Those of you who found this blog via my involvement with #PNDhour and PNDchat will already know I suffered from post natal depression after the birth of both of my children. Despite the idea of the “wounded healer” having deep roots within therapy there can still be some reluctance to admit to having struggled by some practitioners. Part of this is a very valid concern around competence, if I am not well enough physically or mentally to practice I need to be honest about that. However sometimes it seems more of a fear of being perceived as simply human. Therapists can be put upon that pedestal marked perfect, a scary, and unrealistic place to be, by those who hope that emulation will provide the change they want in their lives.
I am not perfect.
If admitting I am not perfect, not finished, still a work in progress, puts a potential client off, then so be it. If admitting I struggled with depression makes someone think I am not the therapist for them, all I can say is, you are right, I am not. Post natal depression was crippling for me. Some days even dressing was more than I could manage. And, yes, there were days when I looked at the tiny human, totally dependent, all pink and softness, and thought you would be better off without me.
Those are hard days to remember. The days of feeling a failure as a mother, a woman, a human being. The days when I was too tired to even cry. The days where sleep brought no relief because I knew I would just wake up and have to do it all again.
Then things lightened, one good day became a good week, although always with the fear that I could be engulfed by the black clouds again. I got involved with my local sure start, took evening classes, looked at who I was, and where I wanted to be.
Seeing the light in the darkness.
One of the things people say when you have any form of depression is to look on the bright side, think of the good stuff, be positive. It is possibly the most infuriating advice ever. If you could do that, you wouldn’t be depressed! It’s only on the way up things like that help. So whilst ideas such as #3goodthings are wonderful for bringing a smile to my face now, I still remember what it was like to be unable to think of one good thing. However in the darkest days it was the small things, a hug, a smile, a bird on the windowsill, a kind word which provided respite. Which brings me to #gracenotes.
The #gracenotes project.
I recently joined Instagram, not to follow the latest celebrity, or pick up fashion tips, but to for somewhere to post and keep a daily picture. Not just any pictures, but ones that I had taken to inspire me, remind me to breathe, and pause a moment. I first heard the term gracenotes in a religious context, but it seemed the ideal name for what I wanted to do. The speaker described gracenotes as those tiny moments in the day which remind us of the love of God for all creation. However you don’t have to be religious to see the benefit of pausing, of looking deeper, of saying yes, I am part of this world. Those who practice meditation or mindfulness will already recognise the benefits of trying to root themselves in the here and now.
I started gracenotes for myself, self care is so undervalued. This is I believe especially the case for women, who are told we must put the needs of others first, or be classed as selfish. Be it the morning dew on a cobweb, or a dandelion breaking through the concrete I will post daily, to say Karen, remember to pause, to look around you, to see you are part of a bigger whole. However it would be wonderful if other people joined in, if they posted their gracenotes, whatever they were. People simply stopping, sharing, and taking a moment for themselves. It sounds tiny, but self care and self love are not just vital, they are radical acts.