Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

From One Mum to Another

by Mothers Helpers Founder Kristina Paterson



It took me 18 months to go and get some help for the way that I was feeling.  9 of those months I was anxious throughout my pregnancy but the midwife didn’t pick up on it.  In the first week after my baby was born, I had a new midwife, and she said to me that if I was still crying by day 7 (hours of crying every day), then I’d have to go and see the doctor as I may have postnatal depression.  So I forced myself to stop crying.  I didn’t want to have postnatal depression.  And I didn’t want to have postnatal depression for the next 9 months that I avoided seeking help.  I did go and see a counsellor, but it had little impact on me.  I knew that if I went to the doctor, he would diagnose me and offer me medication that I didn’t want to take.  This inability to be rational and problem-solve clearly as well as denial of the full extent of the problem is very common for mothers who experience antenatal or postnatal depression.  It’s even harder if this is your first baby and you have nothing to compare your experience to.  I left it till things were really, really bad before I got help.  By that time my energy was so low that I could barely manage to get myself off the couch, I had to summon all of it just to attend to my baby’s needs, the entire 12 hours or more of caring for my baby on my own while my husband was at work overwhelmed me.


When I finally went to the GP, I of course was offered medication, which I accepted.  And I felt better within a few weeks.  I didn’t know at the time that medication was not a miracle cure – that within 12 months, the medication would stop working simply because I had not made any changes to my life.  I didn’t know that recovery from depression required an holistic approach.  I didn’t know because nobody told me and there was nothing out there that helped me to understand recovery from depression more fully or to help me make those changes.


The consequences of depression that was not diagnosed and not treated for such a long time was devastating for me.  I developed chronic (life-long) depression.  Most of the time I am well, but it means that I have to take medication and commit to holistically caring for myself in order that I stay well.  Antenatal and Postnatal Depression was definitely a contributing cause of my marriage breaking down and subsequent separation.  Tragically, it is likely to be a contributing factor of my 6 year old son’s development of an anxiety disorder – the impact of which we are still wrestling with on a daily basis.  I can almost bear my own suffering in this whole story, but watching my son suffer is really unbearable.  Every family has their challenges, but the challenges I have faced are preventable, and I want to prevent this suffering from happening to you and your family.


I don’t write this to frighten you.  The last thing I want to do is cause you more anxiety.  I write this because I want so much for you to get help for your depression and anxiety.  It is crucial not only to your own wellbeing, but to the wellbeing of your family.  Please go to the GP.  Please consider treatment.  Please find out more about how you can recover holistically from antenatal/postnatal depression and anxiety.  Mothers Helpers runs courses throughout Auckland and an online course that is available to anyone in the country.  These courses have proven to help the majority of mothers to recover from PND, and all of them their condition has improved.



High Expectations and Depression


It would be fair to say that for some mothers who have developed perinatal depression/anxiety, the “temperament” that researchers speak of that make some mothers more prone to developing it than others is not only that we’re naturally a sensitive soul, but we can also place high unrealistic expectations on ourselves – setting ourselves up to fail and becoming disappointed with ourselves time and time again.   Whether you are recovering from your first episode of perinatal depression or you are challenged with the ongoing management of chronic depression, dealing with those unrealistic expectations is vital to our wellbeing.


As a person who now manages chronic depression (quite likely as a result of delayed diagnosis and treatment of my antenatal and postnatal depression), I certainly have these characteristics as part of my temperament and learning to deal with those high expectations is something that will be a life-long challenge for me.


In those days, dealing with a newborn baby – I expected that I would bond and absolutely fall in-love with my baby… I was blindsided (and later grieved the loss) by my traumatic birth and the hospital’s negligence by significantly delaying the opportunity for me to hold my baby post-birth, the breastfeeding problems I experienced and how I was at high risk of developing postnatal depression.  I expected that I would be able to breastfeed well.  I expected that I would find things a lot easier than I did.  I expected that I would be able to cope with everything, despite a strained (and failing) marriage and insufficient support and my mother going into hospital for chemo the same year my baby was born and my marriage dissolving.  I didn’t know where to go for help, but I also expected that I should be able to manage this all on my own without help and I felt that I was failing because I wasn’t coping and it was hard to admit it.


These days, I am well and high-functioning and very often I forget that lurking in the background is a mental illness that I will have for the rest of my life.  I still don’t want to have it.  I would still like to ignore it and pretend it didn’t exist.  I still have these high expectations of myself to achieve this or to meet demands as if I do not have a mental illness that I have to be mindful of.  And then the old “black dog” lingers on the edge of my yard (ironically I have an actual black dog but she’s rather nice and cuddly and has a habit of licking me rather than biting me although she is a puppy and still chews a lot of my son’s toys which is really annoying.)


