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Frances on getting help after experiencing anxiety, depression and dark thoughts

mom holding newborn in a hospital bed - essay on getting help after experiencing anxiety

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

My name is Fran. I’m 26 and Irish. I had my first little man in November 2018 and my pregnancy was pretty much smooth sailing aside from pelvic girdle pain and retaining fluid everywhere.

On Monday, November 12th, my waters started slowly leaking. I was thrilled to think I had escaped an induction, but how I wrong was. I met my little man the next day after a traumatic, very quick delivery and not being able to have pain relief. I had a vacuum delivery and episiotomy later with quite a few stitches. I was thrown quite quickly into the realm that is motherhood.

The day after I gave birth is when my emotions and hormones peaked and I started to feel like I was maybe getting the baby blues. Every midwife that I asked said it was normal, and that I was happy enough.

Related: Is it baby blues or postpartum depression? How to tell the difference

Fast forward to a very tiring, emotional few days when we were discharged and I couldn’t wait to get home because I thought I would feel better. I was wrong again.

Suddenly the reality that this little helpless human depended on me to nurture him really hit me. Slowly over the coming days and weeks I started to feel “detached” from my little man and life was just a haze. I couldn’t keep up with the speed of my thoughts, but when they started to take a dark turn, I knew I needed to seek help.

It was the end of November/early December when I went to my public health nurse and she called my GP. I made the best decision to present myself to the department of psychiatry in my local hospital–a decision that I now know saved my life.

I was diagnosed with severe postnatal depression and anxiety with OCD traits and intrusive thoughts. A very scary reality but I knew I had to for my baby, so I started on a medication and then was seen regularly in the mental health clinic.

Related: Postpartum psychosis is rare—but dangerous

I can now say that two years later that it does get better. It may not seem like it at the time, but please trust me. I was in a very dark place and felt like the “old Fran” or “before baby Fran” had left and I would never find her again, but I did.

With the help of the medication (it had to be adjusted a few times, so please don’t panic if the first try doesn’t work), and a psychiatrist who listened I got myself back.

I now also see a psychologist each week and he is amazing. Becoming a mother is hard enough without battling with your mind on top of it, but you can get through like I did.

Related: How to find the best therapist for you (and what to expect)

I am not going to sit here and say I don’t have my days, but who doesn’t? It’s only natural but do whatever you need to help yourself. Never feel ashamed or that you are a bad person because I did and it doesn’t help the situation.

You are an amazing mother doing what you can for you and your baby and that in itself is the most selfless thing. I hope anyone that is reading my story will please hold on and as hard as it gets, it does get better and day by day the dark clouds will start to fade.

We need to lift each other up and if even one person benefits or relates to my story then my job is done. Take care and do not be hard on yourself.