Guest Post – Zelma Broadfoot, The Postnatal Project

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I would like to thank Zelma Broadfoot from The Postnatal Project for the following piece written for Smiling After PND.  Zelma Broadfoot is the Founder of The Postnatal Project, a supportive and informative website and blog – incorporating a social work background with personal experience to create a safe place for parents and their families to explore treatment options and self-help solutions for a self-directed, sustainable and soulful recovery from postnatal depression. The Postnatal Project is dedicated to increasing awareness and reducing stigma of postnatal depression.

This is Zelma’s experience through postnatal depression….

My daughter, Cadence Grace, has just turned one. There were times where I didn’t think I’d make it – I didn’t think I’d survive what motherhood had presented me with. But I’m here – telling my story.

I entered the birthing arena clutching a hypnobirthing guidebook and a sense of ease. I left with scars. A large scar on my lower abdomen – and an even bigger scar in my heart and on my soul – memories, trauma, disappointment. But I didn’t see the second scar until we left the hospital. I remember sitting in the hospital bed – in excruciating pain, sleep deprived and still making sense of everything I had experienced – and saying to my fiancé, Brad: “isn’t it great that I avoided the day 3 blues? Everyone said I’d be crying my eyes out over nothing today.” Now that I look back, I didn’t avoid it. I just didn’t feel it – I was numb, empty, broken.

Everything suddenly felt like it was falling in around me. I imagined that I had dug a deep hole in the sand to protect myself. The sand was made up of grains of expectations, hopes, dreams and plans. Suddenly, I was no longer safe in my hole. The wind was stripping away the sand – grain by grain – living me bare, cold, scared and ashamed. Cadence cried. A lot. Breastfeeding hurt. A lot. I have never felt so helpless. This was not how I expected motherhood would be – but I couldn’t think that. Motherhood is beautiful, sacred, a blessing – it’s not meant to be this hard. There must be something wrong with me.

I started to feel panicked as soon as the sun would go down. My fiancé, Brad, would say: “Zel, are you alright?” I would say that I was. But the tears would flow – and they wouldn’t stop. We both agreed that it was the hormones and that I just needed some sleep.

Nights were the hardest. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. I remember trying to use my hypnobirthing relaxation techniques – counting backwards from 40, pressing my tongue up against my teeth to relax my jaw and repeating positive affirmations. But a voice inside said “hypnobirthing didn’t help you then and it won’t help you now”. Cadence would feed every two hours and some nights, I would be awake until the next feeding – lying in bed, thinking about whether it would be better to die now while Cadence wouldn’t remember me. I recall thinking that she’d be better off, anyway.

These thoughts were overwhelming – I couldn’t keep them to myself any longer. I booked an appointment with my doctor the next day. I asked to complete an Edinburgh Scale. The midwife said “if you score 8 or higher, we might start thinking you’re experiencing postnatal depression”. She stopped adding up the scores half-way through. I felt relief. I felt like I was in safe hands.

I saw a psychologist for a while and maintained regular contact with my GP and clinic midwife. I also trialed some medication. I was very proactive in seeking support – even requesting a referral to a mother and baby unit in the city. But my blog and online resource has been paramount in moving forward, healing and choosing a path of recovery. Expressing my authentic self to the world – and helping others to know that they aren’t alone on this journey – has changed me. I feel free.

For more information about The Postnatal Project, please visit http://www.thepostnatalproject.com

You can also find The Postnatal Project on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

If you, or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression, please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306

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Guest Post – Lex Gully on her experience through PND & PTSD

A huge thanks to our Guest Blogger –  Lex Gully, a London mum of one who bravely shares her experience of PND and PTSD below.  

