Information about Postnatal Depression
I really want to talk a little about Post Natal Depression, it's a subject very close to my heart because Postnatal Depression I feel was what triggered my panic issues in adulthood.
As you know I did suffer a dysfunctional childhood and while it was not the best, It was probably not the worst either. Anyway I had coped with this the best that I could and so from my teenage years until I had my first child in 1999 I was seemingly free from Anxiety and Depression although admittedly looking back I had not really resolved any of my issues, I just was so caught up with enjoying life as a young woman that I had pushed them to the back of my mind.
When I had my first child in 1999 all seemed well and I really enjoyed her and really enjoyed being a mum, The love I felt for my daughter was like nothing else I had ever experienced. I had planned to take a few years off from my Medical Career to bring up my children ( I wanted one more) however my husband then lost his job and as the person with the capacity to earn a good salary I had no choice but to return to full time employment when my daughter was still young.
Before I continue I just want to add that I really do believe if you have issues in your life as a child whatever they might be, there is always a time when you grow up in which a trigger will bring any unresolved issues from the past straight back to the front of your mind for you to deal with.
My trigger seemed to be having my own children as all my worries about what could happen to them were completely irrational and also I was so scared that I was a bad person due to my own parents conditioning of me that I was terrified that having me as a mother would ruin their lives, silly I know but that was how I felt at the time.
It is important to remember though that you do not need to have had a Dysfunctional upbringing to suffer from Post Natal Depression. When you have a baby your body goes through a huge hormonal shift to return to normal and it's this that can upset the system, so unfortunately no one is safe and everyone could be at risk. Remember becoming a parent is a huge change and it can take new parents months to adapt to this new way of life and the challenges that they have to face when having a new baby.
I do think though that if you have any past issues or in fact current issues (maybe you are in an unhappy marriage or suffering financial problems at the time of giving birth for example), or maybe you have had a difficult delivery when having your baby, then the huge hormonal change coupled together with having the responsibility of a baby to look after and all the associated changes to your life, makes a firm basis for suffering from Post Natal Depression.
Let's just break off from my story and look at the facts.
Post Natal Depression usually develops in the first four to six weeks after childbirth, although in some cases it can be several months before signs and symptoms start to show.
There are loads of symptoms, I remember finding it quite terrifying and very bewildering. It's a terrible thing to have and robbed me of precious months enjoying my first daughter and my second.
I will try to list symptoms as I know them:
- A feeling of being scared and unable to cope, in fact feeling quite desperate
- It's a constant feeling of dread and doom, like there is a black cloud following you round and it will never go away.
- You feel completely out of control of yourself and your thoughts and feelings
- A very low mood
- It's a complete lack of motivation to do anything at all and everything that you used to enjoy now holds no interest or enjoyment at all.
- Even the smallest task such as taking a shower is genuinely like climbing mount Everest.
- No longer looking forward to life or what it has to offer
- Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
- Not being able to watch the TV or read magazines as anything negative watched or read played on your frayed nerves making you feel worse
- Panic Attacks and awful physical symptoms
- General Anxiety
- An inability to relax anywhere
- Feeling scared of your baby
- Feeling that you may want to harm yourself or your baby
- Black thoughts
- Feelings of unreality or like you are so far inside your own head that you have lost touch with the world
- Black thoughts fill your head all day long and also while you are asleep giving you shocking nightmares.
- Your thoughts and feelings may actually scare you and you may think you are really going mad. (You are not by the way these are just stages of the illness)
- You worry constantly that you will always feel like this and will never recover which can make some feel suicidal
- A feeling of complete emptiness, I could sit in a room full of loved ones and feel completely alone
- A feeling of being so fragile that at any moment you could shatter into a million pieces
- Not wanting to mix or see anyone at all a feeling of being totally isolated
- A strong feeling of guilt about everything, even silly things I found like telling my kids its bedtime when their bedtime came round and then feeling guilty that they wanted to stay up and I didn't let them. When I say guilt I mean shocking heart wrenching guilt, not just a fleeting thought
- Problems going to sleep or staying asleep, I hated this, I used to dread my family going to bed in case I was still awake.
- Feeling incredibly isolated, even from those closest to me.
- Feeling immense guilt about feeling this way when you feel you should be happy and enjoying your baby.
As if being like this was not bad enough you also have a baby to look after, which makes everything much harder to deal with.
There is also such a pressure to be happy at what is supposed to be a happy time that I found I felt so guilty for being like this as though I should have been able to do something about it even though I couldn't. I just felt completely powerless and at the mercy of what was happening to me.
I knew something was very wrong, but I was scared to tell anyone so I tried to hide it. Having black thoughts really scared me, I worried how I could have such thoughts when I was a good person. I worried that having the thoughts meant I was somehow unsafe and would do something to either myself or someone I loved.
I worried that if I told anyone how I was feeling then they would think I was an unfit mother and take my children off me, so I suffered in silence. (This is not true, it is normal to feel like this when you have Postnatal Depression and lots of mums do suffer, you are more likely to get the correct help and support if you speak out than lose your children). This silence you keep and the shame you feel is the basis of keeping you stuck.
It's worth remembering that it is normal to experience mood changes and be very tearful after having a baby, this is due to your hormones returning to normal and is commonly called the baby blues. Baby blues does not last though and should pass within a week or so, if your symptoms continue for over three weeks then you may well be suffering from Post Natal Depression.
