More: 10 Things I would Tell My Pregnant Self

I remember drinking cold water and the kicks would set in earnestly,

I remember staring down at my belly and not been able to catch a glimpse of my toes,

I remember the build up to D-day during the Christmas festivities and waddling around home waiting to pop,

All my expectations, all my hopes, all my excitement, I anticipated motherhood, but still had a few worries at the back of my mind. Single parenting seemed so daunting, yet, here I was already.

I became a mom one fine Tuesday morning, and with it my life changed forever.

The whole labour and delivery process, while without complications, really got to me,

I remember the sleepless nights like it were yesterday,

The incessant crying, the inexplicable shrieks, the colic episodes dead in the night, all of which culminated in sleepless nights for days on end,

I was starting to lose my sanity, slowly under the weight of the demands that new motherhood places on women. I remember that bonding with my newborn was not automatic the way I had anticipated.

Read More: Angst

But weren’t moms meant to enjoy this blissful stage? Why couldn’t I? Why was I so irritable, and so damn angry?

I remember the intense anger and bitterness I harbored, perfectly masked in social settings, but aptly pulled down at dusk when the world went to sleep and I was left fighting the depression demons, feeling hopeless, helpless and utterly inadequate to be a mom.

I remember crying on many days and nights, the sobs soaking my pillow and hair, his soft breathing on my chest as he nursed. I couldn’t reconcile what I felt with what I expected before he was born. I was at a loss of words and totally broken on the inside.

I remember questioning my abilities as a mom, and slowly sliding into a dark hole. It felt lonely, it was lonely.  No one seemed to understand.

I remember Googling ‘Why do I hate my baby so much’ and learning that there was a high likelihood I was suffering from Postpartum Depression. This flooded my heart with relief, as it did fear, fear of the unknown.

I remember learning just about everything I could on Postpartum Depression (PPD) because information is power, and because it was helpful knowing I was not alone in this. The virtual communities and forums created for Postpartum Depression were a huge blessing.

Read More: Inspired by these blogs

I remember vividly the struggle of walking through the haze of Postpartum Depression, wondering whether it will ever get better. I am glad it did, I am glad I got help. To think there’s a mama struggling right now, is why I am passionate about creating more awareness on PPD.

I remember, and so I will speak more about Postpartum Depression.

If you suspect you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression, do not be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your doctor about it or get in touch on the Contact Page and we will direct you to professionals. If you are looking for a comprehensive resource center for the same, do check out Postpartum Progress.

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.

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

Letter to my son – Chronicles of a PPD survivor

Dear Son,

I write this letter to you from a reflective point of view, from the eyes of a mom who has suffered Postpartum Depression (PPD) and is on the road to healing. See, I did not look at my options before you were born, and chose to walk down the lane written ‘depression’. No. I found myself there. I should have seen where the cascade of events was leading me, to a dark hole where I couldn’t pull myself together and haul myself out of it. I should have known that some moms get depressed once their babies are born, but I didn’t. I learnt much later, after I had plunged head first into the gripping darkness that PPD is. But this letter is not about recovery per se. It is a letter of apology.

I am sorry that you had to be the prototype of my take at motherhood, an experience that has been fraught with challenges and chides (mostly from folk who have no idea what PPD is), with tears and torn hearts, with smiles here and there, and a couple of photos to capture your milestones. I am sorry that nothing could have prepared me for the struggle with PPD. I am sorry for my inability to comfort you as you cried your lungs out in the dead of the night on your first week of life; many times I cried with you out of utter frustration.

I am sorry for thinking that, at one point, suicide would offer some reprieve, a break of sorts from all this mental torture. I am sorry for thinking that maybe life would have been better for you if I wasn’t your mom, because now I see beauty for ashes. Now I see the blessing that you brought into my life; you saved me from wasting myself away in debauchery, from sinking in life’s pits in my inebriated state, you saved me from me. I apologize for regretting having you, however you came, because you are already here. You were never a bad child; I just couldn’t cope with the depression, on those days I slapped you, on those days I kicked you for peeing on the floor even when you weren’t potty trained. For those days your tantrums had me lost in fits of anger, and I hurled a shoe at you, for those mornings I walked away to prevent myself from doing something I’d regret.

I am not making excuses for letting some of the most precious moments of our lives slip through my hands, glistened by my tears. No, I am simply apologizing for having taken you through all this, for having subjected you to all the beatings, for the unrelenting anger that PPD caused to morph into a daily experience. For the lost moments, the experiences I will never be able to relive with you my dear son.

But. But now, I am picking up the pieces on the journey to recovery. It is a slow winding road, but a journey I have taken baby steps in. I am learning to unlearn what PPD had made the norm, simply because I cannot undo that which PPD supplanted for the quintessential mom-child bonding experience. I am learning to tell you ‘I am sorry’ when I lose it, when I go overboard in addressing your fits and tantrums. I am not the perfect mom, but I will seek grace in my imperfection. Seek grace to be able to draw the line between love and discipline. To draw the line between when I need to hug you and when I need to walk away and let you calm down first so we can have a platform to reconcile.

Some days I forget to ask for grace, some days I pray for grace and still lose it, then feel guilty about it; realizing I let you down, again. I let myself down, again. The journey to recovery is not as easy as I thought it would be, but it matters that I have taken a few steps. I am sorry my son, I really am.

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Photo credits: Patricia Esteve

Love,

Mom.

Featured Image Photo Credits: Glued To My Crafts

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