July 13, 2015

I sat on the couch in silence. The increasingly anxious voices in my head droned on.

I thought, since I’m obviously not going to do any work today, I may as well watch TV. But I couldn’t find the energy to reach across and pick up the remote.

I just sat on the couch in silence.

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My anxiety, low blood pressure and morning sickness were so intertwined I couldn’t tell them apart.

It was enough to know that I felt awful, all the time.

When the shadows had moved, I stirred.  I had to go and collect my daughter from child care soon. She would need feeding, washing, putting to bed. She had been fretful and clingy lately and I was not looking forward to her tired whinging. But I had not yet lost sight of my primary function. I was a mother. I could do this. I could.

Naming the demon

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I went to a regular check up with my obstetrician. I had begun to dread these, as the instant I walked in, all I wanted to do was cry. But I couldn’t bear to be one of those mothers. I was strong, capable, holding down a full time job, building a business from home, paying off a mortgage and raising my daughter on my own. I wasn’t a tearful, needy, mess.

I kept it together throughout the appointment. As I was putting yet another prescription for morning sickness in my bag, something made me say, “I’ve been feeling so tired lately. Just – not doing anything, just sitting.”

I still don’t know what made me say it. And he asked me to elaborate. I mumbled something I can’t now recall, but whatever I said made him look at me again.

“You might be close to perinatal depression,” he said, as he escorted me out. “You should pay more attention to how you’re feeling.”

He wasn’t worried, and fair enough. I had never shown any signs of depression before. I never cried at his appointments, I always knew what to say. He knew me from my first pregnancy. And I had barely scratched the surface of how I was feeling or what I was going through in that brief conversation.

But I went out to my car and started crying.

I didn’t really stop for days.



Perinatal depression

There was a name for what was wrong with me. Pre-natal depression, AKA perinatal or antenatal depression. I didn’t even know it was a thing. But suddenly things made sense.

I am a researcher. I ask questions, I analyse my actions and thoughts, and those around me. All of that spirit of inquiry had been gone for some time from my life.

Now it was back and I could see, laid out in front of me, the depth of my depression. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. Nagging, stressed-out voices in my head were my constant companions: You have so much work to do! Your boss thinks you’re useless. Why are you reading/sleeping/watching TV? You should be building your business. You can’t afford your mortgage. You never spend time with your daughter. You’re not taking care of your unborn child.

I was so paralysed with anxiety and denial that I was quite literally spending entire days sitting on a couch in silence.

My daughter had been clingy and miserable – I had forgotten that children are barometers for their family’s moods. That made me cry even harder. My depression was hurting the person I loved most in the world.

Discovery

For anyone who has felt the full force of depression, they will know that I was merely skating around the edges of it. I was close to falling, but still holding on. I could think about my situation, even if I couldn’t find a way to act. Fortunately, this was enough.

When my sister and housemate returned home from work that day I told her everything. We both wondered together at our collective blindness – we had seen depression in family members before, how could we have missed the signs?

I could see my family looking to me to act, to get myself out of the hole, to take charge as I always did.

But I couldn’t. I just sat, no longer in silence, crying, but not moving. I wanted to open the door and walk away, just keep walking.

Salvation

My family stepped up. With their help I quit my job – my boss (who didn’t think I was useless at all) was more than understanding. My house was sold – I needed the money. My things were packed up, some sold, some transported along with me as I was sent home to my mother’s house.

Suddenly I was released. My anxieties about work, finance, care of my daughter, were fading. I had guilt – a whole lot of it – but I also had time. Time to rest, to take care of myself and my unborn son. Time to simply be with my daughter. I knew it was only a reprieve; one day I would have to stand on my own two feet again. But I knew that I would be supported and loved, that I did not need to struggle on alone.

I learned four things:

  1. That neediness is not a bad thing, and I don’t need to fear it.
  2. That I have it in me to walk out on my life and my precious children, shut the door and never look back. I will NEVER let that happen. Knowledge is power.
  3. That putting a name to a demon and drawing attention to it diminishes it.
  4. That having someone there to care about you, to help you when you can’t help yourself, is worth more than a billion dollars in the bank.

If any of this sounds familiar to you…

Get help. Do it now. Speak about it, force the words out of your throat and keep talking about it until someone listens and acts. You are not alone.

