This week is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week. This is my story with anxiety. It has been difficult to write and even more difficult to share.
It is hard to talk about emotions and mental health. Especially when everyone else seems to be coping. So many of us pretend to have it together. Whereas most new parents are winging it at time and have their own struggles. Add perinatal and postnatal depression into it and things can seem impossible. I have many friends and acquaintances who have struggled with PNDA. I would never have known if they had not told me. I always thought they had it together and it was just me who didn’t. In the past mental health wasn’t talked about and many of our grandmothers and mothers did it all with little or no support. Society has progressed more and knows a lot more now. However there’s still a big attitude that we should be able to do it all and we should be able to cope. A belief that comes from society and also many parents take on board this belief. This type of belief can be quite damaging because it stops people speaking out and getting the help they need. It is so important to speak out, not only to get help but because speaking out helps to normalise PNDA and break the stigma.
I have always been a bit of a nervous anxious type of person. However I’m also quite independent, determined, active and passionate about a lot of things. It wasn’t until after my third baby that I felt anxiety like never before. I should be able to cope and I shouldn’t be feeling so bad. I just felt so inadequate. It was as though I was in a fog and I couldn’t think straight. Even little daily tasks seemed like such a huge thing. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t even look like myself. I no longer knew what I wanted or who I was, whereas I had always been very clear about what I wanted, my goals, passions, interests etc. All I wanted to do was escape but I didn’t know where to. My tolerance levels towards my elder two girls was so low. I was way too hard on them and I wasn’t present for them. I would suddenly fly of the handle at every little thing. It was quite frightening because this anger just came hurling out without even thinking about it. It’s like it just happened and I didn’t even realise what I was doing until I was midstream of flying of the handle. I was worried about hurting the kids and even there was one time I even messaged my husband and rang my Mum. They both were are work, so they couldn’t do anything. I don’t think they understood the seriousness of what was happening. The fog I was in was dangerous and there were two occasions I nearly crashed the car with all three kids in it. I was in such a fog I couldn’t function properly. I knew I wasn’t ok and I had to do something not only for my sack, but for my kids’ sake, for their safety. I experienced anxiety again when pregnant with my 4th baby. I was very worried about going through the severe anxiety I did after having Indigo my third baby. This time the anxiety wasn’t as severe but it was still pretty bad. Both times I did see the Dr and also a psychologist. I didn’t get the severe anxiety after I had Phoenix my fourth baby. I have made my mental health and wellbeing a priority.
There is no shame in feeling, sad, anxious or depressed. It is ok if you are not coping. It is no reflection of you as a person. It can happen to anyone. Please do something about it, you are not alone. There are plenty of people out there experiencing the same and there are plenty of professionals and services that can help. Each year in Australia, up to one in seven women and one in ten men will experience postnatal depression (PND). Anxiety conditions are just as common both during pregnancy and after birth. However, many parents don’t seek help because they feel they should be able to cope with the challenges of parenthood.
If you are one of the many people who experiences depression or anxiety before or after childbirth, or support, please call PANDA’s National Helpline on 1300 726 306 Mon-Fri 10-5pm AEST