If you weren’t aware this week is PNDA Awareness Week. In the last few days I have read some beautifully raw and inspiring stories of other mums journies with pre and post natal anxiety and depression. It is so liberating to see mothers sharing their stories and it’s very comforting to be able to relate with other parents with something that can make you feel so alone.
1 in seven new mothers and 1 in ten new fathers are diagnosed with post natal depression, I am one of those statistics. I am still struggling with PND and over the last few weeks I have sunk deeper into my depression so I thought it only appropriate to share my story to show that PND can be a long journey and to hopefully help someone else feel less alone.
I think all new mothers will say the first few weeks with a new born is a blur, it was no different for me. I was anxious to leave the house, I was terrified of doing something wrong and I doubted myself a lot. Chloe would feed every few hours around the clock, there were days where she wouldn’t settle and the dramatic turn life had taken into parenthood took quite some time to sink in. I feel like I thought I knew what I was doing but then something would pop up that would cause completely overwhelming and crippling anxiety and my confidence would halt. Something as simple as her not drinking as much as she usually would or not sleeping as long as normal, I would spiral out of control trying to stay in control of the situation. I just wanted so badly to be a good mother and to do the best job I could possibly do. I didn’t and still don’t give myself enough credit to realise I am doing just that, the best I can do. But that’s what PND does, it makes you feel like you are not good enough and it clouds a lot of the joy that you should be feeling.
When I first realised that how I was feeling about motherhood wasn’t right I put it down to stress. I thought that Chloe’s silent reflux (I have mentioned this in other blogs so I wont go into details) was to blame and that as soon as that was under control I would be happier again. No mother wants to see their baby crying in pain constantly and not be able to help them, I was just not coping with that but it time the SR will go away and so will my feelings of helplessness. Well so I thought. Granted the SR did take 9 months to get even slightly better and to the point where Chloe would only cry for half an hour each feed rather then nearly 2 hours, but the damage was done. I had spent that whole time trying to figure out where I was going wrong, trying method after method to make my daughter happy and comfortable and I didn’t let myself enjoy her as a newborn. I was trying to fix her and was riddled with anxiety and fear about everything. I feared that this is my life, I will forever be dealing with an unhappy baby and unable to control my emotions about it. I thought the crying until I hyperventilated and the anxiety causing dizziness and heart palpitations was my normal. When the voices in my head started telling me that I didn’t deserve to be a mother and thoughts of self harm started entering my mind I knew it was time to get help.
I started my search for light (you know, that light at the end of the tunnel everyone tells you about) with Ngala. Their support line was and still is essential for my PND recovery. They are amazing at what they do and I have come to trust them as I know that they are truly concerned for my health as well as Chloe’s. I then turned to my GP at the recommendation of Ngala, he was someone that I trusted as he is a wonderful doctor and he has always been so amazing with Chloe. After a Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale score of 17 (I believe 30 is the highest but a score of 13+ is considered concerning) he suggested I speak to a councilor as soon as possible and after a few follow up visits for Chloe’s silent reflux ending in complete breakdowns from me he also prescribed me Citalopram. At first I didn’t take the Citalopram as Brett was still working away and I didn’t feel comfortable being under the influence of medication whilst being Chloe’s primary caregiver but after a few months of talking myself down of a theoretical cliff I knew it was time to start taking them before I had to talk myself off an actual cliff. I was lucky enough to have not experienced any side effects and it has definitely helped stabilise my mood. I only recently had a review of the medication with my GP and we agreed that it will continue as a part of my Mental Health Plan and we would re-visit it in 3 months. Taking medication can definitely be scary and can make you feel like you are weak or you may think that you don’t need to be taking pills to be a good mother but in all honesty, sometimes you just do. They have made a world of difference for me but everyone is different and some people may find therapy alone successful so speaking to your GP and discussing a Mental Health Plan is something I highly recommend.
I also saw a councilor but I didn’t feel we ‘clicked’ and that connection is crucial when it comes to a councilor or therapist so that you can build trust and feel safe to open up to them. I also saw a psychologist but again I didn’t feel 100% comfortable telling her how crazy I was so of course I turned to blogging, why not share potentially with the world (I don’t think my little blog will ever reach as far as the USA or Europe but you never know) how I feel rather than just one university qualified individual that is bound by patient confidentiality. But my anxiety has been heightened recently due to Chloe starting her terrible twos a tad early and on the extremely tough days those thoughts of self harm have started creeping up on me again so I know it is time for me to reach out to a new psychologist to help me process those feelings. This is something I know I need to do but sometimes the grip of PND can be so tight it doesn’t let you reach out for help, it makes you think that seeking help is not something you are capable of but you are! You deserve to seek help, you deserve to feel safe in your own thoughts and you deserve to know that you are a capable mother.
I guess for some people the thought of sitting face to face with someone and admitting that you are not coping is too hard, I know for me I found it extremely hard admitting to my loved ones that I needed help as I didn’t want them to think I was failing so that’s why I picked up the phone. If you are not comfortable speaking with family or close friends then there are some amazing resources out there for parents who are struggling with PNA or PND, the first step is as simple as dialing a number. Please, if you are feeling that you are not coping then make the call, speak to someone you trust and let them know how you are feeling or if you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to a loved then there are helplines available that in my experience are invaluable;
- PANDA is an incredible organisation that offers support for any parents struggling with unfamiliar thoughts and feelings, you don’t need a diagnosis to call. You can call The National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306 Monday-Friday 10am – 5pm (AEST) or visit their website http://www.panda.org.au/ for more information
- Ngala is a provider of Early Parenting and Early Childhood services with a passion for supporting and guiding families and young children through the journey of parenting. Their helpline is available from 8am – 8pm (AWST) everyday on 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 (country) or visit their website http://www.ngala.com.au/
I am still searching for that light, some days are nearly more than I can handle but I will beat PND because I am stronger than it. It doesn’t define me and I won’t let it define my mothering journey. Don’t be afraid to speak out if you are struggling with your parenting journey, there is always someone who will understand and listen.