Tag Archives: post natal depression

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: that’s what she said

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I’ve been let out! After four weeks in the nut house I’ve been thrust back into society with all you good folk. I’ve been rubber stamped sane… well not so much sane as ready to take the long journey required to heal, reflect and become a more positive person. I of course miss the new friends that I made but am glad to be home. My fellow inmates truly were a bunch of fantastic mums with beautiful, all be it fragile, spirits.

Fantastic mums??? I hear some of you question. How can mums with postnatal depression be fantastic mums. Aren’t they all a bunch of baby hating, self indulgent cows? Aren’t they all bad mothers? The answer is quite simply – nope. And it has got me to thinking about some of the thoughts people have regarding postnatal depression and why there is such a stigma attached to it. So I’d like to take this time to address the black dog in the room and comment about some of the things people have said to me on finding out I had and yet again have postnatal depression.

You can’t have postnatal depression, you like your baby?
The vast majority of the women I have met who are battling postnatal depression, both in and out of the chicken coup, absolutely love their kids. They sing to their children, they hug them, they praise them, they play with them, they pick them up, they do everything a ‘normal’ loving mother would do. Despite all this love they still struggle with anxiety and coping. When your baby is unsettled that’s stressful for anyone. Few people simply don’t care if their baby screams however, once the crisis is over most mums can start to calm down also. It is tough, it is unpleasant, they look forward to when this phase will pass and their tension can ease. With a mum with PND their thoughts spiral out of control ~ I’ve done something to upset the baby, it’s my fault the baby is upset, I’ll never be able to sooth my baby, I’m a terrible mother, I’m ruining my precious baby’s life and causing permanent damage because I can’t work out what is wrong, I’m a terrible person, I’m useless, I’m worthless, the baby would be better off without me so that they could get a better mother. The crisis is over but the thoughts keep churning around in our heads. With every unsettled period and every perceived mistake we make the thoughts we have regarding ourselves and our fitness to parent our beautiful child become darker. Tears come, screams escape, zoning out happens. As a result of this seemingly uncontrollable negative thinking many mums like myself become paralysed by guilt. We love their baby so much that they drive their body’s and minds to ruin making super human efforts to be perfect. Our bodies breakdown and we can no longer function. For others they become so lost in the nightmare in their head that they start to retreat and zone out. They are physically present but not mentally. They can have some bonding issues simply because they checked out of reality because it was too painful rather than disliking their babies. And yes their are a few that start to resent their baby for dredging up all these feelings and this resentment can start to spiral into anger and hate. It can seriously affect the mother child bond. But from my experience angst ridden, tearful, making yourself sick, kind of postnatal depression seems far more prevalent. Regardless of how it manifests it is highly treatable and people do get better with help. They can shed these negative thoughts and become the happy, positive, parents that they want to be.

Oh my god! Have you been thinking about hurting your baby?
No! Not everyone with PND wants to hurt their baby. Left untreated and unsupported it could get to these extreme levels but generally no. Women with PND are far more likely to hate themselves than their babies. They feel hopeless and useless and like the baby and the world would be better off without them. But of course not all women with PND have suicidal idealisations. It isn’t a stereotypical, one size fits all condition. And there is a world of difference between Postnatal Depression and Postnatal Psychosis. Suffering from depression does not make you psychotic or dissociative. It’s actually quite offensive to treat someone active getting treatment like they’re completely unhinged and are on the verge of murder suicide at any moment. And treating people like they can’t be trusted actually holds up treatment and makes people unwilling to communicate because they’ll have to put up with a whole host of bullshit assumptions.

You still have your sense of humour so everything must be ok.
When I was being catered away in the ambulance with full blown Pancreatitis I was still making jokes. The mask of humour in public stays firmly in place lest we turn into gibbering messes in public and become social outcasts.

You look good so you must be okay.
Thank you. I’m one sexy bitch.

Everybody feels like that.
True. Every mother has moments like this but the feelings don’t last as long. Minimising these long term, pervasive feelings only holds up a woman getting help. It doesn’t help.

Some people are just more anxious than others, you don’t need treatment.
You do not have to live with anxiety. You deserve a better life and so do your kids. Some people may be happy to live as a shaking anxious mess and have those they love suffer through this but that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help. Anxiety is very treatable.

