Managing My Mental Health

 

Image found HERE

It’s been awhile since I got all up in the mental health side of things which is a good thing in many ways. Sure, you may miss my witty and sparkling prose detailing the in’s and out’s of my sometimes crazy ol’ mind but feeling on top of things mentally is something I’m very much enjoying. It never hurts though to be reminded of where you once were and this is especially true as I reach the last trimester of my pregnancy and hurtle with rapid speed towards ‘B’ day.

I was asked the other day if I ‘still’ suffer from OCD, a question that I initially didn’t think much about but upon further reflection, found slightly perplexing. I suppose because I haven’t spoken or written much about it lately that you could assume that I was ‘better’ and no longer ‘had it.’ But as anyone who has ever experienced anything on the mental health spectrum will tell you, this stuff doesn’t just ‘go away.’ When I’m filling in forms at a new doctor or health care provider and the ‘pre-existing medical conditions’ box appears beneath my pencil, I write ‘suffers from OCD and anxiety’ without even thinking about it. Because I do. It may not be something I’m actively in treatment for, but I’m constantly, acutely aware of its presence.

I guess you could say that I’m currently in the ‘management’ phase of things. Happily cruising along pretty smoothly, aware that there’s a passenger in the back seat but not overly bothered by them. They’ve quit yelling out obscenities and requesting crap songs on the radio so I’m quite happy to just let them be. We’re cool and we co-exist as best as possible. But they’re still always there.

This phase is a good one to be in, especially at this point in my pregnancy as I wasn’t quite sure how things would unfold once I flew off the medicated radar. I’ve written before about my decision to wean off off anti-depressants while up the duff (you can find that scintillating copy HERE) and, as of this week, have been medication free for the past 33 weeks. It was a decision reached in consultation with my mental health posse (ok they aren’t really my mental health posse, nor are they really my mental health team, ‘they’ are my psychiatrist and psychologist but there’s something I quite like about referring to them as my ‘posse’) who both agreed that I had responded well to both therapy and my course of SSRI Lexapro and could most likely manage without supplementation. And I have managed and managed well. Apart from a slightly bumpy patch right after weaning, I’ve felt good.

For me personally however, pregnancy isn’t really the issue, mentally. The post-natal period is when things started to go pear shaped last time and hence has been ear-marked as the potential ‘danger zone’ this time around. I blame the potent combination of hormones and sleep deprivation, two things that can join forces to scramble even the most resilient of minds, so I’m not all that suprised that my sometimes dodgy brain has an increased chance to come a-cropper.

And so we have an action plan. While I would have liked to have written it on parchment scrolls and perhaps sealed it with wax, it is instead a kind of boring mish-mash of notes spread throughout my medical files at my hospital, psychologist and psychiatrist offices, detailing where I’ve been, where I am and what we have to come.

I’m a gal who likes a plan so having something in place to head off what I know to be a rather excruciating descent into hideous anxiety and a never ending spiral or horribly intrusive thoughts is appealing.

Simply being so much more aware of my mental state and being able to tune in and evaluate my thinking patterns, already puts me a step ahead of last time. These days, I can recognise when things are starting to slide, and generally act accordingly. The rest of the action plan is all about strategies to maximise my chances of remaining in the cruisy management phase and ultimately, stay well.

Here’s how it’s shaping up:

 – On call therapy – I will be booking an appointment with my psychologist in the next fortnight for the fortnight after birth. I may not have anything at all to discuss at the appointment, except for the requisite commentary about sleep deprivation and aching boobs BUT having an appointment in place means that I’ll be both aware of how I’m feeling (so that I can report back) and have an avenue should things be a struggle. I know there’s a strong possibility that I’ll be dwelling deep in the world of overwhelm at that point and being able to verbally spew it all out to a caring but objective professional is key to remaining on top of things.

 – Medication – The plan has always been to re-introduce a low dose SSRI basically the moment I give birth. I have visions of my midwife delivering the placenta then handing it over to a colleague who will replace it with a little white pill with ‘Lexapro’ written on it. The general thinking is that introducing an SSRI will help negate the extreme swings my brain might otherwise try and undertake when tired and hormonal. By keeping things level from the start, its thought that there won’t be the opportunity to swing too far into crazy town. At this stage however, I’m still on the fence as to what I want to do. On the one hand, it makes sense. On the other, I wonder if I can manage without. When you’re feeling good and stable and well, it’s realllllly hard to remember just how awful you once felt. It’s like those memories fade away or are tinted to appear less intense than they might have actually been. I’m a little suprised by my reticence in returning to medication. I have never had any qualms about being on, and sharing the fact that I take, SSRI’s. I’ve always believed being medication free is good but it doesn’t make me feel like I’m a better person than when I was medicated. I guess I’m afraid to tip the balance and re-introduce something new when the current formula is working. I’m going to have to see how things play out in the coming weeks and speak with my ‘posse’ again to determine the best course of action.

