Post natal illness is a little like being trapped in a spectral bubble. You know it's there. But you can't see it or touch it. Yet it claims you, holds you prisoner, within its numbing veil. Some days, when the membrane is thin, I can touch, connect, with the outside world; with friends, family, with inviting smells, mouth watering tastes, with outstretched leaves, vivid petals, and with the grassy, sunkissed air. But on other days the membrane is a thick treacly wall; I'm unable to see anything, anyone or myself - my thoughts, my feelings, my passions - clearly.
Some times the bubble begins to roll, gathering speed, and I have no way of stopping the momentum. I am tumbling, lost, curled in on myself. I drag myself through washing, making beds, emptying potties, lunch, dinner, saving the scraps of myself that remain intact for Little A. She holds the monopoly on my smiles, enthusiasm, animation. When Younger Dad returns, I am muted, whining, hostile. I am everything I never was, or wanted to be.
And this has been the emotional landscape of my week so far.
How did this happen? Why has the bubble with the treacle layer claimed me AGAIN?
In the thick of it, about a year after Little A's birth, I just couldn't see how much I'd changed, the extent of the illness. I was so focused on Little A that the anxiety, the aggression, the intrusive thoughts all felt a part of normality, the everyday. My perspective was stuffed down the sofa along with the biscuit crumbs and two pence pieces. Like a fractured ice sheet, I'd lost the link with the much healthier, balanced version of myself before I fell pregnant. And I did fall, first with severe depression during the first trimester, an acute reaction to raised hormones, and then, after a traumatic birth, I fell foul to post traumatic stress and depression - that's why I call it post natal illness, as it was neither one or the other.
Gradually, as the months passed, and Little A grew from a crawling, babbling baby into a walking, chattering toddler, I began to unwrap my limbs and lift myself from the choking swamp. I had therapy, first on the telephone, then face to face, and then last Autumn EMDR had a profoundly healing effect on the birth trauma.
Through the lens of my ever increasing health I could view how unstable I'd been.
Earlier this year, February to be exact, I stopped breast feeding, and, again, this had a very palpable effect on my well being, one that was energising and life affirming.
A couple of months ago I started taking St Johns Wort, I wasn't feeling that bad, it was more of a pick-me-up, and it worked, I felt calmer, happier, but it did nothing to assuage my ongoing battles with PMS. A week ago, I finished the course, and within a few days, I felt much worse than I had before I'd taken the tablets. With this reaction - the tears, the anger, the lethargy, the ruminating thoughts - I've had to concede that I'm still not fully myself, that I've been running on an albeit now low-grade depression for over two years. I can't remember the last time I actually felt hungry, I can't remember the last time I really laughed. I've been on autopilot for so long I'd failed to notice the subtlety of the symptoms.
Anyway today I'm taking a stand. I'm so over feeling this way. I'm going to try a short course of acupuncture to help reset myself, and I've made an appointment for my first treatment this afternoon. Depending on the outcome, I'm now giving serious consideration to a course of low dose anti-depressant.
I'm looking forward to bursting the bubble, and rejoining the living ... re-discovering my appetites, enthusing, smiling, indulging in feelings other than soul sapping sadness and irritation ...