I’m a warrior against anxiety and depression. This is my story.
I was twenty-six when I had my daughter Mia. I lived with my boyfriend at the time in a one-bed house and we’d only been together about a year. We hadn’t necessarily planned to have a baby. I was scared but believed everything would be ok. My pregnancy was good with no problems and very easy. I had to be induced because I was twelve days overdue but I had a fairly straightforward labour. I fell in love with Mia the second I saw her. She was perfect. But I was terrified. All of a sudden I was a mother. I was responsible for every decision, every choice for my little girl. Everything I did would shape and mould who she’d become. Very quickly I learnt how scary, beautiful, frightening, wonderful, terrifying, emotional, nerve racking, blissful, stressful, rewarding and amazing motherhood was. You go on this emotional, mental and physical, rollercoaster ride and it blows you away. Some days are tough; other days are tougher. Some days are testing, emotional and stressful. Other days are perfect and you feel more joy, love, contentment and happiness than you’d ever known was possible.
I didn’t know until much later that I had post-natal depression and anxiety. I’d previously suffered with depression as a teenager and young adult but had counselling for that and I never associated it with this. I felt different. So I didn’t believe I had post-natal depression until later. I had terrifying thoughts, dreams, and my mind played tricks on me all the time. Most days I’d cry for no reason and couldn’t understand what was wrong. My boyfriend asked all the time if I was okay, and I’d just say there was nothing wrong and that I was fine. I’d get angry with him asking me all the time because I thought I was fine but secretly knew something had to be wrong—I just couldn’t explain it or pinpoint it. Also, I just didn’t want to admit that I was struggling in case he thought I was a useless mother. I wanted to control everything and do everything myself, even though deep down I did want help with things, but I wanted things done a certain way. I just wanted to be able to manage everything on my own because other mothers seemed to do fine and my boyfriend worked so hard; I just wanted to cope with it all. I dreaded going out and leaving the house but at the same time, I was desperate to get out, although I was just too scared. Breastfeeding didn’t come easily to me and after six or seven weeks I admitted defeat, switched to bottle feeding and felt like I’d failed. Mia wasn’t a great sleeper and I was exhausted. Her dad worked long hours on his feet all day so I wanted to do as much of the night feeds as possible, but sometimes I just needed rest. It really took its toll. I turned into someone else; I’d lost who I was. I had no self-esteem, I hated how I looked and how I felt, I lost my self-worth and self-belief and doubted everything, doubted myself. I was a nervous wreck but did everything to hide it. In hindsight, I should have got help but I didn’t because I was terrified that people would think I was an unfit mother and take my daughter away from me. I hid my feelings; I never spoke to anyone about anything that I thought or felt. I was trapped in the madness of my own mind.Inside it was eating me up and I was screaming from within.
On top of all of this, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy when Mia was still a baby,. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, my Gran and Grandad (Dad’s parents) both passed away within months. Although Dad made an amazing recovery from the cancer, it had all been too much and he turned to excessive alcohol consumption. Sadly he began to deteriorate drastically so I had to deal with that and trying to help keep his business going whilst he was so unwell and unfit to cope. I’d get calls at all times of the day and night from the staff or people who knew my dad at the pub, telling me he had fallen down the cellar or down the stairs. Times when they couldn’t wake him—the list goes on. I had time off work to keep rushing over to check on him. Eventually he ended up in hospital and I was backwards and forwards visiting him. I was at breaking point and I just crumbled. I couldn’t cope. I remember several times just getting in my car and driving somewhere, parking up and just sitting there and crying. I cried so much my eyes burned with the tears, my heart pounded so hard in my chest, I felt like I literally couldn’t breathe quick enough. I felt so sick and so empty. I used to think what if I just disappeared, what if I could just fly away from it all, like a bird. How could I possibly be a good mother to Mia like this? I’d failed her. I felt useless. I used to imagine just floating, drifting away, almost like imagining an out-of-body experience. Sometimes I’d lie down in a field or on the bonnet of my car and just look up at the sky, the clouds, the stars and just wish to be up there. It sounds ridiculous now, but I felt so defeated. I did this on several occasions, just sat there by myself.