– Diet – Not going on one but ensuring that I stick to eating actual food as opposed to existing on coffee, sugar and Up N Go like last time (shudder). When I think back the the weeks after my son was born, I struggle to fathom how I managed to slip so far down the basic nutritional path. A combination of everything going on internally made my food choices poor to non-existent. I literally don’t remember anything I ate and went large periods of time without eating anything of any substance at all. Thank GOD my mum prepared dinner for us a few nights a week as that seemed to keep me going. It’s bizarre to look back on, as someone who’s so passionate about food and wellness and eating in general, but in a way, I was a different person then to who i am now and I think it all just seemed too hard. This time around, i know that what I put in my mouth not only impacts my milk supply (and bebe) but also my mental state. When I eat poorly (and sporadically) I feel like crap. Plain and simple. I’m working on batch cooking a bunch of stuff to freeze as well as ensuring I’ve got plenty of healthy breakfast recipes and smoothies on file for when things get hazy and I’m most likely to slip into bad habits.

So that’s where I’m at at the moment. Steadily working my way to the big day and my new title as ‘Mum of Two’ while ensuring that things are running along smoothly behind the scenes.

I’d love to hear your coping mechanisms for the first few weeks with your bub. Regardless of whether you’ve had brushes with anxiety/OCD/PND, that first month is INTENSE, and I can use all the advice I can get! Feel free to SHARE in the comments!

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6 Comments on Managing My Mental Health In Pregnancy + Preparing For The Newborn Haze

  1. Becca
    April 10, 2014 at 7:40 pm (3 years ago)

    Hearing you on all levels! I had my second a few months ago. With the first I ate same as you, and felt like I’d never cook a decent dinner again (I recall crying to my husband ‘I’ll never get to cook dinner again!’ a few times!! Haha!) but I’ve pretty much managed to rustle up something every day (cooking your dinner at arvo tea time and putting in the fridge is good for crazy hour when you have two crazy babies!). Most ‘normal’ everyday stuff was easier to cope with or fit in this time around (despite the two kid status), it just isn’t as scary the second time, if that makes sense? The only other thing I can think of is, instead of letting everyone take your little guy off your hands so you can spend time with the baby, make them take the baby so you can spend time with him. I made that mistake for a while but realised the newbie (while needing me for feeds and cuddles) needs me far less emotionally than my eldest did at such a confusing time for him (he’s 2). My time in the yard or going for little walks with him with just us two (no baby, or daddy) was so precious and felt like ‘normal’ life again. Good luck and be kind to yourself! x

    Reply
    • Not Just A Mummy
      April 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm (3 years ago)

      Love this advice! Thanks so much Becca! I definitely think I’ll be doing a ton of ‘cooking in advance’ to get ahead of myself. Ollie was born in summer and I didn’t fancy ‘hot’ stuff like slow cooker meals BUT wit this winter bub, I reckon the slow cooker will be getting a proper workout (even more so than usual!). Great advice about taking time out to spend with my big boy. Think that’s something I’m going to miss a lot and be great to have some special 1 on 1 stuff to do with him!

      Reply
  2. Bec
    May 16, 2014 at 1:50 pm (3 years ago)

    Oh my goodness. It is so refreshing to hear someone talk about the post-birth stuff (or as I like to refer to as the traumatic aftermath) like its so ‘normal’!
    This is the best blog I’ve stumbled upon and I’ve been looking for so long to find something that really resonates with me. THANK YOU!
    I suffered terribly with PND after my son was born in January 2013. He is now 16.5months and I only sought treatment a couple of months ago. I love how you call them your ‘posse’! It’s great! I finally have my own ‘posse’ and I’m getting there. Some days are worse than others, but I really like how you worded it that mental illness doesn’t just go away, and it’s more about managing it.

    I am TERRIFIED of having another baby. It gives me hope to read that you are taking steps after your bubba is born to help you continue to manage it though this next change in your life. Maybe one day I will be brave enough to take that step.
    Thankyou for your blog. You don’t know me, but you have just lightened my life.
    I’ll definitely keep reading 🙂 x

    Reply
    • Not Just A Mummy
      May 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh Bec thank you for taking the time to write such a lovely, lovely comment! You have no idea how wonderful it is to receive feedback like yours.
      I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been having a tough time, new motherhood really can be a freaking battle ground at times! That is fantastic that you’re receiving great treatment though and I can personally vouch for the fact that it makes an enormous, enormous difference. I truly believe that of course we can ‘recover’ but that management is the key for ongoing health and happiness.
      I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said that I wasn’t nervous about what’s to come when number 2 arrives but I’m so much more aware this time around and think that’s half the battle.
      Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment and welcome to the (Not) Just A Mummy community!

      Reply
  3. Em
    January 12, 2015 at 1:11 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank God I found your blog. As Bec said, it gives me hope if I ever decide to have another Bub. Have had a rough trot but I hope things will turn around soon. I have an appt with a psychologist at the end of this month (first one) so fingers crossed she can “sort me out” 🙂 xx

    Reply
  4. Em
    January 12, 2015 at 1:11 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank God I found your blog. As Bec said, it gives me hope if I ever decide to have another Bub. Have had a rough trot but I hope things will turn around soon. I have an appt with a psychologist at the end of this month (first one) so fingers crossed she can “sort me out” 🙂 xx

    Reply

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