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A world turned upside down

Marina Tjetland is a comic artist, soon launching her debut book ‘That Time – When my entire world turned upside down’, in which she talks about her birth experience. In 2017, Marina gave birth to Mia, and experienced how becoming a mother can be a tremendous transformative experience. She went through a lengthy post-natal depression. In this blog post Marina shares, some of the insights she gained from this experience.

A mirror

Marina experienced how our children can be like mirrors. When she held her newborn baby in her hands, Marina not only saw Mia but she also saw herself. She felt the importance of giving unconditional love and motherly care to this little baby in every cell of her body and at the same time felt the tremendous pain of not having received this herself from her own mother. In the past Marina had unconsciously dissociated herself from feelings that were too intense. She visualizes this as locking away feelings of pain and fear as well as feelings of love and compassion behind closed doors with plenty of locks. The incredible joy of becoming a mother came together with a deep felt pain of unmet needs as a child, and the fear of not being able to be a good enough mother to her daughter. To repeat the mistakes her own mother had made.

Looking back, Marina describes the first year with Mia as a fog. It is hard to remember details. Overwhelming seems to be the word that best described how this period was. She felt completely alone with her baby and the emotional rollercoaster that took place inside of her. The relationship with Mia’s father was strained at that time and Marina didn’t have any family or relatives around. Friends didn’t seem to realize how she was feeling or didn’t understand.

When Mia was around one year old, she started going to kindergarden. Marina needed time to get used to being separated from her, and this triggered a new level of anxiety and fear. Around the same time the relationship with Mia’s father came to an end. When Marina visited her GP for a routine check, he looked at her and asked her whether she was doing alright. Marina burst down in tears and realized how burned out she was. Asking for help was something that hadn’t occurred to her at all, she didn’t even realize that she needed it. But fortunately, her GP did notice that Marina was having mental health issues, and he referred her to a psychiatric nurse. This was the start of a recovery process, and about 4,5 years later Marina felt like she had overcome her post-natal depression.

Marine learned that besides taking care of Mia, she also had to learn how to mother her own inner child. She still finds it hard to love herself and she realizes she is often very harsh on herself. But she also knows that you need to be able to love yourself, to be able to give full love to your child. And that is what drives her to keep trying and learning.

Writing comics

Marina’s therapist once asked her during one of their sessions what really gave her joy. She answered that she liked writing and drawing. And that is how Marina started to make sketches. Sketching and writing became an emotional outlet, helping her on her road of recovery. Once Marina was feeling better, she knew she wanted to share her story and decided to make a comic book about her post-natal depression. She thought she would start the book with one or two pages about her birth experience. While she was working on these, she realized the birth of Mia was not something that could be captured in one or two pages. The post-natal depression had to wait. Her first comic book would just cover the birth experience. And that book is now finished and about to be published! Meanwhile, Marina works on her second book, about the period following birth. But this takes time. Going back to that period and sketch and write about it is a healing but at the same time painful process. But Marina knows she is going to persevere. Not just because this book will make her grow personally, but also because she finds it very important to break the taboo on mental health issues. She believes that sharing her story can help other women in similar positions.

Book cover of Marina's first Comic Book 'That Time'

Marina would like other women to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of if you feel overwhelmed when you become a mother. It is totally normal if you don’t manage to go through all the feelings and emotions that this transition can trigger without any support. It is easy to think that there is something wrong with you, but there is not! Marina recalls that she found it hard to open up to others, as she didn’t want pity. She was afraid that the reactions of others would only make her feel smaller. The internal shame was so big. But she experienced that things only get bigger in your head. Her advice is to talk about it whenever you are confused or scared in your new role as mother.

How to support

Marina once got a phone call from a friend. His wife was pregnant, and she had become extremely sensitive. What was wrong with her, he wanted to know. And how could he fix it? Marina explained him that if his partner didn’t understand herself what was going on, there was no point in continuing to ask her that question. Just be with her. Be present. It is hard to be alone when your feelings overwhelm you, and you don’t understand what is happening. So don’t disappear! For you as a partner, there is nothing you have to solve for the other person. But it is important to be there. Let her share, let her talk. Listen.

You can find Marina on Instagram @marinatjet where she shares about her work as a comic artist and is a voice for mental health challenges and issues. There she also keeps you posted about her book launch and other opportunities to meet her and buy a copy of her book. The book will be published both in English (That Time when my entire world turned upside down) and in Norwegian (Den Gangen da min verden ble snudd på hodet).


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