This was a weird thought I had in London last week. I can’t remember what sparked it off. I was just travelling on the underground when the thought came to me. Actually, I know what sparked it off. I was reading this book at the time the thought came to me, which is written and illustrated by Marzi Wilson.
I love this book and the website that came before it. There is so much in it that I relate to. I don’t relate to everything, however. I generally try to resist labels such as ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’. We are all individuals, after all. However, if I had to put myself in one camp or the other I’d have to veer towards introversion. And if I am an introvert, then I’m the sort who loves being around people and socializing. The stereotypical introvert doesn’t. I love socializing, on the proviso that I might want to get my sketch pad or book out when with others and be alone in company. So, contrary to the average introvert, I like to be with people, but I like to be alone with people. But generally, I’d say I am an introvert.
But this introverted ‘need to be alone’ whether physically or mentally, or both, brought to mind how impossible that is when you are a new mother. When you have a baby, your life, for at least six months and in actual fact for much longer, is no longer your possession. It becomes the possession of someone else, a child. Many people are able to embrace this change and in fact revel in it. However, three times, I struggled with this. And in London, last week, it occurred to me that my struggle with this stems from my introversion tendencies. I find comfort in the ability to withdraw. When things get too much, I turn into a snail. I retreat. I curl up with a book and forget the world. However, when you have a baby, you cannot do this. You cannot do this for months, or even years. And, this may sound awful to say this, that is very hard for someone who needs solitude. So my question is: are people with introvert tendencies more susceptible to post-natal depression? That great beast of wisdom, the Internet, seems to agree with me. In fact it says ‘they [introverts] get energy and strength from solitude’. So when your source of strength and energy is removed, it is no wonder that anxiety and depression could ensue. This is what happened to me, to different degrees, three times.
I found this thought quite liberating. I think that anyone who has suffered from post-natal depression may feel a sense of guilt. I certainly had huge guilt about it. You feel a failure, inadequate and weak for having struggled to deal with something that is natural, or something you see others coping with admirably and with a halo of love around them. I know for me, I felt guilt because I’d dealt with various hardships in my life, including working in stressful environments, yet looking after a fairly low-maintenance being who, let’s face it, acted quite predictably, caused me much anxiety and distress. But this realisation that perhaps my personality just isn’t perfectly suited to early motherhood, helped me feel less guilty. It was actually quite a good weird thought.
After having this thought in London last week while travelling on the underground, I felt lighter, and more human. I love my children with all my heart. And it is much easier now that we can all be introverts together with our noses in our books and our mutual love of doodling.