Postnatal Depression: My devastating midwife experience…

truth

Me:  (almost in tears) “Um, what did you just put down the sink?”

Horrible Midwife:  (haughtily) “Got rid of the left over milk from the feed, why?”

Me:  (crying uncontrollably) “That was the colostrum I just expressed for his next feed.”

Horrible Midwife:   “Oh.”  (and abruptly leaves the SCN)

It was 3 days after the birth of our LM and we were not in a good way.  That morning, our gorgeous baby boy had been diagnosed with severe jaundice as a result of the bruising and hematoma he experienced during birth and now required phototherapy for a minimum of 24 hours in the Special Care Nursery (SCN).  After that time, more blood tests would be done to determine if his TcB level (the level of bilirubens in his blood) was low enough for him to be discharged with me.  I was a wreck!  Whilst I could hold him every 3 hours to feed (expressed bottles of colostrum, then top-ups of formula, as he was too weak to breastfeed), he was otherwise left in the phototherapy crib with a little blindfold over his eyes and all I could do was watch him or sit alone in my room.   I was suffering the normal “baby blues” hormonal impact and could rationalise everything that was happening in my mind, however it didn’t stop the tears or the intense guilt I was experiencing with regard to his condition.  I wasn’t coping, I knew that… but this woman… I just could NOT believe she was doing this to me again!

Perhaps let me start at the very beginning…

It was not a good birth.  Indeed, I will go as far as to say it was a horrible, very traumatic birth.  People ask me “Was it a natural delivery?” and my response is usually, “Well… it was a vaginal delivery, but not what I’d particularly call natural”.    It was a truly challenging and intense 72 hours of pre-labour and labour that I most definitely could have done without.   The end result, of course, was our gorgeous little boy, but honestly… the getting there was something I would never want to repeat in my lifetime – not physically or emotionally.  And the whole experience was made even worse by one particular midwife I was unfortunate enough to have “care” for me from the mid-morning shift (I was admitted to hospital at 8am) until 11pm, half an hour before my LM’s birth.  I will be eternally grateful I did NOT have that woman present at the actual birth of my baby.   The lovely midwife who replaced her literally at the 11th hour will go down forever as the one saving grace in this terrible story, and I am so incredibly thankful every day for her gentleness, support, and empathy.  She was everything I had hoped all midwives would be, however the scars had already been administered and they were deep… so deep they continued to hurt me right up until the birth of my little girl a year ago.

It’s been 3 and a half years since I came face-to-face with THAT woman, yet I still remember her name, her face, her accent, the colour of her hair, the indifference in her eyes, the tone of her voice.  I remember EVERY single thing about her.  After the LM’s birth, I did my best to move on from the worst of my feelings, but when I fell pregnant again I started having recurring nightmares sparked from my previous experience.  In my dreams I was screaming at Dr B, yelling at him to “get her away from me”, “don’t let her near me”, “get her hands off my baby”!  My anxiety was real.  My intense fear was real.  The feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, and helplessness were REAL.   I would wake with a heaving chest, breathless, and crying.  It soon became apparent I had not moved passed these feelings at all.  Just before I was diagnosed with PND (when LM was 8 months old), I had attended a counselling session and we had discussed my birthing experience in great detail.  I had never cried so much in my life.  Whilst sharing my thoughts with Mrs D at the time was a huge relief, my feelings had remained unresolved.  Hidden from view, I simply hoped they would slowly fade over time… Clearly, they had not.

In hindsight, I honestly don’t think my expectations around the quality of midwifery care I would receive were unreasonable.  The majority of what we see and hear from family and friends about their personal care during birth  is warm, kind, giving, and supportive.  Indeed, our private hospitals and specialists pride themselves on the quality of their midwifery care.  And really, whilst I had “ideas” around what I would “like” for my birth experience, I certainly was not inflexible to the advice of midwives and specialists.  I ask questions.  I do.  I like to know what my options are and be informed before making a decision.  So was it unreasonable to expect this woman to speak gently, inform me of my options, and generally treat me with compassion and understanding?  Surely not.  I had been having contractions for over 24 hours, and with no sleep was downright exhausted.  Perhaps I could understand if her attitude progressively worsened with her shift as she became tired and run-down due to the over-burden of care required of midwives these days.  But she walked into her shift with me that morning projecting a coldness I had never before experienced.  To have to endure 10 hours of such blatant indifference and patronsing behaviour left me feeling beyond powerless.  In my time of need, I had been let down by the very person I had hoped would simply hold my hand, put my fears at bay, and provide me the strength and information I would need to get me through until the end.  It was instead a nightmare.   I could go into so many examples of her behaviour that day, but instead I think I’ll leave it with the one I began with at the start…

So there we were, my HF and I, sitting in the SCN nursery doing what we had to do to ensure the health of our baby and in the awful midwife from my labour walks.  Straight away, as the regular SCN nurse left to take her break, she began telling me how it was my own expectations that had let me down as “they were way too high”… Of myself, my birth, my general experience.  And all the while she was nursing our LM instead of placing him in the arms of my HF as the regular nurse would have done.  That’s right.  That’s what she said whilst refusing to let my HF feed our tiny boy (which he would do whilst I sat and expressed for the next feed) because “this is the only chance I get to cuddle babies on my break”.  That’s what she said as she ignored the advice from the SCN nurse as to which teat our LM was to use on his bottle (“Oh, don’t be stupid, he’ll be fine.  He’ll take this from me.”).  And again it was this arrogant, condescending tone of voice that was ringing in my ears as she threw the 30mls of colostrum I had just pain-stakingly spent half an hour expressing down the sink.  By accident, of course.  You see, she had been so busy patronising my perceived high expectations, she hadn’t realised it was my colostrum (not left-over milk) she was throwing away.

