Becoming a mother has been one of the most amazing and one of the hardest things I have ever done. My children are now five and three and it has been a long journey to get to a place where I can reflect on my experience and share it with others.
Everyone’s experience is as unique as they are, but for me, having always been a person who liked being organised and in control, becoming a mother gave me incredible anxiety. I was constantly worrying about everything I was doing, stressing about how I was perceived as a mum, wife, friend, daughter. I was always on high alert, unable to relax enough to enjoy being a mum, always over thinking every situation no matter how big or small, I always felt like people were judging my every move and that I was failing in all aspects of life.
I did not sleep well, my chest always felt tight, my body was always tense and aching and on really bad days parts of my face would go numb I would get debilitating migraines. Some days I could not even bring myself to leave the house, and if I had to, I would get myself that worked up that I would have panic attacks before and afterwards.
But I passed all these things off as normal for a new mum because it is not meant to be easy and told myself to just be quiet and get on with it. I put on a fake smile, fake confidence and forced myself to act like I was ok. I also felt embarrassed, guilty and very ashamed for not enjoying motherhood when there are people out there struggling and unable to conceive, dealing with miscarriages and infant loss. How dare I complain about my situation when I was lucky enough to be blessed with children?
Exercising in Mums & Bubs groups and going to Mothers Group helped me a great deal. They provided the physical, social and emotional support I needed and being around other Women going through their own ups and downs helped me realise I was not alone in what I was going through and how important it was to talk about it. I eventually realised how I was feeling did not have to be my normal and saw a counsellor and discovered PANDA, both of which encouraged me to be honest about how I felt, to let others know I was struggling and to ask for (and accept) help when I needed it. Regular counselling, regular exercise and making time to do things just for me like yoga or going to the beach really helped me to manage the symptoms of anxiety.
I still have not so great days but I am much more aware of what’s going on and actively do something to change how I am feeling before it gets the better of me. I was also inspired to become a PANDA community champion in the hopes that sharing my story will help other women and families going through something similar realise how common it is and to raise awareness about perinatal mental health in the community.
My husband and I run postnatal exercise and mums and bubs programs from our gyms to help encourage new mums to get out, meet other mums and look after themselves and I am also completing a bachelor of counselling so I can further help new Mums.
To anyone struggling at the moment I would say that you are much more resilient and capable than you think and it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help. You do not have to suffer in silence, chances are there are many Mums around you experiencing similar things and there is so much support out there from family, friends, community services and organisations like PANDA so please be kind to yourself and let someone know what you are going through so they can support you through it.
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"Some days I could not even bring myself to leave the house, and if I had to, I would get myself that worked up that I would have panic attacks before and afterwards."