With RU OK day just around the corner, I have decided it’s time to write this post. I have no idea how to start this, what to say, or whether this is a terrible idea, but I feel like it’s important I share my story, and maybe it might help someone else.
I have blogged before about developing antenatal depression in my second pregnancy. At the time of that post I was feeling pretty good, but things got a lot worse during the pregnancy, and by the end I was severely depressed. I had a wonderful natural birth, and brought a gorgeous little girl home, and for a few weeks things were good. The new baby bliss was not to last though, and over the next few months my mood went up and down, and slowly it got to a crisis.
I thought I was okay. I thought it was just normal fatigue, that I was still in my pajamas each day at 3pm because I had a new baby. The truth was I was so depressed I wasn’t functioning. My toddler, Boo, would beg me in the mornings to give her breakfast, and I was so depressed I would give her a packet of sultanas, or a yoghurt. I literally could not move off the lounge room floor. This was nothing compared to the anxiety. It manifested in strange ways: screaming at Boo, excessive anger, a paralysing indecision that left me rooted to the spot wondering how I was going to look after the kids. I would open the fridge door, and see all the food but had no idea how to put it together into a meal, so I’d close the door and just cry. The weirdest thing was that I STILL did not realise how unwell I was.
The turning point came when I could not leave my house one day. I was supposed to visit a friend, but had a stream of panic attacks so intense I could not move. My phone was next to me and I called my good friend, and naturopath for help. She asked me to come to the clinic, took one look at me and took me straight to the doctor. I believe she saved my life.
The next month was hell. It was obvious I needed medication. I had been taking natural medicines this whole time, and it just wasn’t enough. The doctor prescribed some Valium and an SSRI, and I committed to try them. It did not go well. My super sensitive, breastfed baby reacted badly. I stopped taking the medications. I thought her health was more important than mine, and I was committed to breastfeeding. It took me two days to be completely dysfunctional again. It was then I realise I had to be on medication, even if it meant weaning. I felt like a failure, and was absolutely devasted.
At this stage I was recommended to see a psychiatrist who specialised in PND. This was the turning point in my journey. This wonderful doctor found me medications my baby could tolerate and that were effective. She pulled strings to get me into a brilliant psychologist. She saw me weekly, and charged me a reduced rate. Finally there was hope again. It took months to get my levels right, and to start feeling better. But, it did happen.
Am I okay now? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Today I am anxious and sad. A week ago I felt amazing. In another week, I’ll probably feel amazing again. My life is up, and down. My family suffers through my moods, and our lives can be chaotic. Slowly the down periods are getting less, and the happy periods are really good. Even when I’m down I can function now, and I am a good Mum again. Life has hope, joy and is constantly improving. I know one day soon, I will be able to answer that question with an unequivocal yes. That feels good.
Post natal depression is a serious issue. It’s sneaky, and devastating to families. It is driven by hormonal changes, and is not just about the woman worrying about daily stressors. It also has nothing to do with how happy the mother is with her new life. I adore my girls. They give meaning to my life that I have never known. They are the best thing that ever happened to me, but that did not stop me developing PND. If you think you have PND, I want you to know that you are not alone, and that there is help out there. And, there’s hope. Because one day you will look back and realise you have left the dark behind and reemerged into the light.
This RU OK day, ask your Mummy friends how they are; how they REALLY are.