Bec’s story of perinatal depression and anxiety

Did you know that over 100,000 new and expecting Australian parents struggle with perinatal anxiety & depression? 11yrs ago, I was one of them. But I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I reached out for help pretty quickly, whereas in Australia. This rises to 1 in 7 mums and 1 in 10 dads struggle with anxiety and depression after birth, with many parents suffering in silence.

This week I’d like to show my support for Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week, and to encourage parents to reach out and ask for help, and for friends, families, doctors, communities to open their hearts and listen with understanding. We need to start having honest conversations about parenthood.

Today I’d like to share with you Bec’s Story:

In August 2012 Louis was born four weeks early. He and I certainly faced the standard gamut of newborn challenges – reflux and feeding every 3 hours he wasn’t able to breastfeed (as a premature baby).

It was at around 6 weeks old that the wheels metaphorically “fell off” for me. It happened rapidly and severely over a period of about 72 hours.  As a professional I was previously accustomed to – perceptibly – being in control of much in my life; I wasn’t aware of what was unfolding.

I found myself laying on my back at the local park, pram in tow, unable to get up. That initial call to my Mum was not just physically hard but mentally challenging. All I could think was “how do I tell the woman who raised two children without wavering that I’m not able to do the role after 6 weeks. I learned straight away the value of straight talk and to dismiss the instinct to try and mask the struggles of reality. From here on we began educating one another while she creating a sense of normality in what was an extremely abnormal circumstance to me.

For the next 6 months I did not drive my car, my husband struggled as he worked from home trying to hold down a demanding CEO role, as I required someone with me twenty four hours a day as a result of acute anxiety. I would regularly start my day as late as 4pm. My husband carried out the morning routine and would often be up for feeds at 2am and be tapping away on his laptop to stay afloat at work.

A combination of support from family, friends, a psychiatrist, psychologist, an amazing GP and patience and determination to change things, great improvement followed but it took time.

Two things that came into my life that were pivotal in shifting my anxiety into confidence were the Anglicare program, Little Oaks, and my employment with lululemon athletica. The Little Oaks program was a one of its kind in South Australia where mothers and their children interact in a safe and supportive environment. Qualified professionals convened the group then see to the children freeing up the mums to engage in morning tea, conversation and structured creative and journaling activities. This became a beacon in my week. It peeled away layers of isolation and gave me insight into my situation.

The confidence I re-established over the program’s 16 weeks took me from thinking I’d never gain employment again to becoming a leading part of a global company. The key for me was making the choice to be completely transparent with my employer and in turn being afforded respect, development opportunities and trust.

While now PND is always with me it shines a light on things that aren’t necessarily serving me in my life giving me the opportunity to alter my thoughts, outlook, and approach to circumstances. Anxiety, for me, has been reduced om severity and duration by being open and honest with myself and those who understand me. Learning to identify challenges or triggers and have “tools in your tool box” to apply to situations is a valuable asset.

I think that with a positive perspective anything is possible; it may just take some time.

PANDA #1If you know a new parent, take a moment this week to check in with them and ask how they are going. Parenthood can be really tough and parents need to know that it’s ok to reach out for help. For support, please call PANDA’s National Helpline on 1300 726 306 Mon-Fri 10-5pm AEST or visit www.panda.org.au

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