I went to the doctor today. I sat down to say I've-got-another-cold-and-I-need-some-help-please-may-I-have-some-antibiotics, and ended up bawling my eyes out saying I'm-just-not-coping-and-I-don't-know-if-it's-maybe-post-natal-depression-or-just-sheer-tiredness. Oops. Didn't mean it to go quite that way...
But it got me thinking. I have 'flat' days regularly. Sometimes frequently, sometimes hardly ever. I think flat days are to be expected in my line of work. (Mothering pre-schoolers, that is.) However, the symptoms of Post Natal Depression (PND) are:
Physical symptoms such as:
Change in appetite (increased or decreased)
Extreme tiredness to the extent of not being able to perform normal tasks of everyday living
Poor sleep patterns.
Changes in mood
Lack of ‘joie de vivre’
Expressing beliefs, such as:
Inability to cope
Inability to concentrate
‘not wanting to go on.’
Now, I know I could check a few of those boxes (except that very last one) on a good day. Quite a few on a bad day! But it strikes me that nearly all (maybe even all?) of these symptoms can be caused by tiredness too. Read the list again, but with the header, "The symptoms of tiredness are:" Do you see?
I think most mothers of young children (and maybe older children too, but I don't have any of those, so I can't comment!) are combating tiredness. More tired than we ever thought possible before we had children. Combine a 24 hour work day and broken sleep, not to mention the responsibility for moulding and shaping a small person or persons, and you have a recipe for at least some amount of tiredness.
Before we go any further, please understand that I am most definitely not saying that if you have post natal depression, you are actually only tired and getting more sleep will help. Apart from that being ridiculous (it's usually very difficult to get more sleep), it's inaccurate. PND is a real and documented condition. 10-15% of women in NZ suffer from depression after having a baby. If you are diagnosed with PND, it is important that you speak with someone who can help you to get the support you need, including more sleep.
For me, these last few months have been difficult ones, as I previously mentioned. Since the first week of July, I have had some combination of a cough/dry cough/hacking couch/plegm-y cough/blocked nose/running nose/gunked-up nose/headache/fever/sore throat, only fully abating for two days or a week before the next lot of symptoms began. I'm not trying to garner sympathy, just to illustrate the state of health in our household this winter!
You know what? Having a cold is tiring! It must be said that I am immensely thankful that my health problems are less than a drop in the ocean of all health problems. I'll take a cold over something like cancer any day of the week and say thank you. But it is tiring. Tiring to care for three children, a husband and a home while still somehow trying to find that ever-elusive 'Me Time' when you are sick and can't rest. And all those things in that list up there? I've felt them. I feel them. Most of the time at the moment. I'm thankful for my experience of knowing that it is all just a stage - the colds WILL pass, I WILL get more sleep (I will!), and positivity WILL return.
Talking with my doctor, we agreed that I don't have PND really. I've just been sick and staying up too late. But it frightens me how close to actual clinical depression that sheer tiredness can come. It really has hit home to me that taking care of yourself doesn't only involve eating right, drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly (all of which I suck at as well), but prioritising sleep as much as you can too. I've always known that, but it's like the Lack of Sleep Fairy just struck me over the head with her This Is Unhealthy Stick. (She's not a very nice fairy, all in all.)
So where to from here?
I'm going to set myself a night time routine that involves switching off the TV or packing up my sewing machine at 8:30/9pm, have a quick tidy up to be ready for the next day, brush teeth etc, a little time to read in bed (one of my favourite things to do!) and lights off at 9:30pm. 10pm at the latest.
Sleep's important. I want to do the best I can by my family. Being tired robs me of the wonderfulness of where we are right now, where we'll never be again. These years are short, and I want to enjoy them.
Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep... You truly are my friend.
(If you're still with me at this point I commend you for your fortitude in getting all the way to the end!)