Hey there, I’m Lex, I have a 16 month old boy, myself, my baby and partner are on a journey of my mental health recovery. Here is how it started…

My birth was traumatic in a nutshell no pain relief worked at all, it meant that when I had my emergency c section I felt every single thing. As soon as my son was taken out of my belly I was put to sleep. In that split second all I saw was his little bum and then nothing for nearly 48 hours. The traumatic birth resulted in my milk not coming through (this is what I was told, not what I believed at the time), despite spending nearly a week glued to a double electric breast pump in neonatal. Already just a few days after my son was born the nightmares started so I feared sleeping, I felt too exhausted and nauseous to eat, and I cried all the time, every time my baby cried I took it as a personal rejection from my son. I thought he hated me because I couldn’t breast feed. I told the midwives on the ward how I felt but I was continuously told this was normal after the birth I went through and I just needed rest. I’m not being funny, but rest with a new-born? Even if my partner took over I still worried about my baby and was up all night.

That is how it started for me, my symptoms got progressively worse, I had psychology throughout my pregnancy and at my follow up appointment after birth she told me I had post-traumatic stress disorder and postnatal depression and that I needed to see a psychiatrist asap. I had a mental health assessment done at my home where it was agreed I would get daily visits from a mental health nurse and started on medication and intense psychological therapy. I got worse and worse and worse. Nothing was helping, no drugs, no therapy, the nightmares, the flashbacks the colicky baby, my partner working such long shifts, I have no family and was scared to speak to friends. It was horrendous. No one wanted to admit me to an acute psychiatric unit because I would severely kick off when apart from my son, I battled with the feelings that he hated me and put intense pressure on myself for him to accept me as his Mum so never ever let myself be apart from him. I was so unwell and confused, didn’t know whether to die or force myself to be the perfect mother. The guilt was crippling.

Enough was enough, I was admitted to an acute psychiatric unit, put on new medication, forced to sleep with a load of sleeping tablets, encouraged to eat and in a week there was a huge dramatic change. Then my saving grace happened where my whole world changed forever. I was referred to a mother and baby unit (MBU), a psychiatric hospital catered for Mums and their babies. My son was six months old by this point, I had attempted to kill myself three times, was covered in scars and underweight. This place saved my life, there were other Mums there like me, and I wasn’t alone! I finally learnt that it wasn’t my fault! My baby didn’t hate me! I was supported in looking after my son, they built my confidence up so much, I am forever grateful to the nurses and doctors that worked there.

Now I am six months out of the mother and baby unit, it has been very rocky, it was a hard transition leaving the MBU (I was there for 5 months), but I am getting there. I am taking one day at a time. Mental illness affects different people differently, in so many ways. There are different contributing factors, different symptoms. For me I have a mental health history, traumatic childhood, traumatic birth which all contributing to me becoming unwell. I was lucky, I didn’t have to speak up too much for healthcare professionals to notice at the beginning, however I have always been honest about my feelings, no matter how dark because I learnt quickly that no one can read your mind. If you speak up, you will get help, things can be changed, adjusted, support can be put in place. There is always scope for things to improve. To anyone reading this who feels they are suffering with increased anxiety or depression after having their child, speak to someone and let it out, that is the first biggest step. Don’t be scared, it’s hard I know, the fear of being judged is so intense but I never have been. You are not alone.

Lex has her own blog – https://borderlineandbaby.wordpress.com/

Vlogg – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8tQKpnXYH72jxLYacXHcew

Twitter – https://twitter.com/recoveryandbaby

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

If you, or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression, please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306

 

 

On The Circle of Security….

When I became unwell with postnatal depression, I would often have reoccurring thoughts that something bad would happen to my baby.  These scary and intrusive thoughts stopped me from leaving the house, stopped my son exploring his new world, which I came to realise is a need, and, had a negative impact on our early bonding. Looking back, I now realise these thoughts and my behaviour was very limiting for both my son and I. 

Part of my journey through counselling sessions with my psychologist, was to talk about the scary and intrusive thoughts I was having, and, how I could overcome them.  We also talked about how I could improve the bond between my son and I.  My psychologist suggested to me that I would greatly benefit from attending an eight-week program called The Circle of Security.  I had never heard of The Circle of Security and was keen to do anything that would help me become well again, and, also, reconnect with my son.  I went home after that appointment and did some research on the topic.