The emotional pain and torment I was facing and tried so hard to hide just completely overpowered me. It was unbearable. My relationship broke down and I knew we couldn’t carry on for Mia’s sake. I didn’t want to risk our friendship and I knew we both deserved more than what our situation had become.
To this day, even writing this, I cannot begin to explain all the emotions and feelings that were searing though me for all that time. I was angry, desperate, frustrated, frightened, lonely, scared, deflated and just totally drained with everything. Above all, I was so bitterly sad and upset. Something had to change. I couldn’t live like this. I still had to be a mummy. I had to rise above it all and get my inner strength back. I had to find myself again. I had to get ME back. I just wished I had addressed my anxiety and depression sooner. I was so tormented by my inner demons for so long. I want to stress that if anyone reading this feels the same or has been in a similar situation that you are not alone.
It shouldn’t be something to be ashamed about or be hidden or brushed under the carpet. For years I’ve had it and didn’t realise. I thought I was going mad and thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t love myself, let alone anyone else. Anxiety can strike at any time. You’re never really free of it but it’s about how you re-wire your mind and your way of thinking. Mind-set is key. It’s about keeping active but also taking time for you, to relax and rest when you need it. Although my anxiety has been so much better lately, I’ll always feel like ‘it’s in the mail’—on its way to me. Anyone who has anxiety and/or depression will know exactly what I mean by that. Anyone who has this, or thinks they do, are not alone. You don’t need to suffer in silence or feel alone.
Every day I try to be the best I can be, always worry and always just want to be all I can for Mia and my family. But sometimes I can’t be super-woman; sometimes I do feel weak. Sometimes I do question everything. It’s the not wanting to face the day or let anyone see, to just want to hide away, but then it’s the million-and-one things that my mind does going through all the consequences if I didn’t. It’s the constant over-thinking and over-analysing everything. It’s the stupid thoughts that you don’t want that frighten you but you can’t stop them in your head. It’s a constant battle. It’s the wanting to still go out and have fun to see friends but not wanting to leave the house. It’s the wanting to be alone but not wanting to be on my own. It’s the not being able to explain it or make anyone understand. It’s sometimes not being able to say a word but wanting to say so much. It’s feeling so utterly alone even though you’re surrounded by loving, supporting people. It’s about just needing a hug. No words.
Sometimes I do break down and it does take over me. But it won’t beat me. I know I’m stronger, now more than ever. I know a bad day is just one bad day in amongst a million good ones. I know my strength is within me and I’m a fighter. There are so many people in my life who inspire me in so many ways and help me with positivity and motivation every day. The key for me is having a routine, staying focused on the good things, doing things you love, keeping your mind filled with positivity and mind-set activities. Eat healthy, exercise and try to get out as much as you can to just breathe, take in your surroundings—even if it’s just for ten minutes, even if it’s the last thing you want to do sometimes—it really does help.
I know I’m probably not easy to live with or be around sometimes, but I still like to think I’m outgoing and fun a lot of the time. Again, just the many issues of having an active personality but an anxious mind. The people I love—Gary, my husband, my amazing family and friends, but most importantly my gorgeous little girl whom everything I do is for—are more precious than I could ever say. I wouldn’t be anything without them; they are my medicine and they fix me when I feel broken. But there are so many people and organisations like Mind who can help.
The fight continues. It’s okay not to be okay.
About the Author: I’m Dannii, I’m a full time working mum to my daughter Mia, wife to Gary and we live in Bucks with our little sausage dog Ralph. I’m on a mission to use my passion for writing to reach out, help and support other mums, women, parents and anyone in general really, who reads my blogs and can get something valuable from it. My life and motherhood experiences in their real, open and honest form. This is me, the good, the bad, the ugly, but more importantly keeping it real and from the heart. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram.