Mental Health

surviving postpartum postnatal depression anxiety mental health

For the first time in my life I have the proper treatment for my mental health. It is utterly amazing what medication, and the right help from professionals can do. I have been medicated in the past and/or seen a psychologist and done tests, etc., but never have I felt [consistently] like this.

[side note: one of my pet peeves is when people ask me what happened to make me depressed or anxious... or tell me to be thankful for what I have... I know that sometimes, depression and/or anxiety are triggered by external events but in my case, it was/is primarily a chemical imbalance coupled with my reaction to situations, because of my nature. I know it is just ignorance but I wish that mental illness wasn't so taboo so the general public could be more educated. SO MANY people deal with a mental illness of some kind in their lifetime. It would be so awesome if they didn't feel wrong or alone while suffering]

Part of me can’t help but feel ripped off for the past however long of my life where I’ve struggled and struggled with depression and anxiety. It’s like a veil has been lifted from my face and I’m shocked into the realisation that this is how most other people feel all the time. Sure, I’ve had periods of my life without depressive episodes or major anxiety… but in the past month (since my psychiatric evaluation, mental health plan and consequent med dose increase) it as though I’m finally seeing in colour. Everything is clearer.

But you know what? Aside from happiness, contentment and feeling so damn grateful… the strongest emotion I’m feeling is PRIDE. Because now I can see that I coped so freaking well with that heavy veil of negativity clouding my thoughts. I am phenomenally strong. Depression, especially, is like walking through life in heavy layers of cold, soaking wet clothing with rain belting down on you – but everyone else sees a dry, warm version of you.

Depression robs you of basic motivation. Not in a ‘oh, I can’t be bothered right now’ kind of way… but in a deep-set, heavy, burdensome way that hits you out of no where. Often I would wake up with no will to do anything, I felt utterly hopeless – but I DID. Even though nothing seemed worth it. I kept going. I was a fucking brilliant mama considering the inner struggle I fought most days.

Anxiety weakens you. So alongside all of the above, I found myself doubting every action that I did make. At it’s worst I felt immobilised by fear. Anxiety attacks sure can be traumatic. Despite being mental illnesses, I went so much physically. The scariest part of anxiety attacks and suicidal ideation for me was that I partially dissociated anytime that things got too heavy.

My mind was so cruel to me. I was my own worst enemy. Every doubt and fear was fleshed out in my mind and I turned it in on myself. There was so much self-loathing.. so much pressure and expectations from myself. I think to those who had no idea, I came across as negative and self-centered. However, these thoughts are uncontrollable. Without help, it’s simply a downward spiral.

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday when I was talking about the future with Mike. I said to him “It’s so strange, since Lucy’s birth I have this overwhelming desire to make our dreams a reality.” I have always been determined, even when depressed, so it didn’t even occur to me that my drive was altered. But here I am with what feels like an injection of ambition and strength. & again, that makes me proud, to think that despite all the chemicals in my brain robbing me of my motivation and ability to positively look forward to the future; I sure fought through it.

It is funny adjusting to not dealing with the symptoms of severe depression or generalised anxiety disorder. Who knows what the future holds, but hopefully this will be my new normal. Depression and anxiety are so familiar to me. Particularly in the past 4 years. I’m still working through some of my internal dialogue and those automatic thoughts that have been my ‘go to’ when things get hard in my life. I feel like I have got to get to fully know this ‘new’ Rachel.

I don’t like what it took for me to truly actively seek help and help myself (I may talk about it in the future). But I’m so proud that I did. I’m so proud and thankful for the people in my life who have helped me through this (especially my husband and sister). Nothing I could do could repay them.

Anyway, I’m writing this quickly to share where I am at… and hopefully to inspire others to actively seek help if they are in that dark place. Things CAN be better. Believe me, I never thought so until proven otherwise. I always said that ‘it’ (depression and/or anxiety) was “just how I am”. & you are so much stronger than you think.

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OH, & I’m 24 today! Happy birthday to me :) Waking up to little Lucy and Cammy cuddles was the best birthday pressie ever!

Lucy Violet is here!

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Lucy Violet entered the world at 6:25am on the 25th of March after a 17 hour labour. She weighed a petite 6 pound 8, was 51 cm long and had a head circ of 34cm. I pushed her out in one push!

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We are all so in love..

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I love her so fiercely..