I found out that the Circle of Security was based on more than 50 years of research and was founded by friends, Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman and Bert Powell, who worked together in clinical practice for many years.  They essentially, designed a program to enhance the attachment security between parents and children, by looking at the child’s needs.  In essence, when a child’s needs are met, they become secure children who tend to be happier, solve problems on their own, have higher self-esteem and have healthy relationships with others, including their parents.   Upon reading the benefits of The Circle of Security, I immediately signed up to the program. 

I am not going to lie, I was anxious about attending the first day of the program.  I was to attend these classes on my own.  However, those feelings faded as the warm and lovely faces of the program coordinators greeted me at the door. The person running the program was a clinical psychologist so I knew I was in good hands.  I was offered a cup of tea before settling into my seat. The course was run in a group situation and I was glad I was not alone on this journey.  After settling in and going through our introductions, the program coordinators explained the methodology of the program.

In basic terms, The Circle of Security program looks at the relationship between a parent and a child in a circle, with the hands of the parents/caregivers being at one end.  These hands are open with one hand allowing the child the freedom to explore their world and the other hand providing a safe haven for the child to come back to when they need comfort and protection.  Over the course of the 8 weeks, I learnt exactly what the circle meant, in terms of the hands and I learnt a lot about my son’s emotional needs which were not being met due to my illness and about myself.  I also learnt the importance of being wiser, kinder, bigger and stronger.

I know that children don’t come with an instruction manual and knowing how to meet our children’s needs is not always easy. I have a profound amount of guilt knowing that I was not meeting my son’s needs when I was unwell, and, I found that the Circle of Security Program provided me with comfort knowing that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and, that good enough is just that, “good enough”.

There were aspects of The Circle of Security program that I struggled with, in particular, as a parent/caregiver we must be bigger, stronger, wiser, kind and whenever necessary take charge. However, there are times, when I am busy, tired and emotional and I may not be wholly present for my son.  It is then, that I need to remind myself about being “good enough”. I also found that at times during the program, I became emotional.  Thankfully, I was able to debrief with my psychologist at my therapy sessions.  I therefore, encourage those who wish to enrol in the program, that they have a self-care plan, which may include talking to a therapist.

In saying that, the benefits I received from attending the program were not obvious at first but later became huge improvements.  For example,

  • The recurring thoughts of harm coming to my son faded and we began to leave the house more and more.  For example, we started off with the short walks around the block and getting a coffee together at the local coffee shop. As time went on, we joined gymbaroo, the local library story time, swimming lessons and going to the park to play on the equipment.  My son’s need to explore his new world were being met.
  • I also learnt to read his cues to better understand my son and his emotional needs.
  • I learnt to sit with my son’s negative emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness etc.  To be honest, I am still not comfortable with this and I know this is something I need to work on.
  • I learnt the benefits of time in with my son rather than time out.
  • Most importantly, I was able to reconnect with my son, and for that, I am forever grateful.

COS certificate

Overall, I would highly recommend the program, particularly for those parents who have gone through challenges, like I have, such as postnatal depression. I do believe that The Circle of Security program, together with debriefing sessions with my psychologist were another factor on journey to recovery.

If you would like more information on the Circle of Security, please see the link below:

http://circleofsecurity.net/

I have also attached information about Circle of Security Parenting programs around Australia.

http://www.nsw.relationships.com.au/courses/reled/groups_library/circleofsecurity.aspx

http://www.centreforparenteducation.com.au/

https://www.mackillop.org.au/circle-of-security-western-melbourne

http://www.openground.com.au/mindful-parenting-program.html

If you or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306.

