I remember feeling like I was drowning. Desperate for someone to pull me to safety from the sea of overwhelm just so I could catch my breath for a minute.
But how could anyone save me if they didn’t know I was drowning? I couldn’t tell anyone because that would mean I failed. Right?
I felt like there was no light, there was no life raft and there was no way out. This was my life now, I was way in over my head and there was no turning back.
I was wrong though. There was a life raft waiting for me, I just needed to put my hand up so I could climb up onto it and find my way back.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety affects 1 in 7 women
I’m 1 in 7
It hasn’t been an easy journey but I can honestly say it was the best thing to ever happen to me. It opened my eyes to how much I needed to work on in my life and has completely transformed me for the better.
Motherhood is an emotional roller coaster ride. The highs are filled with more beauty, magic and bliss than you could ever imagine, and remembering the amazing moments is where you draw your strength from to keep going when you’re experiencing a low (toddler battles anyone?).
But what happens when that’s not enough? When the dark cloud sets in and you’re void of any positive emotion or you just feel numb and empty. What do you do then?
I want you to know that your life raft is coming.
You just need to find that little spark inside of you to ignite the fire that will become your determination to put your hand out and climb onto that life raft.
I hope that by sharing with you 10 things I did to help me along in my own journey to overcoming Postpartum Depression & Anxiety, that maybe it’ll help you in yours too because you deserve to be able to experience the magic in motherhood.
1. Professional Help
Overcoming depression and anxiety isn’t something you should have to do all on your own.
One of the most important steps is to seek professional help, whether that’s in the form of medication or talk therapy. Find a supportive GP that will discuss with you the best options for you and who will support you on your journey.
My wonderful GP and I decided that medication was my best option. The medication didn’t fix everything straight away, it was a slow process but as the weeks rolled by I felt myself become lighter and the mental clarity was like nothing I’d ever experienced. By week 6, I was the happiest I’d felt in a really long time.
The Psychologist route wasn’t for me. I do believe in the importance of talking through your struggles though. So if a Psychologist isn’t for you, please find someone who allows you the space to talk through your feelings free from judgement.
I was able to do this with my husband and it helped us both gain a much deeper understanding of who I am as a person, what areas I needed to improve in my life and where he could help to make things easier and more enjoyable for me as a wife and mother.
2. Establishing A Support Network
This step was uncomfortable for me because it required me to be vulnerable and honest and tell those closest to me what was really going on.
Even though the stigma around mental health has reduced significantly, I still felt shame. Like I had failed as a mother, a woman and a wife. I was scared of being judged or people thinking I didn’t love my baby because that wasn’t the case.
Here’s the thing, though: shame keeps us silent and trapped, but shame can’t survive if we start being honest and vulnerable. Brene Brown said, “what we don’t need in the midst of struggle, is shame for being human.”
The more I shared my reality, the more the shame melted away and I was able to see how much love and support I had around me.
This doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone in your life all at once, just start with those people in your life that are the most reliable and who will be gentle with your emotions. The last thing you need is to feel judged or like you need to justify yourself when you’re overcoming something so raw and challenging.
3. Call In The Troops & Off Load The Load
As women, we tend to think we can do it all and if we don’t, somehow we are failing. I’ve got news for you Mumma, no one is doing it all and thriving. When I realised this, my mind was blown and a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was forever trying to live up to this unrealistic expectation I’d set for myself that I had to do it all and when I wasn’t able to, I crumbled.
Now is the time to call in your support network and delegate. Yes, things may not be done exactly as you like it, but loosening the reigns and allowing others to step in and help is such an integral part of getting better.
You are no less of a woman, partner or mother for asking for help. Is doing it ALL really worth your sanity?
In my situation, my husband took on more of the household chores. I felt guilty at first because he works really long hours and is the sole income earner. We both came to the realisation that in a marriage/partnership we are teammates and when one teammate is falling behind, the other is there to catch them and help them get back on course. This realisation really did wonders for our marriage. Our appreciation and respect for one another grew immensely.
4. Catch Some More Zzzz’s
Sleep isn’t an easy thing to come by as a mum as sleep deprivation is an unavoidable part of parenthood.
If you can, try to get 3 consecutive nights of uninterrupted sleep, it’ll make a huge difference.
Your partner is just as capable of attending to the children in the night as you are. I promise you, they’ll be okay.
If you’re breastfeeding and not wanting to give a bottle overnight, talk to your partner about starting work a little later so you can have a sleep in in the morning.
It had been 2.5 years since I’d had a full night’s sleep as our oldest Son had never slept through the night.
Once I realised how capable my husband was, we made it permanent and my husband now attends to our youngest for all his night wakes and has developed the most beautiful bond with him where our Son feels secure enough to let his dad comfort him in times of distress.
5. Get Moving
I’m not a huge fan of exercising. It hurts, it’s boring and I don’t care to sweat. It’s also the last thing I want to do when I’m feeling crappy.
Here’s the thing though. When we move our bodies, our physiology changes and that changes our brain and of course, we all know about the endorphins that get released.
Your exercise routine doesn’t need to involve vigorous running and lifting weights if that’s not what you like doing.
Just going for a walk is sufficient even if it’s just around the block.
