Postnatal depression really fucked up my relationship
April 9, 2019
We all joke and laugh about the strain of parenthood on our relationships. It’s easy to talk about the daily grinds and shift that cause couples to drift. Forcing them to work at their once effortless relationship. We mock and joke about tired eyes, quick pump sessions while the kid is glued to whatever the fuck those YouTube videos are – why the fuck you would want to watch someone dip figures into slime, I don’t know. But if it gives us 3 minutes of peace, then knock your pan out – the same sentiment I say to my partner for those passionate 3 minutes.
Shifting your relationship to encompass parenthood, while we still try to navigate life and produce functioning humans at the end of it, is a pretty open topic nowadays. There’s SERIOUS parent comradery online. And bountiful memes to express just how fucked up relationships become once kids enter the ring.
The one area of relationships, post baby expelling, that is a little more meme unfriendly is relationships and mental health, more specifically how postnatal depression (or just bog standard depression since its 3 years into the game) can impact your relationship.
Not sure how much I like the word ‘impact’. I feel it doesn’t quite relay the significant and menace of depression. Maybe it’s a bit more like Miley says, a wrecking ball that burst through the wall and really fucked shit up. Destroying, pretty much all the pillars of support, security and confidence that had been built during the first 10 years of our relationship.
This account of my relationship, is just that. Mine. Not a reflection of my partner, not an accumulation of events other than parenthood swirling with post natal depression. There is nothing here that is from my partner’s point of view. Yet, these perceptions are not unique to me. The isolated, embarrassed, confused, detached relationship is relatable to so many couples, managing their way through life with a reality distorting mental illness.
From whatever source the PND beast arose from, there is a long lasting lingering effect. One that rears its powerful mast of isolation whenever I let the thoughts fester, and myself become run down. In all honesty, this is one particular source of pain that is constantly within me.
My PND all but wiped my partner from my heart. There is no other way to say that. It’s hard to convey exactly what this means. Not to say I don’t love him, it’s deeper and more fearful than that. I love this human so much, I detach him from me. Mentally. Like depression has highs and lows, this section of ‘hurt’ comes with it’s own gradation. At its lowest, I will become recluse and withdrawn within my own relationship. More than that, I will become angry, mean and so very hurtful. We aren’t talking about mean and naggy, throwing shade over chores. We are talking deep wanting to be spitefully, to emotionally hurt another human.
These emotions, thoughts and feelings are very confusing for myself. Where is the line between reality and mental health? My mind is telling me to break it off, there is no love loss here. We have run our course and this is where we part. My heart, is telling me nothing. I am numb and with little empathy, if at all. My partner and I will chat and I will have no emotion, not until we dig deep. He will ask ‘will I leave?’ and I will pause and really think on that scenario. I’m not thinking of logistics, who stays where, what about Jess, what about the mortgage. I’m frantically thinking ‘why are you doing this’ – to myself. While he stares at me, I search and wait for the gush of emotions telling me this is wrong, I wait to feel anything over my partner of 13 years asking me if we should end this relationship, is this what I want.
We’ve been down that path so many times I don’t feel anything. Will he go? No. Would I let him go? No. So whats the fuck is the problem! Why can’t I be happy? Why can’t I feel the abundance of love in our relationship? Why am I like this?
And that’s when the tears start.
For reasons I still don’t understand, my sense of self- anything, has been wiped out. I don’t feel worthless, yet I wish my partner with someone more ‘sane’, less needy, someone who isn’t lost in an excruciatingly understanding and loving relationship.
Feeling warm and giddy in love doesn’t come naturally to me anymore. My mind is constantly ‘needing’, constantly criticizing and comparing my ‘love’ and relationship pre and post parenthood. Jokingly I say I have ‘no chill’, but that’s a thinly veiled glimpse into the mind fuckery. I can’t be still, I can’t be content, I can’t accept what is so fucking obvious to see – my relationship is strong, loving, secure and committed.
I often envy my partner. Not that it is easy to watch a loved one in so much pain and upset, that I know I wouldn’t have the reliance to endure. I envy his ability to feel and be content.