Other people have it tougher than you so why aren’t you coping.
Hooray for them. Seriously good on them. BUT if you’re going to compare do it properly. Do they have your history, have they had your health complaints, do they get more help??? And even if they are this amazing super human who can juggle 17 kids without breaking a sweat, whilst working fulltime, without any babysitting and have perfectly well adjusted children that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for not coping. Everybody is different. We all have different skills and have had different role models. It’s okay to struggle with things and for others to find it easy. We aren’t all scientific geniuses, we aren’t all amazing singers. It’s okay to have your own skills and your own struggles and it’s okay to get help with areas you struggle with.

You’re a selfish mother and just want to do your own thing and not tend your baby.
My response to this is simple… fuck off.

Just keep going and it will get better.
Sure… and if you just keep walking on a broken leg it will get better too… sure it will…

Just needed to get that off my chest. I’ll keep you updated on my progress with more Confessions of a Mad Mooer.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Wabi-sabi and the Mona Lisa’s smile

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I’ll apologise in advance for this post getting a little bit arty farty but it has been inspired by an art therapy session.

Whilst in the nut house for mad cow’s disease (in a psychiatric hospital for Postnatal Depression) I have been partaking in a bit of art therapy. For those wondering what art therapy is it’s essentially a place where people who are good at art can draw/paint/art masterpieces that express their inner turmoil or longed for optimism and the rest of the basket cases have fun doodling or making jewellery like we were little kids again. So far I’ve made three bracelets for my daughter (not pictured – that’s me and my boys). It’s nice to have the distraction. Now that might not be the technical explanation of what art therapy is, I did try to research what it was (I posted on a friend’s Facebook therapy “what do you do in art therapy?” I’m thinking investigative journalism may not be my thing) but I’m sure this gives you the general gist.

Art therapy can be quite daunting the first time you do it. Thoughts race like, “but I don’t art!” “Oh shit!! What do I art!!!” “OMFG!!!! I’m flipping failing at finger painting!!!!!” For those that are artistically inclined the feelings are apparently even worse. Fears of creating imperfect work abound, anxiety over time constraints ensue and before you know it everyone is just doodling and not creating the Sistine Chapel. Whatever your art level is this foray into a new environment seems to bring out similar fears, my work won’t be perfect, I’m not perfect, I suck.

It’s interesting that we as mothers (I’m in the chicken coup for PND) hold ourselves to such ridiculously high standards that a simple art class can dredge up such a tidal wave of self doubt and loathing. We want to do our very best and our children’s future seem to be in peril with every decision that we make. And todays saturation of parenting experts and baby whisperers only make things worse. If you’re not looking in your baby’s eyes as they play you’re making them feel abandoned. Pretty hard if you’ve got twins and or another child/children. Pretty hard even with one baby if you need to go to the toilet, brush your teeth or heaven forbid take a shower. If your baby cries they are getting permanent brain damage. Again the whole toileting and showering becomes a guilt ridden nightmare. If you just feed your baby enough and make them feel secure they’ll be settled and sleep well. An absolute trip down guilt lane into crazy town that last one is. This notion that if you do it “right” your baby will be happy and content is a crock. A baby is their own person, with their own thoughts and their own needs. There will be times when their needs are way more complicated than feed, play, sleep. Even more complicated then adding a bath or wrapping or not wrapping or massaging or or or or, the list goes on. When these inevitable unsolvable fits of crying happen to a mother without postnatal depression they get stressed and anxious. They then move on after the incident is over. When this happens to us mums with postnatal depression we start to spiral out of control. Our baby is crying, we can’t stop the baby crying despite trying every trick in the book and writing a few new chapters, therefore we are failing our baby. Our babies are going to become destitute, social misfits. Even worse, they’re going to turn into the emotional cripples that we are. Our beautiful, perfect babies would be better off without us around to screw them up. These catastrophic notions start to overwhelm us. Before you know it we’re out to sea trying to use a pillow as a boat and a cap gun as an oar. Now I like cap guns and pillows as much as the next person but they’re not exactly the correct tools for getting by out at sea. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great. Please don’t send me hate email saying stop pillow shaming. I’m just saying there’s a time and a place. A pillow is a fail as an oar. Just like expecting to be so perfectly intune with your baby that they are always smiling or sleeping soundly is a fail in reality. This idealisation of clinical perfection prevents us from being in the moment. It stops us from appreciating our experience as beautiful despite the “flaws” because deep down we are so ashamed of ourselves for not living up to these expectations of perfection that we can barely breathe.

