My post in Home Life Simplified – June 2013

Once a month Home Life Simplified features the story of survivors of perinatal illnesses (this covers PND, Anxiety, OCD, PTSD, Psychosis). Debra from Home Life Simplied, found that so many women responded to her own blog posts where she shared details of (my) journey through PND & she wanted to give others the opportunity to share their story too.

Each contributor to these featured interviews are provided 10 questions & asked that they choose at least 5 to answer. Our hope is that you’ll take away some helpful information, inspiration &/or a greater understanding of perinatal illnesses.

 

What form of perinatal illness did you suffer from (PND, PNA – anxiety, OCD, psychosis, PTSD etc) and what were your symptoms?

I suffered from PND & PNA following the premature birth of my daughter in 2008.

When did you know or we’re conscious that things weren’t right? What was the moment that defined things for you?

I’m not sure there was a moment that defined things for me or I was conscious things weren’t right. There were a culmination of events, feelings, moments that led me to admit to myself & my husband that I was not ok.

I had been seeing a psychologist during my pregnancy as I had a history of depression & anxiety & wanted to ‘be on top of’ anything that might have occurred following the birth. I knew the signs & what to look out for, yet I mistakenly thought I was just tired & feeling overwhelmed with having a newborn & would naturally get through it.

In the eye of the storm I had many regrettable intrusive thoughts. It was then that I compared my thoughts & feelings to the images I’d seen of new mothers being elated & overjoyed & saying things like they felt complete now that they had had a baby. I felt the complete opposite & feeling overjoyed was the furthest thing from my mind. It was my first appointment after my daughter’s birth that I went to my psychologist that it was evident that I was not ok & needed supports to get me through.

What course of treatment did you follow with your doctor? What do you feel was the most beneficial and why?

After my first appointment with my Psychologist (at seven weeks postnatal), I was immediately put on an anti-depressant as we had known from previous experiences that this had a positive effect on my recovery. A week later, my daughter & I (when she was eight weeks old) were admitted to a parent infant unit in a Psych facility, where we stayed for three weeks so I could be observed as my meds took effect & also had intensive therapy during my admission. The nuthouse, as I now affectionately call it, saved my life. The therapy sessions & groups were immensely helpful, the time away from distractions of cooking, cleaning, washing & focusing & getting to know my baby was beneficial beyond words.

Following my admission I still saw my Psychologist every fortnight & also attended weekly sessions at the nuthouse (day program) until my daughter turned one & my team felt I was well enough to stop attending. I was also part of their outreach program where I would get a visit at home each fortnight from a care worker to see how I was doing in my own environment. I continued this for a few months following my discharge from the day program to ensure my supports didn’t all end at the same time. My psychologist sessions then extended to monthly once we were confident of my progress.

There was no one treatment that worked best for me, it was really the culmination of all those wonderful supports with my ‘team’ overseeing each step of my progress or regression.

What helped you overcome PND / recover – what was in your personal tool kit? (i.e. support group, hired help, partner reduced work hours / work from home, returned to work, exercise..)

The things that helped me overcome my PND/A was all the therapy sessions I had, my medication to help remove the fog in order for my therapy to take it’s full effect, the other mothers I met along my journey that were also wonderful supports & the realisation that being honest with myself & how I was really feeling was crucial to my recovery.

Recovery was like an emotional & psychological tug-of-war at times. There could be weeks of feeling ‘well’ & then something shifting in my universe to make me feel as though I hadn’t made any progress at all & any further progress was not going to happen. Those episodes were almost harder than the times I was actually in the eye of the storm, because I had had a taste of knowing what feeling better felt like & it was like a cruel joke to be feeling helpless again.

Recovery was not easy, nor instantaneous. It required hard work, lots of energy & determination. There were many challenges & many times I thought that recovery was not achievable, however the motivation to continue was my daughter who was thriving & needed her mum & my husband that just wanted his wife & best friend back.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was feeling well again that I came across the wonderful online social network I’m so honoured to be part of today, however, I found them in time for the planning of my second baby & they were crucial to my mental health following his birth.

When did you know you were reaching the light at the end of the tunnel / tipping point to recovery?

I don’t think there was a time or an event that I knew I was feeling ‘better’. I suppose, the feelings of dread, resentment, anger & sadness disappeared for longer periods until they were no longer & were replaced with being hopeful & excited about the future.

Saying that though, I don’t think I will ever feel the ‘same’ or feel as I did prior to my PND/A. I am forever changed as a person, woman, wife & mother. Although there was a ‘light at the end of the PND/A tunnel’, I feel as though I’m still a ‘work in progress’ given my ongoing bouts or depressive episodes which I now call ‘maternal depression’ as opposed to PND.

If you went on to have more children after PND can you share what you did to prepare yourself and your family (preventative measures). What was most helpful?

We decided to try for another baby just before my daughter turned two & when I was feeling well enough to start the journey again.

Preparation was all about lots of planning. I thought about what had triggered me the first time around & thought of strategies to prevent them from reoccurring, or at least if they did, they would not be as severe as the last time.

I had a wonderful support group of PPD recoverers (that we met over Twitter) pregnant or planning to have another baby & we emailed each other & checked in with each other often during the pregnancy & following the birth. I also checked in with the #PPDChat FaceBook support group often during my pregnancy as sadly I had an extremely medically complicated pregnancy & was very anxious about the likelihood of my baby surviving.

