So with this week being PANDA week and with perinatal depression and anxiety affecting an estimated 100,000 Australians, I thought it would be a good time to put My story out there for you all.
It is something I own, something I have never been ashamed of, nor should I, it is however something I hid away for quite some time not for fear of judgement or condemnation but something that many of us do, I was naïve. I believed I was ok, that I wasn’t as bad as others so I must be ok, I would be over soon enough with out help.
I have had two children and experienced postnatal depression with both to varying degrees.
My first born was unexpectedly 6 weeks premature and aside from that I would say it went fairly well, whilst she was in hospital I didn’t really have time to process just how stressful it had all been. It was actually this day 5 years ago that we were able to take her home after her 19 days in NICU, the months following that day were no better or worse than those of any other family, however they were tough for me, this is a period of time that I thought my new parent paranoia was “normal” I would fear that if I were to be honest and ask for help that even just one person knowing would result in my child, who I loved more than anything, would be taken from me. You see on a daily basis I would be going about my day and suddenly out of nowhere the most simple of tasks would trigger a vivid image, like watching a movie, of the most horrible things going wrong and killing or seriously injuring my perfect little girl.
I lived through this for months without confiding in anyone, even my husband, who has always been an incredible support for me. Eventually these visions dissipated and life continued on.
I look back on that time now and I realise I did not have that immediate bond with her or at least not to the extent I believed I should have. Don’t get me wrong, I loved her to no end that I knew. I truly believe this was largely due to the fact I had about 1 minute total with her before she was taken to NICU filled with tubes and admitted as I was left behind to wait about 5-6 hours before I could get up to go see her without being able to hold her. This is still to this day devastating, time that I missed out on and can never get back.
Having a second child was never a question, for either of us, so when we found out about our second pregnancy, we were over the moon. To be completely honest I didn’t feel myself throughout this pregnancy and I have never pinpointed why that was, simply assuming it was due to the fact I have terrible morning sickness bordering on hospital admissions at times. Then when we made it to a term delivery we were thrilled, but we did not expect the stressful and traumatic delivery we were in for. Depression kicked in immediately after his birth, with the nursing staff noticing almost immediately. Thankfully this meant a referral to Raphael House (our local support for those suffering perinatal anxiety and depression).
Although I got a referral and knew I “wasn’t feeling right” it still took me days to make an appointment with them, just leaving the house would cripple me with anxiety. This was not something I was familiar with.
Thankfully I was seeing them when, a few weeks later, I had my first ever panic attack. Something that should have been nothing while out with the kids in the back seat of the car saw me hyperventilating to the point we headed to emergency, it felt like an eternity before I could calm down and catch my breath. This is when I was prescribed medication, something I have no problem with but had hoped to avoid, I realised the choice was out of my hands now, so to speak, and I needed to improve faster for the sake of my family.
So what do I wish I knew…..
I wish I had known the visions I was experiencing were not simply the paranoia of a new, first time mother.
I wish I had known it was ok to say I was having these visions and it wouldn’t automatically make people think I would ever/could ever contemplate doing those thing.
I wish I had known I should have dealt with these issues form this situation prior to having another child.
I wish I had known more about emergency c-sections
I wish I had known more about Raphael House prior to my experience.
I wish I had known more about anxiety and what it looked like.
I wish I had known its ok to not be ok with my experience, and the experience of others does not come into this. We are all individual and have individual experiences.
Obviously there is so much more to these stories, there always is.
If you are struggling be it in the perinatal period or not PLEASE remember,
More people care than you realise,
Its ok to not be OK,
There is help,
There is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long your journey is.
For Help contact
PANDA on www.panda.org.au or 1300 726 303 (MON-FRI 9-7:30)
Lifeline on www.lifeline.org.au or 13 11 14
Lifeline Ballarat Lifeline.email@example.com or 5322 4996
Or in an emergency 000