She did apologise as I sat sobbing hysterically, trying to deal with the reality of my baby being in the SCN,  hormonal “baby blues”, the pain in my breasts from pumping, in addition to her abhorrent treatment.  But in hindsight, even her apology left me cold.  After she had walked out of the SCN upon realising her mistake, I remember my HF holding me in his arms shaking with anger as the regular SCN nurse came back into the nursery to comfort me, saying how awful the other midwife felt and how sometimes these things “just happen”.  Then SHE reappeared.  That horrible woman walked back into the nursery, came over to where we were sitting and awkwardly tapped me on the shoulder in what I can only assume was an attempt at comfort.  But it was the haughtily addressed “I’m sorry.. but you know it’s not the end of the world if he has to be formula fed” that finally broke me.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I couldn’t lift my head to even look at her.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I was done.  And with that she simply walked away and I didn’t see her again.  It was a moment in time both my HF and I will never forget… for all the wrong reasons.

Her behaviour was atrocious.  Her actions were unfathomable.  Her overall impact on my birth experience was devastating.  And I hope to goodness no other mother EVER has to experience such helplessness and powerlessness at the hands of such an awful person.  Maybe she was just having a bad day.  Maybe she had her own things going on that I didn’t know about.  Maybe… maybe… maybe!  I have tried so hard to be understanding of her behaviour, but nothing seems to justify nor will ever take away how she made me feel.  I know they say we choose how we feel about any given situation, but giving birth is such a vulnerable experience.  It doesn’t matter your personality, your age, your profession.  You are at your most vulnerable!  And that is the power of midwifery care… a power I know the majority of midwives would use only for the absolute good of their patients, not to their detriment.  Unfortunately,  I was one of the unlucky ones that time around.

I can say though without any hesitation that Dr B ensured my second birthing experience was the best it could possibly be… and the quality of midwifery care I received was amazingly warm and still makes me smile when I think back to my time in hospital with MH.  A very stark contrast, and one for which I will be forever thankful!   It’s incredible how healing a good experience can be on the back of something so traumatic and unexpected.  It’s been a huge relief to finally get this experience all down in writing!  I am always surprised at how much “feeling” I still have with regard to this issue and want to thank-you for allowing me to feel safe enough to share it with you here.

Thanks for reading as always and really hope everyone is doing well.

TSM… xx

Postnatal Depression: Christmas cheer… Christmas fear!

Christmas Panic Button

So, this is Christmas… And I completely underestimated the impact this time of year would have on me.  When I say “impact”, I mean panic, anxiety, a deep-seeded fear of going back to that awful “dark” place which was the norm for me at this time last year.  I didn’t think for a second the demons of Christmas past would create such a dreaded feeling within me in the lead up to Christmas present.  But in thinking about it, of course they would rear their ugly heads again…It actually makes perfect sense.

It was this time last year my world completely fell apart.  I had struggled for months leading up to Christmas to maintain a “normal” life in the eyes of those around me, whilst inside I was struggling with a vicious darkness each and every day, every minute of every day.  It was a terrifying existence and one I am so thankful to have moved forward from, although the bad days occasionally still happen (as per my previous post!).  The past 12 months, with thanks to a wonderful GP, counseling, and medication, have seen me able to enjoy life again.  Step by step, I’ve been able to slowly get back on track and find within myself little pieces of the person I used to be.  I became able again to spend time with my family and not only enjoy it, but be thankful and grateful for every moment we have together.  All of these positives were a completely foreign feeling for me last Christmas.

Not surprisingly then, I’ve found when encountering the same festive occasions this year a feeling of panic clenches at my chest and my anxiety become all consuming.  It’s a massive effort to remind myself of how far I’ve actually come and to not let the same fear take over my mind.  It’s terrifying and every time it happens I feel like I’ve been emotionally beaten up.  But the difference this time is that I’m more equipped to manage what is happening and walk away the victor nine times out of ten.   It has been an eye-opening experience for me, a reminder of how this awful illness can rear it’s ugly head time and time again, in ways you don’t ever expect.