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

 

 

 

On reading to my baby through PND

A few days before I went into labour, an image came into my mind. The image was of me sitting in my rocking chair, snuggling up to my baby, reading them a book. The image filled me with so much joy that I hopped straight in the car, drove down to the local bookshop and bought two books – The Hungry Caterpillar and Guess How Much I Love You. I don’t know why that particular image came to mind at that time or why I chose those two particular books, but in time, they came to play a role throughout my recovery from perinatal anxiety and depression (PND). I placed the books on the table next to my rocking chair and eagerly awaited the arrival of my baby. I just couldn’t wait to read to him.

table Two days later, I went in to labour and after 36 hours we were greeted with our precious baby boy. We spent three days in hospital, getting to know this new little person and adjusting to our new role as mum and dad.   The day had come and we went home as a family. The first day at home was a blur, I can hardly remember the day, except for various visits to baby bunting by my husband, some washing that had been building up since we’d left for hospital and lots of kisses, cuddles, feeding, changing and burping the baby. I was still on a euphoric high.

The high didn’t last long though, and after about a month in, I felt that my mental state started to go downhill. I had worrying thoughts about all the terrible things that could happen to my precious new son.  My thoughts eventually stopped me from leaving the house and stopped me from sleeping and eating well. As my mental state deteriorated, I also had trouble bonding with my baby. The beautiful image of me reading to my baby prior to giving birth, had been replaced by very troubling images. I was so lucky that I had incredible support from family and friends and enough insight to know that I was very unwell. I also realised that this new life I was living was not normal. I eventually stopped resisting the need for professional help and that is when I began the road to recovery.

I remember a day, a few months into my recovery as I was feeding my son, I looked over to my right and noticed the two books I had bought before he was born, sitting there on the table next to me. I placed my son on his playmat and picked up the book, “Guess How Much I Love You”. I started flicking through the pages. I thought the illustrations were incredibly beautiful of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare. I began reading the story out aloud to my son. For that time, the worrying thoughts left me and I found myself getting lost in the pages. My son was looking up at me and cooing and smiling and when I got to the page where Big Nutbrown Hare declared to Little Nutbrown Hare “I Love You to the Moon and Back, tears welled in my eyes. It was a beautiful moment because I had realised I had finally connected with my baby.

From that day on, I continued reading to my son many times a day. I would either place him in my lap, on his playmat, or in his rocker and we would look at the pictures together or trace the words on the books with my fingers on his; from the fruit in the hungry caterpillar, the bushy tail in Possum Magic, to the round wet nose of Hairy Maclary of Donaldson’s Dairy. As the days and months rolled by, his book collection grew and I continued on my path to recovery. I found myself enjoying those moments reading with my son more and more each day. I do believe the professional help I was receiving which consisted of regular visits to the GP, psychologist, psychiatrist, Maternal and Child Health Nurse and anti depressants assisted the process of finding this joy.

Screen shot 2016-05-26 at 3.25.28 PMOne day, a dear friend came to visit and I told her about the joy I had found reading to my son. She mentioned that her local library ran a free story time class and that mine probably would too. I was still too terrified to leave the house but when I became well enough, I remembered my friend’s words and looked online at what my local library had to offer and sure enough our library ran a story time too. I put my son in his pram and off we went to story time. As I walked in, I noticed a group of parents sitting on the carpet playing with their children. I looked around and wondered if any other parent in that room had also experienced PND like me. I took my son out of his pram and we sat down to enjoy singing songs, reading books and playing with musical instruments – it was a hoot. From then on, we (mainly me), looked forward to the outing every week.

nutbrownTo this day, I still enjoy reading to my son and his book collection has since grown from two books to two bookshelves. Just recently, we picked up a box of books from the local school fete for $5 – what a bargain! We have just moved house and am yet to check out our new local library but I do know that they also run story time too.

In the meantime, I have attached the links below to story time at several libraries around Melbourne, Victoria, in case it is something you might be interested in too.

If you or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306.

