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The 3 good things I got from post-natal depression.

Kate at home with her gorgeous three daughters.

by KATE TORENBECK

Best things from Post Natal Depression? Is she mad? I know it seems ludicrous to think there are positives from battling severe depression and anxiety, but bear with me on this.

I am the proud mum of three daughters and, like all parents, I’m pretty sure mine are the best kids to grace this planet. When I had my first daughter nearly 4.5 years ago I struggled with baby blues and cried a lot in the first couple of months as I adapted to being a mum. I didn’t have PND though – it just took me a bit of time to find my stride.

And find it I did – when she was 18 months old, we welcomed our second gorgeous girl to the world. I got baby blues again, but they went, only to be replaced by crippling, horrific, blindsiding PND and anxiety. So bad that I was hospitalised for 6 weeks and had months of ongoing treatment and medication afterwards.

When #2 was 18 months old, we decided to try for another baby. This was not a decision made lightly and we put in place a world of contingency plans should PND hit again. Statistics say that mothers who have had PND once will have a 50% chance of having it again with subsequent babies. We took the gamble and lost. When our 3rd daughter was 8 days old I was back in hospital with PND for what would be another 5 week stay.

So I could spend pages telling you how awful PND was for me. Don’t take what I’m about to write below to think I found it manageable or tolerable. It is the single most horrifying thing I have ever been through, and it dragged me to dark, dark depths. Twice. I have asked “why me?” and analysed my every thought and movement until I’m blue in the face but it doesn’t change it. So instead, I’m focusing on what I have gained from PND.

I have PND to thank for the awesome bond I have with my babies.

1. One on one time with each of my newborns

We chose to have three children in less then 4 years. We knew it would be hectic and we would be stretched in every direction by the demands of our young family. Ahead of each subsequent birth, I had mummy guilt about how I would spread my time and love amongst each of my kids. To then be hospitalised and away from my toddler/s and husband for weeks on end, on top of this debilitating illness, was unthinkable. The silver lining to my lengthy hospitalisation after baby #2 and #3 was that I took my newborn with me each time to a private hospital ward for mothers with PND and their babies. So I got weeks of one-on-one time to get to know the new little person in my life and work out some of their quirks. My 2nd daughter is nearly 3 now and my youngest is 7 months old and, in part, I have PND to thank for the awesome bond I have with each of them.

2. A better marriage

My marriage has always been strong, we aren’t perfect but we work well together. My husband is an amazingly capable man, and one of his many skills is his ability to put up with my want to take charge/take over.

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I have a reasonably high stress career, I am pig headedly self-sufficient, and I just get on with things. When I was hospitalised each time, he seamlessly took over the running of our lives while I fell apart. From the very start of my PND battle he believed me when I said something wasn’t right.

More importantly though, he believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself. He didn’t waver in his belief that I would get through this and he stepped up and took over exactly when I needed him. Not many husbands get tested like he has, twice now, and for me it is awe-inspiring to watch him be the man I knew he could be if needed. I am thrilled that our daughters get to grow up with him as one of their first examples of a great husband. More then that though, I am thrilled to be married to him.

Kate Torenbeek: ‘Instead I’m focusing on what I have gained from PND’.

3. Life-long friends

My husband and I have a large support network who have rallied each time I got PND. It is humbly to be on the receiving end of such support and not something I ever want to take for granted. What I didn’t expect I would get from PND though was new lifelong friends. Being on a mother/baby ward each time meant I spent weeks living with and getting to know other women and their babies.

PND can be incredibly isolating so it was theraputic to be surrounded by “normal” women – professionals, daughters, sisters, academics – and realise that you aren’t completely crazy, that anyone can get this illness.

I now have an even bigger support network which includes a number of women who have battled PND and won, or who continue to battle it. These are women I would have been friends with anyway but would never have had the opportunity to meet were it not for us each getting PND. These are some of my closest friends now.

I could write for pages more about other positives of PND – appreciation for my good mental health, cognitive behavioural therapy skills that I am passing onto my children, and a passion for spreading the word about mental health are a few that come to mind.

PND is not something I would wish on my worst enemy and it is not something I would have picked for myself. It has happened though and these are some of the positive legacies it has left for my family and I. If at the very least it means I can be there for my daughters if they decide to have kids of their own and have to go through PND, then it has been worth it all.

Kate is a happily married mother of 3 daughters. After finishing her degree she entered the workforce in a completely unrelated field and is about to finish her third round of maternity leave and return to full time work as a Relationship Manager for a Federal Government department. Kate enjoys running (or a slower, less athletic version of something that might resemble running), escaping in trashy novels, and food – cooking it and eating it. She is much funnier and more articulate on her Facebook status updates then she will ever be in real life.

If you need help and advice, please contact:

Lifeline 13 11 14

The Gidget Foundation   www.gidgetfoundation.com.au

PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association)  www.panda.org.au

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