24 September 2008

Post Natal Depression

There I said it! Yup, it's that thing that soooooo many women suffer from but it is rarely talked about. Put in the same basket as every other mental illness and STD's.

Tonight I watched part one of a doco called "Help me love my baby"

I swear, I am wondering if the mum (Zoe) read my mind or something. Everything she said I have said. Back when I had Beren and you know what he is now six and just starting to make eye contact with me. Needless to say I am feeling pretty fucked at the moment. I want to write a whole heap of stuff about this as strangely enough it is something that has been playing on my mind recently. I will come back to it, just not right now as I am too raw.

EDITED (26 Sept)

have calmed down to my usual semi-rational self LOL

Thankyou to all the lovely replies. I feel a bit guilty reading them as I fear I might have misled you all. I am fine now, well you know as fine as can be for someone who is a nutter LOL no offense to all you fellow nutters out there of course. i could even be called 'normal' if the definition of that was hormonal, zoloft munching, thin skinned, hormonal, emotional mother of two. But hey who wants to be 'normal'! How boring would that make the lives of everyone affected by my hissy fits!

My journey into depression starts long before babies. In hindsight it probably began when I was around 10 years of age. Just didn't know back then what to look for and instead was always "the one with a chip on her shoulder" (sound familiar?)
Anyway, fast forward from then to the late 90's and I started to notice some cracks in my head. I knew something was wrong but really couldn't put my finger on it. This went on for a few years and late 2000 I well and truly lost the plot. I was working for Qantas then and reached a point where I couldn't do my job effectively and was having difficulty holding it together. I started taking some meds and stumbled through to the end of that year. By the end of January though I was on indefinite sick leave and falling apart fast. I couldn't leave the house, couldn't sleep (I'm talking up for days) and barely functioned at all. Sometime in the March, (and I can't even remember the date) I got a headache and took 2 panadol, 100 aropax, 50 effexor and 150 inderal tablets (I don't recommend this as I find 2 panadol generally suffice). Needless to say my headache went! Mind you I ended up for a spell in hospital. Now this probably wasn't a bad thing as I spent time in a private clinic and came out of the episode I was in. I learnt alot about myself and did alot of self healing. I met my children's father (now ex-husband but that is a whole other story) and I eventually moved to Melbourne in the May. I thought I had been miraculously cured and was feeling great!

At the end of 2001 I fell pregnant with Beren, I had been experiencing some anxiety but tried to ignore it as I couldn't admit that I was not still great! I felt so very shamed that I might be crumbling around the edges. Over the time of the pregnancy I experienced huge amounts of pain, fatigue and by the last trimester I was having trouble even walking (it was not until 2007 that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome that was responsible for my pain). I took early mat leave and rested. I was focused and very excited about the birth, had it all planned out and was ready for a beautiful natural birth.

you thinking what I am thinking? yup, that fucked up in a matter of four days. yes, four days of labour and I eventually ended up with a caesarean section. I truly believe I was in shock at the time, I really hadn't expected that outcome. I didn't have time to ask for the screen down, placenta kept or anything really. Needless to say, we had trouble establishing breastfeeding and went through the cruel trauma of having heartless post natal nurses trying to shove my sore breasts into my screaming sons mouth and mentioning formula, nursery etc etc I had a husband standing by who, whilst thinking he was supporting me, was stressing me even more with his anti- hospital/establishment rants and I was feeling totally ignored. Inside I was screaming out for someone to come and hold me and ask if I was okay, because deep down I knew I wasn't. I held this child, I tried to feed it because I was told I had to but I really just wanted someone to come and take it back to its mother because I surely couldn't be her, I didn't feel it come from me or even see it come from me. I remember getting home and telling A that I really couldn't be sure that this was my baby, I was adamant that there was a strong possibility that it wasn't because I didn't feel anything and that was not normal. I was meant to be excited and happy, instead I wanted to curl up in a ball and cease to exist.

