Monday, January 18, 2010

Postnatal depression: my journey out of the fog

Postnatal depression is a very real illness and more then just the baby blues that most Mummy's experience on around day 3/4 post delivery of their bundle. For me (and please note I am not an expert just sharing my personal experience)... post natal depression hit hard and fast when Olivia (bubba number 4) was around 2 weeks old. However this was not my first dance with this disease and I was far better equipped this time round to notice the warning signs and know that things were going down hill for me.

After I had given birth to Peter (bub number 2) I knew I wasn't "right" but ignored the feelings of inadequacy, the constant tears and also the occasional thought of wanting to hurt myself. I ignored this for 12 months putting on a happy face for friends and family replying "yes things are great" "yes of course I am SO happy with my life" etc etc, my amazing husband however was not fooled at all and had been "keeping an eye on me" I became increasingly resentful of his asking me almost daily "Are you okay?" "Of course I am OK" I would reply but was thinking NO I am so NOT okay I am tired and confused and irrational, but I felt I could not tell him or anyone this for fear of judgement. When your in that dark state of mind stupid thoughts take over "I can't admit I need help "they" will take my kids away" etc etc. My persistent husband however would not be dissuaded and eventually got me to admit that I needed help, this occurred after two pretty traumatic events for both of us, We had put the kids to bed one night and I had gone to clean up the kitchen Iam not sure how it happened but the next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor with a kitchen knife in my hand with the very real intention of cutting myself, Hubby found me and talked me back to some sort of normal head space but I still refused to acknowledge I had a problem this was very closely followed by (I think only days later) a massive meltdown in the supermarket (hey if your gonna totally wig out you should do it publicly) when I could not decide what packet of biscuits to buy, every decision had become an overwhelming emotional strain even simple things like Tim tams or mint slice bickys this decision resulted in my having the first of many panic attacks and my husband wrapping his arms around me and stating "I think its time we went to the doctors OK".
I fell in love with him all over again when he said that one word that meant so much WE, Hubby let me know in that simple sentence I was not alone and that he loved me and we would work through this together. I went to see my doctor, spewed out all I had been thinking and feeling in a sobbing messy way and my G.P was amazing he listened and with gentle understanding he announced he thought I had untreated post natal depression, breaking into fresh sobs I readily agreed and we started on a plan for my recovery which included medication, exercising, a mood diary where I would right down an honest number between 1 and 10 of how I was feeling that day and a plan to review in a week. The weekly visits continued then went to monthly etc etc. The medication kicked in and I began to feel much more in control of myself and my feelings.
I would say mid-way through the healing/recovery process I fell pregnant with Mikey and came off the medication very quickly as it was a new medication and not enough was known about it to know if it was safe to use in pregnancy it was a shit of a time going cold turkey but I hung in there and the withdrawal effects wore off. I had a wonderful pregnancy and birth with Mikey but things became tough quickly when he became sick would not breastfeed and lost a lot of weight, he was diagnosed with hypo Tonia which means he had low muscle tone and was very floppy he tired out quickly and was put through a battery of blood and urine tests to determine the cause and treatment of his muscle problems. I know I had PND we were so focused on getting Mikey to gain weight and getting him healthy that I was able to hide it well from almost everyone...our lactation consultant was a very clever lady and I wasn't able to hide much of my emotional "stuff" from her, however our lives were so full of doctor appointments for Mikey that I let it go unchecked even after saying I had seen a doctor, one week our schedule looked like this:Monday paediatrician, Tuesday morning MCHN for weight check Tues afternoon Lactation consultant visit, Wednesday GP for check up ,Thursday blood tests, Friday Mikey admitted to hospital because he had a cold...if he got a cold or sniffles he would get so sick a cold developed into a bad chest infection within 24 hours because he was not strong enough to even cough up the Flem etc etc and so it went. I think its safe to say I had post natal depression during this time but didn't have the time nor did I think I was important enough at the time to do anything about it.

4 months after Michael was born and I was very unexpectedly pregnant again. This is hard to admit but I was devastated how on earth could I look after another baby? I could hardly look after myself and we were dealing with a sickly baby already who was only just starting to fatten up and strengthen up? I was recovering from having my appendix removed and was devastated over having to give up breastfeeding as my milk had completely dried up whilst I was in hospital despite pumping and medication. I was very depressed and spent most of my 4th pregnancy angry at myself, my husband, God and the unborn baby in my belly. Thankfully I had an amazing support team around me who had decided early on that in no way was I going to get away with hiding any emotional issues that arose, my husband accompanied me to every doctor and mid-wife appointment and when I wanted to say nothing about past depression issues he was my voice and would help get me talking. My labor and delivery with Olivia was a beautiful experience...which I guess sounds strange but I feel God truly blessed those moments of her arrival, I delivered her myself standing up which was very empowering and really cemented in my mind that there was nothing this baby and I could not get through.

Despite the awesomeness of her arrival it was only weeks before those damn intrusive thoughts and sleep deprivation crept feeding off of the other. Thoughts of hurting myself came quickly impulses to cut myself, dig at my skin or rip at my hair...(gee I sound like a real nut don't I?) These were impulses that I could not always resist nor could I hide. I thank God that I never had a thought about harming Olivia or one of the other children, I have read and seen many woman who have not been so fortunate and have done things or had thoughts about doing things to their children that will forever change how they look at themselves in the mirror. With the encouragement and support of my husband my mother and my friends Megan and Sarah I booked in to see the doctor (GP) a shrink and got myself on a waiting list to go spend some time with the Hillview mother and baby unit in Rosebud. Doing these things was a huge stepping stone for me but they really changed my life, I could admit I had depression and found that even talking about it wasn't as scary as I thought. I discovered that at the playgroup I attended 2 other mothers there were working through recovery with PND and I would not of known this had I not talked about going to Rosebud and my experiences there..which by the way were just wonderful and very very helpful for myself and our family.

After my week at Rosebud and a change in medication my moods thoughts and actions all came under control. As I continue to work through the recovery/healing process I have been astounded by the support that is out there for mums and I wish that I had had the courage to speak up after I had Peter, things would probably never have gotten so out of control of I had. The stigma seems to have lifted (in my experience anyways) and I was offered a variety if help including home visits from support people in the community, MCHN home visits and even a cleaner came a few times to help me keep on top of the house work with 4 children. It has been such a blessing. Now you all may be wondering why on earth would I choose to blog about this, I guess that as the fog continues to lift from my head I can see that there is nothing to be ashamed of in admitting you need help and no need to keep quiet about it, I think the shameful thing was to keep it to myself allowing myself husband and children to suffer along with me. I also wanted to be able to publicly acknowledge what awesome resources there are out there for woman suffering with depression, and also wanted everyone to know what a fantastic supportive awesomely wonderful husband I have without whom I don't think I would of been able to bounce back as well as I have.

Am I all healed up and better now...nope not fully but I know it is a process and that it will take time I also know that as long as we mothers continue to talk about it and not feel as though we have to put on a fake smile and act as though all is right with the world when we are really falling apart that awareness of PND and depression in woman in general will continue to lose its unfair and unnecessary stigma . I know from my personal experience having woman in my life who have gone through similar situations enabled me to be comfortable in moving forward toward healing and greater understanding of the things that cause PND.

See Panda for more information on PND.

1 comment:

  1. I posted a comment earlier but i don't know where it went???! Anyway its been amazing to see the positive changes in you the last two years as teh fog lifts for you! Awesome writing Lees!xxx



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