In art there is a concept/movement known as Wabi-sabi. In a nutshell Wabi-sabi is the singular beauty in something that may first look wrong or flawed. It is the ability to see that the defects don’t actually take away from the aesthetic but enhance it. If you think of a sunset it isn’t perfectly lined colours with a perfectly circular yellow son in the middle. It’s a miasma of colours with a blobular orange sun slowly oozing downwards. This bleeding of warmth and colours is far more beautiful then if it was perfectly ruled lines on a page. Even in great art the “flaws” are still there. The transient nature of the human condition was something that the great da Vinci strived to capture and did so most famously in his masterpiece which we call the Mona Lisa. He deliberately attempted to capture a smile that was dynamic and fleeting because that is what he himself saw when he walked the streets. He could see the beauty in this inbetween moment and evidently so can we because people are still lining up to see her smile change depending at what angle they stand at. We can appreciate the imperfections in art, we can compose sonnets about it in nature, yet we condemn it in ourselves.

So what should we do? Quite simply embrace the Wabi-sabi, be our own sunset and be our own Mona Lisa’s smile.

I don’t know how long I’ll be on this journey for but I’ll keep you posted in more Confessions of a Mad Mooer.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: I’ve just had an Oprah moment

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As you know I’m currently “convalescing” in a “supportive environment” (oh just say it, in the nut house, no judgement) with Postnatal Depression. PND as the cool kids call it.  Generally plenty of group therapy and contemplation of taking up smoking in order to get a break. Today has been no exception with two group meet ups already and another scheduled. I missed the earliest one. But in the second one I finally had my “ah ha” moment, as the big O calls it. And I’m going to tell you all about it after a “quick” note about group therapy.

A note on group therapy:
Damn you film and television for making group therapy look so god damn hilarious. I spent the first week here so bitterly dissapointed with the fact that it was nowhere near as entertaining as it “should” be that I really didn’t process information as well as I should. That’s right, I’m blaming Hollywood for my own shortcomings rather than taking responsibility for my own actions. As a writer (well I’m a wannabe be writer not a really real writer. I’ve written a couple of novels but I’m no Kate Forsyth with a plenitude of published novels in multiple contries with five star reviews… I’m not even published or reviewed at all… I’m more of a “writer” than a writer…) As a “writer” I was expecting something excing to write about. You know, come up with the next ‘Sucker Punch.’ Some dramatic confessions, arguments, the odd chair thrown and of course being that we’re all women here the obligatory cat fight that devolves into a group pillow fight. Totally has not happened. Not even close. The closest we got was someone said I had no filter between my mind and my mouth, I had to agree unfortunately, so no animosity, backstabbing or pillow fighting ensued. We sit in a circle, yes like the movies, but we have manuals. We pause thoughtfully as we try to articulate how the theory relates to us personally, but not too personally, no sordid tales or juicy tid bits really, and we nod appreciatively when another person is speaking to show that yes we feel that way too. All very civilised. It’s more like a group of girls out to coffee but with guided conversation and plenty of thoughtful pauses. Le sigh, not the stuff of a best selling novel with a slin off blockbuster film. I guess I could sex it up a bit. Put in a lesbian love triangle and then the struggle to return to heterosexual family life… ‘Girlback Mountain’… ‘Brokeback Interrupted’??? I’ll work on it. There’s something there, once I put in some forced drug use and us all wearing hospital gowns instead of our own clothes. Anyway, back to my point, yes I had one, group therapy is not the awesomely hilarious experience you see in comedies. So just be warned about that. Don’t get your hopes up on the therapist who clearly has more issues than anyone else, a drunk member and a sexually promiscuous virgin types. They aren’t there…