But as I said before, I think it makes sense I’m experiencing all these feeling again.  Last Christmas truly scarred me to the very core of who I am as a person.  Everything I valued about myself had been lost, and I felt completely out of control.  Nothing could make me feel better and the lows were getting lower and darker every day.  I think the lesson for me this Christmas is the need to re-program my mind to remember the positive times, not those hateful negatives.  I need to keep on top of the fear, the panic, and the anxiety and remember all I’ve accomplished during the past 12 months.  Because when I look at it, and if I’m really honest with myself, I have actually accomplished a lot!  I’m hoping by focusing on these things I can approach next Christmas with a much improved confidence and not be hindered by the unexpected PND-Monster trying to drag me back down at every turn.

So on a much more positive note, I wanted to share with you a wonderful idea I saw on another blog I absolutely love, One Handed Cooks.  I love this blog all round, however when I saw this post today I actually had a little giggle out loud to myself – what a brilliant idea!  These little delights are called “Reindeer Poop” and I think the concept is just so cute.  I hope you can share in the fun with your family and friends also –  I certainly plan to on Christmas Day!

reindeer

Thanks as always for reading, and if I don’t post again before Christmas here’s wishing each and every one of you a fantastic and festive holiday period filled with fun and laughter.  It’s all yours to enjoy!

Take care,

TSM… xx

Postnatal Depression: Even strong people need hugs…

I’m going to be 100% honest and say I am desperately unhappy at the moment… I don’t know why, I just am.  And I need a hug.  Did I mention that?  Just a massive, all-consuming, let’s-not-talk-about-anything, warm, loving hug!  I will warn you though…  In the event you decide to give me the before mentioned hug, I will break down and cry… Well, weep actually.  Yes, I will weep, and weep, and shudder, blow my nose, and probably weep some more.  And my mascara will run, and so will my nose… It will NOT be a pretty sight.  Just putting that out there.

I’m hurting deep, deep down inside and I just don’t know what to do about it.

So my answer is this… I will write it down and try to leave just a little bit of the hurt in my words on this page.  Surely by venting and getting all of these tumultuous emotions out on the table I will be able to lighten this burden upon myself and get back to the business of being strong… Right?

I’m not sure there is any one reason for this hurt, more that there are a great many “little things” that have been accumulating for a long time now and have finally gotten the better of me.  Things I know I can’t fix.  Things I know I have no control over.  Things I know I simply CANNOT continue to live with.  The age-old “catch-22” situation.   Hence the hurting… The pain of knowing something has to give and not wanting it to be my final ounce of self-worth.  Not wanting it to be my losing my mind completely.  Not wanting it to be my leaving because I don’t feel I have any other option.  I am scared, and my God do I feel alone… So completely alone.

How do I be the best mother and person I can be when I’m feeling so crappy so much of the time?  How do I be a warm, loving role-model to my son when I’m in so much pain myself, and so angry about the things I cannot change?  I’m scared for him… And I’m scared for me.  This is not the life I want to live.

I fell asleep last night hoping against all hope I would wake this morning and feel better… But alas, it was not meant to be.  I know these feelings will pass, but at what or who’s expense?  Will they simply be pushed back down with all of those other feelings until the next time everything erupts again?  Will I continue to hurt my HF and family with my godawful, brutal honesty?   Will I continue to pretend everything is okay until the next dark day I have when I’m helpless to keep my mind from letting everything out?  Decisions need to me made.  But I can’t make them now.

I just need a hug.

TSM  xx

Just Because: My life in numbers…

There’s a little blog roll happening over at G*funk*ified regarding “My Life In Numbers”.  I love this concept and as such have felt compelled to write my own little list and add it to the roll… Here goes:

38 – number of years I’ve been on this earth (I’m only 37 but you have to count that first year, right?)

4 – number of primary schools I went to (one only for 2 weeks)

2 – number of high schools I attended

1 – number of universities I have studied at

6 – number of times I thought I had fallen in love during my life

3 – number of years it took being on my own to understand the importance of self-worth, self-love, and self-respect

1 – number of times I KNEW I had fallen love

5 – number of years I have loved my Handsome Fiance

11 – number of months it took us to conceive

512 – number of days our Little Man has (so far) filled our lives with sunshine

5,329 – (approx) number of times the LM has made me laugh for no particular reason

102 – (approx) number of times he has made me cry

42 – number of times per day I remind the LM to use “gentle hands”

37 – number of different solutions we tried to cure the LM’s eczema

1 – number of allergy tests it took to realise that egg and dairy were the culprits

311 – number of days since admitting I needed help for my Postnatal Depression symptoms

4 – number of people closest to me I felt I could tell straight away

83 – number of days since I’ve felt the weight of my depression may have lifted somewhat

157, 943 – (approx) number of times I have berrated myself for not being “good enough”, trying “hard enough”, or simply being “enough” for my son, family, and friends

157,944 – (approx) number of times I’ve told myself I AM enough, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks 🙂

6 –  number of therapy sessions I’ve gone to this year

2 – number of amazingly inspirational women I’ve personally met who’ve shown me the value in what I’ve so far accomplished

4 – number of words in the name of the organisation I’ve found to be the most incredible support for women experiencing perinatal mental illness… Peach. Tree. Perinatal. Wellness.

