Archive for the ‘Preventing PND’ Category
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.
What an understatement! The reason why Mothers Helpers provides mums suffering from postnatal depression (with no support system to help) with volunteers to help with childcare and housework is simply because we know how vital having a regular break is to recovery. Motherhood is relentless. It is a 24hr/day, 7 days/week job. For many of us with young babies or with babies that don’t sleep well, even night times are not our own to get sufficient rest. But too often, mothers have an expectation of themselves that a “good mother” is some kind of martyr/heroine/supermum that getting our own needs met is plain selfish. And here’s where we need to challenge that kind of thinking.
I’m not going to discuss where that thinking comes from or how we can challenge it. If you’d like to read more about Expectations, check out an earlier post I wrote titled “Expectations”. The first step to getting a break is to recognize that you need one, to accept that your needs are important too, and to give yourself permission to have a break. Many women with postnatal depression have anxiety about leaving their baby with someone else to care for them. This is normal. The best way to work through this is to start small with someone you know and trust and gradually build it up from there. The second step is to assess your current resources to see how it can be achieved.
So many mothers truly believe they have no options. But you have more than you think. Let’s first of all take a look at your current resources:
Now that you’ve identified the current resources you have available to you, ask. It is the hardest part and so many mothers are so afraid to ask for help or for a break or for their own needs that they let things go on the way they are for month after month, year after year. But you cannot afford to do this. Your mental health is important. It affects you, it affects your family – your marriage/relationship and your child. You owe it to yourself, and to your family to take care of yourself and get better. So pluck up the courage and ask – and do it once. What I mean by that is, ask them for a regular day and a regular time and stick it in both your diaries or on both your calendars – so that you don’t have to pluck up the courage over and over again to ask for help. It will be too hard and you’ll stop doing it. Do it once and organize it so it’s a regular thing.
Now here’s some resources you probably didn’t know about or you’ve never considered before:
Now that you’ve established a way to get a break, it’s really important that you use the time wisely. Don’t spend it running errands, paying bills, or getting the housework done. This time is for you, and it’s important. Here are some ideas:
And yes, mum, your needs are just as important and you do deserve it! Talk to your partner and get his support. Help him to see that this will help your recovery from PND.
Those more at-risk of developing postnatal depression have one or more of the following:
If you are currently pregnant, Mothers Helpers can provide you with a wide range of support to keep stress to a minimum with an aim to prevent postnatal depression. If you’ve already had your baby and you have any of the risk-factors above or any of the symptoms of PND (we can test your symptoms), Mothers Helpers can provide you with support so that you can recover more quickly and more fully.
By increasing support and directly addressing the specific stress you are dealing with, together we could prevent you from experiencing postnatal depression.
It helps to look at your health holistically. Many people try to treat mental illness including Postnatal Depression using one method of treatment. The reason this is not very effective is because human beings are made up of physical, mental, emotional/psychosocial, spiritual and cultural aspects of ourselves. These are all connected and impact on one another. The best way of healing and recovering from mental illness is working with each of these. Mothers Helpers does a holistic assessment and helps you to recognize where you are experiencing stress in each of these areas and gives you resources, help and support as well as goal-setting with these.
We talk about your specific situation and the specific issues you are facing. But there are common problems that mothers with postnatal depression experience, and so here are some ideas of what will help you to recover from PND:
So often mothers diagnosed with postnatal depression end up on medication and that is the only change they make to their life and find that not only are they taking a long time to recover, they risk relapse. This is because if the stress that was there at the beginning is still there 6 months/12 months later, it continues to put them at risk of depression.
The reason why the combination of counselling and medication is recommended to be the quickest road to recovery is twofold: Medication will give you sufficient wellness to motivate you to see a counsellor, and to deal with some of the difficult topics you will need to discuss in order to get well. Counselling will discuss some of the stress you’re currently under and what has likely contributed to your depression, and ways you might find change – whether its internal or external changes that need to be made.