Words written by our Doula Bertie in September 2020, to bring awareness to postpartum mental health challenges
I'm not feeling better ... yet
My uncle wasn't feeling well. He went to his GP. The GP explained he had developed diabetes, prescribed him medication. My uncle took the insulin. He felt better. The end.
My cousin wasn't feeling well. She went to her GP. The GP explained she had developed an overactive thyroid, prescribed her medication. My cousin took the eltroxin. She felt better. The end.
I wasn't feeling well. I went to my GP. My GP explained I had Postpartum mood disorder, prescribed me medication. I did not take the medication. I did not feel better.
This is my experience with postpartum mood disorder. For me it manifested as anxiety, and occasionally rage with hyper vigilance.
I have had 5 miscarriages and 2 traumatic births. After the birth of my second I attended Holles St Maternity Hospital Mental Health Department to talk through the birth experience, as a lot of it was a blur. I had follow up appointments as my demeanour and slow recovery was of concern, and I was recommended to take Sertraline. I did not want to. Though I knew I was struggling. I kept trying to explain away what I perceived as temporary setbacks making me anxious. I wanted to breastfeed my baby, he had difficulties latching so I had been pumping. I explained away my anxiety as being simply tiredness from new baby and pumping. Then it was the house move and renovations. Then my husbands new job. Then my older child adjusting to new creche. I kept pointing to difficulties or challenges, reasons why I didn't need medication, just more time to get over the thing that was causing stress. It didn't occur to me that the person I was before birth, had been mentally and emotionally more resilient, and would not have been as stressed by the circumstances I then faced. It wasn't the situations that were causing me anxiety. I had become anxious, and as result I wasn't able to cope with challenges as they arose. I felt fragile, tears always on the edges, unable to handle the simplest of tasks. I had perceived the challenges I was facing to be the reason for my anxious state, rather than an anxious state making me feel my circumstances were challenging. I previously faced difficulties, and was able to handle without becoming flustered. Now any minor upset reduced me to tears.
After a number of public and private meltdowns, tantrums, scream fits, rage, hyper vigilance, anxiety and sadness, a family intervention pressured me into counselling. I didn't want to go. I still felt I just needed more time. I was coming up on a year postpartum and I wasn't coping with the basic day to day.
I went to counselling and I reluctantly took the medication. After a few weeks I felt a little less anxious, I started listening to music again, I felt my to do list was manageable once more, and I didn't feel the heartache or crumbling in the darkness that had been a near constant sensation for previous months.
After some time, when I had been feeling more like myself, I decided to stop taking the medication. My thought process was, "I feel better, so I no longer need the medication", whereas it should have been "I feel better, the medication is working".
Weeks then months passed and slowly the anxieties crept back in, I worried constantly that my children would succumb to an accident at school or creche, each day relieved when I collected them to find them still whole.
I shared with a dear friend that I was again struggling, and she sent me a card with this image.
So as the tears were once again brimming and my heart was aching, I went back to my GP. I told him I wasn't feeling well, that I felt like I was crumbling. He prescribed me medication. And so I took the first today.
I don't feel better yet, it will likely be a few weeks, but I hope I'm making informed decisions on how best to get back to my true self.
I'm not feeling better ... yet.