84 – (approx) number of connections I’ve made through blogging with women all over the world sharing the same PND  journey

3 – number of days per week I go to work, start my day with a “child-free” coffee, and simply “be” in an adult world

3 – number of days per week I miss the LM like crazy

1 – number of dogs we own

5 – number of times per day I ask the LM to please NOT sit on the dog

1 – number of cats we own

4 – number of times the dog thinks he can take on the cat each day… and loses!

2 – the number of tattoos I have (what?????)

And on that note, I might leave it there… This list could go on forever!

I hope you’re all enjoying a wonderful day and will post again very soon.

Take care,

TSM  xx

Postnatal Depression: A day in the life…

I’ve posted before about days I’ve shared with the dreaded Postnatal Depression Monster (PND-M) jumping up and down demanding my attention (Postnatal Depression:  My shower, my sanctuary), and today has been yet another one of those days… Those suffocatingly dark, ugly, hurtful, and just plain YUK days.  I have to be honest and say I really don’t like writing when I’m feeling like this, but then I also know that this is real… This is what it means to have a “down” day and I would be lying if I didn’t let you know exactly how that feels for me.  And besides, writing it down sometimes helps me clear the muddled mess.  Sometimes.

Before I get into anything further, please just know I am not proud of myself on days such as these.  No wait.  Sometimes I am proud of the way I can place my “I’m-coping-just-fine” mask firmly in place and get on with my day as though absolutely nothing is wrong.  But there are other days of which I’m most definitely not proud.  Those days, like today, where everything gets the better of me from the moment I wake up and I lose all control.  All sense of reason and rational thought go flying out the window.  Those days when the reality of my situation sinks to the core of my being and I just can’t take it anymore.  When my instinct is to run… just run away and never look back.  Surely I would be better off on my own, right?  Surely my HF and my family would be so much happier if I just wasn’t here… right?

The PND-M has been literally beating me up today.  I am bruised, battered, and at a loss as to what to do.  He’s a hard beast to take on at the best of times and today he’s had the upper hand ALL day.  I feel like he hasn’t even let me come up for air, and it’s that suffocating feeling that terrifies me the most.  Instead of being able to rationally deal with what’s going on within my family, all I hear are mumbled versions of what people are trying to say.  All I see are looks in my direction implying no one has any idea what I’m talking about.  All I feel is the dread of knowing I have nothing left to offer anyone, let alone my family who need such a stronger, better person on whom they can rely than the broken version they currently have.

On days like this, it feels like everything I try to say gets filtered by the PND-M and what comes out of my mouth is bitter, twisted, and a cruel, hurtful version of the words I’m actually trying to say.  My ability to communicate with others, and with myself, is non-existent and I drown in the feeling of helplessness it creates.  I snap.  I react.  I don’t even think twice.  I hear myself saying things – viscous things – that shock me to the very core of who I am.  And all the while, that nasty PND-M just sits there in the back of my mind laughing at me.  Taking great pleasure in my pain, as if knowing if it weren’t for his presence my family would be a great deal better off.

But is it the PND-M’s influence?  Is he really the reason I act like this?  Or is this just me now?  I get so confused.  And so incredibly scared the latter is true.

A while ago I read a quote on A Beautiful Mess Inside ‘s blog, she said:

“I think our beauty and our mess go together and are simply parts of a whole, worthwhile, and lovable human being. The mess gives our lives texture, richness, and depth.” 

Whilst I know these words to be true, I just can’t see it nor feel it today.  I am desperately hoping against all hope tomorrow provides me the clarity I need to get things back on track.  I don’t have that clarity right now, in fact I’m struggling to just keep moving forward against the pressure of this cloud.  Surely the light through this darkness can’t be too far away, can it? Please don’t let it be too far.  I think I just need to go to bed so I can awaken tomorrow to a new day.

Through it all though, I do know I’m not the only person who’s ever felt this way… This (dare I say it) depressed.  But isn’t it absolutely amazing how isolated and alone you feel when your depression does overwhelm you… When those feelings take over your whole body, particularly your ability to reason and maintain control of everything you know to be true about yourself.  When the only question you want answered is:  Will this ever end?

I sincerely hope you are having a much better day and my apologies for not having anything more positive to say.  Next time… I promise.

TSM  xx

Remember:

Post Natal Depression Awareness Week is 18 – 24 November.  Please help spread the message that post natal depression is not all black and white.

Over 45,500 women and 14,000 men (15 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men) will be diagnosed with postnatal depression in Australia this year.   The more we talk, the more we can improve the well being of Australian families.

If you or someone you know needs help you can all the PANDA national helpline on 1300 726 306 or visit www.panda.org.au

Postnatal Depression: A letter to my Handsome Fiance…

Dearest Handsome Fiance,

Today is your birthday and I feel more love for you than I’ve ever felt before.  At this moment in time, I’m overwhelmed by your commitment, loyalty, love, and dedication to not only our family, but to me personally. You are a truly amazing and compassionate man, and I will forever be grateful to fate for allowing our paths to cross.

