Ā Tātou Kōrero | Our Stories
Ā Tātou Kōrero | Our Stories
Stories inspire and heal us – you are not alone. The stories on these pages have been shared with the aim of helping others.
My name is Kathryn and this is the story of how I ran into the brick wall of depression when my first child was born. Depression at its greatest intensity is all consuming, like suffocating with no visible sign of anyone or anything doing the suffocating. Writing about it, even though it was over 13 years ago, has challenged me emotionally but having been through this experience I am a different person, more accepting, compassionate, and happy for the small things that bring me joy. This is the hope that I want to share with you.
The pregnancy was uneventful and on the whole, it was a very happy time. I left work a month before the baby was due and did the nesting thing that most of us seem to go through. I was induced 10 days past my due date and after a tiring and lengthy labour, my beautiful daughter was born.
When I look back on my time in hospital, this is when I began to feel overwhelmed and as my mother later said, I looked ‘bewildered’. I muddled through, trying to get to grips with breastfeeding, engorged breasts, cracked and bleeding nipples, etc…. I had no idea what I was doing and felt very out of control.
When I got home, the house was untidy and unclean, my baby was unsettled, and I couldn’t even think clearly enough to make up her bassinet properly. I panicked, heart racing, sweating, dry mouth, nauseous. What the hell was I doing! My midwife came over straight away and tried to reassure me. I just felt so useless.
The next two weeks were a steady decline each day into what I now know to be a state of severe depression. During this time, I started a course of antidepressants. It was very difficult to eat anything – I forced down some food in order to keep breastfeeding.
I had frequent panic attacks, which would grip me in the stomach mainly and cause me to shake. I dreaded the sound of my baby’s cries thinking I had no idea what to do to help her. I had no connection emotionally with my baby.
I couldn’t laugh, watch TV, or read. All the things that I knew used to make me laugh and feel good were gone. It felt like looking at one of those music videos where everything rushes past except for the singer who is moving in slow motion and the video is shot in black and white. I felt nothing. The energy I normally got from looking at colour was gone. My joy at seeing a sunrise or sunset vanished.
Then one awful day, I lay on the couch for hours and hours, staring up and out the window at the sky and knew I wanted to die. This out of control, panicked, incredibly sad pain was unbearable. I had a plan of exactly where and how I would do it. I became desperate and rang my midwife in a mess. She immediately got me the help I needed and a few hours later, I was being assessed by Psychiatric Emergency.
I was admitted to hospital. I didn’t want to be there at first. It was frightening but what was the alternative? I was too scared to go home. One of my overwhelming feelings was one of wishing to be looked after, just as my baby was being cared for-in a cot, asleep, with all my needs met.
Eventually, the medication started working, and I felt less anxious and sad. It was then hard to leave the safety of the hospital, a remarkable turn around but predictable. My crisis of confidence took a long time to improve – it was a full year before I started to be a relaxed and happy mum.
I have gone on to have two more children; both times, I have taken antidepressants at the time of the birth as a precautionary measure. I still felt at times depressed and out of control but not with the same intensity and duration.
PND is generally considered a depression with a good outcome for recovery. In my experience this is true. Just hold on to hope. Many of us have experienced it. Support is crucial, especially from people who are able to sit, listen, and make no judgments about your feelings and thoughts.