The ARMER Technique
The ARMER technique for postnatal depression & PNDA
I write in my book ‘Shining The Light on PND – The Journey From Darkness To Healing From Postnatal Depression’ about this ARMER technique.
Acronyms are ALWAYS a helpful way to remember IMPORTANT points easily and succinctly; which is SO crucial when you are grappling with anxiety, insomnia and the not feeling yourself. It is an acronym to help you get through and to THRIVE through this chapter (and remember it is only a chapter and not your entire book…I promise!)
So, for those that don’t know my story, I am a Pharmacist that went on to studying Ayurveda, yoga teaching and infant massage after I suffered from almost life-taking postnatal depressions not once, but twice on day 5 after delivering our two boys.
The first time I had NO clue what was happening, despite being a Western medicine health professional in Australia! I sunk into a deep depression, where I could not do basic tasks…riddled with incessant anxiety and insomnia; that left me as a shell of a person that I was before.
My family, husband and in-laws not having experienced this before, were all left blind-sided as to what was happening and what we should do.
I was then traumatised by my experience and vowed that Ari would be our only child, as I could not and would not endure that again willingly!
I did however allow 3.5 years to pass, work through so many aspects of guilt, fear and shame that came with PND for me, and I changed every variable that I could to have the complete OPPOSITE pregnancy the second time in hope of being able to STOP getting it again.
Low and behold, try as I might to stop it…it was in my DNA, my biochemistry and make-up, that nothing that I changed affected the outcome.
Upon my recovery, it allowed me to make SO many reflections; all 24 of which I share in my book…and I VOWED that I would help as many other women and families THROUGH this chapter as I could…so that no one else had to suffer like I or my family did.
I swore that I would make the most of my third chance of life, to disseminate as much information as I possibly could.
I do this in my book, with the blogs, podcasts, the children’s book, the tools of the guided meditations…
To increase the information about the condition…and to ENHANCE health literacy for every person on the planet!
I come from a space of reflecting on WHAT I needed to know when I was going through it, as well as, what my husband and family around me needed to know.
So, I devised this simple ARMER technique that I want EVERY man, woman, partner, friend, family member and neighbour to KNOW about…so that if EVER a person is on the floor of their bathroom pleading for their health…for their life to return…for a glimpse of hope and light to come back to them…that THIS is a ‘GO-TO’ technique that can GUIDE and direct this beautiful soul towards their journey of their recovery that they deserve!
So, to set the scene…In Australia PNDA affects 1 in 5 women, PND affects 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men; with suicide being one of the leading causes of death in the first 12 months postpartum.
Symptoms can include but are NOT limited to;
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Anger or frustration
- Feeling no emotion or low and numb
- Feeling teary or sad all the time
- Lack of interest or pleasure in things normally enjoyable; even time with your baby
- No motivation, no energy
- Changes in sleep; sleeping too much or not able to sleep at all
- Changes in eating; eating more or less than usual
- No hope for the future
- Feeling like you are unable to cope and things are too overwhelming
- Feeling very teary or emotional
- Feeling isolated, alone and disconnected from others
- Having thoughts of self-harming or harming your baby
- Heavy and clouded feeling in the head; cannot think clearly
- Losing confidence
- Fears of being alone or fear of being around people
- Feeling like your baby does not love you or that you don’t love your baby
- Inability to do regular everyday tasks
- Disconnection from your baby and children; lack of connection and emotion
- Inability to function which makes everything feel difficult and overwhelming
- Feeling like there is no way out, stuck, no hope or nothing will get you out
- Loss of joy, emotion and pleasure in things you normally love
So, in this situation the ARMER TECHNIQUE to help you THROUGH and to THRIVE this chapter in your life is as follows;
Ask for help from your partner, family and/or friend (SPEAK UP!)
Reach out to health professionals for help (GP being the first port of call or your OB)
Make a commitment statement to your recovery and keep it with you to keep accountability and reminds you of your WHY when things feel too much
Exercise (partake in postpartum stage specific exercise to enhance endorphins and general wellbeing and PRANA (life-force energy) in your body. Make it a daily priority; not for weight loss or exertion however
Rest and rejuvenate; we must rest our body, mind and soul…depletion post-birth, the vata imbalance from Ayurvedic perspective. We need to give time and space to nourish and replenish our body
Each step for me is a critical piece in the puzzle.
Asking for help may in fact be The MOST important step because if we keep it in, if we pretend that we are ‘OK’…when our world is crashing down inside and around us, then we can never ALLOW ourselves to receive the help that we so desperately need and deserve.
It is hard to recognise that we are not well, I certainly was in this boat.
My family could see that I needed help, and when I was ready to accept that I was not well, they gave me the strength to tell them and then we moved to R.
Reaching out to health professionals is CRUICAL. I do remember thinking that nothing anyone could say or do would help me and I was adamant that I would remain ‘stuck’ in this time capsule forever.
I didn’t believe HOW medication could help me, when it was the loop of having a baby that I felt caused me to feel this way…that how could anyone change the reality of having a baby?! (if that makes sense?!)
