Once a month I feature the story of survivors of perinatal illnesses (this covers PND, Anxiety, OCD, PTSD, Psychosis). I found that so many women responded to my own blog posts where I shared details of my journey through PND and wanted to give others the opportunity to share here.
I provided each writer with 10 questions and asked that they choose at least 5 to answer. I hope you will read their story and offer support via a comment. I also hope you will take away helpful information, inspiration and/or a greater understanding of perinatal illnesses.
Today welcome Brooke from Slow your home.
What form of perinatal illness did you suffer from (PND, PNA – anxiety, OCD, psychosis, PTSD etc) and what were your symptoms?
I suffered from post-natal depression and anxiety.
Initially I thought I was just down – flat, lethargic, emotional, easily stressed. I thought that was what you felt like after having a baby. But over time those symptoms became more acute and I started to have very dark thoughts about myself, I would shout, scream and cry – a lot. And I also had what I now realise were anxiety attacks.
When did you know or we’re conscious that things weren’t right? What was the moment that defined things for you?
The moment is very clear in my mind. I was staring at myself in the mirror saying – out loud – “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”
That paired with really dark, dangerous thoughts I’d been having over the previous weeks, I knew I was in a precarious situation and – thank God – told my husband that night. We were in to the GP the next day.
My GP took me through some questionnaires, to gauge how I was feeling and quantify my depression on a scale. It was off the charts.
She then booked me in to see a local psychologist and got me an appointment with one of the best psychiatrists in the area. I had to wait a few weeks to see her though.
When I did, she prescribed anti-depressants to me. To be perfectly honest, I was dead against taking anti-depressants before I saw her. I felt like it meant I was less than or incapable of sorting myself out. I didn’t want to admit defeat or admit that I needed help. But I decided, in that first session, that I had to trust the process. I decided to trust her, her expertise and her judgement. So I started taking the medication. We worked my dosage up over time, until we reached the right level.
The medication helped me enormously, even from a week into taking it. It helped even out the peaks and valleys in my emotional state. I remember saying to my husband about a month into my treatment, that I felt more like myself than I had in years.
So many people are not sure how to be helpful or supportive once they know someone has PND. What were the best ways others helped you / made you feel supported / spoke to you? If those in your life were not helpful, what do you wish they could have said or done for you?
In the beginning, I found it incredibly helpful if people just asked me about it. How I was feeling, etc. After the initial, intense period, where I was in weekly counselling sessions, the most helpful reactions were:
- treating me normally
- not letting me off the hook. If I was beating myself up, they would pull me into line. If I had a commitment, they would make sure I didn’t bail on it. They kept me in life.
The least helpful was when people would treat me as though I was incapable. They would second-guess my judgement. And that really pissed me off. I was depressed – not stupid.
A combination of medication, therapy (which is ongoing – although I now see my psychiatrist once every four months, not weekly), support from my family and alone time. The alone time is non-negotiable for me.
I really thought I had recovered fully until six months ago. I had a rough few weeks and felt myself slipping again. But instead of letting go, I looked at what was missing, and it was exercise. I joined a gym and go 4-5 times a week and I cannot tell you the difference it has made.
When did you know you were reaching the light at the end of the tunnel / tipping point to recovery?
I find that really hard to answer because I don’t know if I’ve reached it. But people started commenting on how happy I seemed after about three months of treatment.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give yourself before you had children?
Be kind to yourself. Don’t enter into comparisons. Be assured that you are doing your best. And make time for yourself. Really, honestly… MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF.
What is 1 (or more) positive thing that came out of your PND experience?
If given the chance to wipe out my PND – like it never existed – I wouldn’t. Yes it was difficult. Yes it put my family through incredible stress. And I do regret the battles my husband faced. But it has taught me so much about myself and the way I process things.
I am undoubtedbly a better wife and mother for it.
I learnt how to look after myself. I learnt how to manage stress day-to-day. I learnt how to be emotionally available to my kids and my husband. I learnt that I am not alone.
What would you want to say to women currently suffering with PND?
Keep talking. Find people you trust and talk to them. Find help and then trust in the process. There will be times you are angry and you really don’t want to go to therapy. Or you really don’t want to take your medication. Just trust the people enlisted to help you and do those things anyway.
Survivor bio: Brooke McAlary is an author, gardener, mother and inappropriate laughter.
Her new book, ‘Destination: Simple – Rituals and Rhythms for a Simpler Daily Life’ has just been released and has already helped hundreds of people adopt rituals and rhythms to simplify their daily life. She blogs Slow your home and is on a mission to help you find the simple life you want.
Read previous interviews in this series:
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