It’s not about being a victim and letting depression define you – living under the banner of “I can’t” – it’s about being realistic and above all, it’s about being kind to ourselves.  I have chronic depression.  The unrealistic expectations I have of myself to be super-human is ridiculous.


If you want help for the stress or depression/anxiety you are experiencing, please fill in this online form


~ Kristina Paterson (Founder of Mothers Helpers)

Attachment Between Baby and You

I have been reading a bit on attachment theory lately  – it’s a fascinating topic and something I’m keen to study more in depth.  It is certainly an issue for mothers with postnatal depression to be aware of – how their anxiety may be affecting their young baby or toddler.  The good news is that it’s not too late to work on your parenting so that you can provide a secure attachment for your child.

Here is an article on Anxious Attachment – what they describe as Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment if you’re curious to read more.  Below are some videos explaining this and other attachment styles briefly and then also briefly explaining what secure attachment is like between parent and child.

The good news is that with psychotherapy we can work on our own attachment style and this will have a positive impact on our relationships not only with our children (which has a major impact on their world and their relationships as adults) but also with our partner.

You can read more here

A Letter To All Mums with Postnatal Depression

Dear Mums,


It is the last day of Postnatal Depression Awareness week for 2014.  Usually, I am out there planning an event, fundraising for the cause, creating awareness.  This year, I am taking care of my own health after a series of stressful events that has prompted me with the little reminder “Kristina, take care of yourself!”  You see, like you, I suffer with depression.  Sadly, Postnatal Depression was my second major depressive episode and for many reasons, I never fully recovered.  Like (my hero) John Kirwan says, these days my goal is not recovery but wellness and there are times I need to take special care of myself to achieve that.


Mothers Helpers has been going for 4 years now (officially) and in that time we have seen many challenges.  Those challenges have not been just the usual challenges that charities face – largely, funds restricting their ability to offer the service they’re wanting to deliver or a lack of volunteers helping with that service.  In addition to those, I have had well-meaning people tell me why we could not possibly achieve what we are wanting to achieve – why mothers would not come to our groups, why we can’t do what we want to do (help mums at-risk or suffering with postnatal depression) without adequate funding.  I’ve been told that our services are not needed because there is not as much of a gap there as we know there is.  I’ve had organizations refuse to refer mothers to our service because they believe there is no gap – yet, in the past, we have at times, struggled with the sheer number of mothers who have asked us for help but thankfully, now we are in a position to meet that need consistently.  I have had people say to me that they don’t know why (with all these challenges, and sometimes lack of help/support of what we’re trying to achieve) I don’t walk away from it all, give up on what has been a hard road trying to provide a service that genuinely helps mothers despite our lack of funds and staff/volunteers or other supports or resources to deliver that service.


Most certainly, these challenges have discouraged me considerably at times, had me in tears on numerous occasions and admittedly, there have been moments I’ve seriously thought about throwing in the towel.  Certainly, there are people in our organization that are so instrumental to our work that it could not happen without them.  Board members Becs Ballard and Ildiko Baigent have been ongoing champions and supporters of the cause and of me personally and I’m grateful to them for standing by me, my Group Facilitators and student counsellors Tara English and Noor Hassan this past year working with groups or one-on-one with our mums, volunteers such as Denisa and (more recently) Kiri Windross helping with administration – and the various volunteers we’ve had over the years helping with events or helping at market stalls promoting our work.  I’m grateful to those who have sponsored a mother who has not been able to afford the cost of attending our recovery groups.  I’m grateful to those who have sponsored us by donating printing or counselling rooms or heavily discounting products and services that we need to continue our work.  I’m grateful to the organizations such as Maternal Mental Health, Plunket, other similar agencies, the General Practitioners and Midwives that refer mothers to our service because they believe in the help and support we are offering mothers.  The 50 or so “Friends of Mothers Helpers” that are behind what we do.  In addition to the continuation of the organization itself, these people have been an enormous encouragement to me that yes, there are people who believe in what we are doing and stand behind us and I am very very grateful to them for that.  And despite all of the challenges Mothers Helpers has experienced, there are two significant reasons I can’t and won’t walk away or give up on this despite any challenge that comes my way.  The first is because I know that there is a gap that exists for mothers with mild-moderate postnatal depression in terms of holistic help and support to aide recovery.  The second is, quite simply, you.


