Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Perinatal depression - It's a Thing!!

Perinatal depression (PND) - it's a thing you know!?

The term Postnatal Depression implies 'after' and this can confuse people, it can trick them into thinking that PND 'happens' only after a baby is born.

But this is deceiving!

Perinatal depression can begin during the trying-to-conceive stage, the pregnancy stage, soon after the baby is born, much later after the baby is born, it can come to Mums, to Dads, to carers, it's biology can be environmental, social, hormonal, neurological, transitional, short term, long term, subtle, extreme, managed by self care, managed by diet, managed by medicine, managed very well, not managed very well, diagnosed, not-diagnosed...

                                                            Perinatal depression has layers. Many layers.

Mine arrived basically over night when I was about a month pregnant. It came to me at a time when I was involved in the running of a PND research project through the University of Tasmania and whilst I was supervising a masters project in Postnatal Depression. I knew SO much about the topic and I felt SO much empathy for the women I was involved with who were living with this condition. I was grateful that even though I was feeling sick, tired, grumpy, flat, tired, uber-sensitive, claustrophobic, tired, hard-done-by, anxious (did I mention tired? Make that EXHAUSTED), even though I was feeling all of these things I was so lucky that I didn't have PND!

Mine was all just part of being pregnant, right?

After my babe was born I completed all those forms with the confident air of the health care professional that I am. I was a Mum who knew all her options, knew what to expect and what PND would look like. Also I wasn't a first time Mum, so I had this in the bag. I completed those Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scales like a boss!

But the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), that can also be deceiving!

Q) Have you blamed yourself unnecessarily when things go wrong?
A) No way, I just blame everyone else. Totally fine. Excellent. Low score

Q) Have you been anxious for no good reason?
A) Well working out how to manage two children is a good reason to be anxious, isn't it? Cool, that's a no then. Excellent. Low score.

Q) Have things been getting on top of you?
A) Well, um... I have kids. Ridiculous question. I'm answering no. Good-oh. Another Low score.

GREAT! Another low scoring EPDS assessment. I mean, I'm exhausted and feeling like crap, and sure, sometimes I feel like I'm drowning... But look, here we are at the child health clinic, on time for our appointment, all dressed, coffee in hand. Low score on the EPDS, things obviously aren't that bad!

I may be struggling but this is all just part of being a Mum, right?

But, of course, I did have PND. It occurred to me out of the blue one day (I'm quite certain a cartoon light bulb would have appeared above me!) and in that moment of realisation it felt like a tonne of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders. When I put all the pieces together and realised, without a doubt, that what I was experiencing was a (pretty severe) case of perinatal depression I felt relieved, happy almost, VALIDATED!

"It's OK" I told myself, "I'm 'just' one of the 1 in 7 (or more) - this is common, treatable and real. This is not my new forever, this is a mental health issue, this is something that can be treated."

And still after 2 years I continue to manage it very carefully.

Usually I'm happy, sometimes I'm sad, sometimes I score 3 on the EPDS and sometimes I score 10. I smile and I cry. I'm aware of my self care, my diet, my medical treatment options, I have a psych and I have the Lifeline Telephone Counselling number (13 11 14) saved in my phone (just in case). Sometimes I crash in a heap for a couple of days but generally life is pretty steady and wonderfully enjoyable. PND continues to be the hardest hand I have ever been dealt but when I put it in context, I'm just one of 1 in 7 (or more).

I'm certainly not alone.

If you're confused about what perinatal depression is, if it could be affecting you or someone you love or if you need to reach out for support please do not hesitate to contact PANDA who have a wonderful site full of educational tools and support options and avenues.

November 15th - 21st (2015) is Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week so this is the time to educate yourselves and each other about PND :)

1 comment:

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