I’ve been pondering for a good 5 minutes now and I am stumped on a pithy introduction for this post. If you’ve been reading my blog for a little while, you’ll know I inject humour into most things, so please don’t take my initial light hearted tone as an indication that I don’t completely realize just how serious an issue mental health can be. I absolutely do. To be honest though, it’s just such a shit-tastic pile of crap at times (sorry for the swearing Dad) that it helps to approach, much like one would with an aggressive looking Alsation, gently and with a teensy touch of bravado. You don’t want it to smell your fear. So here we are. And here I am. And as much as it truly sucks to write the words, I’m coming right out and saying that I appear to have contracted a touch of PND.
I’ve been monitoring my mood and the general feeling in my gut for a few weeks now and pondering internally as to whether I might have been heading down that path. I hadn’t really voiced anything though, not out of fear, if anything, I’m rather outspoken about my previous issues with OCD, PPOCD and PND but because voicing something, especially writing it down and seeing the words physically inscribed upon a page, makes it real. And to be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure.
With Ollie, I developed severe PPOCD (a delightful add on to the OCD I had suffered before his arrival). It was a completely different beast to PND. While I suspect there may have been a bit of depression in the mix (Jesus, what an ugly cocktail I managed to have mixed up for me), PPOCD was the primary culprit in attempting to get me to unravel. Put simply, I was terrified all the time. Terrified of something happening to Ollie. Terrified of my apparent lack of mothering skills. Terrified that I’d never feel like ‘me’ again. My terror eventually culminated in me becoming terrified that my lack of mothering skills and in abiliy to settle into the parenting role meant that it was me who would harm him. Perhaps I would drop him? Let go of him in the bath? At my very, very worst, I was terrified to change his nappy as I became convinced I would somehow molest him. Yep, my very own son. Who I loved with every fibre of my being. It wasn’t a pleasant time.
I vividly remember one afternoon begging my husband to take me to the police station, just hand me over as I was a danger to everyone. He gently and calmly tried to ascertain what exactly he’d tell them I’d done as ‘Nothing’ wouldn’t really get us far. I told him to make something up. I was so convinced of my awfulness that I truly believed I’d be better in gaol. Wowzers. So PPOCD. A bitch of an illness and one which I am proud to say I got better from. I recovered and learnt a hell of a lot along the way. Best of all, my bond with my precious son wasn’t impacted long term. I love to guts out of him and most of the time, he loves the guts out of me. I often say that Ollie was made especially for me. He managed to weather the storm that was my mental state and somehow the two of us made it out. He was my reason for getting better and my motivation to attend therapy every week while trialling various medications to find a good fit. It took time but I was lucky to find an exceptional clinical psychologist (on my third try, seriously, ones you ‘click’ with as scarce as bloody hens teeth as my mum would say) who worked through the therapy side with me and a peri-natal psychiatrist who took care of the medication. If you’re suffering from any post-partum issues, finding support is my absolute first piece of advice. It can be the hardest step but honestly, it’s the most important.
So that brings me to the now. I’m 10 months post partum with my beautiful Evie bean and I am incredibly thankful that the PPOCD hasn’t returned. No thoughts of harm have occurred this time and unless you’ve experienced something similar, I don’t think you can probably grasp the relief I feel over that. Unfortunately however, I seem to have fallen prey to that other common post-partum issue. Post Partum or Post Natal Depression, possibly with a side serve of anxiety.
I think it’s quite hard to describe how depression feels as it’s an individualistic experience and as what I’m suffering is most likely mild, it’s entirely possible that for some people, who don’t have my anxious mind and history of mental health issues, it may well fall under the region of ‘normal,’ annoying but something that will pass. Delayed baby blues augmented by sleep deprivation and physical illness. Unfortunately, I’m not that person and it’s very difficult for my monkey mind to backtrack once it starts down a certain path.
It’s the general feeling of flat that seems to permeate most days.
A little more difficulty getting out of bed and not just because I’m tired.
Anxiety nibbling at my consciousness.
An inability to be still.
A fear that I’ll never be ‘properly’ happy. That I’ve hiked the mountain and can see the peak but can’t quite get there.
It’s nervousness clouding everyday experience.
An irrational notion that I’m not quite up to the task of this two kid malarkey. That maybe, just maybe, all those old thoughts and feeling about my inadequacy as a mother were actually true.
When I get to the point of feeling like that, and the guilt and ‘what if’s’ start, I know that it’s time to step in.
On my way out to the GP to find out if what I’m currently suffering physically is a virus, I threw it out there to my husband. “I think I might have PND again.” I have a tendency to do that, make enormous pronouncements at ridiculous times. My husband is the calmest person I know. He nodded and asked me why I thought that as I rushed with Evie in my arms to the car and we agreed to discuss when I got home. He texted me as I drove down the driveway to say he loved me. We’ll chat properly tonight, now that the kids are in bed but I already know what I need to do. Saying the words was the first step. And it is a relief. It’s still really crap and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t heartbroken that this has happened again, especially after thinking I’d dodged that bullet when I reached the 6 month post partum mark. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little scared. The mind when it’s not being treated right can be a tumultuous thing. It’s been awhile since I’ve had any CBT and I’m rusty on some of the strategies I used to employ without even thinking about it. Not buying into my thoughts and not fearing my mind is a key part of the therapy and it’s time I got re-aquainted with it. I took the first steps in contacting my psychologist and psychiatrist today for an appointment and medication review. It’ll be a month before I can see them unfortunately but having those appointments booked in helps. I tend to tackle things from a number of angles; traditionally, with complementary therapies, with meditation, exercise and diet. It’s a complex puzzle and one I seem to need to put back together reasonably regularly.
I actually started (Not) Just A Mummy when I was deep in the throes of PPOCD with Ollie. It was an outlet. A connection to the real world. It’s funny that, after a bit of a blogging hiatus, it’s the first place I turned today. I’ve always been very open about my experiences. I’m not really sure why. But honesty and transparency have always felt right for me. I’m passionate about working towards de-stigmatizing mental health issues, helping to dismantle the ‘good mother’ myth and supporting fellow mums through sharing and connection.
There’s a strong chance there will be regular mental health posts featuring now on (Not) Just A Mummy as that’s where I’m at but as I’ve always thought and said, mental health issues don’t immediately preclude you from having an interest in a bunch of other stuff. Honestly, if you ran into me right now, apart from being horrified by my level of unkempt virus infected grossness, I doubt you’d know there was anything up. And as I go about my week and do all the stuff that we do as mums, I won’t be any different to how I was yesterday, or last week. I’m very lucky in that what I’m experiencing hasn’t reached a level where everyday life has ground to a halt. It’s PART of what I’m living at the moment but it’s not ALL that I’m living. I think that’s always important to remember when you’re struggling.
I’ll keep you posted on where I’m at, what I’m doing and what’s working (and what’s not) soon. In the meantime, send healing vibes for my virus and positivity for my head.