PND - what is it?
Post-natal Depression is the pits. It really sucks. Honest.
For over a year now I have been battling PND, some days I win, some days I lose. Yesterday was one of them.
I ended up on the floor of the kitchen, spoon in hand, open container of yoghurt on the counter, and James in his highchair looking at my quietly as I sobbed the unattractive type of sob. I picked James up out of the highchair when he started to cry and became irrational with fear that something was going to happen to him if I put him down. After a while I was just so out of it that I found myself sitting on my bed as James pushed a box around and a friend arrived after I had supposedly text her for help. Hearing her son say "Miss Ali looks sad mummy" as they walked out the door, James in tow, in order for me to sleep and take a breath. My husband hurried home and spent the rest of the day looking after me and being concerned.
A woman with PND feels lost and alone yet they often don't want to tell anyone as they are "embarrassed" that they aren't handling things well. I have hidden most of what I've been going through out of sight. I am embarrassed, I am shy, I am too full of pride to admit I'm struggling. But enough is enough. I am through. No longer will I hide in shame and in my deep dark hole. I am going to be brave and take a leap that scares me - I am going to speak out.
I have had some very bright days in this last year of being James' Mummy. The day he started to smile, the day he said "dada", the day he started to sit, stand and walk. James is a little light in my life. He is one of the most precious things in my life. I could not imagine a better son and cheerier little boy to spend my days with.
I have also had some very dark days. Days where I just can't move. Days where I just sit, staring at the wall, unable to find the energy to get James up as he screams from his cot. Days where I have, to my shame and disbelief, yelled and screamed at him to "shut up" because Mummy can't handle it and doesn't know what to do.
Panic attacks are not a rare thing in my house. In some of my darkest times I have had more that 4 a day. I feel paralyzed, unable to help myself, panicking about everything and nothing. I am scared that if I move a tiny inch I will explode and not be able to contain myself. So my amazingly understanding and supportive husband has come accustomed to finding me, sitting very still, trying to make it through this latest attack. Contrary to what you may think - panic attacks are not all blowing into a paper bag, outwardly panicking. Sure they can be but there are other ways that people deal with them.
And so, what to do with all this gloom and doom? How can you help? What can you do if you suffer from PND and anxiety?
Here is a list of things that I have found helpful from my husband, friends and family. If you know someone who suffers - these things may help:
- Just hold me. I just need to sit in the quiet and know that I'm safe.
- I am embarrassed that my house looks like a war has been through. Please help me and remind me that your house isn't always spotless either.
- I need to sleep - take my child and give him a happy time so I can recharge my batteries and have a shower in peace!
- Let me talk. I know it may come as a shock to you the depth of what I'm going through but please just let me get it out.
- Encourage me to be outside, enjoying a walk.
- Help me eat nutritious meals and fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Pray with me and let me cry. Prayer and worship helps me to redirect my thoughts off myself and onto God.
- Encourage me to seek help. Give me permission that I might not be willing to give myself to see a counsellor and get some help.
- Love me. My husband has really made a difference when he has constantly told me that he loves me and cares for me. When I feel that I am not worth the effort due to my troubles, he comes and hugs me and tells me I mean more than anything to him.
- Tell me that you are worried. There is nothing more of a wake up call to me than to hear that despite the financial troubles, house troubles, car troubles - despite all that, you are more concerned with my wellbeing. It is surprising when I'm feeling worthless to know that I am more important that all the material things.
What can you do if you suffer?
- Turn to someone you trust and confide in them. If they brush you off - try someone else. Keep trying until someone takes you seriously.
- See a doctor. Make sure they refer you to a counsellor or someone trained to make a proper assessment. If you are told as I was to "come back in 6 months if you still feel bad" after you have cried your heart out and admitted you just can't do it anymore - SEE SOMEONE ELSE AND REPORT THE DOCTOR!!!
- Ask for help. I realise it can be embarrassing and hard to admit to someone that you need help with bub, house, food or just time out but you need to ask. Most people will be glad they can do something practical to help.
- Remind yourself that you really are not alone. Speak up at mum's group or play group and you will be surprised at how it gives others the strength to speak up too.
- As cliche as it sounds, take things one day at a time.
- Get out of the house. Walk the block with a pram. Go to the mall. Visit someone. Go to mum's group.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. I know it can be hard with a young child/baby. Consider asking your husband or even a family member or friend to take the morning shift. I have known friends who have rung their mother and asked her to come and watch their children at 5am so they can just sleep. These parents understood that it is important to make sure they are coping in order for things to not get out of hand. Nana enjoyed the time with the grandkids too!
- This is not your fault. You are not a failure.
I am still working through this. It is not over. I still need help. But I am going to be brave. I will not hide any longer. It's time we speak up. We owe it not only to ourselves but to other mothers. Post-natal Depression and Anxiety is not something to be ashamed of. It is something that needs to be recognised.