The past 18 months for us, since the birth of our LM, have been so wonderful, yet so devastating for our relationship in so many different ways.  To be honest, few days go by I don’t wonder why on earth you are still here, still putting up with my erratic moods and irrational thoughts.  I am forever asking myself:  “What did I do to deserve this incredible man?”  Yes, things have been getting better for us.  And yes, we’ve both worked extremely hard to ensure our relationship has not become a victim of my postnatal depression diagnosis.  But the nagging thought (yes, that nasty PND-M) in the back of my mind continues to remind me that you didn’t sign up for this… You didn’t ask to be confronted and impacted by such a powerful and destructive illness.  You didn’t fall in love with a broken woman. 

But here I am… broken. 

And here you are… Loving me in all my “brokeness”, reminding me daily I’m the most important thing in your world.

So today, I want to remind you that you are definitely the most important thing in my world and always will be.  I know I have placed our relationship under considerable stress and strain over the past 18 months and even though you haven’t always understood what was going on, you continued to be my greatest supporter.  The look in your eyes during those early days whilst I was having my “meltdowns” showed me your confusion and uncertainty first hand, but you stuck by me.  And from the day we received my diagnosis, I watched you learn to “manage” my moods and emotions in a way I never thought you capable… But there you were, standing tall and always being the better person to ensure things didn’t get out of hand.  You worked with me tirelessly to help me understand which parts of me were real and which were a result of my depression.  I completely underestimated your capabilities – they have proved amazing!   And for that I will be forever in your debt.

We’ve spoken a lot recently about how much things have improved with my depression, how things are feeling less difficult and more “normal” (whatever that means).  So much so, I’ve even found myself daydreaming about life in a way I haven’t done since our LM was born.  I have your love, respect, and support to thank for this.  Without you, I believe whole-heartedly I wouldn’t be here today sharing my feelings with you, thanking you for everything you have brought to my life.  I shudder to think what dealing with postnatal depression without your warmth and understanding would have meant.  Because together, we are stronger today than we ever have been. 

So… Happy Birthday, my amazingly Handsome Fiance.  You are my everything… Every day, in every possible way.  I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.  I love you to the ends of the earth and back again… And much, much more.

Yours forever and always,

TSM xx

Postnatal Depression: To have? Or not to have? That is the question…

The last couple of days have seen me thinking about something I never thought I’d think about… Having another baby.  I always swore I was a “one child mum”.  I always preached whilst pregnant that I was most certainly NOT a “natural earth mother” put on this planet to procreate and have an abundance of children.  However, it seems there are many factors impacting me at the moment forcing me to take the topic that little bit more seriously.  I’ll be honest… I don’t want to think about it.  Not at all.  The horror of being pregnant again is frightening in so many ways.  Those feelings of awfulness following our LM’s birth are in themselves enough to see me running in the opposite direction.  But alas, thinking about it I am.

Let me clarify… When I say “thinking about it”, I mean that in a very literal sense.  I am just thinking a lot of thoughts which happen to be focused around being pregnant again and having another baby.  It is NOT to say there is any type of actual decision making going on in my mind as to whether or not that baby will one day become reality.  Does that makes sense?   At the moment I’m surrounded by friends who are either:

  • trying to fall pregnant (with either first or second bub);
  • reassuring me that if I fell pregnant it would be different this time;
  • asking (with no knowledge of my PND battle), “So, when’s number 2 going to be on its way?”;
  • asking (with knowledge of my PND battle), “So, things seem to be getting better… Will you go for number 2?”;
  • telling me my biological clock is ticking, so best make a decision now.

It appears I’m simply being thrown a curve ball with regard to working through issues I perhaps didn’t want to deal with right now.  I’m being made to face my demons and confront head on those reasons for feeling the way I do about having another child.    Okay, so maybe that’s all fair enough.   From what I can make sense of so far, my main thoughts both for and against the idea are as follows:

FOR:

  • I like the idea of our LM having another sibling close to his age as he grows up, particularly when he’s older;
  • BF2 is trying for another baby and it would be nice to share the experience with her again;
  • Maybe this time it would feel “good” to be pregnant;
  • Maybe the labour would be a more “natural” process;
  • Maybe the birth would be much less traumatic for both myself and the babe;
  • Maybe the postnatal period would be different – full of good and positive feelings, enjoying every moment;
  • Maybe my HF and I could enjoy the experience together.

AGAINST:

  • I only ever wanted to have one child and can’t imagine a life with more than one;
  • What if my experience was exactly the same?  Would I be able to cope?  (I don’t think so)  Would I beat myself up about it?  (most probably, yes);
  • I am petrified of going through postnatal depression again;
  • My HF has been through enough, it would not be fair to put him through anything more;
  • Our life is only just getting back to “normal” after 18 months of roller coaster madness;
  • I am too old to have another baby.
  • What if I had a girl?

