Hi there, my name is Olivia, a 36 year old mother of two from inner Melbourne, and this is my story of recovery from perinatal anxiety and depression.
In 2012 shortly after the birth of my first daughter Alice, I started to feel really unwell, like my stomach was constantly churning. I thought I might have had an upset stomach or gastric bug. However, this didn’t get better and in fact, as the weeks went by, it got progressively worse. I lost my appetite as well as a tonne of weight in a short amount of time. That certainly wasn’t normal for this Italian lover of fine foods! I suspected what was going on, as I had a prior history of mental health issues, and they all resulted in a loss of appetite.
My symptoms got worse and worse, I would lie in bed at night paralysed with fear, lying in a disgusting pool of my own sweat. All the while, my husband lay next to me none the wiser as to what was happening. When I could finally manage to move, it was usually only to breastfeed Alice, or go to the bathroom to throw up.
I managed to put on a brave face, while the entire time I was trapped in my own head. I had an irrational fear of this new baby who for her part was a perfect baby. She breastfed well and we definitely bonded. But for some reason, I was absolutely petrified of being left alone with her while my husband was at work. Then in the evening, my sense of dread about what lay ahead for me in my own private night-time hell caused my heart to palpitate. Eating certainly was out of the question.
By this stage, my husband and my mother started to realise something was wrong, but were unsure how to help. They would try to stay home from work as much as possible, and just try and make sure I wasn’t alone. I would be walking the streets with the pram crying into the phone. Meanwhile, I had numerous people asking to come over and visit the new baby. Something that is very common place in my family.
It got to the stage where I couldn’t handle it anymore, I felt like I was about to have a heart attack. I rang the 24 hour maternal health line and explained what was going on. They told me to report to the emergency department, which is what I did. From there, my wonderful Obstetrician was notified who came in on a Sunday to see me. From there it was decided that I was in dire need of help, and the CAT (Mental Health Crisis Assessment Team) team were called. They were awesome. I had a meeting with a psychiatrist the very next day, and steps were put in place to have me admitted to a mother-baby unit as soon as possible. I was extremely lucky and was admitted to a private psychiatric facility within a couple of days. All the while, the CAT team ensured that I was safe and not alone whilst at home waiting for a place.
The mother-baby unit was a very daunting place at first. I went with a sense of hopelessness that I would never get better. However, everyone I came in contact with ensured that I would get better. It wasn’t much of a consolation to myself at the time; in fact I wanted to punch each of them square in the face. After meeting with my buddy the Psychiatrist daily, being placed on medication, attending countless therapy sessions, and just making sure I was eating something, I managed to make baby steps to recovery. Just going out to grab a coffee was an achievement. The place started to feel like my safe place and I began to wonder how I would ever be able to leave.
Oh so slowly, my confidence grew. I was able to go on day leave and visit family. After almost a month in the mother baby unit, I was allowed to go home. I had a plan in place, which involved; constant contact with the clinic, home visits with therapists, and a weekly attendance at the day program back at the mother-baby unit. Here I really felt my recovery take place. Doing art therapy and just being able to download all my problems and gripes with other women going through the same thing was a huge help. To this day I thank my lucky stars that I was privately insured and privileged to be able to attend a facility like this. Other women are not so lucky, which is an indictment on our public health system, but that is another story.
I have no doubt that seeking and receiving the correct help saved my life, and has made me a much stronger woman, mother and wife today. I was able to go on and have another gorgeous little girl called Penny earlier this year. I went into it with a very careful and monitored approach, and thankfully, have managed to remain well throughout. I am hoping my story will help someone who is sitting on her couch crying whilst checking Google on her phone. She may just come across the PANDA website and realise that she isn’t alone. There is help out there and she will get better. Just don’t punch me okay!
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- Postnatal Anxiety & Depression Recovery Stories
- Postnatal Anxiety Recovery Stories
- Olivia VIC Story
"My symptoms got worse and worse, I would lie in bed at night paralysed by fear, lying in a disgusting pool of sweat. All the while, my husband lay next to me none the wiser as to what was happening."