I was so wound up in the chaos and intensity in my mind, that I couldn’t see clearly. I mean that figuratively and to some extent literally. The fog was incredible. I have previously spent so much time and energy exploring the recesses of my mind. I like to think that I am insightful and self-aware. And here I was, I had no idea I was esculating until I was hyperventilating in the car. I had no idea how hard things were until I couldn’t see through my tears to call my friend for help.
This one caught me by surprise.
It was crying over the Easter long weekend. Hyperventilating. Going through my phone desperate to find someone to come to be with me, right now, because I was scared. And in pain. Everything hurt. And struggling to breathe.
I posted on my mothers group that I was struggling with anxiety. They messaged comments of love and support. They also mentioned a free counselling service that specialised in postpartum anxiety and depression. There was an office in the next town over. I was relieved.
I made an appointment with a doctor that day. Not my baby-journey doctor, that would be two weeks. This was too important to wait two weeks. Another doctor. I had an appointment the next day.
What I didn’t realise until I was writing that just now, was that that little decision was the first of so many decisions and actions I have had to make, fighting for myself, fighting for support and fighting to be okay.
I went to the doctor. She was incredibly uninformed about mental health presentation. She did run some bloods to look at a physiological reason behind the intensity. So that was diligent. Low iron, low vitamin D. But she was very unhelpful in her advice. She explained that it will get way worse (seriously?!!), and just to wait until she is a teenager, then you’ll be stressing. But in the meantime, just don’t think. And it all doesn’t matter. If the house burns down, it doesn’t matter. I was retelling this to a buddy of mine who (obviously looking horrified at the advice I was given) explained that everything felt like the house burning down – that’s how wired and alert and hyper vigilant I was. Everything felt like my house and sanity and clarity was burning down!
I rang my mothers group friends to ask for the organisation name. I found their number. Two weeks they said. Once they processed the referral. The doctor wrote me the referral.
It wasn’t two weeks. It was four. They are really busy, only operating a few days at my closest office. Four weeks was okay. I could do four weeks.
I had gone back to the doctor to discuss medication. She advised against it because you have to be on it for a long time (at least 12 months), you cannot stop it suddenly, and there was something else… there was three reasons, but I can’t remember. She then told me to take my dog for a walk instead. Like I said, unhelpful.
The psychologist also turned out to be unhelpful. Side note: I am totally aware of how incredibly lucky I am to have access to a free psychological service, and free or not, it was unhelpful. This free service offered 10 free sessions. The first two were all paperwork. I’m not even kidding. A fifth of my service was to legalities and tick boxes. How many times have you ever felt like harming yourself. How many times have you thought about hurting your child. Do you wish you were not a mother. Do you want to go back in time before you were a parent. and on and on and on. Covering family of origin (like every single family member of both our families), support networks, past relationships, past family, past trauma etc.
It was a long two sessions.
But I understand the logistics and duty-of-care that they would probably assume over clients in the mental health arena, so I kept going through it. And hoping that the next session would be better.
It wasn’t. I felt unheard, not seen and not believed. I tried telling the psychologist that I was escalating. That I was having meltdowns. That I was embarrassed by my escalation and meltdowns and the mere fact of not coping. I need help to cope.
She insisted that she do thorough trauma counselling. Which in her defence was probably diligent… but it was definitely not what I needed. I have done that work. I can tell you why this anxiety is coming up, what my mind is telling me and how that relates to childhood voices. I can tell you about the continued stresses and hormonal imbalances of complex post traumatic stress and how it fluctuates throughout my life. I appreciate that there is an interplay, but this is not what I need help with.
On top of that there was unhelpful comments such as people from your kind of background typically go on to ignore or neglect their children, because that’s what is natural for them. Ummmmmm I’m here asking for help. Help me. And if that is a concern of yours, based on my presentation (I don’t think it was), use your training to reach through. Until then, that comment was unhelpful. Actually harmful. Also the equally contradictory statement of you need to be careful of not smothering her with love. So I am going to neglect and smother her with love?? Not helpful. Especially with incredibly intense trains looping and second guesses guessing. Very unhelpful.
It was after my fourth session when I was crying so hard I couldn’t see the road on the way home, my baby was crying in the back and my chest was so tight that I pulled into a friends house. I blurted out about how this was supposed to be helping. I was holding myself together just enough to get to these appointments. They were supposed to help, fill up my emptying sanity bucket gradually until I was a functioning adult again. They were not. She suggested looking around.
Although that concept was sickeningly overwhelming, and knowing I needed to talk to someone to help me get home, I rang PANDA Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia. THEY WERE PHENOMENAL!
I told the counsellor everything. The shitty doctor. The unhelpful psychologist. The long wait. The drives. The escalations. The meltdowns. The fear. The uncertainty. The certainty. Even about my husbands’ job stress. Everything. And for the first time, I felt heard, in my entirety, for everything that was happening and compounding in my world. I felt validated. And most importantly, I felt supported!
I changed doctors. I changed psychologists. I enrolled in a parenting course that is helping me learn how to interact, bond and attach with my daughter. I am about to enrol in external play groups us both play some more.
AND I went on medication.
And it was a lifesaver.
I could leave the house without crying. I could breath. And notice when I was getting stressed out. And I could see how far I had come. What a delightfully far way it is.
My new doctor is an angel! He is slow and patient. He listens, and never rushes. He doesn’t make jokes about my feelings. He didn’t even laugh at him when I asked for one medication rather than another (turns out they are the same thing). What a difference it makes to feel heard, educated, and empowered.
I would highly recommend seeking help. And keep seeking it. Over and over again. Despite misinformed, unhelpful, noisy, untrusting (and any other adjective) helpers that may have not been what you needed. Keep going. Because it gets better. It gets so much better!
A huge thank you to all the comments and messages on my previous posts. The support has been humbling. Thank you! Also a huge thank you to a few key buddies that stayed around and kept asking, despite me withdrawing. Thank you! And a big thank you to my doctor for the fortnightly check ups as we adjust the medication and get me functioning again. I am so immeasurably grateful.