For those of you who don't know, I have a very colourful past. 

I was diagnosed with severe depression & anxiety just before my 17th birthday, attempted suicide multiple times, became addicted to prescription pills & self harmed for nearly 5 years. It's a part of my history that I remember vividly, but I am a shadow of my former self now - if only that mattered when you're pregnant. 

Post-natal Depression is something that can affect so many women whether they have a history of mental illness or not. It creeps up on you like a bad smell & for so many new mothers, it can be a unbearable experience that can turn what is meant to be the most amazing time in your life into an event covered by a big black cloud that just won't go away. I am lucky enough that my past & PND didn't affect me after having Madi, but sadly, it affects more new mothers than anyone realises. 

Throughout my whole pregnancy, I've consistently had to answer mental health tests just to prove to midwives that I am actually OK. I consider myself to be fully recovered from my days with depression, however as I was so incredibly sick when I was younger, many doctors believe that I will be at risk of developing the disease again, especially after being pregnant. Even passing mental health tests in the healthiest range, I still find that doctors want to force counselling on me - & it is very difficult to prove to them that I am OK.

There is so much stigma around not only depression but post-natal depression too. People expect new mothers to be on cloud nine after having a child, but sometimes it cannot be helped. Unless you've been through it, it will always be difficult to explain how it actually feels. What's worse is not knowing who to tell. 

I can remember exactly what it felt like.

I would wake up but not want to leave my bed. I didn't want to be around people because all I would do is cry. I felt like life was too much for me to handle & there were days where I wanted to die. I masked my feelings with alcohol & whatever pills I could find in the cupboard - and I couldn't imagine feeling like that with a newborn child. 

Overcoming depression may seem impossible at the time, but there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. Falling pregnant saved my life & I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to say that I came out at the other end to tell my story & help other people who are going through the same thing. Becoming a mother installed this incredible amount of strength in me that I never knew that I had & my kids have given a brand new reason to live my life to the fullest. 

Never judge a book by its cover - the person who makes everyone laugh, who puts on a brave face & takes care of everyone could be fighting a dark battle behind closed doors. Greet everyone with a smile because it could change that persons day. 

If you're struggling, please don't be afraid to speak to someone because it could save your life. 

There are some incredible organisations that are raising awareness & working so hard to remove the stigma from mental illness - Livin being one that I am so grateful for the work that these guys do because even back nearly 10 years now when I was diagnosed, there was no awareness like there is today. 

Mothers suffering from PND - you are amazing, you are strong & you can do this. 

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MotherhoodLauren Patterson