Tomorrow, I have my reunion meeting with my Post Natal Depression (PND) therapy group. I attended the group over eight weeks, late last year. It was a group of other mums and myself, all of whom had been diagnosed with PND, or, as Marg Booker, the counsellor from the Tresillian Centre who ran the group preferred to call it, “Post Natal Distress Disorder.” Ellie is two days from turning five months old, and so it feels like a good time to take stock.
Marg used to emphasise to us a number of things, but here are a couple that come to my mind, regularly, which I thought I might record for posterity in case I ever forget them:
– The Reality Principle: this is the way life is, not how it should be. (In my words: deal with it. It’s not so great all the time, but it’s not so bad, either. And even if it is bad, it is still your reality, and no amount of ruminating is going to change that.)
– The aim of learning how to manage moods is not about being a control freak. It’s about managing mood so as to fulfil one’s non-mood dependent goals (eg rather than being swayed by a passing emotion of anxiety, recognise and let the anxiety pass so you can get back to the task at hand which may be taking a deep breath and trying something new).
– You are responsible for yourself and your baby. That’s just the way it is. This is a variation on the Reality Principle: you have to deal with the life you have and your mood disorder, because no one else can.
– Moods are not caused by events but by your perception of events. So that means that you are in control – you don’t have to flip out over something unless you really want to.
– Just do it. Whatever it is. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.
And so for taking stock: I think we are doing pretty well. Some people have a view of life that generally, everything is OK and the bad events are the exception. I guess you could say that I have the opposite point of view. So when things start going well, I feel as though I am peering out of a tent flap, checking, in disbelief, that the lightning did not really rip out all the pegs in the storm. Is that thunder I heard again? Isn’t it about time that the walls started falling down?
But right now, here and in this moment, I can say (TOUCH A SWEDISH SAUNA’S WORTH OF WOOD) that life is going really, quite swimmingly well. I have a beautiful and healthy baby, who sleeps at all the sleep-appropriate times. She prefers me to all other people and things in her life, and that feels really, quite spectacularly, special. She is developing a wrinkle between her eyes from grinning, and when she smiles, she looks like me when I was little, with her Bailey cheeks taking over her face and turning it upwards. She pulls her blue, toy elephant into her wide open mouth which looks like she wants to eat the whole world and experience it that way. She rolls on to her side, chubby legs bent into the air, and she encounters her learning shoe, or the waving green of the trees out the window, or a bird casting a shadow, and she is still, taking that in from under her long, black eyelashes. She squeals when I stand her up, and she babbles and coos after a milk feed, looking at me with eyes which are slate grey in the evenings and dark brown in the light. I am in love. It’s reciprocated. She doesn’t know any different – I am the one teaching her how to love, after all.
I have a wonderful husband who only warrants a single line in this blog post, although all of this is dedicated to him. I have plans for the future – small plans but happy for me because I am at last thinking about what I want to do and not just doing what I think I must.
I am happy on the level of contentment, and quite often, my days are full of happy at the level of passing pleasures, too. There you go, Bertrand Russell. You would be proud.
And so, as I take stock, I would like to say that I am well. I am well. In my own early years, I learned how quickly things can change and pass. But perhaps that doesn’t mean I have to live in a constant state of preparation for disappointment. Perhaps it just means that I have an excellent, internal compass for disaster; and a great capacity for hope.