My husband and I have been together since we were quite young, we have lived together since we were 16 and essentially we grew up (in the sense we matured) together. But if you ever met the two of us separately you probably wouldn’t pick us as a couple, we are polar opposites. But opposites attract I suppose.
Brett is the procrastinator and the reserved one, I am more of a “just get it done” gal and although I used to be very quiet and shy I am a lot more outgoing than Brett. So if you have met me then you would know that means Brett is extremely reserved. Although our personalities are very different we have made it through nearly 13 years pretty much unscathed, we bicker and make fun of one another but we are generally pretty solid. Or at least we were until we had Chloe and all the challenges we faced as new parents put a strain on our relationship and nearly broke us.
I didn’t realise how much I was struggling with my own mental health until I eventually crumbled, I was ashamed to admit I was not coping and I was terrified of the disconnection I felt from my daughter and life in general. Brett was FIFO for the first year of Chloe’s life, he even missed her birth as she was early and he was still up North over 2 hours flight away. This definitely made things harder on our relationship, harder for me being alone with Chloe and having to do it all by myself and Brett being away from us and missing so many of Chloe’s milestones and growth in the early days. I didn’t have anyone to lean on and keep me sane, to help me with the hard days and pick me up when I just couldn’t control my emotions and would just lay on the floor crying for hours on end. I would cry hysterically nearly every time I spoke to Brett on the phone and I can only imagine how helpless he would have felt. He would get home for his week off and I would be a ball of emotions to the point he wasn’t able to balance me. I was spiraling and he was barely able to hold on to me.
We have always been able to balance each other’s craziness out. Brett can be highly strung and very anxious, but I can be too. Luckily we are able to bring each other back down to earth most of the time and be the voice of reason for the other. With the addition of a new baby with feeding issues, my heightened emotions and Brett’s growing anxiety of providing for his family and trying to keep me from loosing the plot completely, our relationship took a beating. We were both so anxious most of the time, I would cry a lot (like an annoying amount) and through no lack of trying Brett just didn’t know how to make it better. I felt an overwhelming sense of resentment toward him (bloody crazy new mum hormones) as I felt his life hadn’t changed the same way mine had but it had been tipped upside down – maybe even more so than mine. He had a family to provide for, never ending bills to pay, a wife to keep from jumping in front of a bus (I’m dramatising, obviously) and all whilst working hundreds of kilometers away for a company that in all honesty was a bunch of ass bags (he doesn’t work for them anymore thank goodness!) which was adding to his anxiety massively. I am actually surprised he didn’t pack his bags and start a new life in Timbuktu, I definitely wouldn’t blame him after dealing with all my crazy on top of a toxic work environment.
I eventually sought help for how I was feeling and was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression and was prescribed Citalopram. I was hesitant to start taking the medication with Brett still working away and being the primary carer for Chloe. But I got to the point where I just had to, I couldn’t “just wait for my mood to improve” or for Brett to get home to help make things a little easier. I was about to break so I started taking the pills and within a few weeks my mood stabilised. I was lucky not to suffer any side effects and my head was no longer cloudy. Things were still hard and I still felt like I had a part time husband/baby daddy but I was able to handle all the ups and downs a lot better.
I was finally feeling more centered and starting to enjoy my mothering journey when I finally realised my marriage was suffering. Brett had started working local just before Chloe turned one but he still worked on a roster and was working day and night shift. Although he was now working local he was still overly anxious and I felt like I was constantly walking on egg shells so he wouldn’t get upset or overly stressed. We were fighting more than we ever had and I was scared of the energy Chloe was being subjected to. We obviously wouldn’t fight in front of her but the connection between us was fading and I think Chloe could sense it. At first I thought it was just an adjustment period to shift work but I just felt Brett’s moods were very erratic and his anxiety was boiling over a lot. I was seeing in him a lot of what I had experienced with PND.
After a lot of encouragement Brett went and seen our GP and he was diagnosed with Generalalised Anxiety Disorder and he was also prescribed Citalopram (Disclaimer: Brett has proof read this blog and of course he is ok with me publishing these personal details of our relationship and of our mental health issues – I would never put private details of our lives out there without having his ok). I will not go into too much detail of Brett’s diagnosis as it is not my place to elaborate but as with myself, the medication has been paramount to the stabilising of his mental health and he has also suffered minimal to no side effects. We are both finally having conversations with one another instead of snapping demands at each other and we are a team again. We didn’t realise how disconnected we had been with one another until we were recently in the kitchen having a cuddle together and Chloe got upset as she didn’t know what was going on and thought we were hurting one another. It was cute that she wanted to be included but it was also sad to see her cry and to think in her nearly two years of life she has not seen us being affectionate with each other. It is definitely something we are now putting a focus on to show not only each other that we are still head over heals for one another but to show Chloe how much her mama and dada dig each other.
I am in no way saying our marriage requires medication to work. We are still the same people we always were, if anything we are stronger now than we have ever been but we went through a life changing experience that shook us up a little more than we expected. Having a child changes you as an individual but it can also change the dynamic of your relationship dramatically. Some couples thrive as a team, some need some extra help and I am not ashamed to admit we needed that help. You hear a lot more about mothers suffering PND and PNA but not enough of the issues new fathers can experience. It changes their lives just as much as it changes for us mamas (minus the weak pelvic floor and seeping engorged milk filled feeding bags attached to our chests – but lets be honest, our partners probably appreciate that more than we do >>).
I have been on Citalopram for just over a year now and it has saved my sanity and quite possibly my marriage. The stigma around anxiety and depression needs to be broken. If feelings of anxiety are overwhelming you or you just aren’t coping with day to day life then it’s nothing to be ashamed of to seek help. Man or women – anxiety and depression doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t make you weak or inferior to admit you aren’t ok. If medication is needed to get your emotions stablilised then that is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. The feeling of anxiety isn’t something you need to live with – talk to your partner, a friend, your GP – and just know you aren’t alone and help is out there. You just need to ask for it.