I always find it helps to clarify your thoughts when you write things down this way.  As is proven here… Do you see what I see?  Look at all those “maybe’s” in the FOR section.  By compiling this list, I get the sense I’m more concerned about making my past experience “right” by going through it all again.  But as you know, the reality could be that my experience would be exactly the same (as I’m also very afraid of).  My innermost need to somehow justify what both the LM and myself went through over the past 18 months, not to mention the impact it had on our family as a whole, would be the only reason I would consider having another child.

Very clearly, I want to make it right – for all of us.  But I can’t.   I want to experience pregnancy and child birth in the “ideal” way I had always envisioned.  Not have as my only reality this traumatic, dark, clouded experience I don’t like to think about.  I want desperately for my HF to experience me at my glowing, pregnant best, singing and dancing about the joys of motherhood every afternoon when he arrives home from work.  I don’t want him left with the memory of how ugly I’ve become.  How difficult and straining the past 18 months have been, and how much he’s had to pick up the loose ends just to keep things together.  But most of all, I want to know myself as a “happy” mum.  I want to know what being a mum feels like when you’re not held down under this constant weight and pressure of postnatal depression.

If I’m really prepared to slap myself in the face with the truth… I want to prove I’m not a failure as both a partner and mother and that I can do it properly!

Maybe… Maybe… Maybe…

I want… I want… I want…

But honestly, what about making the most of what I have right now?   It seems I’m letting that little question slip right through the cracks by focusing too much on the past, and thinking I can change it with the future.  I need to take a good, hard look at myself.  Take a step back… take a deep breath… and live THIS life.  Not the “ideal” life I somehow feel I’ve missed out on.  But for anyone who’s suffered from postnatal depression knows, it’s definitely easier said than done.  The positive for me at this time, I guess, is that being aware of what’s happening deep, down beneath all those crazy thoughts is (I hope!) 80% of the battle won.

Thanks so much as always for reading my babbling thoughts and continued efforts to sort them out… I appreciate it more than you know!  This has been a huge off-loading of information, so do hope it all makes sense for you in one way or another.

Until next time, take care.

TSM  xx

Postnatal Depression: Couples therapy feedback… Is this good or bad?

Two weeks ago, my HF and I went to our first couples therapy session.  Both of us thought the experience went well and we are eager to continue as we think it will do our relationship the world of good.  During that first session with Mrs O, both of us were asked to  fill in two questionnaires (in the waiting room whilst the other spoke with Mrs O on their own).  The first questionnaire was about our relationship, basically were we happy in our relationship, was it rewarding, or not.  The second was to assess our current levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.  We filled them in willingly, and I know for myself I didn’t really think about the results again.

When we walked into our next session with Mrs O, she calmly asked us to take a seat and said, “Okay, so I have your scores for the questionnaires you filled in for me last week and…”   What came next was confronting, but not shocking, and I walked out of her office that afternoon feeling raw, extremely vulnerable, and just a little bit sick in my stomach.  I mean, I know the last month has been a struggle, but are things really that bad?  This is what transpired:

“… HF let’s start with you.  You scored within the normal range for stress, normal for anxiety, and normal for depression.  And the good news is, both of you scored around a 7 on the relationship scale, so it means you’re both relatively happy and on the same page in that respect.  Now, TSM, for your results.  You scored within the normal range for stress, within the severe range for anxiety, and the extremely severe range for depression.  This is something we need to tackle head on, straight away.”

Okay, so things are obviously THAT bad!  I initially felt a little numb when Mrs O said what my results indicated.  It’s been 8 months since my diagnosis, surely things were getting better by now?  Then she asked if these results were a surprise to me and I replied that honestly no, they were not.  How could they be a surprise when I’d been feeling so crappy over the past month and at a loss to explain why?  I looked over to where my HF was sitting and he was looking at me with a really sad expression on his face.  It wasn’t that he was feeling sorry for me, I know that.  I just think he feels so incredibly helpless to assist me in getting things back on track.  And I continue to feel incredibly guilty for all the damage I’m causing our family and for not providing him with the life I know (well, I think) he desperately wants.  These such feelings are the reasons why I think Mrs O’s results, at this particular time, have provided both a good and bad outcome for me.

The good outcome is that my moods now make sense (all over again).  I’ve not been feeling so bad because that’s just the person I am, how I’m meant to be.  I’ve been feeling bad because my depression still isn’t in check and I need to find new and different ways to deal with the dark moods when they occur.  I need to work more on what my triggers are and how to recognise them.  Whilst I’d felt things were improving for a good 6 months or more, something has caused a shift over recent months and it’s most definitely in my best interest to get to the bottom of what that may be.  So how do I get to the bottom of it?  The answer is simple… more therapy.  With Mrs O’s help, the goal is to focus on my depression and anxiety over the coming months in individual therapy sessions.  Mrs O firmly believes my HF and my relationship, generally speaking, is not in trouble at all.  In fact, the issues we highlight as “challenging” are what every couple deals with from time to time.  What’s making it more difficult for us to get over, is the influence my depressive moods are having on our ability to communicate with one another on an even playing field.  Until that can happen, until the darkness can be taken out of the equation, our relationship will continue to be “hard work”.  Neither my HF or I want that (obviously), so again the outcome has been good in helping us (namely, me) recognise where the initial issues lay and how best to deal with them.

