Before Postnatal Depression

To be honest, many years ago, I thought that people who suffered from depression were weak.  My sister had depression, and I thought she was weak. And soft. This narrative in my head was something that was reinforced by the people around me. Postnatal depression wasn’t even a thing as far as I was concerned.

I was kicking goals. I was married, we had a house and a dog and a cat.  I was climbing the corporate ladder, loved my job, got lots of praise, and I had the most toxic boss I have ever had. But that was OK because my job was awesome, and I had figured out how to manage them and their behaviour. I even got a written warning about undermining them because all our stakeholders preferred to talk to me rather than guess at what my boss’s daily mood was, and suffer the consequences.  I share this because it really highlights how truly disconnected I was, and I had no idea.

Then, my grandfather died, and the last thing he said about me was “I hope she has a baby – she needs to.”  Lo and behold, I was pregnant the next month with my first child.  This wasn’t really the plan, although I didn’t really have a plan about when I was going to have kids – I hadn’t thought about it too much. See my disconnection?

Pregnancy, work and disconnection

So the pregnancy went on, and I figured that I would work up to 2 weeks before this baby was due, then take 6 months off, put this baby into childcare, and continue my climb up the corporate ladder.  This baby was just going to fit into my life, and things would continue to go to (my) plan.

I worked harder than ever to prove that this baby wasn’t a threat to my career and wasn’t going to affect my work performance or my goals.  Even on my last day at work, I was there till very late to ensure all the things were done to my satisfaction, and to show how competent I was, even at 38 weeks.  As I write this, I see the underlying fear of not being seen as valuable.

The Plan – What Plan?

I went on maternity leave, and this baby did not read the plan, let alone follow it.  The birth plan went out the window the second labour started. My OB was somewhat on board with my plan, but firstly, he wasn’t there for the majority of it, the nurses were not so on board with the plan, and the baby certainly wasn’t.  They were arriving if and when it suited them and not a second before (funny enough they are still like that now). They were unsettled, colicky, and seemingly detemined to do large amounts of screaming and small amounts of sleeping. They just didn’t get that I needed my sleep to be able to function. I even told them at the hospital that this baby was broken and I wanted a new one. This whole baby thing really sucked!

The local community nurse was the person to pick up that maybe the problem was with me.  This was a defining moment.  She gave me the test for Post Natal Depression before I went into Tresillian, and I remember looking at that test knowing that if I lied they’d leave me alone, but maybe if I told the truth, someone would make my life return to “normal”.  So I told the truth, and she contacted my GP and between the two of them, they had me in Tresillian really quickly – days if I recall correctly.

We were in Tresillian within 8 weeks, and that was when I realised that something was terribly wrong.  I’d made a huge mistake, and if someone would just take this baby, I could get back to my life that was perfectly fine before this huge mistake.  Tresillian was really helpful, with the exception of a counsellor who told my husband he was going to need to choose between me and the baby – in front of me.  True story.

So we went home, the baby was “better behaved” but still – this whole baby thing really sucked.  I was totally controlled by this….thing. I hated my life and I was miserable.  I knew that.  What I didn’t know in that time was that I was spending entire days “watching” a TV that wasn’t on, staring at a washing basket, looking at the same page in a book, and completely disconnected from the world around me.  In addition, my child had hip dysplasia and was placed in a harness, and people kept stopping me to ask how I broke the baby, if I dropped the baby and one even suggested abuse. So it was awful in the house, and just as bad out of it! I was suicidal as well, but because I was so disconnected, I had no idea that this wasn’t normal.  I thought it was just because this whole baby thing sucked.

The Psych Ward – maybe I have postnatal depression?

Because this whole crappy situation wasn’t getting better, and apparently everyone around me was very worried, I ended up getting a placement at St John of God.  I’m not really sure about how this came about, as I have large gaps in my memory of this time.  I do remember saying that I would go in after Christmas.  In hindsight, I don’t think myself or my husband realised how serious my mental health and postnatal depression symptoms were, as I just drove myself to the hospital and parked in a timed parking space.  They seemed surprised that I was there on my own, and then when it became clear that I was staying, I said I had to move my car, and went to do that.

I remember being shocked to find a nurse chasing me up the street, because I wasn’t allowed to leave.  This was another defining moment in me understanding maybe this thing was serious if I had to be supervised all the time. Up until then, I thought they were going to help me find someone to take this baby and get my life back to “normal”. I was already on meds from the time I was at Tresillian, and they spent the first couple of weeks adjusting my meds, and I wasn’t the most cooperative patient on that front.  Meds were for the weak in my mind.

I remember my first appointment with the psychiatrist in hospital.  We literally spent 45 minutes in silence, because in my mind psychotherapy was also for the weak, and I SO wasn’t going to be the one to talk. I’m guessing he’d seen this tactic before, because he waited me out. Turns out he was an expert on postnatal depression.

Then there were the morning group sessions, where we’d draw an affirmation card.  This was also stupid to me, because as if a card was going to help anything.  Then there were the art therapy sessions – also stupid because as if arts and crafts were going to help anything.  Then there were the group sessions – also stupid because nobody understood what was happening to me.  Couldn’t someone just see what I needed to solve the problem?  Why was nobody listening to me?  Are they all stupid? Any “postnatal depression” was really that I’d made a huge mistake.