Have you found yourself in this situation? Can you offer any words of advice? Please SHARE below.

Listed below are some organisations that can offer help.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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  • I suffered with post natal for a year before I tried to seek help. Doctor said I didn’t have it. Took another year before I finally tried a different doctor. She immediate recognized that my thoughts & feelings were signs of pnd & I finally got the help I needed. It took my husband wanting to leave & me wanting to leave my boys to finally push me into getting help. Thankyou for speaking out- we as a society need to address these issues more.

    Reply


  • I was so very lucky when I had my first child I was under a specialist and he said to me “If at any stage during this pregnancy or after you have the baby you feel depression that you cant shift you must tell me straight away. I was lucky not to have any problems but i felt it was wonderful that he would say this to all of us pregnant woman so if we did have issues he had given us the opening to talk to him about it.

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  • yes definatly is silent if no-one speaks about it

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  • I didn’t suffer from this the first time round, hopefully will be the same with next bub

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  • Avery moving article!

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  • it is so important you know that you are never alone even in your darkest hour <3

    Reply


  • Many people do not recognise that some pregnant women suffer from depression.
    I know of one lass who was getting no family support who actually self-harmed at approx 7 -8 months to try to get rid of her baby. Fortunately she sought help and was monitored in hospital until the birth of her baby. I am sure other Expectant Mums have done similar out of sheer desperation and depression.


    • That doesn’t surprise me and it’s terribly sad. Considering we all know how hormones can mess with a pregnant woman’s moods, it’s amazing that depression isn’t considered an obvious risk.

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  • I was lucky enough not to suffer from pre-natal depression but a friend of mine is going through it now & she is having a very hard time dealing with it.


    • I hope she is able to climb out of it. Support and space to breathe and recover is so important.

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  • Isn’t it funny! I always just blamed the hormones! Hindsight is a wonderful thing sometimes! Perhaps I should have talked about it more with my doctor! At least I know more now!


    • It’s one of those things where you think you just have to suck it up and get on with it, and that no one wants to hear you moan! It’s good to pass on knowledge so that we can all be a bit easier on ourselves.

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  • Great read, thank you. It was definitely the worst time of my life, to fight so hard to bring this precious little girl into the world, & then not want her…. I still live with that guilt every single day, but we move forward together every day & now have a very close bond.


    • That’s wonderful to hear! What a terrible time our bodies and minds put us through. I’m so glad that you pushed through and found that closeness in the end. Having to work for it must make it all the sweeter.

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  • Great article….I suffered in silence but the best thing to do is not bottle things up talk about it, see your doctor, your not alone there is help and you can be yourself again!


    • Absolutely, Kasey. I think so many of us suffer in silence like that because we think we should just snap out of it, or we don’t want to be thought of as unable to cope. We are very hard on ourselves.

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  • I have known of women who have had pre-natal depression. I definitely experienced PND. My pregnancy was not a pleasant experience, but I don’t know that I had depression. I certainly wasn’t diagnosed. IVF was a roller coaster that finally got me pregnant (on our last ever go) onto to feel let down by the system when they relinquish help and responsibility after your 6 week check up. I always found that so strange and wrong that you spent so many years trying to get pregnant using the IVF system, and then you were left to fend for yourself after that. You were never in touch with them again. You then live with a fear of not reaching full term, on top of any pregnancy issues and/or complications you might have. Whilst I may not have had prenatal depression, I’m certain that this process contributed to my PND.


    • That’s a good point. I guess they think, well we got you this far, now it’s time to act like any other pregnant woman. But having gone to so much heartache and expense to become pregnant, it’s far from the same experience. I am sorry to hear of your PND and I hope you’re doing much better now.

    Reply


  • Great article !
    The brave thing is to ask for help.


    • That’s absolutely right, though not easy to do, especially when you don’t even realize there’s something you need to ask for help about. Such an insidious thing.

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  • What a wonderful and very helpful article..thanx for sharing..and sending love, strength and gentle hugs to those in need.
    Acceptance is the first move but acting is so very important, for those who do not have family please speak to your GP and seek out the help from the list Emily has included.


    • Thank you for your comment! It’s good to have positive thoughts out there for people who are suffering. I do hope this prompts people to speak up if they need to.

    Reply


  • Lke it

    Reply

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