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We are all in awe and in love with her! She is just beautiful and such a dream baby. Aside from a post-dural-puncture ‘headache’ (so not a headache, as those in the know would know!) & the consequent visit to theatre for an epidural blood patch, we have been doing beautifully. I am so blessed and this is such a different experience to last time!

new baby girl

My Babies

*sighs* It’s so lovely to say/type/think “my babies”…

Today I am 15 weeks pregnant! Most of the more unpleasant symptoms are gone (goodbye nausea!) but I’m still always tired and the reflux has begun. These things pale in significance to the wonderful things… like my belly button starting to pop out (yes, already!) and teeny flutters below my belly button. Hi Bud, Mummy feels you!

Cameron is 21 months old! This is a busy age where I can literally witness his development daily.

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New developments include: drawing lines and circles. Pointing out shapes (circle, crescent, star, diamond). Doing rolly poleys! (too cute!) and his colour sorting skills are evolving. He also expertly kicks a ball with the inside of his foot (much to Mike’s delight).

montessori toddler art collage

He is eating so much more. He has cut some new eye teeth and since then his appetite is crazy. He starts most days with two weetbix and loves snacking all day (cashews, berries, sultanas, crackers and apples feature heavily).

Cameron can now undress himself (shirt, shorts, nappy and all!) so I have to watch him in public! I encouraged undressing himself for bath-time and toileting so now it’s time to teach appropriateness of timing :P

Speaking of toileting, toilet learning isn’t going so great. With a combination of a busy toddler who only vaguely is interested half the time and a Mum who is equally as wishy-washy with enthusiasm, we have a recipe for little progress. We have only had a couple of potty successes. Although he enjoys the routine – running to the toilet, taking off his pants and nappy, getting up on the seat (with trains on it!) and asking for tissues… and he looks mighty cute in teeny ‘big-boy’ undies!

montessori toddler toilet learning

Next weekend my Dad is getting married so you can expect some super-cute photos of Cameron all dressed up in a mini-suit! I also have several posts in drafts that I’ll hopefully get around to finishing soon :)

Thank you for the lovely comments on my last post!

Survivor

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The past week I have found myself stalked by the familiar fog of anxiety and depression. It was lingering around me. The niggling negativity. The numbness. The fear.

But it doesn’t realise how strong I am now.

Although I am medicated for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (including anxiety attacks and Post-partum Depression which followed), I no longer see a psychologist and I manage with lifestyle.. I see myself as a survivor and has someone who has recovered.

I know I will probably have more times like these that remind me of The Darker Times but I hope with my next babies I can enjoy the newborn stage and beyond.

A great easy to understand list of The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (In Plain Mama English) can be found here. I am so proud of how far I have come since a time where I pretty much experienced EVERYTHING on that list.

It is hard, I think, from an outsiders perspective, to comprehend mental illness in many circumstances. People can, without realising or saying anything, have a Glint of Judgment (click for great blog post that explains how it feels!). So many people have more hardships in life.

There are things about my experiences with peri-natal mood disorders that I haven’t shared… things I’m not sure how to express and things I have only remembered as time has gone on.

But, each time I see people finding my blog by searching things like “pnd and anxiety attacks”, ”will i lose my baby if i have anxiety” (and the fact that “postpartum insomnia” & “postpartum anxiety” are the #3 and #5 searched terms that lead people to my blog), I remember that it’s important to keep talking and to keep inspiring mamas and letting them know that this is treatable, temporary and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Breastfeeding Beyond One Year Is Disgusting

The title is ridiculous, I know, but some people believe this.

Disclaimer(s): I’m about to talk about ‘extended’ breastfeeding (beyond one year). I know that this ‘debate’ is a sensitive one and I really do not want people to feel judged.

For me, it is not about what is ‘best’ but what is best for you, your child/ren and your situation.

I truly believe that there are countless ‘right’ ways to raise a child.

This post has been brought about because of the amount of ignorant and frankly hurtful comments that I have had regarding breastfeeding – both in real life and online and the comments I’ve read online on vlogs (all you have to do is youtube ‘breastfeeding toddler’ to get bombarded by hateful comments, trust me).

Anyway, I just want to empower mothers and hope that you learn even one thing from this post. Feel free to debate it and tell me what you think.

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Breastfeeding your toddler can provide:
31% of his daily energy needs,
38% of protein requirements,
45% of Vitamin A requirements, and
95% of Vitamin C needs.

Source: WHO/CDR/93.4

I nurse my 13.5 month old son.

I work on the ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ policy.

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Why do I do it? There are so many reasons.

