I woke that morning to butterflies in my stomach, and my 6 month old son crying in his cot. My husband was already at work. My sister was arriving within an hour, as was a make-up artist, two of my staff (photographers), and my franchisor. I was going to be ‘modeling’ for a test shoot – along with my sister – for a new range of photography for my studio. The goal of which was to show how normal, everyday women when photographed professionally, could look and feel amazing.
As I ate my breakfast, I chatted through some internal dialogue and attempted to settle my nerves. It was just a FEELING. I assured myself that if I acknowledged it, accepted it, it would then go away. The feeling had become a regular visitor to my home. It had made itself a little too welcome of late, along with friends Worry, Sadness, Loneliness, Anxiety, Anger, and the mother of all, Black Hole of Nothingness.
When she arrived I would get into bed, unable to imagine how to conquer her. Sometimes I would sleep, and when I woke she’d be gone. Other times my husband would insist we could lose her if we went for a walk around the block. During the worst times she’d take over me completely and I’d sit silently on our lounge room floor wrapped in a blanket, and stare out the window wondering where the real me had gone.
For a long, long time I refused to believe I had post-natal depression. I put it down to moodiness for want of sleep, adjusting to my new role as stay-at-home mum after years with a professional career. As I had experienced a very traumatic labour and my hormones were settling down, I was bound to feel a little flat. In time surely things would work themselves out, wouldn’t they?
My sister arrived, and minutes later the make-up artist. I launched into work mode – that always got me through. Fake it till I make it. Leaving to drop my son at day care, still dressed in my trackies with the most ill-matching hair and makeup, my anxiety was still with me as I pulled out of the drive. Just the coffee I thought. Get moving, get my jitters out, and I’ll feel fine.
It was just after 9am when I arrived back home. I expected my two staff to have arrived and to have started shooting. My staff HAD been here, my sister informed me – and left again. Why the hell hadn’t they started working?
Unexpectedly they did return and just as unpredictably, I lost my temper. A ranting, raving lunatic dolled up to the nines with my heart pounding in my chest and my voice shaking with anger and frustration. I was so pissed off and fed up with everything. I was tired and wanted to go on a holiday to a quiet place all by myself, and sleep for days and never come back. And I thought my husband and my son would be better off. I’d even offered him an out. If wanted to leave me I’d completely understand. I was a miserable bitch that had wanted so much to have a baby and now we were in this mess, and it was all my fault.
It didn’t end there.
I dragged myself through the day. It was productive. I smiled and nodded and looked through some fantastic images, but really I didn’t care. I didn’t care for the woman in them, and she was a person I recognised but felt totally disconnected from. I drove home in tears. On paper life was amazing. Married, educated, healthy child, successful business, a pretty car and a lovely little rental in the suburbs. New shoes, a trendy wardrobe and a figure that had “wow, bounced back so quickly after having a baby”.
This day was my lowest day. The next morning, fulfilling my husband’s wish for me to finally accept professional help, I filled a script of anti-depressants and headed north-east to the aptly named, sleepy sea-side town of Eden. No phone reception, no deadlines, just me, my family, my demons and a one-month supply of Zoloft.
Post-natal depression has taught me many things. It has taught me that I’m not untouchable, that it is an illness like any other, and that it can be treated. Fight it on your own, and you will lose. No-one judged me, in fact they helped and supported me like you would anyone with the flu, a broken leg, or any illness or disease that may strike, without prejudice.
Having the disease has taught me to value myself, to put boundaries in place to manage my stress, and that if I’m not happy my family isn’t either too. And they love me, the real me, more than anything in the world.
The portrait of me, the one where I’m smiling and laughing and dressed up looking amazing, well that truly is me. It is the happy, healthy, powerful woman that is so, so loved by her family. She was there all along – the Black Hole of Nothingness had not engulfed her entirely – and this photograph is proof.
This post was kindly repblished with permission after first appearing here.