I am proud to be sharing my journey through anxiety and post natal depression. It was an incredibly challenging time, having experienced it with both of my children, but, after having gone through it, I am now a better, healthier and happier person and for that, I am grateful. I hope that by sharing my story it will give hope to parents facing the same challenges that, even in the darkest days, recovery is possible.
The moment I gave birth to Leo and he was put in my arms was a moment I will never forget. I was in awe of Leo and loved him instantly. I couldn’t wait to bring Leo home and start our new family of 3. Not long after, my mental state started to go downhill. I was exhausted, yet had trouble sleeping. “Sleep when baby sleeps” was just not happening. I was kept awake by night sweats and terrible racing thoughts. “Could something fall into my baby’s bassinet and suffocate him?”, “Maybe his nappy is on too tight and could cut off his circulation”, “Maybe someone could break in to the house and kidnap him”. These thoughts would play over and over in my mind.
One day, I explicitly told mum that I was contemplating suicide. She knew I was serious, and she was determined not to lose another child that way. She immediately phoned my GP, and luckily I got in to see her that day. My GP asked my mum to leave the room and she began asking me questions.I finally broke down and told her everything. She wrote me out a Mental Health Care Plan, a script for antidepressants and a referral to a psychiatrist.
When the psychiatrist diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Postnatal Depression, things started to get better. I was put on medication to help with my anxiety. I now know that this treatment played an important role in my recovery – not to mention the love and support of my GP, my family and close friends. I only wish that I had spoken up sooner. I really want to get the message across to anyone who is struggling: please get help as quickly as possible, so that recovery is not delayed.
I can’t tell you the exact day that things started to shift for me, but, I can tell you what I started to notice. For one, I began opening the blinds, one by one. I felt the fog lift, and I began socialising and making friends with new mums in my area. Most importantly, I saw my beautiful baby boy wanting his mummy so much. I realised how precious he is to me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness that I longed for, and had so missed.
Fast forward four years and I felt I had recovered enough to want another baby. I was still having therapy but ceased my medication. When I gave birth to Lily, I was flushed with an immense amount of love and adoration for her. Again, I just could not wait to get home to start our new family of 4. The first four months was a very different experience to my first, I felt bonded to Lily, I was getting out of the house, I was resting, I was practising self care.
However, Lily was never a good sleeper and after about 4 months, it got to a point that she was up every hour and I was getting no sleep. I was a zombie. I began to have those feelings that I had when I had PND with Leo and I started to worry that I might have PND again. Some of the symptoms I experienced were, heightened anxiety, not showering, scary thoughts, I lost my appetite, feeling flat, inability to laugh at things I used to find funny, feeling very panicky, dreading the day, not able to experience any joy, unable to sleep.
I knew I did not want to get very unwell and I remembered that the earlier I sought help, the quicker the recovery. So, I made an appointment to visit my GP. The first time I had PND I resisted going to GP as I feared I would lose my son. This time I had learnt that that is not the case, in fact it is encouraged that mum and bub stay together. At the GP, I filled out a questionnaire which came back high and immediately commenced medication to help with the symptoms.
I also increased my appointments with my psychologist, checked in with my GP weekly and began seeing a psychiatrist to manage my medication. I would always call someone I trusted and felt safe with and tell them I was struggling – I would say “I am feeling wobbly today” and they would just listen to my struggles. Family and friends would come over for lunch or a cup of tea, walking to park, getting a coffee, playing in the park with the kids, reading to them, putting on music and dancing with them in the loungeroom, attending a support program run by the local council which was organised by MCHN.
It didn’t take too long before I was feeling my self again and, not to mention with the help of a sleep and settling consultant who came to our house to help Lily sleep better was lifechanging.
Leo is now 5 Lily will be 2 in December. I love being their mum and feel privileged watching them grow. I have fully recovered from postnatal depression however, I am still managing my anxiety. I find self care is really important as well incorporating mindfulness into my daily life. I will always be grateful for the love and support I received throughout my illness, as without it, I don’t think I would be here today.