A nightmare! That’s what the diagnosis of pnd/anxiety/ocd was for me, a living nightmare of which there was no escape. I will never forget the constant terror and agonising thoughts that plagued my every moment in the couple of months that followed the birth of my second child who is now 18 months old.
I had suffered with pnd after the birth of my first child who is now nearly 4 and I had made a full recovery before becoming pregnant for the second time.
I was so happy after having my little girl I thought that this time would be different, I had supports in place, I had a relaxed pregnancy however once the magical after caesarean drugs wore off I knew that something wasn’t quite right when I couldn’t sleep in the days after having my baby. My hospital stay was extended by a few days to ensure that I was rested by the time I got home, unfortunately that didn’t happen. I went home for 2 hard days when the domiciliary nurse came to see me and I fell apart. I went back into the maternity ward until I could get a bed in a mother baby unit. I didn’t know who this little person was, I was terrified of her. I didn’t want to be on my own with my baby, I was consumed with fear and self-doubt. Was I turning into some sort of monster, psychopath? I was having all these horrible thoughts, thoughts that were so hard for me to even speak of. I thought that that I was going to hurt my baby, that I was going to shake her and it terrified me. I was sure that my baby would be taken from me, I would be locked up and my husband would leave me……life over!! How my life had changed, how I had changed. I had gone from being an independent, confident working Mum who loved life; I went to the gym, I loved shopping and catching up for a coffee with my friends, visiting the local farmers markets and playing at the local parks with my little boy to someone who was dependent on everyone else for assurance. I couldn’t make a decision, I didn’t trust myself or who I was anymore.
My immediate instinct was to distance myself from my baby, which I thought was best for both of us, because who knew what I was capable of? I made sure that I was never alone with my baby, I even wanted someone to watch me when I was holding her. This constant fear was exhausting and debilitating, I can honestly say that it was with me all the time, and consumed me, I could find no relief. I was preoccupied with death, I often thought about just jumping in my car and leaving, what would that solve though? I would have lost my precious family, I felt that there was no way out!! I tried lots of “relaxation” techniques but it didn’t quite help.
On admission to the MBU I was put on a cocktail of medications to ease my anxiety, even though this was the last thing I wanted. I thought if it would make me feel better than how I was feeling now. I would do it as anything had to be better than feeling this way. The combination of medication and psychological treatments, group therapy etc helped me get back on track. I was supported in the mothering of my baby but also pushed to help build confidence in my abilities as a mum. This was extremely confronting at times but something I had to do to face my fears. The diagnosis of OCD came as quite a shock as I thought that OCD was all about washing your hands 500 times and other repetitious rituals, that wasn’t what I (and a lot of other mums) experience. I think it is still quite taboo as the intrusive thoughts are so horrible to admit to let alone talk about.
The support I received at the mother baby unit was wonderful. But the most beneficial thing was meeting the other mums going through similar experiences. I’ve made some wonderful lifelong friends, people who understand how hard it is when others simply can’t comprehend. It was terribly hard being in Melbourne while the rest of my family was here in Ballarat, away from my little boy who didn’t know what was going on, each time I spoke to him on the phone and he’d ask when I was coming home I’d cry, it would break my heart. However, the hardest part of staying in the mother baby unit would be coming home. Whilst in the unit there is no cooking, no cleaning to be done, no running around after a toddler and no husband that doesn’t quite “get it”. I had the support of the nurses, my new friends, group activities to attend, we’d often joke that the only other thing we needed would be a day spa!! I couldn’t sleep in the days leading up to being discharged, how was I going to cope? What was I going to do in my home all on my own? How do I look after 2 kids? (I know how silly this sounds).
What I found really helpful was organising things to do each day. Getting out of the house, catching up with friends, even if I didn’t feel like it, exercising and hot yoga!! The support I received from PANDA and Raphael House has, I believed saved my life. There were times when I felt so alone and they were the only ones who I felt knew what to say to me and didn’t make me feel as though I was crazy!
The support I received from my family and close friends was invaluable and their visits and just being there meant so much to me. They were there for me without judgement and believed in me when I wasn’t able to.
I know that to keep myself well I need to ensure I’m getting enough sleep, have routine in my life and have some regular “me time” time just for myself, because when I do, I feel as though I am a better mum to my children.
Even at my lowest point I still kept hope that somehow things would get better, for anyone going through PND or feeling as though you can’t cope, know that you are not alone, there is help and you will get through it. I promise! Take things one step at a time, try, as hard as it sounds to stay in the moment and breathe! It will pass and in time you will feel like your old self again.
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