I sat there in my newly created mindful space trying to close my eyes. Trying to stop another intrusive thought. I was sinking further and further into my newly purchased cloud-style bean bag. I had done everything I had thought to do to crawl out of that cushiony cloud, to be present with my children and my fiance’. I wanted this more than anything.
I was an expert on mental health, I am a Leader of Wellbeing/ Teacher in a secondary school. I have a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology. I had been in therapy on and off since I was 19. If there was something I was good at, it was managing my mental health.
The thing about mental health is that you can stop thinking you need to guard this as precious. I had stopped taking my medication after all I didn’t want to be on it and pregnant. I felt good,I could handle my mental health. Except pregnancy and birth are vulnerable times. I had not considered that. I may have been worrying more than usual in the lead up to the birth of my daughter. I did not see this until well after she was born.
It was a high-risk pregnancy and I was unwell. I had gestational diabetes throughout the whole pregnancy, I also was diagnosed with Graves disease. In the latter part of the pregnancy, I had cholestasis. You may think this would be enough to remind me to be cautious of my mental health. There were signs, but I did not read them. I knew consciously the moment the episode hit that this was going to be a long road.
I, of course, knew what to do, I called upon my psychologist in hope that he could pull me out before I got too deep. I reached out to my psychiatrist. I had all the things in place that I needed to overcome an episode of mental health. However what I learnt is that PNDA is its own beast. I could not find a way out, and when I did I would only be pulled back into the depths of its grasp.
I knew from early on that I needed an MBU stay, however, I had hoped that I would find someone else to courageously make this decision for me. I found that angel on a forum for perinatal mental health. This angel who did not know me rang St John of God and made the arrangements. This amazing woman who had once walked in my shoes had told me it was going to be okay.
I will never forget sitting down in the middle of a lockdown in the pandemic saying goodbye to my two year old. I would not see her again, for at least a few weeks but maybe more. It was a difficult time for my partner and I, it was made easier as our friends and family wrapped their arms around us.
MBU was my lifesaver, it gave me sleep, it gave me time, and it gave me education. These were so important in my recovery. I would not hesitate to go if I was ever in this situation again. I feel that this experience blessed me in a lot of ways. I met the most amazing group of women who were also struggling with mental health in the same way that I was. It was beautiful and safe to walk this journey with those women.
I think the most important thing I did was ask for help. I continued to ask for help until I was where I needed to be. I was constantly scared that I would never get better. I considered if it would be better for my family to lock me up, admit me permanently into a psychiatric ward and raise my children without me. I believed that they were better off, that somehow I would hurt them, impact their mental health, and unconsciously I was scared that my mental health would get out of control. All of sudden I imagined 14 and 16 year old girls with a life burdened by a mum that didn’t deserve them.
I was always looking to be recovered, to have a day where I wasn’t weighed down by my thoughts and fears. I know now that mental wellness is on a continuum. Many days are good but some are difficult. I will forever be reminded that my mental health and wellbeing are essential. That putting on my oxygen mask will in fact save my children, and keep me out of the depths of the ‘wellbeing bean bag’ as it is now referred to in my home.
It’s no longer about recovering although you would say that I am mostly recovered. It’s about how to dance in the rain, albeit in the storm. Let’s be real, PNDA is a raging storm. It’s not us it’s a storm that comes upon us. It turns your world upside down, but it will make you resilient, it will make you slow down, it will make you cherish every moment that you have as well.
If I was to offer any advice it would be to dance in the pain, find a creative way to make sense of the pain, maybe you colour, paint, dance, whatever it may be, and listen to the colourful moments where your mind finds a way to communicate with you. Recovery will come and I have found great wisdom and an amazing ability to sit with emotions, to welcome emotions that perhaps I didn’t have before.
So you may be wondering am I flourishing now, yes but not without focusing everyday on my mental health and wellbeing. Self-compassion and kindness have played a huge role in my recovery. No doubt it plays a huge role in all recoveries. In the words of one of the amazing MBU nurses, ‘this is not your truth, trust yourself’.
Love, hope, and compassion to all that read this.