Some of you will have no doubt watched Louis Theroux Mother’s on the Edge. Some of you will have even experienced some form of post natal depression. This is a really important conversation to be having and one we should have been having years ago.
It’s all the more poignant for me since I was one of those mothers who cracked and left my husband and children 15 years ago. The shame and guilt still follows me like a bad smell. My children were 1 and almost 4. I’m sure there are people who will judge me for it as there has been in the last 15 years but since they don’t know the whole story I can’t take it personally. I also can’t talk about the whole story publicly as it’s unfair on my ex husband who my relationship with has finally reached a plateau. At the end of the day the main points were;
- I’d moved 200 miles away from my family and had no support system
- I had very few friends and found it hard to make friends as I’m an introvert
- I’d already suffered with anxiety and depression for many years
- I was only 24 and in an unhappy marriage
- I was still in a grief shit storm from the death of my mum
- I had a tonne of guilt around my first son who’s biological father I ran from for no other reason than I was scared I wasn’t good enough
I was one of the lucky ones, I was able to bond with my sons from birth and I loved them so much it hurt but after months of crippling post-natal depression I cracked. Convinced everyone was better off without me I left. Don’t get me wrong, I still had my boys on weekends but I left the marital home. My ex-husband who was beside himself, acted in the most unhelpful way by using the boys as leverage to try and coax me home. But it wasn’t my home. I felt I had no home. I felt I had no one. The following year was an intensely dark year. My weight dropped to 6.5 stone and I felt worthless.
The depression followed me for years. Many years. It evolved into different things and affected me in different ways throughout the years but even now, the shame that I’ve managed to let go of there is still guilt for my sons which hugely effected my relationship with my boys.
My eldest son came to live with me when he was 14 and I’ve spent the last 4 years trying to make up for leaving him with my ex-husband. In doing so, I’ve over protected him and even now, when I know it’s wrong to do I still have to hold it back. My youngest son was only one when I left and he still lives with his Dad and understandably he isn’t very close to me and it breaks my heart. Though he’s smart and well behaved and seemingly well-adjusted it still hurts that there’s a wall between us. I can’t take all the blame for the wall though as there was no wall up until around 5 years ago and I’m still not sure how it got there but I’m pretty sure that unpleasant things were said about me in his presence and I can’t put right what I don’t know. But that’s just speculation on my part.
The scars from that period of pain have marred all our lives, and all because I was too ashamed to ask for help. I feared someone would take my babies (ironic right?!). I feared people would think I was crazy and I feared I wasn’t good enough for them. I still do think that some of the people in my life don’t fully understand it and think that it was out of selfishness that I left. For me it wasn’t. I did what I truly believed was right for them at the time.
Though I know that if we’d had these conversations around mental Health and post-natal depression back then, maybe just maybe I would have felt supported, understood and not fearing that my ex-husband would get me sectioned and take my children from me. In fact when I look back to that time there were lots of incidents that I remember but that he maintained never happened. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe I was in psychosis but couldn’t get help. I just don’t know. All these years later I just don’t know.
There are many mothers out there who left their children with someone else, or perhaps were even a danger to their children during the worst part of their post-natal depression and years later, due to lack of support still aren’t right. There are many who still feel the echoes of shame around what was a very dark time. We should be supporting them, not shaming them.
What I do know is that no one should ever be ashamed to ask for help and no one should feel they have no one to turn to.