That is enough for today. For both me and you I suspect, if you have got this far.

Part 3 I think

  • My baby keeps crying even though I feed him every 4hrs sometimes more!
  • How useless am I when I can't even birth a baby
  • I can't even tell why he is crying
  • I can't stop crying
  • I am so tired and can't cope when everyone else does
  • Why can't I be like other mums
  • They will take the baby if they know how bad I am
  • They will laugh because I said I was better
  • I want to kill him
  • I hate this and I am not going to feed him anymore it hurts too much
  • something must be wrong with my milk cos he pukes
  • I am making him cry because I am a bad mother
  • I am scared
  • I am lonely
  • I am bad
I am sure there were more thoughts back then but really who wants to remember them. Then of course there were the 'suggestions' from folk/family who thought they were helping.
  • Just be thankful you have a healthy beautiful baby (if I had a $)
  • snap out of it and be greatful you have a healthy baby, women died in childbirth not long ago!
  • Drink more water
  • Get more sleep
  • Get out and walk (forgetting or choosing not to acknowledge that due to unidentified FMS I could barely walk to the letterbox and back)
  • He isn't crying, he's perfect, look at him
  • I had 4 under 10 and was younger than you and I managed (A was by then back at work and worked away from home 3 days/2nights)
  • What are you still feeding him for he is past the six weeks
  • Cloth nappies, but there are disposable nowadays
  • Let him cry because he needs to learn (at 6 wks)
  • You are too stressed and your milk is souring so that is upsetting his tummy
  • you chose to have a baby!
  • You're fine, just tired and you will be ok
  • you need to eat some meat (MHCN who said we were her 'alternative' family LOL)
I can't really remember the first 10mths all that well. It is a kind of a blur and haze of me and him crying alot. I remember one night he cried for 6hrs non stop. This was the only time a member of my in-law family came and helped me because A was at work. this was because I rang her hysterical and threatening to kill him if she didn't come and help.

I stopped going to the MHCN because I was afraid she would find out something was wrong and take him. At 10wks we went to a 'sleep school'. I cried the whole time there and they wanted us to let him cry it out, A dragged me and him back out to the car and home. Why didn't they recognise the problem with me and step in?
I went to first mums group and was the only person breastfeeding, using cloth and by then a sling. They looked and treated me as a freak and when the nurse got very stropping for me questioning vax and asking why she didn't mention alternatives adn side effects I left there too. Back to no contact with anyone IRL other than a husband who was rarely home (not his fault by any means) and who I felt alienated from anyway.

I look back and wonder how on earth I survived and my baby survived.

At around 10mths I had to go back to work. A and I both went part-time and shared the care, although I took every opportunity to do over time to avoid being home as much as possible. I had permanent anxiety and panic attacks that made work very difficult but I bluffed my way through somehow. I started doing over time on weekends too and leaving B with A's sister. I prefered being at work than at home and the only thing to remind me there was a baby was the fact that I had to express in my lunch break. I knew that I was barely holding it together but at least I didn't have to be at home with the baby all the time.

During this time I experienced a psychosis and don't remember much of the night other than refusing to feed the baby for several hours. It was a traumatic time for him, me and A.

Still, I was doing ok according to A and who was I to argue.
I certainly don't blame A for any of this really. I do wish he had been a bit stronger and I respect that he is anti medication but that didn't mean I was. I was in no state to make any decisions really.

