I want to start right here, just in case you skim on by or for anyone who needs to hear this quickly today while searching frantically, that if you’ve been struck down with severe depression or anxiety in pregnancy or post – no will power, no fake smile, no exciting news, no fancy car, no flavoured ice cream, no chick flick, no best mate, no nothing can “shake” you out of this state. The big fact here is, this isn’t you.
It’s a sickness, a real sickness and it WILL actually pass and leave your life. Its visa and passport will expire and it leaves.
The stuff in between all that happening is this. A professional mum of 2.5 kids, 2 furkids a beautiful husband, and a couple of businesses. I’ve always been a fast-paced, happy, high energy go-getting person. More so as a parent actually and as the years go on. Motherhood was hard but I thrived as a parent, I drink my 8 glasses of water, my chia seeds, my daily greens. I exercised every day, even through pregnancy, I’ve been successful with work, looked after my family and friends, juggled 682 tasks at once, and honestly enjoyed doing so while building an honest and fulfilling life with my family without many obstacles standing in my way.
In fact, challenges excited me, difficult things turned the fire switch on for me. because to be honest, I knew I could do just about anything I signed my heart up to. But this. Getting through this, this took hold of me. stopped me in my tracks. Hands down, It paralysed me from head to toe and almost destroyed me.
Having not ever experienced an episode of anxiety attacks or depression before in my life or two previous pregnancies, this sickness grabbed my life by the guts and held it hostage for what felt like the longest 5 months of my life. I had no tools in my toolbox for this one. Every day felt like a year to get through yet life was moving way too quickly with my 3rd baby due soon.
It all started very suddenly and aggressively with severe and random anxiety attacks at around 21 weeks pregnant, out of absolute nowhere, and for no good reason. It was a few days before Christmas, I was at the shops with my two toddlers visiting Mr Clause. First in line of course because I hustled their little legs out of the house early to catch him. In a split second, someone turned on a switch and turned up the volume on everything, the sounds, the lights, the speed, the smells. The shopping centre started spinning and my heart was beating outside my chest. Nothing I’d ever experienced but it felt like what I would imagine the start of a heart attack. I grabbed both kids and raced home.
The very next day, having survived whatever that was, I came back to face whatever happened to me. I sat in the same spot and challenged it, faced it head on.. nothing. But it didn’t end here. I tried to take control but it had taken full control by then and would do for the next 6 months. The ironic thing is, two weeks prior I was telling a friend I’d never felt better, more resilient, healthy and happy. nothing made sense, nothing at all as to why I fell the way I did.
My 3rd baby I was pregnant with was very much a planned pregnancy and even more so a wanted and adored child. This all changed about a month into having these uncontrollable attacks, so so many, I switched off. Switched off physically but deeper than that, emotionally. From my pregnancy, my husband, my beloved dogs, and my two incredible children. It felt like a different person overnight. someone who couldn’t feel, love, or function yet managed so much, so easily just 2 weeks prior. To be honest I struggled to understand people with depression as I naively believed happiness and motivation were a state of mind. A state of mind I chose that couldn’t be taken away from a strong-minded individual. An individual like me. I believed we all “chose happiness”. Well, folks. I was wrong. I was wrong about it all.
What occurred after that was months upon months of emergency intervention from teams I never knew existed. A sickness I didn’t know existed and a recovery I never imagined possible. It wasn’t easy to find what was happening to me let alone the right help but I pushed hard, from a place my push and drive didn’t live anymore. Beneath this sickness that had taken over my body and mind, I still had some fight in me to ask the questions, to search, to hunt down the right help and answers.
The more I researched online, the more I realised how common perinatal depression and anxiety was and how many women were suffering, suffering in silence. I went to great lengths to find this information, seek help, and while I was out there in the thick of it, helping others going through the same helped me in ways I can’t really explain. We were all so terrified, we all needed each other and honestly, it’s this kind of community and the help of Gidget Foundation that got me through it in the end.
Post-birth, I improved as hormones regulated and I fell in love with my little boy. I was so much better but I still just wasn’t me. The extreme anxiety seemed to have left but the depression stayed and while out on a walk, after a brief thought assessing whether or not my family would be better off without me, I made the decision a mother-baby unit was my next place I’ll be walking straight into.
The next day I admitted myself into a private hospital reluctantly but forcefully as in my head, I had 3 kids now and I wasn’t the same woman I was a short 6 months ago. I needed to be her again, or someone similar. I grew them, I made this, I had to fight to get her back, for them.
The responsibility was enormous. 3 weeks later I returned home, feeling like myself. To put this sickness and recovery into perspective there was a time I couldn’t look after anyone in my family. Not myself, not my children and on return and with the right help, I came back more capable, strong, and enjoyed being a mother again. In fact, I found having a 3rd child easier than having the two which highlighted how desperately unwell I was at one point. And although we aren’t there yet. IM not there yet. I know my inner fight won’t let me fall, the moments I need to remember are baby steps in the right direction are enormous achievements and I needed to survive this to help other parents as scared and lost as I was.
You will survive this, I needed to hear this too and at times you won’t believe it, but you will.