Depression is not something you want to be labelled with when you become a mum.
For most people, it’s not something that you want to shout out loud and it’s not something you want to bring up during dinner with your family. But it is something that needs to be discussed. And it is something that needs to be shared.
So I am sharing my story. I am sharing my struggle. And it’s not something that’s easy to do.
If you think you or someone you love may be fighting with mental illness, then please share this story. Share the resources.
Talking Families is a Queensland Family and Child Commission initiative that focuses on encouraging parents to talk about how they feel and to ask for help. This is an excellent place to start. Because a healthy, happy parent is the first step in achieving a happy and healthy family.
Sure, we had sleepless nights and I spent a fair amount of time in a rocking chair, but it clicked from Day One. Pregnancy, delivery and the first months with my second born, however, weren’t quite as smooth.
As soon as I discovered I was pregnant, my whole mental state changed. I never felt sad. But I did feel anxious. And angry. I was anxious that the relationship with my son would change once she was born. I was angry that this baby was causing me so much pain in my legs. I was angry if my husband arrived home two minutes late. I was anxious about things that, looking back, didn’t matter in the slightest. But, through it all, I never felt depressed.
Depression doesn’t just happen to those that are unhappy with their life. Hormonal and chemical changes in the body and brain play an important role as do other stress factors such as a lack of sleep, a lack of support and feelings of isolation.
When my daughter was born, things didn’t change like I expected them too. Sure, the pain in my legs subsided but the anxiety and anger continued to grow. I lost complete control of myself and couldn’t shake this panicked feeling.
With my firstborn, it was so natural and so easy. So why was it so hard this time around?
Postnatal depression is one of the most common forms of depression with around one in seven women experiencing it. Postnatal depression describes the more severe or prolonged symptoms of depression (clinical depression) that last more than a week or two and interfere with the ability to function on a daily basis with normal routines including caring for a baby.
Things got a bit better but they also got a lot worse. I continued to snap at my family for no reason and felt anxious all the time. Bedtime was the worse. I was so angry with my daughter. I was so anxious about my son not loving me anymore.
And I was so resentful of my husband. God I hated him soooo much!! Even writing this now, several months after the event, I have tears in my eyes. I still feel so ashamed that I ever felt this way towards my family.
How could I have pushed them away?
One of the signs of postnatal depression is “feeling disconnected from your baby, family or friends.” Other symptoms associated with postnatal depression include trouble sleeping, memory loss, loss of self-esteem or the sense of oneself, feelings of guilt, appetite disturbances, a fear of being alone, and irritability, anxiety and negative thoughts.
It was my husband who broke the silence. He called in a child health nurse to come to the house and speak to me. I told him that the meeting was stupid. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t struggling. I was f***ing tired. And I was pissed off. Simple as that. But to him, it wasn’t that simple. He saw things in a different light. He saw his wife disappearing. He saw the mother of his children nearing breaking point over the smallest things. He watched our eldest stay away from me in fear I would snap. He watched our newborn baby cry and cry in my arms and my eyes cloud over with anxiety. He saw the truth.
And the cold harsh truth is that my family wasn’t safe. Sure, they had a mum who loved them, a roof over their heads, a meal every night, a hundred toys to play with, but my mental health was impacting their lives every second of the day. It was creating an unsafe environment. I would never have harmed them but watching me crumble, being in the presence of my anxiety, my frustration and my anger indirectly impacted them. My kids would have sensed it. My husband certainly did.
There are several strategies used by professionals to help those faced with PND, but one of the easiest ones we can implement ourselves is to acknowledge how we feel and to talk about it with those closest to us. Talking Families is designed to encourage parents to talk about how they feel and to know that it’s okay to ask for help. Here you will find information on how to start that conversation or share in the experiences of other parents following a similar path. One conversation could make all the difference.
I got help in the end.
And things did click.
And the anger and the anxiety disappeared. And I returned. I know that depression isn’t a sign of weakness. I know that it’s a chemical imbalance in your brain. And I know now that it wasn’t my fault. But, perhaps the biggest change, apart from the fact that I no longer hate my husband or feel angry at my family, is that I finally feel content. And my family are safe.
Keeping the family safe doesn’t just mean having a warm bed at night. It encompasses physical, emotional and mental health for the whole family, including us as parents.
Talking Families is a website that focuses on the important issue of looking after ourselves as parents and knowing that we’re not alone. There are people around us every day that can help. We just need to reach out. It’s taking that step that’s the hardest.
But it was the most important step I have ever taken. And I urge anyone who feels similar to this to reach out, and take that extra step.
Please share your story below. We would love to hear it. And thank you for listening to mine, xxx Jenna
If you become concerned about your health, please seek immediate medical attention or go to our health hotlines and website post for further resources*.