Love and smiles

Josie : )

http://www.brimbanklibraries.vic.gov.au/index.php/what-s-on/programs/storytimes

http://libraries.boroondara.vic.gov.au/whats-on/events-and-programs/storytime

http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/whats-on/storytime

http://library.portphillip.vic.gov.au/Parents_kids_teenagers/Kids/Story_times

http://www.bayside.vic.gov.au/your_library/library_storytime.htm

http://www.mvcc.vic.gov.au/for-residents/libraries/library-for-kids.aspx

 

 

On attending my first PANDA Annual Lunch 2016

Table settingSince 2008, PANDA have organised an annual lunch in memory of Louise Litus. Sadly, Louise took her own life in 2007. Louise had suffered Post Natal Depression after the birth of both her children. PANDA’s Annual Lunch is their biggest campaign to raise awareness and funds. The funds raised allow PANDA to continue their amazing work to support and educate the community about perinatal anxiety and depression.

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My father in law & I

Having had my own lived experience of perinatal anxiety and depression, and, being a PANDA Community Education Volunteer, I was excited about attending my first annual lunch. Moreover, my supportive husband and father in law came along too, which made the day even more special.

This year, PANDA held their lunch at ZINC at Federation Square. My husband and I had our wedding reception there, so I was also looking forward to being a guest at the venue. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a welcome drink and warm friendly faces of other PANDA volunteers who were helping out that day. The food served at the lunch was delicious. We enjoyed two courses; a Middle Eastern flavoured eye fillet steak and a raspberry chocolate slice for dessert, accompanied by beverages.

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Matt Tilley, our MC for the lunch

The lunch was MC’d by KIIS 101.1 FM’s Matt Tilley who is an ambassador for PANDA and has been doing the MC gig for the past 8 years. Matt is a father of three children and was warming, witty and engaging. The CEO of PANDA, Terri Smith, spoke about the story behind PANDA’s logo change and delivered key statistics from the helpline, in particular, 1 in 7 new mums and 1 in 10 new dads experience post natal depression.

There was also an On the Couch panel discussion involving Jenni Richardson (PANDA’s National Helpline and Program’s Manager, Miki Perkins (Social Affairs Journalist for The Age and Lisa Farrugia (PANDA champion and fellow Community Education Volunteer). The discussion centred on experiences of being a new parent; the joys and the challenges. Jenni enlightened us on what PANDA hears on the helpline and both Lisa and Miki spoke of their journey through perinatal anxiety and depression, which was also enlightening.

PANDA used several avenues to raise money that day; a live auction that included vouchers for massages, clothing, portraits, wineries, and, my favourite, a dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant at Crown (valued at $500) and many more. There was also a silent auction that included, but not limited to; vouchers for maternity wear, jewellery, prints, a baby gift box set and a lesson in methode tradionnelle at Domaine Chandon plus a picnic rug (I was out bided on this one). Finally, there was a raffle draw that included prizes such as makeup hamper, chocolate, wine and a wall clock to name a few. Guests were given gift bags, which included a Mumma Bubba bracelet, a special offer to join Placement Solutions and information about the services provided by PANDA. I was also lucky enough to win a book by the Publishing Queen on “how to write a book in less than 7 days.”

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A list of the live auction prizes

Overall, I felt that it was a successful day indeed, and, as I watched people leave the lunch and continue on with their lives I hoped that they would spread the message of the incredible work PANDA does for the community.

If you or anyone you know is struggling from perinatal anxiety or depression please contact PANDA’s national helpline on 1300 726 306.

Love and smiles

Josie

PANDA – http://www.panda.org.au/panda-events/annual-lunch?showall=&start=1

Miki Perkins’ journey through perinatal anxiety and depression –http://www.theage.com.au/national/perinatal-depression-in-just-a-few-short-weeks-i-went-mad-20151117-gl1daw

ZINC –  http://zincfedsq.com.au/

KIIS 101.1 FM – http://www.kiis1011.com.au/

What an anxiety attack looks and feels like to me.

Two steps forward, one giant leap backwards, well, that’s what my recent anxiety attack felt like to me. I hadn’t experienced an attack in about a year and then….BAM…I had one…on Easter Sunday. An anxiety attack is intense, awful and, for me, scary. My symptoms were a sense of losing control, emotionally distressing, I was crying, feeling panicky, I had chest pain and shortness of breath.

