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mental health

Sad Ladies’ Club

I haven’t updated this blog for almost two months – I had some ideas for blog posts, but very little time to write them. More importantly, I didn’t have time to make them perfect.

And perfection is really what I was aiming for. In all things – parenting, work, being a human, wifery. Over the last few months it’s become imperative that I do everything perfectly, and the irony is I have fallen further and further short of perfection every day.

Suddenly freelance commissions were taking three all-nighters in a row and a crying fit to perfect, rather than a couple of days. Piles of unwashed dishes would reduce me to tears, because I didn’t know where to start, and everyone else seemed to manage housework. Every time Herbie played happily with someone else, even his father, my stomach would curdle with bitter self-loathing. 

I’d try (and fail) for hours at the dressing table, attempting to look less beaten-up by motherhood. Some days I wouldn’t leave the house. Some days I’d avoid contact with my friends, and repeatedly ask Stu if he was angry with me, because I couldn’t understand how he, how anyone, couldn’t be. Some days I only made it out of bed to change the baby.

It didn’t even occur to me that I was depressed.

I’ve lived with anxiety my entire life – in my very early twenties I was housebound with panic disorder and agoraphobia – but waking up with this deadened feeling then progressively losing hope as the day went on was something new. Luckily I was quite open about it (and the disturbing flashbacks to the birth I’d been getting) with my GP and health visitor, and they diagnosed me with PTSD and postnatal depression.

Briefly I tried intensive CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), but after every session I was sent home with multiple pieces of homework, none of which I could complete with a needy baby hanging off my boob (and not being able to do my homework perfectly sent me into a negativity spiral). So instead I went with antidepressants and a weekly visit to a place I like to call ‘Sad Ladies’ Club’.

Sad Ladies’ Club is actually a crafts group for women with postnatal depression. It sounds awful, but isn’t. At first I wasn’t on board with such a wacky scheme (crafts? For depression? That’s like ponies for asthma), but I’ve since grown to love it.

We get together once a week, put our babies in creche, and go mad with the glitter glue for two hours. People make us tea and gesture generously towards the tin of Celebrations in the middle of the table. Nobody talks about depression. We talk about Christmas jumpers and whose baby is the shoutiest and who’s got the staple gun, please.

When I first heard about the crafts aspect, of course, I pictured orange-jumpsuited basket weaving, but it’s better than that. We make memo boards. We do decoupage. We make Christmas cards and paint giant acrylic letters for our homes. And I am so far from perfect at any of it. In fact, I am horrifically shit at it all. My Christmas cards are wonky, my giant letters are smeared with glitter glue. Don’t even talk to me about decoupage. Don’tcoupage, more like.

Sad Ladies’ Club hasn’t cured me of my perfectionism, but it’s helped. It’s legitimised my depression, and shown me that other, normal people have it. It’s given me a couple of hours a week out of my head, and out of constant mothering, and it’s got me out of the house (watching three days of The Killing in my pyjamas with an increasingly restless baby was doing no one any good).

The antidepressants have kicked in, therapy is on the horizon, I’ve risen above that negative mental feedback loop a bit, and I can see that I need help. Now I’ve sorted a part-time nanny and a fortnightly cleaner, and I’m trying not to judge myself for not being able to do it all myself.

Plus, Herbie has been nicely socialised in creche and, as shit as I am at it, I may have caught the crafts bug. I may take up crocheting, because the world needs more wonky woolly cobwebs. This week was my penultimate Sad Ladies’ Club. A very nice woman came and showed us how to make Christmas wreaths out of bits of hedgerow.

My effort is imperfect. I love it: