Mentally ill people have sex. Teenagers have sex and sometimes the stars align and mentally ill teenagers have sex and it produces a little person with Disney princess eyes who laughs when she farts.
My daughter Niamh was born on the 25th of May 2017, a whopping 2 weeks before the first of my A-Levels, and 3 and a half years after my first diagnoses of mental illness, anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. In the years between I have had a handful of diagnoses, depression, anxiety and bulimia. I have tried a cocktail of antidepressants and in September 2016 things were looking up. I had reached a healthy weight, although I was back in treatment for Bulimia, I had a medication I was used to, I was making friends, catching up to being a healthy teenager. I finally fitted in, no longer paper doll thin. I self harmed for the last time on the 18th of September, I found out I was pregnant on the 21st.
(Me and my boyfriend, Niamh’s father, June 2015- my year 11 prom.)
Immediately I was taking my vitamins, eating healthily, trying to repair the damage that had been done. For the first trimester I was ecstatic. I’d chosen to continue with my medication, thankfully a pregnancy safe antidepressant. My body was making minimal changes, I actually lost a little weight. My stomach was no longer concave, but still flat.
At 20 weeks I found out I was having a girl. Her name was decided straight away, Niamh Luna. I was overjoyed, but a knot of trepidation formed in me as I remembered screaming on the grass of a park, 2 or 3 years before, asking my mum why she had even had children when she knew that I would be the way I am. I come from a long line of women with a bad relationship with food. I am unusually close to my mum, despite drifting from her when I was 12. We are one person in two bodies, my soulmate. She was the the only thing that could dissipate the fear.
By 24 weeks I had a bump, and feelings of inadequacy, panic and unattractiveness flooded in. I weighed more, and no longer looked like my friends. I was still tiny, nobody could tell I was pregnant, even at 33 weeks a floaty top kept it concealed. I obsessively compared my bump to those of celebrities, wracked with guilt. I was too big, too small.
(My mother and I, summer 2015)
Then Niamh arrived and in an afternoon my world was changed forever by tiny hands and a fluffy head. She was perfect, I had made her and she was perfect. She was bundled up in my arms, small, quiet and beautiful. Not only had my world changed but my body had, and hours after she was born I was gazing in a mirror at my soft, stretchy, empty tummy. The fear that had followed me since I found out I was having a girl was on my heels. Would I be able to set a healthy example around food? I searched every magazine, every mummy blog for tips but all I could find was dieting tips. Blitz that baby belly, 30 day diet for a killer post partum body. I was obsessed. I am obsessed.
Things are looking up again now. I’m becoming healthy, despite the odd day where I have cake and nothing else. With perinatal mental illness, it’s like being at a campfire. You have your baby and they are the fire and they warm everything up, the light blinds you but you’ve still got the woods behind you and around you with the cold and the dark, always ready to suck you back in.
Enjoyed this read? Make sure you check out all of the CheltenhamMaman recommendations over at Maman Pages.