Healing and Hope: Recovering from Postnatal Depression

Postnatal Depression and the road to recovery can be hard, but there is hope. Bunny Turner talks about her journey and the steps she took to heal.

Bunny Turner is a mama of two and blogger at Glowmama. She blogs about motherhood, womanhood, and the life & adventure that happens in between.

 

When I look back now, when I think about myself in the pit of postnatal depression and anxiety, it feels like I’m thinking about a whole different woman. It feels like I’m looking at someone else’s life. I feel so heartbroken for that woman. Every part of my being just aches thinking about the feelings she experienced, the pain she felt, the thoughts that plagued her head.

Although I feel a disconnect from that woman, she is still me. I was still me then, and I am still me now.

It almost feels inauthentic now, to write about my postnatal depression. I’m in such a good head space now (most of the time), that talking about the dark times feels like a lie. But it’s still just as important to keep talking about it now. Partly because it’s still a part of me; it’s still something I have to be aware and conscious of. And also partly because it shows there’s hope. There’s always hope that no matter how dark you get, no matter how much you struggle, you can come out the other side stronger than ever. I wouldn’t have believed that this time a little over a year ago. But I completely believe it now.

It’s incredibly hard to quantify “how depressed” someone is. There’s no blood test to say “you are 80% depressed” or “you have critical depression levels, here are the numbers”. So I have no idea “how” depressed I was compared to other parents. It felt pretty bad, but I obviously don’t know how much worse it could have gotten, how much worse other parents have felt. But it’s the worst I’ve ever felt, so getting through it was a surprise for me. I felt that surely I was going to feel this for the rest of my life – and that’s a pretty horrible feeling. It’s hard work taking care of yourself when you’re also trying to take care of other little beings who don’t know you just need five minutes.

So here’s what helped me get through. It’s no secret, nothing revolutionary, but that’s the beauty in it – all these little things are totally achievable (even when getting out of bed feels like it isn’t).

I asked for help
I know sometimes this doesn’t feel achievable, but honestly, it is. It doesn’t have to be a massive thing, the most important part to remember here is to just do it. Just mention to someone that you trust that you’re struggling. Text, if you need to. The first time is often the hardest. And if they don’t get it, find someone else and tell them. Let people know you need support, even if you don’t know what type of support you need. Having the support from my family and friends meant that I was not only able to get myself to the doctor and into counselling, but they also helped me realise when my first counsellor (really) wasn’t working for me. With their support, I was able to to find one who was a better fit, rather than giving up on counselling because “it didn’t work” – which is what I was fairly adamant about for a while!

I gave myself little goals
There were many times during my darkest months where I didn’t know the last time I’d left the house, engaged with other human beings, or even showered. I’d go the whole day without eating, then binge in the afternoon once I’d developed into a shakey, head-spinning mess. So once I accepted that I was struggling, I gave myself little goals, and praised myself for achieving them. I made myself step outside at least once a day. I made myself get dressed every day. I made myself eat something before 10am. I made myself catch up with a friend at least once a week. And when I did these things, I reaffirmed to myself that I am worth taking care of, and that all these were bloody awesome accomplishments and I should be proud.

I played upbeat music during the day
It can get really, really lonely at home during the day, even though you have another little being there with you. And although hearing your little one clashing around with toys is great, sometimes you just need a bit of an energy injection – and music is a great way to do this! It’s hard not to dance around when your favourite upbeat tunes are playing, and the dancing releases endorphins, which are always useful allies in the fight against depression!

I repeated affirmations to myself
This is one of those things I see plenty of people talking about and used to just roll my eyes a bit – but they really do work! I’d repeat things like “I am worth it. I deserve to be happy. I am capable of happiness.” Pretty much just stuff that I would tell my loved ones if they were feeling what I was feeling – I just told it to myself. At one stage I was having panic attacks about the thought of going in to the supermarket (I’d sit in the parking lot and cry my eyes out while struggling to breathe… not fun!). So I began repeating to myself “I am brave. I can do this. I can get through this.” Eventually, I really did believe it – which is a relief, because now that the kids are older I swear I pretty much live at the supermarket!

I talked about it
I actually started blogging before I realised I had depression & anxiety. I probably had an inkling that something wasn’t right, but I definitely hadn’t accepted it yet. It was a really hard decision to go “public” with it (even to my small following!), but I’m so glad I did. As soon as I shared my story, other stories and messages of support came flooding in (not even kidding), and I was hit with a tonne of love from friends, family, and complete strangers. There was a sisterhood uprising of women – beautiful, brave, powerful, strong women – who had been through what I was going through, and let me know that I wasn’t alone. What an amazing feeling that was! It was such a relief to not have to hide it from others, and it was so helpful for those around me to be able to understand why I acted the way I did. This all spurred me to keep talking about it, to be as honest and authentic as I could about it, and eventually messages started coming in from women who had read my words, resonated with them, and were then able to find the strength to get help for themselves. The realisation that I could use my struggle to help others was such an incredibly powerful motivator to keep going, to keep fighting.

To be honest, there are probably a million other little things that contributed to my recovery, some that I know of, some that happened without me realising. And these things won’t work for everyone, but I think that when you’re fighting for your life (and although that seems dramatic, with depression it can definitely get to that point), everything is worth a try. You just need to find what works for you – and remember that there will be something out there that works for you, so don’t give up trying!

There is hope; and life is so amazing on the other side!

Additional Support

If you are worried about yourself, or a Mum in your life, please contact your midwife, nurse or doctor immediately. It is important to remember that depression is an illness and most often people get well again. It does not mean that you have ‘failed’ as a person or a parent.

You can also find out more about depression and get support from: