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 The beautiful image of me reading to my baby prior to giving birth, had been replaced by very troubling images.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

 

 

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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

Anxiety and Parenting

A snapshot of what anxiety and parenting looks and feels like to me.

You may see me passing by you in the street, happily pushing my toddler in the pram. I may be smiling and, sometimes, you may even see me laugh with my son as he babbles away. But what you may not see as I am pushing that pram is that I have anxiety, more specifically, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder? In short, it basically means that I am in a constant state of worry and feel tense most of the time. Having GAD is harder to spot than, say, if I was walking down the street with a broken arm or leg. On a bad day, I experience other symptoms along with worry and tension, such as heart palpitations, racing thoughts, nausea and throbbing pain in my head, I find it difficult to concentrate, I am fidgety, I struggle to be in the moment and have trouble sleeping.

So, what does parenting with GAD look and feel like to me? Well, there are challenges. For example, on days where I am nauseas and have a throbbing head because I have had trouble sleeping the night before, you will find me on the couch with a heat pack on my forehead because I am in pain. At the same time, my son will climb on top of me and tug at my hair. My son is doing this because he wants to me play with him. Aside from being in pain, I feel guilty, because at that moment of being in pain I just need to feel better and can’t engage with my son, as he would like me to.

Then, there are other times when I miss cues that my son wants my attention because my head is full of worry and racing thoughts. I worry about the well being of my family, finances, the future and then insignificant things such as the weather, grocery shopping, what to cook, the washing and cleaning that hasn’t been done. In that time, whilst my mind is drifting, my son may be have shown me two or three cues that he needs me and then he will start acting out because I have missed them. I also struggle to be in the moment. I could be reading a story to my son and drift off in thought, while my son sits there looking at me waiting for me to finish a simple story I had started 15 minutes ago. I do believe that it must be frustrating for him – another thing to worry about it.

Aside from the challenges there are many big rewards to parenting an active toddler whilst having Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Firstly, when my fearless son jumps off the bed, jumps off slides or fumbles down a flight of stairs then picks himself up and keeps moving, like nothing has happened, then my anxiety starts to wane. My son has shown me through his fearlessness, how to enjoy life and be more carefree. His playful nature and ability to laugh at the silliest things distracts me from my worry and there are many times that I am able to be in the moment with him and delight in him.

Finally, what I have found since being diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and is extremely important to remember is; self care. Without it, I would not be in a position to be a good mother to my son, not to mention a loving partner to my husband. So what does self care look like for me? Well, there are simple steps I take to ensure I look after myself. Firstly, an uninterrupted shower in the morning and good coffee helps me to start the day. I really enjoy a good coffee so in the morning after I have given my son breakfast, we hop in the car and go to my favourite coffee place and I enjoy my coffee while my son munches on a snack. On other days, I will pick up the phone and chat to my sister or my close friends. I also really enjoy going for walks with my son in the pram. We both love being in the fresh air, enjoying what the world has to offer outside and that is when you may pass me, smiling in the street.

About me

Hi, my name is Josie and I am a 30 something married mum of an 18 month old boy living in Melbourne Australia. I have an amazing and supportive husband who I love dearly. We are a work place romance turned into true love aaaaawwww. We have been married for two years. Prior to having my son, I had just completed a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Criminal Justice Administration. I was hoping that upon graduating from the degree, I would pursue a career in the juvenile justice field. I am yet to embark on that journey as my husband and I decided to start a family first. Three months after the birth of my son, I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Post Natal Depression. A year later, I am a healthier, happier and much better person having gone through that traumatic experience. I am currently a stay at home mum and enjoying it! I volunteer with PANDA, as a community educator. My dream is to to one day open a centre in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Hopefully new parents will come and be greeted with a smile. I would like them to feel welcomed and relaxed where there will be great coffee and a chance to meet other new parents in their area. I hope to see you there one day.

I decided to start a blog about my life after Post Natal Depression and how I experience living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I hope I can inspire others through their journey too. image

 

Love and smiles ❤️