Factors that increase your risk of having Postnatal Depression include having a family or personal history of Depression as well as already suffering from other mood disorders such as Bipolar Disorder.
The hormone changes I spoke about earlier were once thought to be the sole cause of Postnatal Depression but this is no longer thought to be the case although of course hormonal changes must play some part.
I will now continue with my own story of Postnatal Depression.
After my return to work when my first daughter was seven months old, I began to feel isolated and missed her terribly, I mentally gave myself a hard time for leaving her in the care of someone else when I felt that I should have been the one at home looking after her. I think this was because in my mind I had not planned on going back to work and I wanted be there at home with her. I became quite down in myself almost without really being aware of the fact I was so down if that makes sense. I cried in the car after dropping her in the mornings and if I stayed away with work was unable to call home until the day I was due home again. I made diary inserts about how much I missed her etc.
Looking back it was completely irrational, but I didn't seem to notice it at the time, I was terribly low, suffering from Panic Attacks and obsessively worrying about everything.
I also had a very difficult marriage, a husband who was generally unsupportable and we were emotionally distant from each other, leaving me feeling unable to speak out, feel supported and feel loved.
Rather than focus on why I was upset, I began to focus on worries and the stress symptoms that I was feeling, with this type of irrational thinking mouth ulcers became mouth cancer and headaches became brain tumours. I remember becoming obsessed about having a few grey hairs which looking back was just not like me.
I went to see a Counsellor which helped me to deal with the effects of the Panic Attacks and cope with my immediate symptoms which helped a little and I was still continuing with my work and life in general, admittedly with a little difficultly.
Then things started to get even more complicated as I was soon to discover that I was pregnant with my second daughter. I actually had contraception in the form of a coil and had fallen pregnant with this in.
I knew I would go ahead with the pregnancy whether it was planned or not , however the problem was that I was still dealing with the effects of my mild bout of Postnatal Depression and had not recovered fully.
I had a planned Caesarean-section with my second daughter and although it was fairly straight forward I did get a urine infection days later which left me ill and unable to go home on time. My emotions were all over the place from the very beginning this time, as I was still mildly suffering from the last episode. I had a private room at the hospital and although some might be glad of that, for me at the time it only served to leave me isolated in my own thoughts and in myself making me much worse.
Appearing normal meant everything to me so when I did come home I put a brave face on and soldered on, even though inside I was screaming. I knew something was very wrong but was terrified to tell anyone how I felt in case they deemed me a bad person or deemed me unfit to look after my children whom I loved with all my heart.
This is the harsh reality of Postnatal Depression, Isolation, shame and fear.
I don't remember much about anything over the coming weeks other than, I was massively anxious about everything, very down in myself, fearful and trying to put a brave face on to hide how I was feeling at all costs. I was constantly churning over black thoughts that seemed to fill my head day and night, I was not eating or sleeping right and I felt terrified of the kids. I think this fear came because I knew I was not right and wanted to protect them. Because I didn't know what the heck was wrong, I worried that I was seriously mentally Ill and may do something awful. I knew I wouldn't but still worried all the same. This is common in Post Natal Depression.
The breaking point came six weeks later when I heard that chicken pox was doing the rounds at my eldest daughters nursery, I became obsessed that my daughter would get it and sure enough within a week I noticed spots appearing on her. I think it was just the thought of being stuck at home feeling like I was with two young children never mind them being ill as well.
I stayed up all the way through that night with the worry and as soon as I heard the baby cry in the morning I just said to my husband-" I need to get out of here"
I went to my mother in laws and admitted all, which was a relief but I still felt terrible. All hell broke loose as I was seen at the Doctors and assessed by a Psychiatrist later at home due to me suffering during the previous months whilst I was pregnant.
He diagnosed Post Natal Depression and Panic Disorder and asked me if I had anything against being treated in hospital, I said no as I didn't even know what that meant to be honest.
He later said I wouldn't calm down. And so for next three days I slept there and came home during the day and have honestly never felt as bad in my life. It was all terrifying.
After that I came home and slept at my mother in laws for a few nights before returning home. I saw the Dr six weeks later and he sat me down and explained the stages of Depression which really helped me to cope going forwards, however no one explained about Panic and therefore as explained elsewhere on the site, until I uncovered the answers myself many years later.
The next few months were a blur, as I battled my symptoms whilst trying to keep my family going.
With support and in time I began to recovery and fill my life with life again rather than dedicate it to feeling Depression. Slowly I began to enjoy life again.
This was defiantly the start of my panic journey.
Postnatal Depression is a terrible illness and it robbed me of many months enjoying my children at what should have been a happy time. Time I will never get back. I felt guilt for a very long time, I somehow felt it had been my fault. However in reality of course the kids were way too young to remember, and I learnt to focus on the time we do have rather than the time we lost.
And it was never my fault.
I have told my story to help anyone reading this understand what is happening to them and to try to take away some of the fear and confusion that they must be feeling as it did get better and it DOES get better and it really can happen to anyone.
Try to seek help as soon as you can and don't be ashamed to do this as its important. Dr's have seen lots of this before and trust me when you do admit this is a problem then you will feel relief and be able to begin your recovery and enjoy your children once more.
There really is no time to loose, get help and get better. Keep your hope. It will go away.