Calling In The Professionals
This is Part Twelve of a regular series called Self Care Sundays #selfcaresundays. I will be regularly posting a different way you can incorporate self care into your life as a mother or parent. Self care is an ESSENTIAL part of motherhood, though for so many of us, it is something that falls by the wayside behind the needs of those around us. Time for a change, ladies! You deserve love. You deserve time for yourself. It will make you the mum that you know you can be.
Self care is more than just hot baths and colouring in.
I don’t think you can fully comprehend the experience of being a parent until you actually are one. Before having kids you probably dreamed of dropping your kid off on their first day of school, oversized back pack and all. Or maybe you pictured an angelic sleeping baby that gently went to sleep in your arms. But then you actually had a child, or maybe more, and realised that what Feist sang was true. There’s a limit to your love. And unless you do stuff to look after you, then everything and everyone starts to suffer. We often associate self care with the fluffy stuff like hot baths and colouring in (don’t get me wrong, I love colouring in). But what happens when that stuff doesn’t make a dent in how you’re feeling?
“Do you think you might be depressed?”
I always knew I was more “at risk” of getting Post Natal Depression (PND). I ticked a lot of boxes. I remember going to our booking in appointment when pregnant with our daughter, and the midwife asking my husband and I, “Is there any family history of mental illness?”. He and I both laughed! Both our family trees are heavily laden with the ripe fruits of crazy. We are blessed with great teeth and chemical imbalances. So it wasn’t a real surprise when I went to see my counsellor and she said “Do you think you might be depressed?”.
Things all started to shift for me way back at the 20 weeks scan during our second pregnancy. The words “complete placenta previa” were uttered by the lovely sonographer. My world came tumbling down in an instant, and I don’t think it ever got the chance to rebuild.
That pregnancy was a lot of stress and not much joy.
The birth was text book and everything went as it should, but the great big scar across my belly is still something I am trying to come to terms with.
And then we brought home our little boy, after being away from home for over a month. And he turned out to be a really fucking difficult baby.
Fast forward to about 12 months ago, when I looked at myself and hated the parent I had become. I was angry, lacking empathy and lacking every part of playfulness that had once been so prevalent in our little world. I called to book into the counsellor because I wanted help with my parenting. But after the first visit, and a whole lot of tissues later, it was quite clear that my parenting was just the angry red pock mark of something much more nasty lurking under the surface.
What does it feel like?
I guess there are as many answers to this as there are people with anxiety or depression. But for me, I have this unshaking feeling of not being me. I find it difficult to enjoy everyday things. I feel like most things are an effort. My temper is great and my fuse is short. I don’t go out and about much with the kids because I find it too overwhelming. I often stay up too late because I don’t see the point of trying to sleep when I know our son will no doubt wake up any minute. Sometimes it feels like it’s really hard to keep my eyes open and it’s not a tiredness. More like a heavy weight across my brow.
I really should’ve known something was up when my hubby would say “Oh you’re smiling! It’s so nice! I don’t really see you smile any more”. Or when my friend at work told me “You’re like a water lilly. Except without any water.” Ouch.
“Do you think you might be depressed?”, those words from my counsellor, affirmed she was thinking what I was thinking.
But what does that mean?
Depression? What am I meant to do with that?
Do I wear black and cry myself to sleep listening to Jeff Buckley? Do I get a tattoo?
Turns out I’m still the same person (even though I don’t feel like me), but now I can have a name to put to the horrible feelings I have been having.
My counsellor and I talked about a few ideas to help get me back on track and help allow me to work through some of the crap that’s lingering from my pregnancy.
We came up with a few strategies:
- Regular vigorous exercise. This has always always helped to keep me on the steady. Hubby and I both agree that we want to give this option the best possible chance of success, and so he is staying home a little longer in the mornings to let me wake up at the same time as our breastfeeding son, and then head out the door for a 30 minutes run. The first run was Mother’s Day morning and it felt like opening the windows of an old musty house. I came home buzzing! But the effect wore off after a few hours. Much like a Panadol really. But those couple of hours made me feel like myself!
- Medication. I’m not ruling this one out, but I am exploring other avenues first. I am going to see my GP next week to chat about it a bit more.
- Regular time to myself. Sounds like a luxury to any parent doesn’t it!! My homework is to investigate child care for both kidlets and start to make this a reality.
- Taking time out. I love to do stuff. I like to do lots of things. Sometimes the doing of things gets in the way of being with people or sleep. Turns out I really need to be around other people and I really need sleep too.
- Continue with counselling.
- Get my son’s gut sorted. We are on the path to figuring all this out, but as other allergy/intolerance mums know, it’s a long and windy (pun intended) road.
Who you gonna call?
This post has been a bit of a brain dump and quite possibly an over share. But for those mummas out there that are really feeling like life just ain’t that much fun anymore, I strongly urge you to call a professional.
Chatting to a qualified counsellor or psychologist may just help you get to the bottom of what is actually going on for you and also give you the permission to do the things you need to get well again. I will say though, that finding the right professional for you is really important. You need to feel safe, validated and respected.
Do you need to call a professional? When are you going to call? Please, please make this a priority.
Beyond Blue is an Australian support organisation for people experiencing the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety. They have a free 24 help line which is staffed by fully qualified health professionals. Their website contains a wealth of support and info to help guide you in the right direction. Maybe you might like to take their Psychological Checklist?
Beyond Blue 24 Hour Helpline 1300 22 4636
PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) is an organisation to support mothers and their partner/family who may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. They have online resources as well as a business hours help line which is staffed by qualified counsellors.
PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Fri, 10am – 5pm AEST) 1300 726 306