In early March 2020, I was heavily pregnant, COVID started to infiltrate the world and as I was deemed as high risk my company shipped me off to work at home. The sense of panic I felt about how the world was changing around me, anxiety started to consume my brain. What if I caught COVID, what if something happened to my baby, what if something happened to my family in the UK?
Looking back now I can see why my psychological state started to deteriorate and how I went on this downward spiral.
In May 2020, I gave birth to Jack. Having a newborn is isolating all by itself. You go into the hospital as one person (uncomfortable, hopeful, terrified) and you come home as another.
You are yanked into hour-by-hour survival mode, physically torn apart and nearly hallucinating from lack of sleep. None of this is conducive to seeing people, apart from the ones you trust the most.
In my case, most of those people were 17,000.00 km away in England. A strict Australian border closure prevented them to cross. I couldn’t quite believe it, I never thought I would go through childbirth without my mum.
Reality hit when I came home from the hospital, how the hell do I take care of a newborn and a three year old with no help? My husband could not take time off work, there was no extra adult to pour water or unload the dishwasher or do the washing when Jack vomited constantly over everything.
When I had my check up with the health nurse, she assured me that I was doing well. There was no way I could have admitted to her how I was actually feeling, with the fear of being tarnished with the stigma of being a bad mum, or that my children might be taken away.
When Jack was 6 weeks old he was diagnosed with reflux, he would turn red, squirm, with his tummy as hard as a rock. He would hysterically cry in pain, waking up every hour throughout the night for the first 10 months of his life. I would have sold a kidney to have my mum support me through the torture of sleep deprivation. I could barely function as a human, how could I be a mother when it felt like I was living in a vacuum?
I started to shut down, close off and retreated into a lonely space. Christmas came round and I hit breaking point.
Another year of being apart from my family, with not even a fragment of being reunited on the horizon. When will this change, how can I or will I ever see them again, will they ever meet my son? Every milestone that my children hit without my family being around to witness overtook my body with grief. I went to a very dark place.
In the depths of my despair I knew I had to do something, this inner beacon going off inside of me, I had to get help, but I didn’t know where to go.
I dragged myself to my GP and thankfully she instantly recognised the danger I was in. I was diagnosed with perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA). I was put on medication and completed a mental health care plan with a referral to Gidget Foundation Australia to see a psychologist.
My irrational brain couldn’t see how speaking to a psychologist would help. 6 months later it was safe to say it had been life changing.
My psychologist helped me to have a strategy on how to tackle the new life I was leading with two children. I was able to release all of my locked away emotions, to normalise my feelings and to understand why I felt the way I did, it really was incredible and a crucial part to my recovery.
At 10 months old, my son’s reflux disappeared as mysteriously as it had arrived and he began sleeping reliably through the night. Finally, able to catch up on sleep, plus the medication and talking to a psychiatrist, a huge switch went off in my brain and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I am grateful I had this chance to start over, to climb out of the dark hole that I fell deep into, to rise in the face of adversity.
I want to give other people the courage to take that first step, it can open a door to a whole new way of living, to surround yourself with a support system and enjoy this precious life we have on this earth.