I was hospitalised at 34 weeks & had a scheduled c-sec at 36 weeks & it all went smoothly. My son and I went home together on day five, however after a week being home and him only gaining 50g since discharge, we were re-admitted to hospital by his paediatrician so that he could be fed nasal-gastrically. We remained in hospital for a further nine weeks (away from my 2.5 year old & husband) and finally came home when my son was nearly 12 weeks old (eight weeks corrected) & NGT free. I had some extremely low moments during our stay in hospital – it was a frustrating, overwhelming, confusing & disheartening time that finally led us to a diagnosis & discharge plan.

In the nine weeks of admission I was on the verge of slipping again – however this difference this time was that I knew I loved my son & felt connected to him. The difference this time was that I was having a normal experience in an abnormal situation & it was the circumstances not my mental health that was affecting my moods.

I have also started a FaceBook support group where we support mums from making the decision to have another baby after their postnatal mood disorder, through to their postnatal period. It’s a wonderful way to give back to a community that is so loving, caring, thoughtful & kind & one that has had my back for a long time. [ed: if anyone wants information on this group I can connect you with Yuz]

What is 1 (or more) positive thing that came out of your PND experience?

I truly believe my PND was one of these best things that ever happened to me. I’m a more compassionate person & have empathy for other people’s situations. I am passionate about telling my story so that no mother feels suffers in silence or feels alone & that she & her family knows that help is out there. I also learnt to explore my own emotions, be in touch with feelings I would not have otherwise done & believe I am more tuned in to my kids feelings & emotions than I would have been had I not had my experience.

What would you want to say to women currently suffering with PND?

I want you to know that you’re not alone.

I want you to know that help is out there.

I want to tell you that you will get through this.

I want to tell you that this is not forever.

 

Read previous interviews in this series here:

Jane from Life on Planet Baby

Andrea from Postpartum and Pigtails

Debbie from Aspiring Mum

Tina from The Duepners

Ivy from Ivy’s PPD Blog

Brooke from Slow your home

Jenny from Tranquila Mama

Robin from Farewell Stranger

 

You’re not alone

After the birth of my daughter 4.5 years ago, I experienced the complete opposite of what the books, movies, other mums had told me about birth & the overwhelming love you feel when you see your newborn baby & when you bring your baby home. I felt like a fraud for acting as though I was in love & bonded with my baby, I felt ashamed, numb, confused, angry, robbed & mostly alone.

As my journey of recovery continued, I met many other mums that had suffered the same experiences in early motherhood than me & I no longer felt so alone. It didn’t matter whether or not their stories were ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than mine – it was just that they had been ravaged by the same Demon & were desperately trying to return to the same person they were before it attacked.

DH & I kept it a secret that I was unwell & admitted to a Psych facility (aka nuthouse) with our baby & told our family & friends that we were at sleep school. It’s not that I was ashamed, I just wanted to focus on my recovery & not what people thought of me. It was Valentine’s Day 2012 where I first shared my story. It was my hope that through my words I would be able to reach out & talk to mothers out there suffering in silence.

By opening up & sharing my story, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable, whilst at the same time acknowledging that shame & judgment are likely to be their companion. I had to make a conscious decision to not care about that. I can’t control people’s opinions or thoughts, so I decided that the fear of judgment was not going to get in my way of spreading awareness & finally taking my mask off & telling my story.

The things I’d like to share in this blog hop are the things that I’ve learned as a result of my journey. Mental illness, specifically a Postpartum/Postnatal mood disorder (depression, anxiety, OCD) or Postpartum/Postnatal Psychosis – it’s just not something you choose to have or want following the birth of your child or following an adoption. It’s a hard time for our families, friends & social circle to understand what we’re going through & it’s challenging as they don’t know how to help us which makes as frustrated in kind. Our symptoms are invisible & unobvious so it’s easy for people to distance themselves from us if our illness goes beyond ‘the expected time for recovery’. I’ve learnt that PPMD’s don’t discriminate – it doesn’t matter what socio-economic status you are, what faith you are, what nationally, race or creed. It doesn’t matter what support you have, what means you have or what your social standing you are. It is one of the most levelling of life’s experiences one can have.

But here’s what I can tell you: I can tell you however is that recovery is possible & that help is out there. I can tell you that you’re most definitely alone & never will be in your journey to recovery. I can tell you that the way you feel today will not last forever & you will get through it. I can tell you that there is NO shame. I can tell you that there are some absolutely wonderful peer supports available online (#PPDChat on Twitter, #PPDChat closed FB support group, Postpartum Progress to name a few & also my group on having a baby after a PPMD) if you’re not comfortable attending an IRL group or if there’s not one close to where you live/work. And I can tell you that there are the most AMAZING & brave women that I’ve had the honour & privilege of meeting & calling my friends through opening up & sharing my story.

I want you to all know that you are worthy. I want you to all know you are important. I want you to all know that you matter. I want you to know that being ‘good enough’ is ok. I want you to all know that you now have an Army behind you, supporting you, loving you & are your biggest advocate & voice when you’ve lost yours.

 

To read other blog hop posts, please click here:

 

In May 2011 Postpartum Support International (PSI) declared May as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Since 2011, more States in the US & many counties across the globe have now designated May as a time to bring awareness to maternal mental health. This year, PSI is launching their first maternal mental health awareness month blog hop &  the topic being explored is mental health recovery & coping skills. If you are a blogger who has experienced postpartum depression (PPD) or any other PPMD, please consider joining the blog hop to help spread awareness. Visit the two blog hop host blogs, Kathy Morelli’s Birthtouch Dr. Christi Hibbert’s blog, to review further information & guidelines & also see all the other bloggers that are participating this year.