By MeOhMy Founder & Editor Siobhan (@meohmymum)
I've been on Snap (username: meohmy_mum) and Insta Stories lately talking about my post natal anxiety and how it's flared up again. Some of you have asked to read my initial blogs on this topic - so here's one that I wrote a few months ago.
I hope it helps and, as always, please get in touch if you want! xx
Some days you can't even face getting out of bed, let alone everything that being a mum entails. You feel paralysed. The smallest thing can seem HUGE and impossible. You've lost motivation, pleasure, fun…You can get anxious about every little thing, until all the little things snowball and you can't even breathe let alone cope with a child.
There’s a huge dark cloud hanging over you and you have no idea why. You love your life. You shouldn’t feel like this. You feel ungrateful. You feel like the worst mum/wife/friend/sister/everything. You hate yourself for feeling down all the time. You burst into tears a lot...
I know all of this all too well. It’s pretty much the worst set of feelings that I’ve ever experienced. So what am I doing to cope and heal, 10 weeks on from my severe PND and anxiety diagnosis?
I’ve been a part of an eight-week support group with other mums suffering from PND. It’s a small group that meets with a psychologist and social worker. The best thing about it was realising that I’m not alone. Of course, I knew from good old Insta that these conditions are all too common amongst mums. But actually meeting other sufferers was so helpful.
The thing that struck me when we all told our stories over the weeks is how many of us were in similar situations. Lots of us, including me, had experienced a LOT of change in our lives in a short period of time. Many were mums to two babies and toddlers quite close in age (not that this matters – PND affects anyone, regardless of a baby’s age or how many they have). Many were (largely) looking after their children without much help.
I saw a psychologist – just for one session. I have to admit, I’ve been avoiding it since then. One on one seems too much for me right now, and I didn’t really gel with the psychologist I was seeing. But, I have made an appointment to start seeing a different one and need to continue taking real action myself.
I was anti-medication. I didn’t think I was ‘bad’ enough. Well, it took some suicidal thoughts and a very high score on a PND/A test (when I finally agreed to go get help) to see just how wrong I was.
Meds get a bad wrap. They’re sometimes seen as the ‘easy way out’. Yes, I have to admit that I don’t actually know how I’m feeling deep down as I feel like the medication is masking some of it. However, when they were first suggested to me I looked into them and started to understand about chemical imbalances. Basically, my brain wasn’t working the way it should. The medication helps to turn that around. It’s science, not in your head!
It was so hard to bring myself to take that first pill. But eight weeks after starting on them I’m feeling good. I’m on a small dose. The side effects have been a bit up and down, but have evened out now.
And I’m slowly learning how to feel better in other ways, and therefore cope better. Through research and counselling, I’m trying a few ways of de-stressing. Exercise to get the good endorphins flowing and a good diet (which makes a HUGE difference) are very important. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or panicky, I find trying to focus on my breathing (easier said than done when you’re in the middle of a panic attack, I know!) really helps.
I'm doing my best to enjoy the little snippets here and there where no one wants anything. For instance, the other day I was out walking with the kids in the double pram, and for a blissful two minutes neither of them needed anything. Instead of stressing about what was to come ("how long until one of them cracks it?") or running through my 'to-do' or 'what if' lists, I looked around me and actually appreciated the beautiful scenery and how fortunate I am. For that moment, I was calm and in control.
And a technique that someone recommended to me was this:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed and/or angry to the point where you feel you’ll fall apart or do something terrible, put the babies/toddler/child somewhere safe, for instance in their cot or in their room with the door shut, and just be alone. Stay that way until you calm down and recover enough to think clearly, then go back to them.
I’m also trying to make time for myself and ‘couple time’ a priority and lowering my expectations about what I can achieve in one day. Basically, productivity and motherhood do not go hand in hand and I've found that if you try to do it all, and do it all perfectly, you’ll end up hitting a huge fat wall like I did.
If you keep the child or children fed and alive then you’ve done your job. Full stop. Don’t worry about whether they’ve had too much screen time, or not enough tummy time, or didn’t sleep at the ‘right’ time.
It's also important to make time for play. I’m as anal as anyone about the housework. But I’m trying to have more fun with my kids and enjoy the little things, while I ignore the dishes. It's hard, but at the end of the day soaking up time with them is what matters.
If you are reading this and are struggling to cope. If you are highly stressed and anxious. If you are not enjoying things as much as you used to. If you feel alone and overwhelmed. PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE about how you’re feeling. It can be tempting (and easy) to just shut down. That’s what I did. But that’s the worst thing you can do.
If you feel on the edge, get help asap. I didn’t. I thought my feelings of not coping and being very overwhelmed, anxious and stressed were a normal part of mum life and nothing out of the ordinary for someone that has two kids under the age of two. Wrong. I ignored it for too long. Don’t be like me!
You CAN feel better and enjoy every bit of your life again. I can see the light (so to speak!) and it’s wonderful.
I hope this has helped, even in a small way. Please keep yourself safe x