So I spiralled worse, which is normal in these stays apparently.  This was the point that I figured out that depression has nothing to do with “being weak”. It was about my capacity to cope with my life.  I hit rock bottom after I guess a couple of weeks, and after that decided that nobody was coming to save me, and maybe I should have a go at helping myself rather than waiting for someone to solve my problem.  I’d say the meds probably started doing their job at that point from a medical standpoint.

Things started to get better from that point.  I found I actually liked the art therapy and I still do some form of art or craft to this day. Those affirmation card things maybe weren’t so bad, and talking to people – who knew that helped?? Now I talk a lot, and I may or may not have a large collection of affirmation cards. Was my stay after that perfect?  No.  I had a replacement psychiatrist for a few weeks who I say had small man syndrome (look – I think that we just didn’t gel) and that stalled my progress.  Some of the nurses were not helpful. I didn’t like all the people on my ward.  Things that are normal.  Eventually I was allowed to be left unsupervised, and even let out of the hospital to go to the shops, and then home for day stay, then overnight stay. And eventually home for good.

Home and life challenges

My home felt like a foreign country when I returned home.  I had no idea what to do or where to be, and it took me a while to settle in back home.  My husband said it took 12 months for me to “return”.  I was still unwell with postnatal depression, even though I was now functioning. I went back to work.  I think I lasted 6 weeks before I realised that my high pressure, high volume, high fun job that I loved, was no longer the right fit for me, and I left. They also wanted me back full time, and there was no way I could cope with that at that point.  Plus, the organisation that we serviced has a tendency to believe that they are the centre of the universe, and expected you to be on call 24/7.  I just couldn’t do it.  And I didn’t want to. I bounced around a few part time jobs for a while, found a good one, and never worked full time again until I moved into my kinesiology business full time.

I tried joining the mother’s group I was assigned to, but I was too late.  The mums that I knew from that group invited me to meet up with them a couple of times a week, and that was really good for me.  Then I told them after a bit where I had been, and that I had postnatal depression, and they….changed.  The next time we were supposed to meet up, all 3 of them never showed up.  They didn’t respond to calls or texts, and I saw one at the shops.  She dived into a shop to avoid talking to me.  Hello rejection and alone feelings. This caused another spiral, which resulted in a change of meds, which resulted in an anaphylactic reaction. In hindsight, this journey of mine has helped to leave behind those who aren’t my people.

Some of this time is blank too, but I remember plodding along in this new life with a small child, a job of some sort, and I also found a new mothers group that was the most supportive environment, alongside the few previous friends who’d also stuck by me. None of these people were bothered at all by my postnatal depression – they were happy to accept me for me. Things were doing pretty well, I guess. I fell pregnant again after 3ish years, and my psychiatrist floated the possibility of termination to protect my mental health.  I didn’t want to do that, and no judgement to anyone that made a different decision. So we had a plan for me to go straight to the psych ward after having the baby.  I also had to work through all the fear and guilt about still being on meds while pregnant. As time progressed, we actually revised the plan regularly, and it got to the point that we’d just see how I went, and check in regularly.  I never needed to go. Over the next 2 years, I worked with my psychiatrist to wean off the meds.

Kinesiology and my recovery from postnatal depression

Then, life continued on with 2 small kids, friends, job, art and craft.  By this stage, I had a great part time job again that I really enjoyed. Still, something was missing.  I was looking into different things, and not finding the fit.  Until I came across kinesiology.  That’s another story within itself, which you can read here

When I started that course though, I went into it with a view of there’s nothing wrong with me now, I just want to help other people.  That lasted about 3 weeks before I realised I was going to have to do the inner work.  Insert eye rolling, sighing and defeat on my part! This was the beginning of my complete surrender to this life journey of self.

Since doing the work, my life has been great.  I was no longer just not mentally ill, but I was mentally well.  I was connected and present in my life, which I can see from hindsight was the thing that was still missing.  I had to do that whole feeling your feelings thing, vulnerability and making peace with past traumas thing that I had been avoiding, and I also had to look at how I was living my life – physically, emotionally, nutritionally and spiritually.  Lots of small changes added up to big results over time and I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been in my whole life.  Do I still have problems and hard times and relationship issues and ego-related responses to situations?  Absolutely.  But now I know how to move through them as part of the ups and downs of life.

In the end, I am really grateful that I was so unwell.  I know this sounds ridiculous!.  When I look back, it ended up making me a better version of myself.  I’m not sure where I’d be without this experience, but I can tell you for sure that my experience with mental health and being in hospital with it was the catalyst for change in my life, in the way I lived my life, and my relationship with myself.

Kinesiology and your mental health,

Now I know what my body is telling me, and I can help you understand what your body is telling you too – from a place of lived experience. The signs and symptoms that your mind and body show are your body’s way of talking to you, and when you listen, truly listen, your body will show what it needs to be well.

P.S. That baby I wanted someone else to take is now 18, and has been one of my biggest teachers. They seem ok so far, maybe they can stick around 😉

Want to explore kinesiology for your mental health? If you are experiencing postnatal depression or another mental health condition, seek medical help, and also consider the support of kinesiology, by clicking below

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