The day started out perfectly normal but on reflection, I can now understand why the attack happened. I had decided to host 20 people for Easter Sunday lunch at our place. A part of me thinks that the decision to host the lunch at our place was my way of saying I have recovered enough to do this – I got this. Well I did…..in part. I felt very excited about having our family over for lunch. I also knew it wouldn’t be too hard as family members were bringing dishes such as salads, dessert and other bits and pieces to help ease the load. I decided to prepare a lasagne, a roast chicken and lamb and some other side dishes. I thought this was all simple enough.

What I didn’t factor in was perfectionism. It is one of my personality traits and came to play in me having an anxiety attack. I find my perfectionism crippling because I am constantly setting high standards for myself and feel frustrated when I can’t meet those standards. I also find focussing on minute details time consuming and impede me from doing the task at hand. Perfectionism goes hand in hand with my Generalised Anxiety Disorder and most likely triggered my anxiety attack.

So, the perfectionist in me kept thinking that the food had to be perfect and ready on time, drinking glasses and cutlery had to spotless, house had to be clean. I was also thinking about how were we going to seat everyone? The weather was not looking too promising on the Sunday, yet when I decided to host; Melbourne was going through a patch of really good weather. We didn’t have a backup plan for seating and time was running out. I had also forgotten to buy other bits and pieces for when guests arrived. Not to mention my son had been wrapped around my leg seeking attention, and, may have been teething as he was clingier than usual.

So there I was, in the kitchen stirring the sauce for the lasagne, my son clinging to my leg, thoughts going over and over in my head about all the things that had to be perfect, and, I could feel the pressure building up. I started to panic…. I could feel a sharp pain in my chest and had trouble breathing. I became emotional and my husband came in from outside to see what was wrong. I told him that I thought I was starting to have an anxiety attack and then I lost control and could not breathe. He pulled out a chair and told me to put my head between my knees and to take breaths. The concentration on breathing really did help and I was able to overcome my anxiety attack quite quickly. I did notice that it was short lived as opposed to the attacks that I suffered when I had post-natal depression.

My husband was amazing and made me feel safe and supported so that I was able to compose myself quite quickly. On reflection, I pleased to say that lunch was a success and everyone, including myself had a great time. What I learnt from that experience is that I need to stop sweating the small stuff because it is the small things that take away from the bigger picture, such as how happy it makes me being in the company of the people I love, not whether the glasses or cutlery are spotless.

On a final note, I recently came across a pretty easy tip to remember, should I feel that a panic attack might be coming on. The tip was to look around you, find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. Apparently, it is called grounding and can help you when you feel like you are losing control of your surroundings. I am yet to try the method but am interested to hear if it is something you have heard of or, even tried?

Grounding technique taken from: http://www.7cups.com/forum/AnxietySupportCommunity_53/AnxietySupportResources_412/Antianxietypanicattacktechniques_25678/

Love and smiles!

Josie : )

 

My journey through perinatal anxiety and depression.

TRIGGER WARNING: this story contains information about self harm. 

I am normally quite a private person and, therefore, I never thought I would be talking so openly about my journey through Anxiety and Post Natal Depression. I also never thought that the birth of my beautiful baby boy, would lead to one of my greatest challenges. But I’m a better, healthier and happier person, having faced that adversity. I hope that by sharing my story it will give hope to parents facing the same challenges that, even in the darkest days, recovery is possible.

I clearly remember the home visit by my Maternal and Child Health Nurse, three days after coming home from hospital. I was instantly drawn to her warm smile and knowing eyes. She sat next to me on the couch as I attempted to breastfeed. She helped me relax, which helped me attach my son, and she gave me some great tips. Before long, we began chatting about how my husband and I had set up our baby’s room, and about my labour and the birth.

Although being quite a private person, the MCH nurse made me feel comfortable enough to also share that my eldest sister has bipolar disorder, and that my elder brother suicided at the age of 25, after a long battle with schizophrenia.

