This piece is one of the hardest I will ever write. Not just because I am going to offload the weight on my shoulders that is Post Natal Depression but because, well you see, I’m a Vogue girl.
Vogue girls don’t get Post Natal Depression.
We sell a sparkling lifestyle through colourful visuals and pictorial delights to whet your fashion appetite.
I’ve worked at Vogue for 11 years. I am fortunate enough to call my colleagues friends. I have a job my boss ruthlessly reminds me that ‘people are queuing up at the door to do’.
I consider myself a grounded, stable individual, fortunate enough to have parents who are happily married, in-laws I genuinely love and lean on and the most wonderful set of friends.
And then there is my husband. Arguably a greater parent to our girls than I could ever be, kind, funny, fair. God I am one of those sickening people aren’t I? Need you read on?
Sadly, all that good fortune and love didn’t prevent the beast that is PND heading my way after my second baby, Maggie, who was born in April.
We’d made the decision to move out of London and two months after her arrival we were headed for a sleepy village in Berkshire.
Gone were the meetings with L’Oreal and Chanel, the trend presentations to the fashion and beauty industries and instead I was juggling Nescafe, ‘white with two sugars’, with explosive nappies, a toddler who wouldn’t go anywhere without me, and yet another builder trampling dirt through my home. (There is not a tradesman in Berkshire who hasn’t seen me breastfeeding).
I told my husband I hated the house. I tried to keep it together when friends called (‘you’ve moved to the country, how dreamy!!’) but it was pretty much the most intense period of our lives.
And then there was little Maggie reminding us of her presence with the most gut-wrenching screams, who didn’t sleep, hated being put down and who was, in every way, the polar opposite to our first daughter, Nancy.
Days, weeks passed, the summer heat took over, there were a few blissful moments but essentially I missed my old life.
I felt lonely, the baby weight wasn’t shifting, my confidence was dissipating. I didn’t know how or when I would make friends.
I put on a front every time I launched into a new situation. People want to know about the new person. They’ll have likely been on Zoopla to check your house price, they may have Googled you, they want to know what your husband does.
Maternity leave and Vogue became my shield. The answer to all the “so what do you do’s”.
My identity was locked away and everyone assumed the girl who worked at Vogue who had moved into the village was tough as nails.
Sleep deprivation was how it started, the irrational thoughts, the racing heartbeat, the anxiety.
Normal I thought, I’ve got a new baby. All normal.
The ghastly punch in the face that social media dealt me every time I checked. All, sadly, normal.
But then I began to doubt my abilities as a mother. Appalling at cooking, impatient with my eldest, feeling thwarted by my children, cruel thoughts about little Maggie that I cannot put into writing.
My interest in food vanished, my tearful moments grew. I wondered how people did this whole ‘2 under 2’ business.
I was scornful of myself, thinking that if my friend could do this with a husband who travels constantly, then why can’t I with a husband who is usually home for bath time.
Every time I struggled, I despised myself because other people out there are experiencing real hardship.
The breaking point was returning from a visit to London.
Stepping off the train on the way home I should have wanted to rush to see my gorgeous family, eagerly awaiting my return.
Instead a fog descended. The anxiety of a new week took over. It was the turning point. So much of this was a private battle, crying at night or when my husband left for work. I knew this wasn’t me.
The next morning I called the GP. Barely able to speak on the phone, I was seen within 30 minutes.
Sadly, the doctor could not have been less helpful. Whilst she told me that everything I had relayed pointed to PND, she also had an unfortunate habit of watching the clock above me. Good old NHS time keeping.
She planted a prescription for Sertraline (antidepressants) in my hand without even asking if I had a history of depression or checking if I was on other medication. It was as if she was handing out Smarties. She told me to return in two weeks.
I never did. And she never checked up on me.
I didn’t take the antidepressants out of fear of becoming dependent on them. That was another anxiety to keep me awake at night. I knew that, for me, there must be other solutions. I just had to find them.
That evening I did some exercise in the garden. I checked out of social media. On my kinesiologiest’s suggestion I bought something called 5-HTP (Google it, it will make so much sense). I told my family.
I offloaded everything to my husband. I cried – a lot. We were both in shock.
Most poignantly of all, I told my daughter’s new headmistress. She saw me one day in the nursery car park and she just knew.
Those words ‘are you okay?’ made me crumble. ‘You are overwhelmed, and rest assured you are not the first mother who I have seen like this’.
She offered Nancy extra sessions, she told me to come and meet a member of staff who had experienced a similar thing, she even offered to take me for a drink.
She made me realise I was not alone.
All it took was a mother to mother acknowledgement and an acceptance of the fact that behind all our Farrow and Ball front doors we are all having our own private battles.
It’s okay to find this all very very hard.
I am absolutely not adverse to antidepressants in any way at all.
I know so many others are so thankful for them. But there are also other ways. I promise.
Are we all secretly teetering on the edge? Of course we are, no matter what your job type is. Am I through it? With the help of the 5HTP supplement and regular exercise classes, late at night when the children are in bed, (because that’s my only down time) yes.
Am I going back to Vogue? We’ll see….