The bad outcome is, as I mentioned earlier, I had thought I was past all this individual therapy business and to a point I could cope with more on my own.  Whilst in my rational mind it makes perfect sense this is not the case, I still feel like I’ve failed on some level.  I know, I know… this is my irrational mind, the depression talking.  That evil monster getting into my thoughts again making me feel hopeless and worthless, as though I can’t do anything right.  And even though I know individual therapy is going to help me with this monster, there still remains a part of me that desperately wants to be capable again.  Wants to wake of a morning knowing that today is going to be a great day.  Wants to hold my HF’s hand and smile up at him because he is my world and I can’t live without him.  Such thoughts still feel so far away, so I guess the answer for me is to get back to the basics of what my PND has taught me so far.  I need to take each day as it comes and allow myself the freedom of giving myself a break from all of the expectations I pile upon myself (a common thread here?).  I need to break my day down into the smallest, most manageable pieces I can in order to deal with whatever is happening – be that by the hour, the minute, the second, the milli-second.  I need to understand that whatever my thoughts are in this moment can be changed and I have the power to do that within myself.  But mostly, I need to give myself time… After all, time heals all wounds, right?

So, walking out of Mrs O’s office with my HF I felt vulnerable and raw and knew that I couldn’t talk about what was happening within me right then.  I explained this to my HF and he, as usual, didn’t press me further.  We’ve spoken more about things since and our date nights are set to become a regular occurrence (twice monthly) in our schedule.  It’s important we keep talking about how my depression is effecting us, and our date nights allow us to do that as adults and in a way that makes us mean something special to one another again.   I know I will make the effort to learn new strategies in order to overcome this depression because I not only owe it to myself to be the very best person I can possibly be, but I also owe it to my family.  I owe it to them more than anything else in the world.

Thanks as always, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Take care,

TSM  xx

Postnatal Depression: My shower, my sanctuary…

“Young woman taking a shower” (Kazuya Akimoto)

So late yesterday afternoon I found myself in the shower, standing under the hot, steaming water, willing the darkness away… begging it to go away.   It had engulfed me from the moment I had awoken and its ugly weight had been bearing down on me all day.  I was tired, but mostly I was angry.  So incredibly angry.  Little things were driving me unnecessarily crazy.  What the hell was going on?  By the time my HF arrived home from work, I was ready to lose it… really lose it.   So in my mind, the only option I had was to escape.   “I’m having a shower,” I grumbled as I pushed passed him on my way to our ensuite.  “Sure, babe.  Whatever you have to do,” came his reply.  Even his understanding made me angry!

When I’m feeling this far under the cloud of my postnatal depression, the only option I have is to place myself in “timeout”.  I can’t be around people, I can no longer pretend to be okay with the world when I am so clearly not.  And most of all, I can’t stand myself when I’m feeling and acting this way.  I can’t look at myself in the mirror without feeling disgusted by what I see, who I’ve turned into.  I can’t budge the ever-present guilt of the damage such moods cause my family.   So, with all that being said, I’ve had to find a sanctuary within our home I can escape to during such times of need.  And that sanctuary for me is the shower.  It is the one place I can truly be on my own, in my own space, alone with my own thoughts… uninterrupted.  A place I feel safe.

Today I came across a post by Jenny from Tranquilamama, entitled “Split personality” (appearing as a guest blogger at PPD to Joy).  I was obviously meant to come across this post for a reason.  The rage described in Jenny’s post is exactly the rage I find brewing within myself during these dark times.  Her physical symptoms leading up to these moments, whilst different to mine in many ways, are also very similar.  That feeling, that innate NEED, to simply run away from wherever you are to ANYWHERE else is the one symptom I find I absolutely share with Jenny.  It is one of the definite triggers I have to warn me of upcoming and pending disaster if I don’t act NOW (a whole other blog post in itself).   It is sometimes very difficult to get a handle on what’s happening in time to avoid my meltdowns, but I’m finding my ability to do this is getting better as time goes on (and, just quietly, I think my HF is better at identifying them too).  Hence, my need for a sanctuary, somewhere I can run to avoid turning into the dreaded Ms Hyde Jenny describes so well.

Fortunately for me, a well-timed shower late yesterday afternoon provided the tension relief I desperately needed and I was able to get through our evening without further problems.  I was still tired, but the anger had subsided to a lesser degree of agitation and my HF was extremely considerate in not encroaching too much on the space I still craved.  It’s an awful and upsetting situation to find yourself in…  Standing under the shower, water beating down on you, begging for the heat and steam to ease the anger and tension you feel within yourself.  All of this, just so you can walk out and face your family again – without the fear of losing control, or worse, having a complete emotional meltdown.