She gave me a big cuddle and said she would stick a PANDA sticker next to my name in my son’s little green Health and Development Record book.Health book This would remind her to take extra care of me at my MCH visits, as given my family history; I was predisposed to postnatal depression. I shrugged it off, little knowing how right she would be.

Not long after, my mental state started to go downhill. I was exhausted, yet had trouble sleeping. “Sleep when baby sleeps” was just not happening. I was kept awake by night sweats and terrible racing thoughts. “Could something fall into my baby’s bassinet and suffocate him?”, “Maybe his nappy is on too tight and could cut off his circulation”, “Maybe someone could break in to the house and kidnap him”, “Maybe he’s too hot, maybe he’s too cold”. These thoughts would play over and over in my mind.

I had a constant sick feeling, which put me off eating, and I lost a lot of weight. I was irritable and angry, snapping at the smallest things. I felt hopeless and dead inside. I began to isolate myself from family and friends. I would often close all the blinds, after my husband left for work.blinds

As my mental state deteriorated, I had trouble bonding with baby. Some days I couldn’t even bear to look at him. I felt like he was not my son. Other days I would just wish that someone would take my son away from me, and that I’d be rid of all my internal pain. Yet I constantly worried about him. I wouldn’t let anyone outside my immediate family touch or hold him, and I’d check his temperature almost every hour. I became so overwhelmed and exhausted that I started to plan my escape. I just wanted it to all end.

My husband and the rest of my family noticed things didn’t seem right, and urged me to speak to my Maternal Child Health Nurse or my GP. Yet I was too afraid that I would lose my son. That my horrid thoughts would send me to a mental ward – or worse yet, prison – and that I’d never see my son again.

I’d have panic attacks, or go silent as my thoughts took over. My sister would call me daily and calm me down. I felt comforted knowing she was on the line. My mum lived next door, and most days would come and just sit with me. I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts. My husband would secretly call my friends and ask them to visit. They’d bring me lunch, make me tea, and even helped me start my son on solids. They knew something wasn’t right, but I think they were too afraid to say something that might “tip me over the edge”.

Then one day, I explicitly told mum that I was contemplating suicide. She knew I was serious, and she was determined not to lose another child that way. She immediately phoned my GP, and luckily I got in to see her that day. Yet, I was still afraid that the GP would have me locked up, and my son taken from me. So, I went under the guise of him being unwell.

Luckily, my GP saw through this. She asked my mum to leave the room and began asking me questions. I finally broke down and told her everything. She wrote me out a Mental Health Care Plan, a script for antidepressants and a referral to a psychiatrist.

When the psychiatrist diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Postnatal Depression, things started to get better. I got medication to help with my anxiety. For the first two weeks it exacerbated my suicidal thoughts, which is a common side effect. Mum monitored me while my husband was at work, and then it started to really help.

I also saw a psychologist at Tweddle Child and Family Health, with support under the Mental Health Care Plan. At first, I resisted this treatment. I was still too afraid to speak up about my horrid thoughts. But as I began to trust the psychologist, I realised the therapy was helping me work through my issues, including my brother’s death. I was very lucky that my husband came with me to my initial visits, and still loved me in spite of the person I had become.

I now know that this treatment played an important role in my recovery – not to mention the love and support of my GP, my family and close friends. I only wish that I had spoken up sooner. I really want to get the message across to anyone who is struggling: please get help as quickly as possible, so that recovery is not delayed.

I can’t tell you the exact day that things started to shift for me. But I can tell you what I started to notice. For one, I began opening the blinds, one by one. blinds openI felt the fog lift, and I began socialising and making friends with new mums in my area. Most importantly, I saw my beautiful baby boy wanting his mummy so much. I realised how precious he is to me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness that I longed for, and had so missed.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 website: http://www.lifeline.org.au, beyond blue on 1300 224 636 website: http://www.beyondblue.org.au or PANDA on 1300 726 306 website http://www.panda.org.au