My O moment
In group therapy we’ve been looking at Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, CBT for those up on the lingo. It basically looks at how we respond to an event. How what we think, often unnecessarily negatively, effects how we respond to a situation and therefore how we feel and act and then the consequences of that. Makes sense right. So a common example for us mums is, the baby is crying, then you list what your thoughts were about it. For me starting from something is wrong, ramping up to I’m doing something wrong, I’ll never do tjis right, my babies will be permanently damaged because I’m not responding right. As a consequence I get stressed. Simple really. I get that. And logically I got this and a range of other exercises on a variety of topics over the last 3 weeks but emotionally I still felt sick and anxious. My emotions were running rings around me. But today our group leader said something a little bit different. When we got to stating out thoughts/beliefs about the situation the therapist said, “Now how does that relate to your core beliefs about yourself?” And the world went CLICK. Suddenly I was forced to think about what I truly thought about myself deep down. And that my beliefs about specific situations all stem from this very horrible but very misguided notion I have about myself. So here’s what I wrote all in a rush as the emotional floodgates opened – I can’t do anything right, I poison everything I touch, I’m not good enough, I’m not enough enough… and then it was like a huge ray of sunshine broke free and I just smiled. I wrote down those awful things I believe about myself and all I felt was elation and happiness because now when I start having these thoughts I know what is at the core of it. I now have more of a chance of halting the escalation of my anxiety because I know it comes from within me, within my own twisted psyche, not from a situation. I don’t need to conquer my thoughts regarding a thousand different events, I need to conquer myself. Now it’ll be exceptionally hard work and a long journey to rid myself of this core belief that has been ground into me through my entire childhood. BUT I now feel that at the age of 34 I have a map of where to go. Maybe some of the streets are misnamed and some roads closed but at least I now have a start and end point.

I’ll keep you posted on my journey with more “Confessions of a Mad Mooer.”

P.S. I refuse to apologise for my brazen use of commas. Don’t be a commaunist!

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: hi, I’m a mad mooer

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So it happened. I’ve gone completely around the bend. Had a nervous breakdown, got post natal depression, had a meltdown, chucked a wobbly, got myself in a tizzy, whatever you want to call it. I’ve been a bit of a cow and I’m mad. I’ve evidently got mad cow’s disease. So I’m currently in the nut house. Or should I say, “I’m convalescing in a supportive environment whilst I recoup from exhaustion.”

And who wouldn’t be exhausted with newborn twins and a toddler? Who wouldn’t need help under these circumstances? Well, one of my cousins for one managed not to turn into a jibbering mess when she had a two year old plus newborn twins. And in my mind everyone else in these circumstances sailed right on through but not me. At three months I cracked it. I just cried and cried and cried and cried a bit more. My body hurt from trying to settle premi twins that never wanted to sleep. My brain hurt from trying to juggle my three babies. And my heart hurt from feeling like I was failing all three of my children simultaneously. I couldn’t get my twins to settle so I was spending so much time with them that my toddler was missing out. On top of that if one twin had been crying for ninety minutes straight I was so exhausted from dealing with him that I didn’t have time for his brother when he inevitably started his round of crying.

So what did I do? Kept telling the husband that I was exhausted. That I couldn’t cope that I needed help. That I couldn’t do it. He told me to “crack on,” as it was only a tough phase, in a years time it’d all settle down and I just needed to ride the wave. Turns out I don’t know how to surf. Not even body board, or boogie board as it used to be called. Heck I can’t even body surf. To be perfectly honest I don’t even know if I can swim at this stage. (I know what you’re thinking, can she stretch this metaphor any further, surely not, let dead horses lie, don’t whip sleeping dogs, but oh I can stretch it further.) It was like I’d been paddling in a kids wading pool and all of a sudden had been thrown into the middle of the ocean, during a storm at night, with only one oar and nothing else to help me. Sure an oar is useful when there is also a row boat and another oar but when it’s by itself it just drags you down. So my husband’s pep talks, his attempts at blind optimism simply dragged me down further rather than helping me to rise to the occasion. With added support I may very well have been able to rise to the occasion with his encouragement.

But there wasn’t any and I just sank deeper and deeper into depression until when all three of my children got sick (joys of having a toddler in childcare, they bring every plague going home) and I ended up in hospital with my little boys who had developed bronchiolitis from their sister’s cold after I’d just gotten out of hospital myself for Pancreatitis I lost it. I couldn’t cope. I was just sobbing uncontrollably in the hospital room when the paediatricians began their rounds. By coincidence one of the doctors was Dr Rowel who had been my daughter’s paediatrician through reflux and operations for hip dysplasia. He saw me, could see how bad I had gotten and immediately referred me to the hospital social worker, who referred me to the phychiatric team. So in turn I got referred to a mothers and baby unit at a psychiatric hospital to get my bearings, physically recover a bit and try to sort through some stuff in my head.

So how’s it all going? Well I can tell you inside my head is a terrifying place to be but I’ll keep you updated with my progress through more Confessions of a Mad Mooer.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/