For those of you who are suffering from depression, anxiety, psychosis - or any mental health illness, I would like to share with you some hope. Below is an elaboration to a reply I made to a fellow PND sufferer's comment. I have decided to fully open up publicly about this terrible illness because I believe there IS light at the end of the tunnel (I've seen it and the aperture is getting bigger!). I am now 8 months down the Post Natal Depression track...
Firstly, I have had, here in NZ, the very best support for my PND (thank you New Zealand Mental Health). My main problem is anxiety (panic attacks that can go on for hours) and major depressive episodes. When the two combine, I feel fatal - wanting to just end it all, the suffering is SOOOO bloody intense!! But those days are getting fewer and far between. They still happen but I now know (and my husband knows) how to deal with them. Before having my wee bub I'd never experienced anything like it. Depression wasn't even in my vocab. However, I used to get anxiety attacks.
I truly think having a baby puts some women's bodies (and minds) under such stress that we go into stress overload and that's it - serotonin, all gone! I was up every two hours (the WHOLE night) breastfeeding. My milk supply was VERY low. I was a bad cow, in fact, lol! 6 weeks in, and crying every day for as long, I collapsed from sheer exhaustion. For three nights before the collapse, I didn't sleep. Before, at least I slept in between feeds. I believe this is common with PND and I am still on meds to help me sleep through the whole night (if not, I still wake up every two hours - as if the crisis has burned itself into my circadian rhythms).
I am clawing my way back to "normality" now, but still have my moments. When an anxiety attack hits, I think I'm going into relapse! Arrrgghhh! Then, when I calm down and everything is "normal" again (whatever that is) I see the light. Anxiety attacks are teaching me a thing or two, believe it or not. When I get them, something about my thinking (or feeling, or my beliefs) is wrong. When they pass, I think, "what was that all about?" Then I figure it out - work out the trigger and remember for "next time". I am getting CBT for the anxiety (thank you, once again NZ Mental Health) and I also do drawing therapy through a good friend of mine who is also a councellor. From the work I do during these sessions, I am working towards an exhibition (stay tuned!), to further people's understanding - and my own - about PND.
NB: By the way, women with post natal depression DO NOT want to kill their babies - a very common misperception. If anything, PND is about being a hyper-aware, hyper-alert and hyper-caring mum (or dad, because men also suffer from this illness).
I now sort of see myself as a person who is being rebuilt, like my soul has been torn apart and now the bits and pieces are reassembling themselves and coming back together...newer, stronger and more at ease. I keep a diary: a) to keep track of the anxiety attacks (their frequency) b) to record use of meds c) to show improvement and finally d) to record survival tips. I look at my diary everyday and see improvement. I'm having more and more normal days (for weeks on end sometimes) and I am happy. My baby blossoms and grows - he is beautiful, and I am growing too.