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 Debbie Mills from Aspiring Mum
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 after the births of all four of my children. I had four children in six years, and for those six years (plus two additional years), I lived in what can only be described as a thick fog. My mood at that time was constantly flat. I lacked motivation, had feelings of helplessness as well as of being useless, and I was very angry. Small things overwhelmed me and I found myself crying a lot. There were some very dark moments during my battle with PND and the thought of taking my own life crossed my mind.
When did you know or were conscious that things weren’t right? What was the moment that defined things for you?
About two months after my eldest daughter was born, I realised all was ‘not right’ with me. My introduction to motherhood had not been what I’d expected. I had an emergency c-section, post-partum infection, feeding issues and a very unsettled baby with reflux. I had also returned to part-time work (night duty) when my daughter was six weeks old. So not only was I sleep-deprived/hormonal from having a baby, I also wasn’t getting enough sleep after working night shift.
The moment that stands out for me was one particular night after I had finished a midnight feed. My daughter was screaming incessantly and just would not settle. I had tried everything to calm her down and I was exhausted. My daughter was lying on the floor next to me, simply because I didn’t want to hold her anymore. I felt completely numb. The next thing I knew, I was yelling at her – What do you want? Why can’t you just sleep? And then I broke down and sobbed. Who yells at their baby? That was the defining moment for me that something was wrong.
What helped you overcome PND / recover – what was in your personal tool kit? (ie support group, hired help, partner reduced work hours / work from home, returned to work, exercise..)
For me, overcoming PND has meant a lot of prayer. While faith may not be for everyone, it is certainly what has seen me through some very dark days. I have also become aware of the importance of self-care and prioritising time for myself. During my battle with PND, I placed no priority on my own needs and often became resentful because I was giving so much that I felt completely empty. When I started to do some things just for me, I found I was able to cope a lot better. Journaling also helped me. Through writing out my thoughts and feelings instead of bottling them up, I was able to feel some relief. (I really hope my children never read those journal entries).
When did you know you were reaching the light at the end of the tunnel / tipping point to recovery?
My youngest child (now 3) was two when I realised that things were looking brighter. The fog that had enveloped me for close to eight years had lifted and I literally felt like I could breathe again. I felt lighter, no longer weighed down and it felt like one part of my motherhood journey was complete and it was finally time to move forward.
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?
As I mentioned earlier, I had PND after all four of my children were born. Thankfully, I was aware of and able to recognise the signs and symptoms of PND with each subsequent child. This allowed me to be prepared and ask for help when I needed it (from my husband and other family members), as well as ensuring I got enough rest (early nights and naps during the day). From my first experience with PND, I also had to let go of the expectation that I could do everything by myself.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give yourself before you had children?
If I could go back in time, pre-children, I would definitely tell myself to get enough rest. There is no point in trying to do everything to the point of exhaustion. Your own health is of the most importance. I would also stress the necessity of prioritising time for myself. At first it might feel good to be so sacrificial, but ultimately, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you will burn out. And finally, trust your instincts – do what works best for you and your family.
Thank you Debbie for sharing your story that needed to be told.
Find your simple,
* Disclaimer – For this post and this entire blog -I am not a doctor or specialist, but simply share my PND experiences and those of others. Please always seek medical (or other) advice and treatment for your own health care.
Survivor bio: Debbie is mum to 4 wonderful kids who constantly inspire her to take off her serious adult glasses and see things from their perspective. She is a beach-lover. Getting-there runner. Coffee lover. Introvert. And PND overcomer. She writes at Aspiring Mum – a place to find inspiration and encouragement on the journey of motherhood. You can find her on Facebook and occasionally on Twitter.