13 October 2016.
The lowest point of my parenting journey to date.
On that particular Thursday afternoon, I was admitted to a Mother and Baby psychiatric unit because my postnatal depression had gotten to the point where I could not cope anymore. Walking through those doors was one of the scariest things I’ve done, but I couldn’t be more grateful that I did it.
Sitting here 5 months later, it’s hard to pinpoint when it all started. I’ve struggled with anxiety and periods of depression since high school, yet I’ve always been able to manage it myself with diet and exercise. There were times when it was difficult, but it was a lot easier to deal with my mental health issues when I had only myself to worry about.
Charlie was an extraordinarily good baby. She slept through the night at 4 months old, napped anywhere, stuck perfectly to a routine and was constantly happy. Life with Charlie was easy! Our days were full of coffee dates and meeting up with friends, I was able to keep the house spotless (just the way I like it) and a gourmet meal was on the table most nights when Nick got home. Our lifestyle catered perfectly to my OCD tendencies and anxiety, because everything was in my control.
When Cooper was born in June 2016, a lot changed. Cooper was also a good baby, but he was very typical of a “normal” newborn. I struggled to help Cooper get into a routine, because I was still trying to carry on with Charlie’s daily activities too. At the same time, Charlie was going through a major developmental stage, and that added with the arrival of her little brother resulted in major tantrums and a massive change in Charlie’s demeanour. The adjustment to two kids was HUGE for me. I would try to leave the house and manage to get one kid ready, but by the time I had the other ready to leave, the first would have vomited or poo’d or needed to change their clothes. By the time we got out, both were overtired and cranky. I felt like I was taking one step forward, and the kids would drag me 5 steps back. Life seemed very unproductive, and I began to feel unmotivated and guilty.
I’ll never forget one particular day when I decided to duck into Priceline after a morning at the gym. I had Cooper in the pram, but Charlie’s attachment was still in the car so I let her walk beside me through the shopping centre. When we got into Priceline, Charlie ran an absolute muck. She was grabbing everything she could reach off the shelves and even pushed a display over! I couldn’t control her while also trying to stay by the pram and Cooper, so I grabbed her into my arms and walked out. As I walked out of the exit she punched me straight in the eye, and I burst into tears! So with a toddler screaming in one arm and pushing the pram with the other, I managed to call Nick as I bawled my eyes out walking back to the car. I shoved Charlie into the car and slammed the door behind her. I was shaking and couldn’t stop crying, and kept telling Nick that I was scared to get in the car because I didn’t want to be around Charlie.
I felt so out-of-my-mind crazy that I was literally worried to be near her because I didn’t know what I would do. Nick told me he would meet me at home, which was the only thing that got me back in the car. Nick came home to find me curled up in bed, and without saying much he took Charlie to work with him for the rest of the day. I felt like an absolute failure.
Before my postnatal depression hit, we would have good and bad days. Yet no matter how bad the day was, when I put the kids to bed at night I would miss them, and I was always excited to start fresh every morning. With postnatal depression, Charlie would walk into the bedroom in the morning and I would look at her from the bed and feel completely numb. It breaks my heart to say this, but I began to resent her.
I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t get changed out of my pjs. I didn’t want to leave the house any more, I began to cancel on friends and I stopped replying to messages. I would call Nick in tears most days and beg him to come home from work. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I would yell and scream. I smacked. I would cry over anything, and some nights I would lay in bed and cry myself to sleep, or even worse I would wake up in the middle of the night and just cry.
Nick didn’t know what to do. I was treating him like crap, and he would put up with it to a point, but would eventually retaliate back at me, which would make it worse. I reached out to my family, but they didn’t realise the extent of the problem. I felt so alone. I couldn’t believe that this was what my life had come to, and I didn’t want to live it. I wanted to run away. When I would cry at night I would think about getting in my car and just driving away.
Late one night I texted one of my friends telling her exactly how I was feeling, and as a nurse she took a very productive approach. She picked me up the next day and we went for a drive, and that was when she suggested the Mother and Baby unit (MBU). It was hard to hear, but deep down I knew that what she was saying was true, and I was in desperate need of proper help.
I asked around and made an appointment with a GP who specialised in PND. As I sat down for my appointment and she asked why I was there, I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. I was exhausted and felt so defeated. After a few hours of talking (and a lot more crying), we decided that a referral to the MBU was my best option.
On the drive home from that appointment I had a break down and a panic attack. I still couldn’t believe that I had reached this point, yet all of a sudden it hit me all at once and felt so real. I needed to talk to someone. Nick was angry at me for an argument I had started the night before, so when I called him to talk he (rightly so) cut me off. I tried to call my Dad but he was away on a business trip, my step-mum was at work, and my Mum was also at work. I don’t know how I managed to drive home that day, but by the time I pulled in my driveway I was inconsolable. Mum left work to come over, and once again I was found curled in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks. I don’t remember much from that night, but I didn’t say much to anyone.
Listen: Em Rusciano talks to Mia Freedman about post natal depression on No Filter.
The GP had warned me that there may be a wait as there are only 8 beds on the unit, and they’re given according to a priority system. So I was shocked to receive a call the next day saying that they had a bed for me the following day. I spent the rest of that day walking around like a zombie, packing my bags, and organising everything for the kids and Nick while I was gone.
I was broken.
The next day, Thursday 13 October 2016 at 2pm, I walked through the doors of a Mother and Baby psychiatric unit and I began the slow journey of dealing with my post natal depression.