Ahhh, pregnancy… do you remember yours fondly? Perhaps yours was awful and filled with illness and worry? Perhaps everything was great, until you started worrying and feeling depressed? Or perhaps everything was fine until about 6 weeks after you’d settled back in at home and then it hit you. You are now responsible for a whole other little person who totally relies on you and you can’t back out now…
Did you know that up to one in 10 Australian women will experience depression during pregnancy. This increases to one in seven in the year following birth. Anxiety is thought to be even more common.
Now here’s where I give you my story to inspire YOU to be HONEST with others to CHANGE people’s lives and STOP THE STIGMA AROUND DEPRESSION.
I’ve suffered from mental illness since I was about 16 – anxiety and depression – and because I am treated by a psychiatrist both of my pregnancies were closely monitored by medial and psych staff to ensure that I wasn’t succumbing to depression.
My first pregnancy, although filled with constant vomiting and feeling hideous, was fine in regards to depression and anxiety. At six-days old my son was rushed into hospital and there he stayed for 6 weeks with heart problems, accidental overdoses by his medical team and a number of other ghastly issues; still I stayed ‘together’. In fact, I kept things ‘together’ in regards to his illness, my subsequent divorce and our battle to survive alone for another 4 years! I did pretty darn well, I think! Sometimes however, survival mode kicks in and you just can’t have the time, nor introspection to deal with a deep depression that is lurking in the background.
Over the coming years I suffered on and off with severe bouts of anxiety and depression – but didn’t allow myself to explore the reason behind it – probably due to the fact that I felt so bloody lucky that my boy survived that I didn’t really want to bring back all of the drama and feelings that I had about being on the very, very knife-edge of losing him. So, I pushed it down and talked with my psychiatrist about other ‘issues’!
Nine years down the track, in a wonderful new marriage with a fantastic husband and a well, happy and kinda awesome 9-year-old son, I blessedly became pregnant again (hooray!!!!!)) and yes, I suffered – although I believe it wasn’t actually possible, much worse all-day hyperemesis (that’s constant nausea and vomiting). Also 41 isn’t your prime time to reproduce ladies – there is a name for us in medical circles and it’s a geriatric pregnancy! Humph!
This baby was the one I had prayed for. I had dreamed and begged and not been able to get the urge away that I needed to have another. For any guys reading this, I’m sure it’s biological – you just cannot be rational about it!
So when she arrived, she was perfect – okay, we had 24 hours in the special care nursery, but after my previous experience that was nothing! Everything was super, super awesome and I was so blissfully happy with my new bubba, my gorgeous boy and my darling husband that I didn’t put my finger on the little signs that had begun.
Things I was very much used to being aware of… unexplained worry about grand and insane tragedies that may befall my baby, my son or my husband. A constant feeling of unease. A few all-night insomnia bouts not related to the baby.
Yep, the anxiety had started and started in a big way. My psychiatrist and I had been planning for any potential PND and it happened pretty much right on time! Six to eight weeks after the birth…
So what was to be done?
Well we increased my daily medication, I had more frequent appointments with her and I began to learn the technique of mindfulness to combat the feelings – at times this works, at others, not so much! But I have been very, very blessed to be surrounded by amazing health professionals and a husband who has suffered depression before and felt it was very important to know what signs to look for in me so that we could attack the PND before it got any worse.
So, two totally different pregnancies; two totally different first months of looking after a baby – boy child was looked after by nurses at the Royal Children’s Hospital, and missy was home in three days; two totally different situations in regards to my personal happiness and situation at the time (first marriage – abusive and frankly, awful and frightening on most levels – this time around I learned and learned well – we’re true partners, deeply in love and are happy, oh, and we laugh all the time!).
So girls, Post Natal Depression can strike you regardless of your situation, your personal feelings about parenthood, marriage, career or life, you can get it when you’re a normally happy-go-lucky woman or somebody who is more sedate and a planner. There seems to be no correlation other than you’re at a higher risk if you suffer from depression, or have had episodes prior, or if you suffer from anxiety. Also lack of sleep is a huge monster that makes PND much, much worse and as we know babies don’t like it when you sleep!
My friends: I ask that you do something to change our world. Something in honour of your own mother, your female friends, your male friends, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.
RAISE AWARENESS OF POST NATAL DEPRESSION.
There is NOTHING to be ashamed of in suffering from a mental illness – I discuss my experiences because I am DETERMINED to show that you can be a normal, unscary, and contributive member of society, a mother, a wife, a volunteer and a businesswoman and suffer. Yep, some times (not days, but weeks and sometimes months) are worse than others, but at 42 I’ve learned a lot about what gets the ‘black dog’ off my back quicker than I used to be able to and I’m in control of my illness – it DOES NOT control me.
So DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SHARE YOUR STORY – it will help others. It will give others the courage to speak out and share. And it will help others to seek treatment.
How can you help? It’s easy-peasy! Just hop on over to beyondblue.org.au where they’ve got lots and lots of great materials that you can download, as well as helpful advice for mamas-to-be, dads-to-be and new parents.
There are also some other ways to get involved, you can:
- Pop on over to the beyondblue’s Just Speak Up campaign website and add YOUR voice to the campaign. Take a look around the site and you’ll find lots of great stories to inspire and support
- You can change your social media profile pictures to the Just Speak Up profile badge
- Display the badge on your blog or other forum (you’ll see mine is over there on the side!)
More practically, you could:
- Hold an event to raise money for beyondblue and you can even order FREE resources (including information booklets and flyers for women and their families as well as posters and postcards) to hand out
- Display Just Speak Up posters on your community or work notice boards.
- Include information about perinatal anxiety and depression in your workplace newsletter.
- Include a link to the beyondblue and Just Speak Up websites on your workplace intranet and/or website.
Here are some files that may help you out!
Good luck and remember NEVER be ashamed to be yourself. You are you and you are good enough JUST AS YOU ARE! The world only has one of you and it would be a lesser place without you.
I would LOVE for you all to share your experiences on depression, anxiety and also PND here and hope we can all be of support to each other – it does help a lot!
With extra-special hugs and hand-holding courage,
Mrs Jones x