Disaster struck at 13mths. As you can probably guess, through all of this our sex life did suffer and I think it may have been about the 2nd time after having B that I fell pregnant. I knew instantly and was horrified. I spent the first 6mths crying and begging for the baby to disappear. I was terrified of having another, having another c/s and of disappearing completely. I really felt that I would implode. then ofcourse everytime I felt a twinge I thought I was losing the baby and then felt so guilty for wishing it dead. I was a jumble of guilt, anger, fear. I managed to stay relatively mobile by having chiro and physio (still not aware I had FMS). I was planning a VBAC and had a doula but really had difficulty opening up to her or anyone. I was terrified of failing again and swung between VBAC and elective c/s. The guilt of contemplating the latter was too great so I went with the VBAC but very reluctantly. Naturally this affected my ability to birth confidently and along with severe pain from the FMS and a weirdly positioned child I ended up with another c/s after a 22hr labour. The strange this is that I haven't really felt any birth trauma from this. I feel we pretty much did everything to avoid the c/s and the only question I will never be able to answer is "What if I had said yes to the birth pool when offered?". I had a plan in place in the case of a c/s this time too and demanded that the screen come down so I could see the baby come from me. I think this is one of the biggest factors in my bonding with N!

More later.................


And bond we did. She was slow to feed, fussy but for some reason we bonded. I often wonder if she was sent to save me and keep me on this planet, mind you know she is four I suspect at times a demon sent her LOL

I was more confident at as a mother second time round but still suffering severe anxiety, depression and in a totally fucked up marriage by this stage.
My mother came over from Tas when N was 6 wks old to help out as I wasn't coping overly well and we were due to move house. By this stage the brain fog from FMS and the pain was quite bad and adding to the already growing depressive symptoms.
When Nienna was around 10wks I lost the plot big time. Before I go into detail on that though I forgot something taht happened when I was about 10wks pregnant with Nienna. I had been seeing a psychologist thru the public health service and on a visit to her I had a melt down that she obviously couldn't cope with and she had me admitted to the Angliss Hospital involuntarily and under deception. I had been refusing medication due to being pregnant and she suggested we go across to the hospital to talk to some doctors about meds. I was in no state to think clearly and before I knew it I was in hospital and not allowed to leave! This stressed me even more as I was still breastfeeding Beren. I was kept in for about 6hrs then the CAT team came and arranged my release. This was extremely traumatic and I believe unnecessary. Needless to say I didn't go back to see this woman.

So, Nienna was around 10wks and Beren wasn't coping with her arrival. He was very jealous and quite violent too and I was still having a very bad time dealing with him. On this one particular day I was having the usual battle of trying to get N to sleep and having Beren refusing to let me and screaming and fighting etc I am sure anyone with more than one child knows the story. I placed N on the floor and grabbed B and took him into a bedroom and threw him from the doorway onto the bed, whilst screaming at him then slapped him around the legs many times. Horrified I ran out and shut the door. This bought me to my all time parenting low and I feel such shame when I record this. I rang A and told him to get home NOW. A rang around to try and get me some help. What an ordeal, we were after some mother baby unit or something and having a tough time finding something. Eventually we hit the jackpot and after being thru the mill with the CAT team and such we stumbled apon the Knox Community Health Service and a wonderful woman in Family Services. It took me awhile to work up the courage not to cancel appointments and actually go see her (after her initial home visit). I saw her for over a year and if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be here writing this now.
I started medication but after a couple of weeks I quit as N had a rash (in hindsight I know that this was a hormone rash and not reaction to the meds). I think I started back on zoloft when she was about 16wks old and over time I started to feel human. My mum stayed for 5wks once again to help me out thankfully.
I must add that A was collapsing under the stress and anxiety and depression that he was suffering from but refusing to deal with conventionally or even acknowledge at times. We went for days without talking, he shut down totally from myself and the kids as his way of dealing with this and work stress.

When Nienna was 11mths I left my marriage. March 10, 2005 I told A and I moved out at the end of April when I found a house. I believe if I had stayed I would have died at my own hand for various reasons. Because this is about my PND/Depression journey I don't feel I can go into detail regarding my relationship with A as that is not fair to him as he can't respond here for himself. I feel I was a victim of abuse of sorts, not physical but emotional and mental and I needed to get out to get better.