The irony and truth is though, I only felt disconnected and had insomnia, anxiety and depression FROM the condition. The only way through to the other side for me, with the barrage of biochemical warfare happening within me, was to start medication.
When I did start the correct medication, like a heavy weight holding me to the ground, I felt like I could think, breathe and FEEL again! I only felt the way I was from the condition, and the only way to recover was to get medical help.
I recognise the power in our thoughts, as I was adamant that no one or nothing could change my reality. Yet, I am so glad that we took action despite this firm conviction. This is what allowed me to connect and feel my babies, to be able to think clearly and feel myself.
Like a switch that was turned on again…I was ‘back on’!
Make a commitment statement to your recovery and keep it with you to keep accountability and reminds you of your WHY when things feel too much.
A little phrase or sentence…or contract that you make to yourself, with your partner or family, for me, encouraged me to keep remembering MY why.
The why, was for my children. Whilst I felt so much disconnection to ALL of life, I had an internal wisdom and knowledge that I had to hold on for them. They fuelled my not giving up…not walking away and succumbing to what my condition was doing to me.
Whilst everyday was not empowered, I lay in my bed or cried on the bathroom floor, if I was lucky enough to even feel any emotion…I was numb, looked and felt lifeless…soulless. Yet, every day, I held on…and I am SO grateful that I did.
11 weeks sounds SO small…but they were the most torturous 3 months of my life.
Yet, the commitment that I swore to my husband, family and children to keep going, is one that I am so proud that I made…because I am standing here living the best life; better than even before any of this happened.
It was because of this commitment that I have found my purpose, my voice, a realisation of my internal power and capacity. I have felt the deepest unconditional love in my children, in my family and also for myself…filled with forgiveness…compassion and grace.
I also learned the ART of SURRENDER in making the commitment statement. I didn’t know HOW…but I knew WHAT and WHY I wanted it and I left the rest up to the power of the cosmos to bring me back to my health.
Surrender is what kept me going…and what allowed me to hold on to hope.
So, I ask YOU to write YOUR COMMITMENT statement…give it to your partner, put it on your fridge or your mirror or bedside table.
Hold yourself and allow your partner to keep you aligned and on track.
Keep it simple.
Keep it real and giving meaning for you.
Exercise (partake in postpartum stage specific exercise to enhance endorphins and general wellbeing and PRANA (life-force energy) in your body. Make it a daily priority; not for weight loss or exertion however.
Whilst immediately post-birth if you have stitches, or prolapse or recovering from a C-section, go at the rate that you have been advised and what feels comfortable for you and your body.
However, I have included exercise as an important arm here in your recovery, because of the PLETHORA of benefits that moving our body give to us! Even 20 minutes a day has the capacity to
+ Enhance endorphins (there are approx. 20 types of endorphins in your body!) and serotonin, to enhance your feeling of well-being
+ Enhance oxygenation and circulation, which is helpful post-birth
+ Increase in PRANA (life-force energy)
+ Increase energy and improve the quality of sleep
+ Exercising in the morning, in the natural light/sun, can help to regulate the circadian rhythm with the hormone melatonin
+ Allow you to feel connected to life again, especially if coming from staying in a hospital for 5 or more days
I know in the depth of my depression; moving, getting changed and leaving the house felt like the LAST thing that I wanted to do.
Yet, I am grateful that my husband came with me and encouraged me by just taking me. It is still my non-negotiable in my day, as exercise definitely improves my energy, vitality and mood…and it makes me a better wife, mother and more productive in my day with ENDOGENOUS ENERGY vs EXOGENOUS fuel from caffeine which sets my nervous system on its own wired trajectory!
Now, from an Ayurvedic perspective, post-birth when we have delivered our babies, there is excess VATA (AIR and SPACE). So, my disclaimer or advice if it is cool, windy or cold, is to make sure that you are covered, your feet are warm, you wear a scarf and a beanie to cover your ears which is the house of VATA.
Ensuring that you don’t get too cold is going to help not create more VATA aggravation, and thus be counter-productive!
We also don’t want exercise akin to training for a marathon (unless you’re a trained athlete!). The excess MOVEMENT can enhance the SPACE and AIR qualities; which we ware wanting to bring the grounding EARTH, WATER and FIRE aspects to balance our beautiful body.
Thus leading to;
REST and rejuvenate; we must rest our body, mind and soul. This is adding the EARTH, FIRE and WATER aspects to balance the depletion post-birth (VATA aggravation).
I am a firm believer of not rushing back to the ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ of the modern world. Rest and sleep when the baby sleeps, and beyond to catch up on your ‘sleep debt’.
Delegate what you can and need; know that it not a luxury, but what your body requires in order to fully heal and recover from the process of pregnancy and birth.
We want to massage our body with warm sesame oil, to help nourish our body and create balance.
We want to ensure that our nutrition is wholesome, filled with nourishing ingredients, herbs and spices to bring the earth, fire and water attributes and to best support our AGNI, or digestive fire.
We want to be gentle to our body, mind and spirit. Have relaxing/grounding in ALL of our senses; sound, sight, touch, taste and smell.
I write of specific strategies for each of these aspects in my book ‘Shining The Light on PND’ because I believe in the subtle impact they all have within our body and how we feel.