The hardest thing to admit about yesterday’s cloud though, is that yesterday was probably a better day in many ways than other days have been.   I went shopping with the LM, we bought some great winter clothes specials and did the grocery shop.  I enjoyed a latte and scones at a nice cafe while he ate his morning tea, we laughed and had (it seemed) a great time.  To anyone else looking at us we would have been the perfect picture of a wonderful “mother-son outing”.   Yet I felt the full force of my PND symptoms the whole time.  My mask was firmly in place all day yesterday, and by the time I returned home it was suffocating me beyond belief.  How truly horrifying is that… I can only hope my LM’s recollection of such times with me are not tainted in the same way.  Please, let this be the case.

Thanks so much as always for sharing your time with me.  This was one post I definitely needed to get off my chest, and very much thank Jenny for helping me do that.

Until next time, take care.

TSM  xx

Postnatal Depression: Can I write this week off?

So, it’s been a really crappy week in our household… a REALLY crappy week.  In fact, if I’m perfectly honest with myself, I think I could say it’s almost been a pretty crappy month.  Well, maybe 3 weeks anyway.  I’m at a loss to know what’s going on with me lately, and it’s scaring me no end.  So much so, I’ve booked yet another doctors appointment and my HF and I are off to see a couples therapist.   I’m all for prevention strategies rather than cure when it comes to matters of postnatal depression.  Just unfortunately, for the moment anyway, it appears I need a little of both.

Disclaimer:  Monthly, girly talk below

This week was by far been the worst week I’ve had for quite some time.  I feel as though my medication has simply stopped working.  I’ve been feeling this way for a while now, but this week has really been the pits.  Is it my medication?  Or is it because I was diagnosed with severe tonsillitis AND got my period all in one day?  Am I just hormonally out of whack at the moment?  Or is it because the world can stop for everyone else when they’re sick, but I have to soldier on?  Or is it because my family place unrealistic expectations on me to always be strong?  Or is it me placing these ridiculously unrealistic expectations on myself?  Probably the latter.   But as you know, when you’re in the thick of feeling crappy, worthless, and all the other emotions that come with PND (and hormones!), your thoughts simply run away from you until you have no idea where they started from to begin with.  Sound familiar?  (anyone?)

So, this week… Where to begin?  My HF and I have been fighting – A LOT.  I know it’s because I feel unsupported and unloved, and yet my rational mind also knows this is far from the truth.  My HF does a great deal to support me and show his love for me, but I think that’s the key word:  “does”.  Whilst he “does” a great deal, I don’t “feel” love and support by his “doing” these things for me.  Does that make sense?  If you’ve ever read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman you may know what I’m talking about.  This seems to be the issue for us at the moment, and probably has been for quite some time.  I really feel as though we’re speaking a different language to each other and not on the same page at all.   He’s all about the “doing”, and I’m all about the “feeling”, and neither of us are connecting.  I guess it’s an obvious case of “Acts of Service” v’s “Quality Time”!  I feel he may as well be speaking Japanese because I simply DO NOT understand him anymore!  Hence, the couples therapy decision.  Fortunately for me, my HF is not afraid of seeking outside help when it’s required.  I’m really hoping this will provide us both a safe outlet for our troubles and provide us the tools we need to build the bridge back to one another again.  Because I miss him… I really miss him.

And then there’s being sicker than I’ve been in probably 2 years, with the addition of my god-awful, horrible, period just to make matters worse.  I honestly thought it was just a virus.  Everyone else had been sick with either a stomach upset, or vomiting bug over the past couple of weeks and I was fortunate during that time to avoid most of the nasties.  But alas, come last weekend my throat started to get sore and typically I shrugged it off thinking it was just the same “bug”, nothing more.  By Monday morning it became very apparent it was more than just a bug and the GP confirmed my suspicion of tonsillitis (very, very bad tonsillitis).   I used to get recurrent tonsillitis during highschool as a result of being run-down a great deal of the time.  After high school, my tonsils definitely became the guide by which I could gauge my general health.  Throughout my working life, there have been periods of tonsillitis separated with long remissions.  Over the past 5 years or so, I can count the number of times I’ve had tonsillitis on one hand.   Funnily enough, over the years I did a lot of research into why I was getting tonsillitis so often and in my spiritual reading I came across what I believe to be the most likely reason:  my Throat chakra.  This concept really resonated with me for a number of reasons (which I may need to go into another time).  But basically, the Intuiative Journal’s definition for the Throat chakra is, “The fifth chakra energy center is located within your throat and represents the ability to speak and communicate effectively and is your true voice.”  How uncanny!  When things get truly awful in my life, are getting too much to handle and I can’t seem to communicate or deal with the people closest to me the first thing to give way is…  My throat.   A coincidence – ?

I know it’s a weird way to look at what’s been going on for me, but maybe there is some truth to it.  I can’t speak with my HF without fighting at the moment.  We can’t communicate at all.  We’re about to try couples therapy as a means to “get back on track”.  I get the worst case of tonsillitis I’ve had in years…  What do you think?

It’s a funny kind of post, but I’m really glad you’ve read it and are sticking with me for the ride.   I’ll certainly be sure to let you know how we go and what my GP says about my medication issue.  Thanks so much as always!

Take care,

TSM  xx