This was a turning point in my healing process but not so good in regards to my relationship with B. He was traumatised by the separation, which I still don't understand as by the time we left A was not contributing to the parenting at all and barely acknowledged the kids, yet B was hysterical at leaving A. I took this as a personal attack from Beren and truly believed he hated me and wanted me dead. After some time of this I had to let him live with A and visit me as I couldn't cope with him and I couldn't continue to see him traumatised. This arrangement went on for quite some time. Nienna and I had a good strong bond but Beren was an alien to me who I baby sat a couple of days a week under sufferance. My mental health wasn't too bad, the occasional bad day but on a whole much better. .........

17 oct - yes there is more LOL

For 12 months I continued to thrive. I set up a small business 'Flock Art' started volunteering at a local community centre and continued to participate in a playgroup with the kids. When Nienna turned two she started doing overnights with A which meant that for the first time in 4yrs I had real time to myself. I know I had the odd melt down and was still feeling extremely tortured over my relationship with Beren. The turning point of 2006 was being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome. I finally had a reason for feeling tired, in pain and stiff all the time. I had a reason and this was enough to help me feel a bit better as for so long I thought I was just going crazy and imagining so many symptoms. It can't be cured, it is commonly linked to depression and they do tend to feed each other. Over time I have learnt triggers and how to manage it all much better. Diet plays a big role, high sugar and crap food equals pain flair up. Pain flair up equals depressive episode equals stress equals pain flair up. A horrible vicious circle. I am mindful of being too tired as this can kick start the cycle in record time.

Last year I started studying at Swinburne Uni and we moved house to Bayswater. It was a big year that saw me totally exhausted by Sept and very close to a complete meltdown. I ended up going back on Meds after a short break and leveled out again at 200mg of zoloft daily. A had the kids when I had uni so usually for 3 days or so and this helped immensely. However by the end of the year I started to see him nosediving into worse depression and stress and felt the children were not benefiting from being with him so much so I had to make the incredibly difficult decision to remove them from his care completely on the advice of DOCS. This broke my heart as it hurt him and them but I still believe it has been the right decision.

This instigated a turning point in my relationship with Beren though. Since November last year we have bonded and grown to know, like and love each other. He can actually look at me for the first time in 5 or so years and I feel such a swell of my heart when I see him. I am so very proud of my little boy. He has blossomed this year , especially since starting school. He used to be a little boy who was very angry, violent, unable to communicate with anyone and unwilling to try anything new. Now he chats away, is incredibly intelligent, eager to initiate conversations and manages his anger and frustration much better than he used to. He is doing grade 2 level of work in prep and is constantly trying do activities outdoors. He started a littlies basketball group this term and loves it. This year has been tougher for me. I haven't been able to rely on A to have the kids and have had to juggle things with the kids, Nienna has done creche this year but absolutely loves it. I have done my 2nd and last year of Community Development and also completed a Diploma of Sustainability and I might had with a 98% average grade that I am pretty proud of. I have applied to do a Batchelor of Social Science next year but also hope to get a part time job as rent rises etc are making living a touch challenging at times.
I have also cut back my meds and been on 150mg for the past 6 weeks and plan to take that down to 100mg by the end of the year. Best of all, this year I have not had a melt down and despite it being tough time wise etc I feel totally supported and feel taht I have a great circle of friends for the first time since being in Melbourne really. I can smile and mean it and I don't wake up every day pissed off that I actually woke up. I can wake, look out the window and think 'What a beautiful day!" and again I mean it.

What else helps me? SLEEP! If I don't get enough I do start to wilt and get teary and find I can't cope with whinging, arguing kids, when I normally can (just LOL). Getting out and about, even if it is taking a book and laying in the hammock reading, being out in sunlight is great for you. If I feel stressed around the witching hour of 4-6pm then I take the kids and go to the park at the end of our street, I knit or read and they play. Have a bath and relax, ring a friend, catch a movie, go to a cafe and order coffee and cake, chocolate.

I hope for those that read this far and perhaps have moments the same or know someone who does that you can get through that dark tunnel. I know if someone had told me that I would have scoffed but I am realistic, I know that I could very well fall in a heap again but I know I can get up and I sure as hell will. Best of all, I know I have a cheering squad telling me I can and reaching out to help and for that I am eternally grateful.

