When I was in the depths of my illness and could not think clearly, my head was in a thick dark fog…I felt so utterly lost.
I felt alone.
I felt overwhelmed.
I felt so utterly confused as to what was happening.
Even as a health professional myself.
The second time that it happened, it was a bit more obvious what was starting to happen, and we definitely all felt more armed and equipped with what to do.
I realised that the first time I had no idea what was occurring and I was in denial for quite some time.
Yet, once I finally did accept that something was amiss, I still asked ‘Um, OK, now what?’
This was why I set out on this mission of writing my books; sharing my experience, the steps that I took on my journey, stripping down the condition and strategies for both the patient and her partner/carer to get through this time…because no longer did I want one more woman to be in the depths of despair and think ‘I have postnatal depression, now what?’
I want it to be crystal clear as to what it can look like…and then to share what you can do about it to survive this chapter in your life!
It can be a matter of life and death so delaying or not taking action, is hugely paramount.
OK, so you have identified within yourself (or within your partner) that you are not imbibing your/her best self. You may;
- be riddled with anxiety
- not be able to sleep, despite the baby sleeping or given lots of opportunity, or sleeping far more than you did before
- changes in appetite
- feeling a thick fog, cannot think clearly, cannot perform tasks and functions as you previously could
- feeling hopeless, no sight of the future, no connection to yourself and/or baby, loss of joy in the things that you previously enjoyed
- anger, sadness and crying very easily and amongst many more symptoms, that can range from severity and presentation from person to person (which is why there are so many shades of grey and full blown black; therefore, treatment varies from person to person and no ‘one size fits all’ model to complicate an already precarious condition)
OK, so NOW WHAT?
The first step is acknowledgement, so if you have come to terms with this, amazing!
Then, I will say the next step is contacting (or getting your partner to if it feels overwhelming or difficult; completely appreciate this!) your GP and/or obstetrician depending on who has been your primary caregiver.
Contact them and explain exactly how you (or your partner is feeling) and arrange an appointment to see them. Ask for a long appointment, so you do not feel rushed to go through how you are feeling and to develop the best action plan.
Write a list of questions or points so you feel ready, armed and less anxious about the whole process. You will feel armed!
Your GP can conduct a Mental Health Plan and work out exactly whom you need to see, can refer and organise exactly what you need and assist in accessing the amazing help that is available (to us here in Australia; hoping this to be the case across the globe too!).
Your GP can act as a triage to contact your obstetrician and keep them informed, but equally your obstetrician may be able to refer you and get you into postnatal health services.
Once that is arranged, then see the psychologist and/or psychiatrist and they may offer you a myriad of options based on your individual symptoms and situation.
Remember there is ‘no one-size-fits-all’ approach here and what may have worked for a friend or in the past, may not be the right option for you. Trust in your health care team…you are in the best hands and be as transparent and articulate (or let your partner be your voice if you are unable to) with your symptoms so they can offer you the best protocol.
It could be medication (remove any fears, stigma and taboo that you may have surrounding this- another blog on this later, and remember that it is not always a ‘quick-fix’ but pharmacologically can take 1 up to 8 weeks to see the full effects; so patience is needed).
It could be a therapy of some sort; CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), IPT (Interpersonal Therapy, MBCT (Mindfulness-Based-Cognitive-Therapy) or another type of program that they may suggest.
Access to social workers and assistance with sleep at Tresillian or Karitane may be arranged from your GP also, so speak in-depth with all that you are struggling with and they can help to bring together a myriad of resources that you need.
They may suggest a stay at a Mother-and-Baby unit if they feel it is in your best interest.
Irrespective of what modality is suggested, know that speaking up will allow you access to whatever will be best for you.
My main point is this; SPEAKING UP to your GP and/or obstetrician IS the most critical, crucial and VITAL step in your recovery journey.
Acknowledging that you are not feeling your best self, is the way out of being stuck in the mud for even one moment longer than necessary.
I would say, that since treatment is not an ‘immediate fix’ (as we are so used to in this modern Western world), and also getting into a doctor or provider may not be instant (not to make you feel defeated or more hopeless; but rather transparent that it can be a work in progress); that speaking up as soon as possible is the best and most important step in this process.
I remember feeling like there was nothing anyone could say or do to ‘fix’ the way I was feeling, and like I would be trapped in my hell forever. I did not believe there was any hope or any light at the end of the tunnel.
It felt so incredibly painful, frustrating and…exhausting.
Yet, the irony was, I was only feeling this way because of the condition of post-natal depression! As soon as I sought treatment, ALL the feelings of being ‘stuck’, like I could not breathe, could not think, could not perform simple tasks, sleep or eat and being so utterly disconnected from myself, my baby and all of life…ALL stopped completely.
Had I waited longer to seek help, then it would have taken longer for what I needed to help me and I would have been stuck in my darkness for longer. Perhaps it may have been too late?
So, speak up and I promise you beautiful woman, that this is the first step forward into a brighter future and road ahead.
You deserve it and it is available to you too.