It was a month into my pregnancy when things started to get weird. I’d stopped going to events, and returning friends’ calls, and began resenting anyone who tried to get me out of the house, even just for a coffee. What was the point? Did I even like these people? What did they want from me?
With my boyfriend away for work (that happened a lot pre-COVID), I was alone in my flat, bubble-wrapped in a thick layer of depression, an impenetrable film separating me from the outside world. Who wanted to be out there, anyway? It was warm and cosy here. That’s the insidious thing about depression—unlike the excruciating pangs of anxiety, it seeps into your life imperceptibly, dulling your senses to the point that you aren’t able to clearly see what’s going on.
At some point, I stopped eating, which I put down to morning sickness. But I didn’t feel sick, I felt numb. When I wasn’t at work I was simply existing, which in itself felt like a huge effort. I thought about the thing growing inside me. I should have been filled with love, but instead I felt empty and uninterested, mixed in with a bit of contempt. I didn’t want this thing to take over my body, and I hated that it was with me wherever I went. Why did we decide to do this?
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Things eventually came to a head when I downloaded a puzzle app called Wordscapes. It started off fairly normally—I’d play it on the way to work. Only, I couldn’t seem to put my phone down when I got there. Then, I started playing it when I got home, until well after it was time for bed. Just one more round, I’d say to myself. I was hooked. Things got so weird that at weekends I’d enter tournaments and play against complete strangers under my avatar—a white wolf called Fang. I was not well.
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I decided to seek help from my GP. With my medical history, she said, the risk of prenatal depression was higher than for most. Giving this suffocating feeling a name was the first step in my recovery. (I say recovery, but with depression, it’s more about management.) Next, I deleted Wordscapes and started going for walks outside. I also started seeing a therapist, and every time a negative thought about my unborn child invaded my consciousness, I banished it.
By the third trimester, I had emerged from the chrysalis of my depression. I’d almost grown fond of my bump, amused by every toss and turn, which felt more like the routine of an Olympic gymnast. Weeks later, my son was airlifted out of me via caesarean, a tiny alien creature covered in corporeal goop, one I viewed with both curiosity and suspicion. We meet, at last.
There were only a couple of dark days after that. I threw myself into breastfeeding and the hamster wheel of keeping this small thing alive. There simply wasn’t time to think about anything else. Two years on, things couldn’t be more different. Whenever I have a low day and feel myself drift off into quiet oblivion, it is my son who snaps me out of it. I often wonder what will happen when we decide to have another child. Then I think about my son and realise it’s worth it.
You are not alone. If you or someone you know needs help with perinatal anxiety or depression, contact KK Hospital‘s Women’s Mental Wellness Service or NUHS’ Women’s Emotional Health Service for more.
This article originally appeared on British Vogue.