When the tears start, I cry out of ‘wanting’. I want to be like my partner, I want to feel happy again, I want to be ‘normal’, I want to NOT act in a selfish and hurt manner. It’s mentally exhausting.
Reminiscent of the early months of PND, I’m confused and alone. This is my mountain to climb, I can do it with support, but I need to dig my nails in and really get out of this mind cage. That’s a very scary thought, one that I don’t like to think on. Time pressure is applied by myself, because why not add an extra layer to the fucking up of your relationship eh. I wonder ‘when will he crack’, ‘I can’t keep doing this’, ‘this is unfair on him’, ‘I’m making him unhappy/worried’, ‘someone else is going to make him happy’.
Each time we fall into this maze the same themes crop up, and they are always surrounding ‘me’ and my perception of self. My partner has done nothing to ignite or reinforce my thoughts, granted we could both work a bit better at our relationship. But our relationship isn’t so unsteady that it should produce whatever the fuck fuckery that occurs in my head. This relationship sabotage is very much a manifestation of my inner insecurities, darkness and trampled self that’s been left after giving birth.
Date nights and reconnecting may go some way to rebuilding, within us, within me, the devastation caused by depression. Yet, ultimately I know the structural rebuild must be done by me. This false relationship narrative is in my head. I know this, and I know it’s incorrect.
The depressed/anxious mind has this uncanny ability to add 2 and 2 to create 5, believing 5 is the correct conclusion. I see evidence to support my wrong perceptions wherever I seek it. They say if you look for something, you’ll find it, even if it’s not there. And I know this. But it still pains me. My partner could be late in from work and my mind will run off 1001 reasons and scenarios for the lateness. Hint, none of them involve him running late to surprise me with a bouquet of Cadburys Mini Rolls and an all expenses paid trip to the Maldives.
In each fucked up mind episode, he’s late because he has no wish to see me, no desire to come home to me, the nag, the old tattered mum, the ball and chain that sucks the life from him. On the really low episodes, when depression is really making a guest appearance, he’ll be late because, you know, he leads a separate life lusting after funny girls that make him laugh and smile.
Depression really does hold a very low view of myself. Sadly a powerful view that it digs deep, between my ribs when it gets the chance. I know it’s lies. But like much of depression, knowing and feeling are two very different things.
At it’s worst, I think of my mind as a horror roller-coaster ride. I’m on it, I buckle up, secure myself, keep my hands and legs in the vehicle at all times and let the ghouls try their best to make me jump. Scare me they do, even threaten to push me from the cart, but I hang firm. It will pass. Like the ghouls, the thoughts are theatrics, they’ll dissipate and I’ll continue to mentally fight for my relationship. With my partner. With my friends. And with myself. The most turbulent relationship of them all.
People may read this and be confused, ask ‘how do you know you still love your partner?‘
I know because I know. Because I love hard enough to want, enough to care, enough to know he is still the person I want to share my life with. Ultimately, I know I am still in love because he is my life. Above anything, I know there is nothing more valuable to me than my partner and my child. In a fucked up way, it’s the reason I break down, pleading that he could find better, be happier with someone else. That’s some Hollywood self sacrifice bullshit right there. The ultimate gesture of love.
This relationship perception is less about ‘our’ love and more about my self love. It’s not our relationship that is broken, it’s my mind. It still hurts though. It’s still painful to experience the isolation and longing to be ‘normal’. Made all that more painful as there’s two players in the ring. It makes healing all that more pressured (from myself). I’m extremely lucky to have a partner whom with I share all of the mental above and more.
Crucially, it’s important that he know this is a path not of his making, nor mine. I believe this is important for all couples experiencing depression to know. Postnatal depression extends to the deepest and most intimate areas of a person, often nesting in the ‘self worth’ of that person.
For some, like myself, it’s hard to accept love when you feel you don’t deserve it. When you’ve been battered down by the bullshit beatings of depression. How people act is more often than not, a representation of themselves, not you. It’s important to remember that, even about yourself.