5 Things I Wish I Knew
When I Had Postnatal Anxiety
It’s Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week (13th-19th of November) and so I wanted to write about my experience with Postnatal Anxiety.
When I had Postnatal Anxiety with my first baby 8 years ago (actually his birthday is on Saturday!) there was so many things I just didn’t know that I didn’t know. I may have been given pamphlets about maternal mental health while I was pregnant – but I probably just glanced over them and dropped them in the bin. Because I just didn’t think it would happen to me.
When things did go pear shaped I didn’t know about Postnatal Anxiety. I felt so isolated and alone.
I feel like the easiest way to write this is as a letter to myself – so, while it’s *to me* I hope maybe some of it might be helpful or reassuring to anyone who has been there, or is going through it themselves.
To Myself With Postnatal Anxiety 8 Years ago,
It’s Not Your Fault
I could say it a thousand times and I know you still won’t believe me, but I’ll try it anyway. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. Really – it’s not your fault. This isn’t a defect in your character. It’s not a weakness. You did nothing to bring this on. Despite what people might have said to you – about focusing on the positives, or that you can control how you think and feel… they are wrong. You can’t just be grateful, or calm down, or not stress. You can’t just think yourself happy. Absolutely none of this is your fault.
There Is Help Available
You could speak to your doctor,at your 6 week check up or any time before then. A doctor can organise you a mental health plan, and refer you to a psychologist – and they might even be bulk billed. A Maternal and Child Health Nurse can direct you towards psychologists, support groups, and other local services. And if that’s all too hard you can call PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) and they can have a chat with you over the phone and then help you connect with other support services.
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
It’s okay to accept help. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Everyone struggles at some point with a new baby. Perfection is impossible. You don’t have to push yourself to prove that you’re a worthy mum. You are good enough. You are allowed to cry, not cope, and ask for help. It doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve him, or that you’re not enough; it just means you’re human.
If someone asks how are you feeling it’s okay to tell them that you’re not okay.
You Are A Good Mum
Bonding can take time and that’s okay. That’s not even necessarily a symptom of Anxiety. The idea that all mothers bond instantly and effortlessly with their babies the moment of their birth is simply not true. Some do, but certainly not all. It could have been the traumatic birth and being separated from your baby, or it could just have happened. Keep doing all the things that help you bond – hold him, have skin to skin, eye contact, babywear, bath together, sleep together – and one day you’ll realise that you don’t have to try anymore. Feeling connected will become as natural as breathing in and out.
Also know that intrusive and persistent thoughts of harming your baby is a reasonably common symptom of Postnatal Anxiety. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mum, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you’ll act on them. Remember; you are not your thoughts.
It Gets Better
It will get better. You’ll come up out of the fog. You’ll find the energy and emotional space to deal with some of the things going on inside your head. With the help of a psychologist you’ll learn some strategies for coping. Things will get easier. It’s not a direct route. It’ll be two steps forward, one step back. But gradually it’ll become more manageable. You’ll find the words to talk to people about your experience, and every time you do you’ll feel a little lighter. Sometimes when you talk about it the other person will say they’ve felt the same way and you’ll feel less alone.
I hope this is helpful, if you need any support, below are some mental health support services.