You are the reason why I do what I do even when I sometimes struggle with my own health/depression and have to take a small step back from it all.  You’re the reason why I persist in the face of any challenge and won’t give up.  When I walk into an event with a bunch of other organizations all vying for the same pot of funding and I feel completely alone because they feel competitive and that I am a threat to their charity’s survival (when all I want to do is have a mutually supportive relationship), I remain in that event for you.  When I am the only voice championing this cause to doctors, to midwives, to hospital staff, to birth educators, to agencies, to the Government or the wider community – I am doing it because of you.


You are my motivation because I see and hear your stories of pain and struggle – fighting to be a good mother to the children that you love and wanting to do your very best, but held back by the ongoing battle with depression.  And I have been in that battle – I know what it’s like – I know the courage it takes for you to face each and every day with your own challenges.  I know the battle that is in your mind, the constant negative thoughts that berate you while you’re trying to do the best you can, the emotions that overwhelm you, the energy that you lack and the desire to stay in bed yet forcing yourself forward into the day for the sake of your kids.  I know the guilt that plagues you, the feelings of despair, anger, resentment and the longing to be free from this terrible illness that robs you from all of the joyful experiences you wanted in your pregnancy, in childbirth, in those early days of mothering.  You are my heroes – the sheer strength and determination you show in the face of your day-to-day challenges motivates me to overcome the challenges I face in providing this service for you.  I want to fight to provide the kind of support that can prevent Postnatal Depression for mothers who are at-risk of it, and I know that with the right kind of support, that is possible.  I want to fight to provide an holistic service that helps mothers to recover from Postnatal Depression so that you can be well and free from the battle that now plagues you so that you can fully enjoy your experience of motherhood, and so that  together we can prevent the consequences of Postnatal Depression in your life such as poor attachment between mother and child, depression becoming severe, hospitalization, breakdown in relationships/marriage and yes, even suicide…  My reward is witnessing your recovery when I see mothers soaking up the information we’re offering and motivated with that newfound information to make changes in their life bit by bit.  The reward is seeing you well and enjoying life again.


To all mothers with Postnatal Depression, I applaud you.  I applaud your strength, your courage in this battle.  I have deep admiration for you.  It is not your fault that this is your experience and yet too often you face these challenges without the understanding or support from those around you  – sometimes, you even experience stigma and judgment or hide your private battle in fear that you will.  I want to tell you that you are not alone.  You are my friends and my sisters in this battle.  Mothers Helpers is here because of you – because we believe you can win this battle and we’d like to help you to do it – like to support you on that journey, because we understand what that battle is like and know how hard it is.  I want you to have hope – I want you to know that you don’t have to do this alone, and I want you to know that with help, you can recover – you can be well again.


Kristina Paterson

Founder of Mothers Helpers

How Can You Help to Support this Cause?


If you would like to gift a mother with Postnatal Depression a beautiful “candle of hope” you can do that by donating $6 to us on Give a Little


Living With Depression

Mothers Helpers is in the business of preventing the serious consequences of postnatal depression.  Take a look at our other pages to see what those might be.  One thing I’d love to be able to prevent is what I call chronic depression.  For many people, depression does not have to be something they live with – if treated early and treated well, they can make a full-recovery.  And they can prevent a relapse from occurring.  But there are those who live with depression and for those of us who do, as John Kirwan often says, wellness is the goal.

So what does wellness mean to you?  To me, it means that most of the time I don’t spiral into a pit of despair, invariably, I’m able to cope with what life brings, I am a fully functional human being – able to contribute to society, hold down a job (and one with a lot of responsibilities), care for my son, continue my studies.  What it doesn’t mean is that I’m bullet-proof or that I never suffer from lows.  In fact, I still have times where the stress is too much, that depression is interfering with my relationships and I’ve become more irritable and argumentative than usual, or that I’m very sensitive to the words and actions of others and the spiral of negative thoughts begins to take me down to that familiar place.

Despite our theme of last year’s Postnatal Depression Awareness campaign “Breaking the Silence” to a large extent I still live with depression in silence.  I rarely talk about it with other people and when I do, they are carefully chosen trusted people in my life who I know will understand me, who will not judge me, and who still believe in me.  I continue the silence because I am afraid of being labelled as “a person with a mental illness” and therefore dismissed and the other things that are true about me, ignored.  That I am a business woman with skills in leadership, management, governance, education and experience in the medical field (among other things).  That I’m a brave person who will stick my neck out at the risk of being criticized for the sake of others or what I believe to be an important and worthy cause.  Or that I’m a kind person with enormous compassion for those who suffer and a passion to do something to help them.  And so much more.  The fear is that if I announce my struggle to someone that they will not see any of that, and suddenly I’ll be defined by the mental illness that I have.