Walking gave me a chance to zone out without anyone nagging me or talking to me and allowed me some time to calm down, catch my breath and reset.
I would take my boys with me and bribes were required to get my oldest to comply (thank god for the Ipad) but it was worth it for a bit of solitude.
I was on Instagram one day and came across this yoga video:
It honestly changed my life as it opened my eyes to the world of mindfulness and how much it can help every aspect of your life.
I am by no means a highly capable Yogi. I still do Yoga with the blinds closed so my neighbours can’t see my whacked version of a Yogi Squat or any other position that requires coordination and balance.
Yoga isn’t about getting the poses right though. It’s about focusing on being present in your body and on your breath.
Doing Yoga every morning helps me start the day calm and it helps motivate me to be a little more productive.
In my opinion, 10 minutes a day is enough to reap some of the benefits.
As much as I love doing Yoga alone, it’s not possible at this time in my life so don’t worry about creating the most relaxing zen environment.
My boys love getting involved and crawling under me while I’m in downward facing dog and it starts the morning off with a few laughs.
Okay, hear me out on this one.
Before I got into mindfulness practises I thought they were the most ridiculous things I’d ever heard of and couldn’t have been further from my idea of relaxation.
I used to think how is breathing supposed to help anything apart from keeping me alive?
I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was about 18. My mind was a hot mess, always racing and my body was always tense. I lived in a heightened emotional state where I was extremely reactive and irritable ready to snap at anything or anyone.
Meditation calms down your sympathetic nervous system which means it stops the release of stress hormones.
The purpose of meditation is to still the mind and strengthen the conscious mind so that you can gain perspective, understand yourself better and gain better control over your mind and body.
Like anything, it takes time to learn to meditate and get comfortable with it.
I started meditating for 5 minutes a day. My life is loud, chaotic and full-on with two young boys. Having the chance to be still, quiet and peaceful without going to sleep, is so refreshing.
Learning to focus my mind and slowing my breath changed my life. I am now a lot calmer, way less reactive and I haven’t struggled with anxiety since I started meditating. Anytime I’m faced with stress and conflict, I call on what I’ve learnt and manage to get through difficult situations in a much less reactive way.
Jump onto Youtube and find a guided meditation that you like the sound of (some voices can be extremely irritating so make sure you can tolerate the narrator’s voice before you start).
Whenever your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath. Notice your thoughts and let them float away rather than thinking further and further into them.
Don’t get frustrated at how often your mind wanders off that’s normal. You’re not a Monk so lower the expectation that your mind should be still.
Within time, you’ll notice how differently you react in times of stress, you’ll be able to call on what you’ve learnt and still your mind, calm your nervous system and focus on your breathing.
8. Find A Creative Outlet
Working on our creativity helps us to become better problem solvers. The indecisiveness that comes with depression is really difficult to deal with so when a problem arises, we aren’t able to think clearly to find a solution.
Our thought patterns are on repeat during times of depression which keeps us feeling trapped in a tiny dark box with no way out.
Being creative calls for different ways of thinking, so it allows us to create new thought patterns and break through the old ones that keep us stuck.
Find something that’ll light you up and encourage you to be creative and challenge your mind.
For me, it was training to become a coach and turning my pain into passion and purpose.
Having something else to focus on outside of being a mum gave me a sense of purpose and fulfilment that I hadn’t felt since I first became a mum.
9. Limit Your Own Screen Time
I would use my phone as a way to escape my reality. Endlessly scrolling or watching reality TV to distract me. So I decided to delete social media and took a break from watching the news and my trashy TV shows.
Pay attention to what you’re consuming. Is it expanding you energetically or is it draining you? How are you feeling while you’re engaged in what you’re looking at?
10. Start Working On Personally Developing Yourself
If medication and talk therapy aren’t options you’re wanting to try at this point, start working on your own personal development.
Through books, TED talks, Youtube videos, podcasts, and documentaries, I learned so much about changing my mindset, thinking patterns, and emotional state, which led to an increase in self-awareness that has helped me be a better mother, wife, sister, friend, and daughter.
It is possible to do the work on your own, you just need to find the right teachers to inspire you to make changes in your life that’ll help you on your recovery journey. I really enjoyed reading:
- Think Like A Monk – Jay Shetty
- How To Do The Work – Dr Nicole Lepera
- The Gifts Of Imperfection – Brene Brown
If you prefer videos and podcasts check out:
- Melissa Ambrosini
- Happy Mama Movement
- Motherhood Sessions
- The Kylie Camps Podcast – Episode 83: Motherhood – A New Identity With Dr Libby Quinn
I truly believe it’s important for each of us to understand who we are, what we want, what we believe, what we value and why we do what we do. Cultivating self-awareness allows us to heal parts of ourselves we didn’t know needed healing, live a meaningful life, and have deeper and more authentic relationships.
The Beauty In Life Will Return
When you’re in the thick of depression you feel like there’s no light at the end of a really dark long and lonely tunnel.
I promise you it will get better. It won’t be overnight, but one day you will stop and realise how much you’re enjoying the small things again and how you can finally appreciate the beauty in those moments.
Please don’t give up on yourself because you’re worthy of a happy and healthy life and there is no better mother in this world for your children than you!