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I Was Crying On The Bathroom Floor When My Husband Came In And Found Me

In the early hours of a hot summer morning in late 2012, I found myself in the worst mental state of my life.

November 10 to 16 is PANDA Week which aims to raise awareness about perinatal depression and anxiety. 

I was curled up into a ball on my bathroom floor, rocking myself back and forth, crying uncontrollably. In between my sobs, over and over again I said: “I wish I wasn’t a mother. I can’t do this anymore.”

When my husband heard my sobs and came in, he saw me there and his expression changed from half asleep to utter shock. I knew he had no idea, just as I didn’t, about how to console me, how to help or what he could do to make me feel better.

The truth was in that moment, there was nothing that could be done. I felt completely defeated and so completely depressed that I had retreated within myself to a place I had never gone before. It was dark, lonely and terrifying.

Shona Hendley. Image: Supplied

In the next room, my newborn baby girl was finally asleep after hours of me feeding and comforting her. This had been the routine for the past two months since she was born.

But instead of feeling content, loving and lucky to have a healthy baby that I so desperately wanted, I felt exhausted; physically, emotionally and mentally. I didn’t want to, nor could I, do it anymore.

I wondered what was wrong with me and what kind of mother could I possibly be to have these thoughts. In my head I heard the voices of all the people who had said to me:

It’ll be the best time of your life.

This is the start of a beautiful new chapter.

Newborns are so easy.

I miss the baby stage.

These well-meaning comments that so many people, so many women, so many other mothers seemed to have. Ones that had openly shared with me and expressed a view that through my baby a blessing had come into my life and with that, I was supposed to feel joy and happiness.

But I didn’t feel like this. Not at all. I felt the absolute opposite and at this moment as I sat crumbled on the hard, cold tiles, all I could think was that I had failed because I was not like them.

It was very evident after that night I needed professional help. I could no longer manage and I was struggling. My own feelings of failure, heightened emotions and my exhaustion were beyond coping with myself or with the support of family.

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It had moved into a different realm where it was now overwhelming me so much that it was stopping me from being the mother, partner, or person that I wanted to be.

After speaking with my GP, I was referred to a local maternal mental health clinic. Through them, I was diagnosed with severe perinatal depression. From the list of common symptoms, I presented with every one:

  • Low mood and/or feeling numb,
  • Loss of interest in things that would normally be enjoyable,
  • Feeling inadequate, like a failure, guilty, ashamed, worthless, hopeless, helpless, empty or sad,
  • Feeling unmotivated and unable to cope with the daily routine,
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep,
  • Often feeling close to tears,
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

When they asked me if I experienced these things and to each one I replied with a yes, the magnitude of my situation finally hit me. Although It was extremely difficult to admit feeling this way, at the same time it was comforting to know there was a reason for it and that I was not the only one.

They explained to me that my condition had most likely been building up over time throughout my pregnancy as a result of the anxiety I felt around a past miscarriage and the fear of it happening again. Eventually, this had compounded until I literally reached my breaking point.

After my diagnosis, it took months for me to really break through that initial boundary of depression that had surrounded me.

I began by working intensively, twice a week, with a psychologist who approached my condition with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT aims to challenge and change unhelpful focuses and beliefs, the fundamental cause of my perinatal depression.

The work we did included specific goal setting and approaches to the way I thought and encouraged me to question thoughts rather than to just accept them.

As well as a psychologist, I saw a psychiatrist who prescribed anti-depressants which allowed me to get on top of my condition while I worked with my psychologist doing the CBT for a longer-term solution.

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It wasn’t a quick fix, there is no easy way through something like perinatal depression. It is like a dark cloud that follows you, threatening to rain at any time.

But slowly and surely my cloud got a little lighter and although it will most likely never leave me completely, I know now that I am the one in control of it. I still continually work on my depression, even now, seven years later.

Despite this, I can also say that I am genuinely happy and proud to be a mother and that I am doing wonderful job; a far cry from that night on my bathroom floor.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

Featured image: Supplied