We were absolutely thrilled when the amazing Elise Raquel joined us recently to discuss her experience with PNDA.1. Who calls you Mum?
Two adorable little babes, Peyton who is 3 and Xander who is 17 months.2. When did you first start noticing signs of postnatal depression?
I had suffered from anxiety and depression before becoming a mother, mostly throughout high school. I knew the warning signs in and out, though when I started experiencing symptoms again post babies I chose not to speak up and instead buried them deep within.
The first time it really hit me was about 6 months after giving birth to Peyton. Whilst I was pregnant with her, I had my heart set on a natural/drug free birth, however after 15 hours drug free during labour I "gave in". It ended up being your very "typical" hospital birth, intervention after intervention, gas, an epidural, legs up and on my back whilst giving birth. At the time I went with the flow and didn't give it too much thought. But 6 months later I was in a really bad space about it. I honestly would cry and cry as I recapped her birth in my head. Drugs for me was like giving in, I felt like I wasn't good enough, like I wasn't strong enough to do it without drugs and to say no to intervention!
These self doubts played on my mind and before I knew it I was doubting my whole willingness to be a good mother. I kept my PND a secret for a long time. Two years in fact. After giving birth to Xander my parter Sage began working away and the struggles of being a FIFO mum and a mum with PND really took over for a while. When I look back now, I can clearly see all the warning signs, my PND would come and go in waves and to be honest I can't believe how well I managed mum life without being open about my PND for so long.3. How did your experience with PND impact on your day-to-day?
Each day seems to be so different. Some days I am in a good head space, the children are bathed and fed, the beds made all before 9am. We get out of the house and I can simply enjoy the little things and laugh with kiddies. Though other days I struggle to even get out of bed. I dread opening my eyes and facing reality. The smallest of tasks seem like a marathon I haven't ever trained for. The house is sometimes left looking like we have just been robbed because I mentally and physically don't have the energy or even the drive for that matter to tidy it up. The kids are yelled at far too many times, they don't deserve it but somehow it comes out uncontrollably.
My relationship has suffered more than anything though. I mean the housework can wait but how far can someone be pushed before they snap? We argue about everything and I find myself subconsciously wanting to start an argument about the smallest of things. My libido is almost non existent and that spark seems to be so dull at times. I love my fiancé, but I just don't love myself enough to be the best partner I know I can be.
Since speaking up about my PND though, there has been more better days than bad days. They still come, and I'm sure they will for at least a little while longer, but at the moment I'm learning how to deal with it all and find balance in my life, so that gives me hope that tomorrow will be a good day!4. Where did you seek help?
For such a long time I didn't really speak about it, as I'm sure many other suffers do as well. I would confine in friends about some things but never the bigger picture. It was only recently that I spoke up about my PND. I finally admitted to my fiancé that I had Post Natal Depression. At first he was very surprised and then very supportive. I was quite shocked that he had no idea, was I really that good a liar? I felt so broken on the inside yet apparently seemed so together from the outside.
After opening up to my partner I decided to take it a step further and open up publicly about it on my Instagram account. I was overcome with support and the insane amount of stories that were oh so similar to mine. Mothers from around the world who were experiencing the exact same feelings as my self. Mothers who too had been hiding their PND for so long! The love and support I gained from that alone boosted my self esteem enormously.
After speaking with many other mums who had also been suffering from PND, I came to the conclusion that there had to be some self love made. Then it was just a matter of figuring out how. Finding things that made me happy and made me feel better about myself seemed hard at first, but after taking a few small steps it seemed to unravel quite naturally. I joined the gym and decided to finally set a goal of loosing that last 10kg of baby weight! I hired a cleaner to help me get on top of things at home and I made sure we got out of the house more often. Slowly but surely things started to improve!5. Explain what postpartum depression treatment strategies work for you?
The biggest thing for me is simply just talking about it. I am an over thinker and an analyser. So the smallest of things can easily escalade in my head. I have learnt that it is important to talk about things, even if I do think they are small and insignificant. I have a few girlfriends who I confide in, mothers themselves who also feel these same hardships. They normally all have a different opinion, one who is very realistic and tells me how it is and another who is more sympathetic and comforting.
I have also learnt that I need to put myself first! As a mother we are always doing what's best for our children and we often get lost in what our needs are. I always say, "To look after someone the best we can, we must first look after ourself. And to love someone the best we can, we must first love ourself." And I find this true even more so now after suffering with PND. It's perfectly okay to put ourselves first, this doesn't make us a "bad mum" or selfish in any way. In fact it's quite the opposite! Since beginning back at the gym and taking time out for myself I've noticed a better Elise, a better mum, a better lover, a better daughter and a better friend.6. What’s your advice to others who might be feeling anxious or down during the early stages of parenthood?
I cannot stress enough to just speak up about it! Most mums think that it's normal to have these feelings and to an extent it defiantly is. Any mother will tell you how overwhelming and difficult parenting can be at times, especially in the early stages. But sometimes it does go beyond that and things seem to get worse and not better. Speak up, tell someone, tell anyone if there's any signs that you might be feeling anxious or depressed. Even the smallest things deserve to be spoken about, solving issues before they blow up is a great way to stay on top of things. You often feel very alone and isolated when you suffer from PND. At times it feels like no one could understand what you are going through, but the truth is so many mothers are suffering from the exact same feelings!
Mental health is a very taboo subject, and I hate that more than anything! People who feel isolated and alone are made to feel even more isolated and alone because it's not "normal" to speak about it! So many of us suffer in silence because there is such a negative approach about PND. But the fact is there are so many positives to come with it, and that's what should be highlighted in society.
So thank you Kathryn for doing this series! Being happy and mentally healthy are two of the biggest roles in being a good parent. So striving to have these two things in your life, especially in the early stages of parenthood are essential. Listen to your body and listen to your thoughts, if you feel like you're struggling, speak up! There is no shame when it comes to mental health issues and especially if you're a mother! I mean come on, we talk about the colour of our children's poo, we wipe snot with our bare hands and talk about anything vagina related, so we should be able talk about our mental health right??! Jokes aside, this is a serious issue, and our children deserve the best version of ourselves, so if speaking up does feel overwhelming, then don't just do it for you, do it for them!
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