A tribute to Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week: 13th-19th November, 2016
Last night I had a dream that someone asked me to describe what it felt like to have postnatal depression. In the dream I wrote down in cursive script ‘ I am falling , falling , falling into a endless black hole and never landing’.
I woke up in a sweat. Three years post-partum and recovered from depression, my dream had reignited exactly what it had felt like years ago when I fell into the darkest times of my life.
In a flash I remembered the feelings of emptiness and isolation. It felt like my husband and I were with our newborn alone in a little rowboat drifting on an endless horizon of dark sea with no sign of anyone else out there, no sign of land ahead, no lighthouse and no rescue ship. It was harrowing.
The statistics tell us that postnatal depression( PND) is on the rise in Australia , with 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men suffering the illness every year.* It is becoming an common experience that the ‘black dog’ will visit new parents in the exhausting and demanding years of raising a young family. But despite these numbers, postnatal depression still remains to be the pink elephant sitting in the corner of every mothers group meeting. No mother wants to admit their feelings of failure and overwhelm. No mother wants to be stigmatised as the ‘bad’ mother because she is having trouble bonding with her baby.
So what happens instead? We suffer in silence. We put on the brave face to well meaning strangers in the shopping centre who coo over our new bundle of joy and tell us to “enjoy every moment, they grow up so quick.” We carry around this invisible backpack filled with heavy boulders of traumatic birthing memories weighing us down, physical and emotional exhaustion crushing us and never ending negative self chatter about ‘not being good enough’. Mothers need to unload this heavy burden they carry around and learn to extend the same love and compassion they have for their baby to themselves.
The power of retrospect allows for great insight and growth. Like a diamond, the pressure of tough times creates something truly beautiful within us. Today I am a healed woman, wiser and stronger from the experience. If I could travel back in time, this is what I would tell myself and any other woman suffering PND:
1. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT
Stop blaming yourself for situations which you had NO control over. This includes and is not limited to; an unsuccessful experience with breast feeding (the hardest thing in the world), natural birthing plans that went up in smoke due to a medical emergency and that your baby was born prematurely. There is NO way you could have controlled any of this. Let’s challenge these negative thoughts that are telling you it must have been something you did wrong to make these things happen. This is includes feeling responsible for getting sick and developing postnatal depression.
Before your baby was born you were used to a solid eight hours sleep every night and you had NO idea what broken sleep would do to your brain chemistry. FYI, loud annoying noises and randomised disrupted sleep are tactics the military uses for torturing suspects. You are literally being tortured so be kind to yourself.
2. Surrender. Stop trying to control everything.
You might have been a highly accomplished and astute business woman and thought this motherhood gig would be easy, but as the saying goes there isn’t a manual for becoming a parent. The truth is you cannot control a baby. They are going to scream nonstop if they want to. You need to give in to the fact that for a long time you will feel like you’re totally out of control and you’ve achieved nothing all day.
Take a breath. Everything’s going to be alright. Please surrender to the chaos of new motherhood. It’s ok if the house looks like a warzone, it’s OK if you didn’t get anything done today and you’re still in your PJs. You’ve kept your baby alive and well all day, that is a job well done. Stop trying to be everything to everyone, it’s not possible and it’s going to put you more in a tailspin.
3. You will smile again!
You a probably grieving the end of your old life right now and are still shell shocked. You will accept this new way of life and I promise you things will get better. You will find your groove and a routine with your baby and new family. I promise you will smile again Mama, there will happy times ahead. You will sleep through the night again one day. You will sit down to dinner with your partner again and one day that screaming colicky babe will grow up and tell you that they love you. Your heart will keep expanding in ways you’ve never known before as you observe your baby grow into an infant and then into a child. You will experience love like you’ve never known it before and all the dark painful times will be all worth it.
This article is for general information purposes only. If you have any concerns about your mental health please consult your doctor or mental health professional.
For further support call :
• Lifeline on 13 11 14
• Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
• PANDA 1300 726 306
Lori Lim is a women’s holistic counsellor, kinesiologist and mother. Lori has a passion for helping women with their emotional wellbeing during the antenatal and perinatal stages. Lori practices counselling and kinesiology at a clinic in Willoughby, Sydney, Australia. You can follow Lori online:
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia Anxiety and Depression in Pregnancy and Early Parenthood PANDA Fact Sheets Online http://www.panda.org.au/practical-information/panda-fact-sheets 2016
Deloitte Access Economics. The cost of perinatal depression in Australia. Report. Post and Antenatal Depression Association 2012.
Paulson, J. F. & Bazemore, S. D. (2010). Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression: A meta-analysis. JAMA, 303(19), 1961-1969.
Posted by Lozzness123, 16th November 2016