Thinking back to that period in my life when I twice experienced Post Natal Depression & Anxiety (PNDA) after the birth of my two beautiful boys, I feel so proud at how far I have come.
When I look back at both of my experiences, I don’t see them as negative periods in my life. I truly feel blessed that I made it through and it also made me realise how strong I am to have overcome PND not only once, but twice.
From as far back as I can remember, I have always looked forward to becoming a mum, a role in life that I have been really looking forward to playing.
In 2011, I gave birth to my gorgeous son, Cooper. From day one, he wasn’t an easy baby. It was a very hard first year. He was not a sleeper and didn’t settle easily. He had night terrors from the age of 6 months.
I didn’t sleep well either and everyday was a struggle. I felt like my life was so robotic. My day revolved around Cooper’s routine: feed him, play with him, settle him. He would maybe snooze for 20mins (or 45mins if I was lucky) and then the cycle would begin again.
I had very little enjoyment in anything that I did. I didn’t socialise very much because my day revolved around making sure that my son was well looked after. I felt like I was a machine.
I didn’t feel like I could speak up and confide in friends or family on how I was feeling. I heard that being a parent was hard so I assumed that this was what it was like so I shouldn’t complain about it. All my friends were already parents and I felt that if I confided in them on how I was feeling, I thought that I would be seen as a whinger and I couldn’t handle being a parent.
Every so often I would breakdown. I would cry uncontrollably and the anxiety was horrible. I would feel so worked up like my head was going to explode or that I would snap any minute. I couldn’t think clearly. I hardly ate. I would hope that these bad times would pass and it would eventually get better. But it didn’t. The panic attacks and the days where I would uncontrollably cry were happening more frequently. I got to the point where I couldn’t handle it anymore and that my only option was to end my life. I wanted to die so it all would stop.
I remember every day planning on ways that I could end my life. Many times, I came very close but there was one thought that stopped me every time from ending my life, and that was of my son Cooper. The thought of leaving him behind without his mum broke my heart. He would have to grow up without me by his side, to cuddle him when he was sad or to cheer him on from the sidelines. I have so many other reasons to stay here on this earth but at that dark time in my life, that was the one thing that made me realise that I would be making a very big mistake.
The planning of how to end my life went on for months. No one had any idea of how I was feeling. I kept it all to myself. After awhile it finally sunk in that I couldn’t end my life and that I had to be here for my family.
I’m not sure what prompted me do it but one day I went online and came across other people’s personal stories of recovery from PND on the Beyondblue and PANDA websites. Reading these stories of recovery made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this battle. I realised that PND was far more common than what I thought originally.
I then came across an online questionnaire on the Beyondblue website, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and completed it. I have never forgotten my result which was a very high score of 27 out of 30. This score put me in the high range category where I was strongly recommended to see a GP or a health professional.
To be honest, I didn’t act on it straight away. I sat back and digested what I was advised. A few days later, I decided to try the test again and ended up with the same result. This time I didn’t hesitate, I made an appointment with my GP and saw her that afternoon.
My GP was very concerned and asked me to go straight up to the local hospital and meet with the crisis team. To be honest, I felt numb. I don’t recall experiencing any particular feelings at that point in time, I just knew that I had to do something about it. At this point in time, I had been feeling this way for nearly a year.
I feel sad to admit it but my husband had no idea what I was going through that whole time. The first time that he heard about how I was feeling was when I phoned him after my GP appointment. During that first year, I never wanted to burden him with how I was feeling because I knew that he wasn’t having an easy time either.
That afternoon, I was assigned to a caseworker and psychiatrist at my local community mental health centre. I met with them every few days to begin with and then after a month or so, I was at the clinic weekly. Once I opened up with the team on that first visit and told them how I was feeling, they strongly advised that I should stay in the hospital until it was safe for me to go home. I declined for two reasons; the first being I couldn’t be away from Cooper and secondly, at that point I felt ok. I didn’t feel like I was going to harm myself. I had a glimmer of hope that I may be able to get through this.
I felt comfortable with the crisis team from the start and knew that I could share with them my thoughts, feelings and experiences. They never made me feel like I was a number or that I was whinging. I knew deep down they genuinely wanted to help me and assist me with my recovery.
