Words by Amy Rose, Editor of The Fourth Trimester magazine
I’ve ummed and ahhed about whether to post this because I’m almost three years postpartum and therefore this isn’t PND, I should really have my shit together by now right? Wrong. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that anxiety and depression can mess with anyone at any time, and when it does, it is really fucking debilitating.
I’m still exploring why my mental health deteriorated but in CBT sessions we’ve worked out it could be related to:
• A young relative dying suddenly and unexpectedly
• Being on the Thames and experiencing the sheer panic of London during the terrorist attacks
• Overworking and under-sleeping
In the space of a couple of months I went from happy, ambitious and excited about future prospects, to losing interest in everything, almost constantly on the brink of a panic attack and wanting to stay in bed all day every day – difficult to do when you’ve got a toddler to keep alive.
I reached a point where I realised I couldn’t survive like this anymore. I spoke to a doctor, received a prescription for anti-depressants and went on my way. To cut a long story short, I had a very bad reaction to the drugs (The Verve, “the drugs don’t work, they just make it worse” became my soundtrack...), which concluded with me passing out and my toddler having to watch as an ambulance came for mummy.
I was checked over, taken off the meds and prescribed diazepam to stop the shaking and to use if any big ol’ anxiety attacks happen again. I was signed off from work (which would have been nice if I wasn’t self employed), and told to ‘just exist’ for a while. So that’s what I did. Existed, slept, existed, took diazepam, slept, existed.
Whether you’re a new parent trying to muddle through your hormonal changes, or a parent to teenagers trying to muddle through their hormonal changes, mental health issues can just pop out of nowhere. I do believe that as parents our anxieties and general worries become so much more heightened, which can make it hard to put up a fight. But fight we must.
I sometimes wonder whether I’ll ever feel completely better, which can end in me having a panic attack about having panic attacks for the rest of my life… but that’s something I’m working on! What I have learnt is that if you want to get better you have to do something about it, you’re not just magically going to be happy again, you’ve got to try different things and find what works for you.
Today I’m feeling alright (alright enough to write a post about my mental health so I guess that’s good). What seems to be working for me is taking each day at a time; going to yoga every Monday, walking the dog three times a day, trying to use my meditation app at least every other day, and practising my breathing. And if I can’t help but give in to the panic, I keep diazepam in my bag ready to bring me back down to just existing (personal triumph – it’s been a whole month since I last took one!).