It’s because of my silence and the silence of others afraid to share that depression is so misunderstood.  It calls for leaders like John Kirwan to be brave in their conversations and become more open about their experience.  When depression is misunderstood and not discussed, it remains a stigma, people are still afraid to seek help and support and don’t get the information and treatment that they need – as if depression is not isolating enough on its own!  A big part of the pathway to wellness is community and support…

I live with Depression.  This means that most of the time I am well and do not suffer from symptoms. I cope with a lot of stress as ongoing long-term stress is what led me here – but I’m working on changing what I can and accepting what I can’t.  I contribute a great deal to my community.  I am a smart, intelligent woman with something to say, and I love to laugh and have fun too.  I’m a devoted mother and a kind and loving person.  I have always been outspoken.  I learn by talking and interacting – much to my school teachers’ dismay (and sometimes the impatience of my university lecturers).  I need to contribute.  Sometimes that means I blunder my way towards unwanted attention/trouble and people easily get the impression that I’m made of tough stuff when I’m actually made of goo.  When depression and that aspect of my personality get together, it seems they go looking for an argument.  It’s the “irritability” symptom of depression that has never really left me, and comes out when I’m overwhelmed with stress.  And the resulting conflict sends me into a spiral.  Like a child, I must learn to avoid unnecessary conflict wherever possible, I must learn how to challenge thoughts that are so negative and accusing in their nature when conflict occurs to prevent the spiral spinning out of control, and I must get myself out into the garden or to the beach for a walk in the sunshine to stop it in its tracks.  But hiding my struggle away does not serve me.  Perhaps if I were to speak about it, I might gain some understanding, some grace, some compassion – perhaps even some support?


Kristina Paterson

Mothers Helpers Founder

Why Should We Care about Postnatal Depression?

Our Current Situation

  • There is not currently a lot of awareness about post-natal depression.  The risk-factors, the symptoms and where to get help is not widely known.  Many women go without diagnosis, and even when they are diagnosed, they don’t know where to go for help.  At best, they might go to their GP and start on anti-depressants – but anti-depressants alone are not the cure for PND, and they are not for everyone.
  • Presently, Maternal Mental Health will only get involved with a mother if she has moderate-severe post-natal depression.  And even then, MMH resources are limited – sometimes they are so overwhelmed they literally close until they are able to catch up on the demand
  • There is currently no one formally responsible for addressing mothers who have mild-moderate post-natal depression.  It is expected that midwives or plunket nurses will pick up on it and refer to GP’s or that GP’s will pick up on it.  However, it is completely at the discretion of the midwife and the plunket nurse whether or not she assessing for post-natal depression.  Their primary role is to address the physical needs of mother and baby.  Plunket in particular are not funded to address or assess any mental health issues.  GP’s understanding and treatment of mental health issues varies widely.  Some are very poor at dealing with mental health issues, others may diagnose a problem and treat with medication but that is the only help the mother might get
  • There is no one actively involved in addressing those at-risk of PND in order to prevent it or reduce the severity of the condition
  • Post-natal depression is not discussed openly.  Mothers tend to hide their symptoms, ashamed of how they are feeling.  There is often a belief amongst mothers that a “good mother” is seen to be coping well.  So in addition a new mother’s radical adjustment to what can be a very isolating role, a mother experiencing post-natal depression is likely to also feel especially isolated, guilty and ashamed

What this means

The effects of Postnatal Depression are wide-reaching.  They affect the mother, the partner, the child and the wider family.  In addition to a mother often suffering in isolation and often without information, resources, understanding or help, PND can have a ripple effect.  Significantly:

    • Breakdown in marriage/relationship
    • Family conflict

Interruption of attachment between mother and child.  Studies show that when a child is exposed to conflict in the home and/or attachment issues with the child’s mother, a range of issues can result as an older child or young adult including drug/alcohol addiction, learning difficulties, mental illness, suicide and delinquency

It is important to note that if a mother’s Postnatal Depression becomes severe, the only facility she is likely to be admitted to is a psychiatric ward where she will be separated from her child for the duration of her stay.  If it is deemed that she is unable to care for her child safely, CYFS may intervene to provide respite or long-term care.  These two scenarios Mothers Helpers wants to prevent by providing sufficient support because we don’t believe this is ultimately in the best interest of the Mother, child and family.

Please join us in creating awareness and supporting mothers at-risk of post-natal depression and helping those who have it to recover quickly and more fully.