As well as the regular visits to the centre, I was called by a member of the crisis team every evening to see how I was feeling and if I needed their assistance. It was really helpful to my recovery to have someone check up on me daily. They were there to listen to me and to hear how I was feeling, no matter how bad or good my day was.
As well as the regular support, I was put on medication which helped me get back on track. It took 6 months before I was discharged from their care and at that point I was ready and armed with tools to cope when I might have a bad day.
After a few years, I felt ready to fall pregnant again so my husband and I decided to try for a second child.
During this pregnancy, my anxiety was at an all-time high when I hit the second trimester. During that period, I flagged it with a few midwives’ at my checkups knowing my past history but they dismissed my concern and said that it’s quite normal to feel anxious before the birth. My anxiety calmed down once I hit the third trimester and up until the birth. So I also dismissed it thinking that it might have been my hormones or that I might have been anxious and not realised it.
I had a normal birth and after giving birth to my beautiful boy Corey, I remember hugging him and feeling an instant connection. I bonded with Corey straight away. I sadly didn’t have that bond with my son Cooper until I had recovered from PND previously. So I was glad this time around I had that initial bond.
After having Corey home for a few weeks, I started to get a bit worried that I would hit his head on something or drop him. At first I didn’t think anything of it. I thought they were normal thoughts to have.
Slowly these thoughts became more and more frequent and became really scary. I started having these horrible images of doing terrible things to both of my boys. Each time that I had one of these thoughts, I would start to panic and have an anxiety attack. Who was I turning into? I love both of my boys so much and I couldn’t understand why I would be having these horrific thoughts. I couldn’t stop them as much as I tried to.
As well as having these intense intrusive thoughts, I developed OCD behaviour. I would constantly have to check things over and over. If I couldn’t remember if I had checked if all the light switches were off and the stove or any other appliances were off, I would have to do it all again.
It all came to a head on one night when Corey was a few months old. I was trying my hardest to settle him and my husband walked into the room to take over. It was at that point where I had this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that if my husband hadn’t of walked into the room and taken Corey from me, I believe that I would’ve hurt him.
Coming to that realisation scared me so much that the very next morning, I took myself to my GP and told her how I was feeling. From my past experience, I knew that I could comfortably go to my GP and that she would refer me to a health professional who could help me feel like myself again.
Being referred to my local Community Mental Health Centre again helped me tremendously. But I have to admit that this road to recovery wasn’t as smooth sailing as the first time.
I was referred to a couple of health professionals who said that I was fine and that I would be able to carry on solo. I knew deep down that I needed that support and told them so. I didn’t want them discharge me until I felt that I was in a good headspace to carry on without their support.
They ended up discharging me so I had to find someone else who could help me. It did take a lot of persistence but I did eventually find another local community health centre who took me on and helped me recover and feel normal again.
Both times that I experienced PND were very different. The first time, I was extremely depressed and suicidal and the second time around, I was very angry and experienced high anxiety.
As strange as it may sound, I feel blessed that I had two very different experiences. It gave me a deeper understanding of how different the symptoms can be and gave me a greater empathy for other mums that are experiencing varying degrees of postnatal depression and anxiety.
Thankfully I am now in a much better place and have been given the opportunity to speak up and tell my story of recovery helping to reduce the stigma associated with anxiety and depression for new parents.
I want others out there who are experiencing the same or similar symptoms to know that you aren't going crazy; this is an illness. It is an illness that you can recover from no matter how dim things may seem.
It’s true. As much as you may not believe it at the time, recovery is possible.
When you are experiencing depression and/or anxiety, it seems so far-fetched that you can ever get out of the horrible depressive, dark, consuming state of mind, but I am living proof that it is possible. But that first step to recovery begins within you.
Nothing will improve until you put your hand up and ask for help. And if you do ask for help, there is no shame in doing that. No one will think that you are weak. I believe that those who put their hand up are strong. It takes guts to reach out for help and support.
Please know that there are people out there who want to help and support you through this dark time. Never feel like you have to do this on your own.
- Info & Support
- After Birth
- Postnatal Anxiety & Depression Recovery Stories
- Postnatal Anxiety Recovery Stories
- Rebecca NSW Story
"When you are experiencing depression and/or anxiety, it seems so far-fetched that you can ever get out of the horrible depressive, dark, consuming state of mind but I am living proof that is possible."
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