When my daughter Maisie was born five years ago, I was ecstatic. I’d surprised everybody – myself most of all – by labouring without anything other than gas and air (I’d wanted an epidural the moment I saw two lines on the pregnancy test); Maisie latched on immediately and I had no problem breastfeeding. I felt empowered. I had grown this glorious little human, and I was winning.

I don’t know exactly when it all changed. Looking back it had to be somewhere between three and five months after Maisie was born, but there was no obvious point where things became difficult. Suddenly I was struggling. A load of laundry became a behemoth task. Grocery shopping was so overwhelming I would regularly abandon half-full shopping carts in the aisle because I just couldn’t go on. And then the crying started.

My then-husband and I went away for a long weekend with some friends whose daughter was only a couple of months older than ours. I’d had a rough night the day before we left and Maisie had screamed the entire three-hour drive. After arriving I was exhausted and went for a nap. I had just drifted off when I heard a baby crying – the kind of distressed cry that a mother feels in her gut (and her breasts). I reminded myself that Maisie had just fed for 45 minutes, that she couldn’t be THAT hungry, that I had to give her father a chance to learn to comfort her.

There was no obvious point where things became difficult. Suddenly I was struggling.

After 35 minutes of being driven mad by the sound I stormed upstairs and shouted “For God’s sake what’s wrong with you – can’t you hear the girls crying?!” Three blank faces turned mid-conversation and looked at me with such confusion. The girls were in their travel cots right there. Fast asleep. I became frantic – if it wasn’t our girls then there was a hysterical child somewhere nearby. My friends suggested that perhaps it had been someone walking past my window, that I had dreamt it. My husband said I was “just tired” and ushered me back to bed.

At 10 months postpartum I went to see my GP and was diagnosed with postnatal depression. It was such a relief – I wasn’t a crap mother after all, there actually was something wrong with me. I didn’t mention the crying because suddenly it made sense. I was put on a low dose of antidepressants, which worked well for six weeks, and then I plummeted back into darkness so the dosage was upped a bit.

I started to have visions of myself committing suicide. I regularly saw myself lying on bathroom floor, wrists split, blood pooling around me. Or hanging from a tree, my body twisting in the wind. On some level I knew they were due to the PND but they started to appear fast and furious. Every time I closed my eyes I would see them, until I was terrified that the line between knowing they weren’t real and making them real was about to disappear forever, and me with it.

“You’re just tired” became my mantra, almost my death knoll. I continued to hear the crying, usually when I tried to sleep. Every time I started to drift off the familiar sound would ring again. Sometimes I could ignore it because I knew Maisie wasn’t even home; other times I would race up the stairs and throw her bedroom door open, sure that something terrible had happen to make her cry so hysterically, only to be met by milk-drunk snores.

While changing Maisie’s nappy I saw a puddle of blood dripping from the ceiling. That night I hosted a dinner party for 10 because, what else do you do?

One Friday, Maisie now 13 months old, I returned to my GP in a panic. The wonderfully kind woman who ran the practice had put a room aside for me when I called so as soon as I arrived she swept Maisie out of my arms and me in to see the doctor. My GP called my husband home from work, put him on suicide watch, then prescribed me a very strong antipsychotic. What I didn’t know was that the moment I left the office he called the local hospital to book a psych bed for Monday morning. Later in the day while changing Maisie’s nappy I looked up and saw a huge puddle of blood dripping from the ceiling. That night I hosted a dinner party for 10 to celebrate my husband’s birthday because, really what else do you do?

In the end I was one of the lucky ones. Katherine Stone from the American website Postpartum Progress plugged me into her extensive network and found me an outpatient program at the hospital I delivered Maisie in – a program my GP had never heard of. My antidepressant dosage was upped to five times what I had been taking and I continued on the antipsychotics for another six months. I began talk therapy and started writing about my experiences. That writing later formed the basis of my musical, The Good Enough Mums Club. I truly believe I wrote my way out of the darkness. Slowly I’ve rebuilt my life, into something I never would have expected possible – happy, positive and most importantly full of life.

The Good Enough Mums Club is gathering stories of motherhood to contribute to a major tour in 2015. For information on sharing your story, email mystory@thegoodenoughmumsclub.com or visit thegoodenoughmumsclub.com

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