Most of all, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Tell someone you have depression/PND and there is a 90% chance that they have too or know someone who has. We need to get out there and talk about it and tell people about it our silence fuels the stigma and increases the odds of women not surviving. So go on, tell us your story!


Char said...

I missed it (didnt check email) but will download to watch. ((hugs))

Tanja said...

Big hugs!
It's such a hidden problem. I wish more people would speak out about it. I hope you are able to find good support.
Go gently as you process this.

Kat said...

I saw the end of that doco. My husband said "what a negative show" but I disagreed -the mother I thought was amazingly strong and brave to go into therapy, let alone be the subject of a doco. What a huge thing for her to do. As you say, it is a great unspoken issue - it's too scary and taboo. I'm thinking of you - much love, Kat

belinda said...


I can't say I understand because I am not a mother but I do sincerely hope you can find your peace on this issue.

Waking up to a reality where something you were told would just fall into place..loving your child turns into a living hell of guilt ridden torment has to be one of the most confronting experiences that anyone could go through.

Ignorance seems to have been the way decided to deal with so many of these birth/parenting issues. Everything from the statistics of loosing the child pre term to the realities and very real complications of childbirth to issues after the child is born such as an inability to breast feed and post natal depression sets up a very real expectation that its all going to be a dream come true. The big problem with that is that when things do go wrong or things don't just slot into place we feel we have nowhere to turn for support and guilty for feeling like we need it.

Kind Regards

Keely said...

thank you so much for sharing the beginning of your story! it's something that affects so many mothers (& depression in general affects so many people!) yet no one talks about it, admits to it, it's like a shameful secret to be hidden away. The minute you actually start talking & being open about it though, all these people come out of the woodword & talk abotu themselves or family members/friends who've had/have it. without talking about it, we don't know how 'normal' it in fact is in this day and age.

belinda said...


Thanks for being so brave and telling this much of your story.

Depression in general is such an insidious illness. It feeds on silence and shrouds the person in darkness.

I know the illness from the side of a partner. For me at times the guilt of not being able find a way to make my partners life seem like its worth living just breaks my heart. Being not able to convince him that he can seek help makes me weep.

Kind Regards

Char said...

Gods, I saw you then, and I see you know, and it is like knowing two different people. I am so glad that you are able to get this all down in words, and that you have the courage to stand up for what PND is really about. You arent alone hon

C xx

Kat said...

There are so many similarities between you and me . . . thinking of you and thank you so much for sharing your story. What an amazing and strong woman you are. I feel really privileged to "know" you, albeit through cyberspace.
Kat shaw

Katanya said...

what an amazing story K, I think many women will benifit from reading this..I didn't suffer PND but I was in a very bad place when Felix was sick, I would doubt if any mother has not been through some level of depression or anxiety under these circumstances..you are a strong woman..

Kat said...

thank you so much K for writing this up. I agree about the stigma issue. I used to feel so embarrassed to have had a break down and I didn't want anyone to know. But over the past year or two, and in part thanks to your story, I am able to speak more openly about depression and hopefully be a sounding board for my friends/neighbours/workmates - anyone who'll listen basically *lol* - as you say, "you are not alone".
Much love,

Kebeni said...

thankyou to all who have read and/or left a comment. I gain such strength from 'knowing' all you strong women out there. I truly am blessed


belinda said...

Hi Kebeni,

Thanks so much for finishing telling your story.

If only most of us learned earlier that its never about the fall, its about having the will to get up again. Even if it takes reaching for resources and support that you are not even sure are there.


lillismum said...

hey kebeni,
i stumbled on your blog courtesy of Ravelry.....
your story has changed my life, i could have wrote some of this myself especially the list.
i am going to seek help...thank you

Kebeni said...

Thank you for your comment. Much strength to you and I hope you get the help you seek.