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EM: "It was as though I had been given someone else's child."

When I look at my glorious six-year-old, Odette, I often thank the stars that she has no recollection of her first year of life. If she did, I suspect she would cry every time I came near her.

Odette is my second kid. She has been described by every teacher she has ever had as “the happiest child I have ever met.”

Odette is a dreamer.

Her primary choice of verbal communication is singing and she wears sparkly eyeshadow everywhere. I mean it, even when she has swimming lessons that shit is on her face.

Everyone loves her as soon as they meet her. She radiates joy.

When I found out I was pregnant with Odette, I had just started the most important job of my life – I was a breakfast radio host for 92.9 in Perth.

The timing wasn’t ideal but when is it ever convenient to house another human in your body then push it out of your vagina?! I didn’t really acknowledge I was pregnant for most of the time – I worked very hard and was on air the day I gave birth.

But I knew about a month after giving birth something wasn’t right.

I was having trouble bonding with Odette. I didn’t feel the euphoria that I had with my first child Marchella; sometimes it was as though I had been given someone else’s child. Odette was an excellent baby. She never cried, slept all night from very early on and was a good eater.

I returned to work six weeks after I gave birth. Looking back, that was mistake number one. I was still breastfeeding and trying to do breakfast radio hours; what kind of lunatic does that to themselves? The type of lunatic who is looking for a distraction from how shit she was feeling, that’s who.

I couldn’t find happiness in the usual places, everything was an effort and I was tired all the time but couldn’t sleep.

The overwhelming feeling, though, was guilt. All-consuming, breathtaking guilt. Who was I to be feeling unhappy? How dare I? Each morning I would wake up and say to myself: “Get your shit together, Rusciano.” But I just couldn’t.

I became proficient at pretending everything was okay for three hours on air each morning but as soon as the mics were off it was a different story all together. Then one morning I couldn’t pretend anymore.

Em with her kids Marchella and Odette

Odette was 8 months old, my then-husband and I had just had our wedding and purchased a house… so I had no more excuses as to why I was feeling stung out and stressed.

I was completely broken on the inside, I said to my husband, “I just can’t do it today, Scotty.”  He asked me what I meant and I replied: “Life.”

We agreed I should go to the doctor to get my iron levels tested and maybe get something to help me sleep. I walked into my GP’s surgery feeling shattered and a failure.

I explained to her how I was having trouble sleeping, how I felt sad, angry and irritable all the time, that I was having trouble eating, that my thoughts were almost exclusively negative and the guilt; oh, the guilt was unbearable.

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My doctor put her hand on my shoulder and said: “Em, I suspect you have post natal depression.

“What? No I don’t,” was my immediate response. Of course I knew more than the person who had been to medical school and done extensive training in the area.

“Yes you do, and we need to get you in some form of treatment immediately.”

What said she mean “treatment”? Did it require a straight jacket and padded cell?! She assured me that it did not involve anything of that nature.

I walked out in a daze: part relieved that there was a reason I had turned into a sad turbo bitch and part horrified that I didn’t pick it up myself. Then the panic hit. I was convinced that they’d take my kids away from me. I thought I would probably lose my job and everyone would think I was nuts.

As you can see, I was in a rational frame of mind.

I started seeing a psychiatrist, a counselor, a personal trainer and a reiki master.

It was a slow process, I had good days and I had really terrible ones but – by the time Odette tuned two – I was pretty much back to normal. Well, my version of that at least.

Em with Odette

The great news is that it hasn’t affected our relationship in the slightest. She is so delicious and loving that it sometimes overwhelms me in the best possible way. My eldest is my rock and Odette is my light.

The reason I agreed to be an ambassador for Beyond Blue’s Postnatal depression campaign is this: I wish I had have known it was so easy to get help. I wish I had have known that the way I was feeling was okay and that it didn’t make me a terrible, ungrateful mother.

The campaign is called “Just speak up” which is exactly what you need to do. If you have read my words and related to them, go now directly to your doctor and tell him/her.

Similarly, if you recognise any of these symptoms in your wife, girlfriend, sister, mother or friend- ask them if they are okay and if they feel they should go to their doctor.

No one needs to suffer in silence. The more people who speak out about it, the less stigma will be attached to it, which will allow more women to start the process of healing.

You are not alone, they are not alone, we are not alone.

Just speak up. I wish I had earlier, but I am so glad I did.

Em x

If this post brings up issues for you, you can also visit Beyondblue: the national depression initiative  online, or call them on 1300 22 4636. You should also talk to your local GP or maternal health professional.

Did you suffer from or has someone you loved suffered from postnatal depression?

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