It is not just about the milk. I’m sure you are already aware that breastmilk is a living fluid. The exact composition of breast milk varies from day to day, depending on your food consumption and environment.

Breastmilk even changes during a feed. Initially foremilk is produced (the milk released at the beginning of a feed, is watery, low in fat and high in carbohydrates) and as the feed progresses creamier hindmilk is released which is filling. The breast can never be truly “emptied” since milk production is a continuous biological process.

“In addition to the appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat, breast milk also provides vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes and hormones – all of the things that a growing infant will require. Breast milk also contains antibodies and lymphocytes from the mother that help the baby resist infections. The immune function of breastmilk is individualized, as the mother, through her touching and taking care of the baby, comes into contact with pathogens that colonize the baby and consequently her body makes the appropriate antibodies and immune cells.”

breastfeeding lovin' it

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Aside from the nutritional benefits (which I certainly don’t underestimate – I take comfort in the fact that he gets some of his nutrients from me) there are things that aren’t talked about as often.

Like how it is easy. Breastfeeding is convenient. There is no washing of bottles/sippy cups, carrying around milk or formula and worrying about temperature (if your tot is fussy).

It is an instant calmer. If Cameron bites his tongue or falls over or is sick it is like magic.

Not to mention the health benefits to me, the calories used which can help with weightloss and how it can help with allergies and speech development in children.

Nursing is a great way of touching base while Cameron busily explores his world. People have a misconception that breastfeeding for any length of time creates clingy and emotionally dependent kids. But many studies show that providing your little one with this loving and secure base actually helps him to become independent. Breastfeeding truly provides a sense of stability during a time of rapid growth and development.

It sucks that breastfeeding beyond a year is considered ‘extended’ breastfeeding in western society. It sucks that conditioning, generalisations and outdated information seems to be the driving factor in some mothers’ decision making.

It sucks that nursing a toddler is considered by some to be wrong, gross, perverted, abusive, sick or disgusting.

It sucks that breastfeeding in public is even something that is debated!

breastfeeding cow udder joke

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It must be said that a lot of these beliefs stem from the sexualisation of breasts in our culture.

“Bonding” is a big factor. It’s a kind of vague concept. Many mothers say it.. “breastfeeding creates such a beautiful bond, I love it” and what not. But what do we mean?

For me, it is all those little blissful moments. I think prior to breastfeeding I really didn’t understand the concept – it was so abstract.. But now I get it and it’s hard to figure out how to share it without offending someone. But hopefully you will understand where I am coming from.

Nursing a child is truly one of the most intimate things I’ve ever experienced. Not intimate in a sexual sesnse but intimate in that it is so innocent and sweet and unique to you and your nursling. It can really force you to slow down and revel in the simple beauty of it.

My first experiences with nursing can make me get emotional even now. How he would stare up at me and suckle furiously. How he would hold my finger and do little shifty eyes. I still marvel at it now and all the moments that we share because of breastfeeding.

I’m by no means saying that Mum’s who don’t breastfeed do not bond to their children or anything like that. I wasn’t breastfed and I think my Mum is amazing and you certainly don’t need nursing to establish a beautiful mother-child bond.

But it is multi-faceted and the relationship is different and unique.

The bond is all about the closeness. The little moments that are the norm in the flow of your day.

The snuffling to find the comfort. Those precious times that he falls asleep at the breast and he is so peaceful, content, flushed and full.

It is the anticipatory noises, the grunts while feeding and sighs that follow. & the way that he will smile up at me and that gaze that melt my heart and makes me feel like I’m the centre of his world in that moment. Those big blue eyes staring up at me while I share those moments.

Or how his body has grown and adapted to feeding positions. How he now tucks his legs in when he feeds laying down or how he can even stand and feed now.

& the magical times where he giggles while nursing. When I make a funny noise when he is poking at my face or when I play peek-a-boo. Those precious funny moments where he lets out his chuckle between sucks.

It’s all the heart warming, touching, can’t-believe-you-are-mine moments. It’s all those things and so much more that make me so eternally grateful that I relactated back when he was so young and got another year (and counting) of this magic.

It’s all those things that make me want to encourage other mothers to have this experience too, if they can and want to.

& it is all of those reasons why I wish that breastfeeding beyond one year was seen as normal and as the beautiful thing that it is.

Update: I went on to breastfeed my son until he was 20 months old and I was entering my second trimester of pregnancy and my milk supply dropped dramatically. For me, breastfeeding a toddler was the best time frame of breast feeding!