When I first found out I was pregnant, I had already been diagnosed with general anxiety for a little over a year. After time with a counsellor and mastering mindfulness, life was back on track – I was marrying my fiancé in just 9 weeks’ time and I was the fittest I had ever been, recently completing my first half marathon.
At the start of my pregnancy, I thought I could just keep going with my physical activity under the advice that pregnant women can continue to exercise to the best of their abilities and have a healthy pregnancy. Well, the first thing to go was the thing I loved most – my running. The Darwin heat and my increasing heart rate were putting too much stress on me and my baby. I had to replace my coping tool with walking and swimming. Although they did help me stay healthy throughout my pregnancy, I missed the endorphin release and the sense of achievement that running and other high intensity exercise gave me, and I started to spiral back into anxiety.
I started to have panic attacks again – something which had been few and far between. These attacks were over things that had not even happened yet – things that wouldn’t happen until our unborn daughter was born! When I mentioned these panic attacks to my midwife, she referred me on the local government’s mental health scheme, and I was seen to by counsellors whose expert field was in pre and post-natal anxiety and depression. I was red-flagged for post-natal depression and diagnosed with pre-natal anxiety. I was given 19 free counselling sessions, which I used up until my baby was 6 months old.
Natalie was born in June 2014. Named after my grandmother, she came into this world via induction. I actually requested being induced one day after my due date, as my anxiety over going into labour was high, as were the thoughts of my parents not being able to fly up to Darwin in time for the birth.
We were blessed – we had a “good” baby in that she liked to sleep. I found breastfeeding hard – always anxious about having a baby crying for food and having to breastfeed in public. I couldn’t care less when other women breastfeed, but I always thought I was being judged, and that made it very hard for me. The day we “gave in” to formula was one of the best days of my life.
Not many of my existing friends had babies so I was in desperate need to find some other mums I could relate to. In my mother’s group, I felt judged. I felt like I talked too much, like I had no right to be there, and that nobody wanted me to be there. I felt like my baby and I weren’t interesting (or yes, even good looking enough) to be a part of the group. After every meeting, I cried and sat in silence, trying to diffuse my thoughts. It got better, but I only did end up friends with 1 or 2 of the women there.
It was clear that my anxiety had not left me post-pregnancy, but I did have my mindfulness tools that got me through. Also, when I got the all-clear from my doctor, I started to run and exercise at a higher intensity again – it was a great feeling to have that vice back!
When Natalie was 8 months old, we moved back to Victoria. It was wonderful being close to family again, but I was now without friends I had worked so hard in getting in Darwin, and without a job (I left my childhood “dream” job as a weather observer for the Bureau of Meteorology to chase my new dream of being a personal trainer and present mum), I spiralled further into my anxiety, and it became post-natal depression. I had feelings of helplessness, suicide, harming Natalie and just packing up and leaving so that I could be my old “free” self once again. It felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, and I could either jump and join all the broken souls below, or turn around and go back to the “happy” life I had. I have always believed in seeking help when things aren’t right, and was surprised when my GP told me that post-natal depression can arise at any time during the first year of your child’s life. I was put on a mental health plan and given more counsellor sessions with a local psychologist.
I have finished seeing that psychologist now. She is still there if I need her, but I think I am getting by. I have a new goal – a marathon (greatly supported the Running Mums Australia group on Facebook) – and I have a beautiful daughter, a wonderfully supportive husband and a job doing what I love. I don’t think that my anxiety and depression will ever really leave me (I still have down days), but I am confident that I can manage it with the help I have received.
If I have advice for anyone who may think they have pre or post-natal anxiety or depression, it would be to seek help, and don’t hold back. In the words of A.A Milne, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”.
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- Antenatal Anxiety & Depression Recovery Stories
- Samantha VIC Story
"I started to have panic attacks again - something which had been few and far between. These attacks were over things that had not even happened yet - things that wouldn't happen until our baby was born."
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