My recovery from postnatal depression

How do you know if you have postnatal depression and what can you do? Journalist and mum-of-two Marianne Bradley shares her story.

From the outside everything appeared fine. Marianne, 34, had a toddler, a good job and a loving partner, but after she gave birth to her second baby, her world began to unravel. She tells her story here.

At six weeks Cedric slept through the night, ate well and was absolutely gorgeous. He was the dream baby and I was totally in love with him, but for some reason I felt overwhelmingly sad.

From the outside everything looked fine – we were a fully functioning family. I’d smile and nod and say the right things, but inside I felt as if I was in a bubble.

When Cedric was three months old we went to the UK for my brother’s wedding. I remember lying in bed one morning with my partner Paul. I should have felt safe and cosy, but instead I lay there convinced I was going to die. I even went to see a doctor and asked her to check me out – she assured me I was fit and healthy, but I couldn’t shake the sense of dread in the pit of my stomach.
Then at my brother’s wedding, I gave a reading. It was supposed to be a lighthearted reference to love, but I got to the end and started to sob. My four-year-old daughter, Beatrix, walked out of her seat towards me, and in front of all the guests said: “Don’t worry Mum, everything’s going to be okay.” I think that was the cue for everyone to start crying!

"From the outside everything looked fine ... but inside I felt as if I was in a bubble."

Diagnosis relief and rehab

When I returned to Melbourne I went to see my GP, who referred me to a psychologist. I felt relieved when I had the official diagnosis of postnatal depression. But while medication can help some people, I didn't want to take it – I wanted to see if I could rehab myself back to health.
Mum and daughter with dog

My psychologist talked me through the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I knew regular exercise would help, so I went for a daily run. A friend, who is a personal trainer, put me on a healthy eating regime, and thankfully Paul is incredibly supportive and encouraged me to take time out. I also got out every day and walked our two Labradors – and I stopped being harsh on myself. 

I got worse before I got better. At times I just couldn’t imagine ever feeling happy again, but I’d just repeat a mantra to myself – ‘One day you will feel happy again’ – and gradually I’d be aware of a chink of happiness. It was like being in a dark room, which gradually became lighter.

Tools to cope

At first I saw my psychologist once a week, then once a fortnight, and eventually once a month until on the final session it was a bit like catching up with a friend.

Beatrix is now seven and Cedric is three and, although I’m better, I still have days when I feel down. But now I have the tools – I know to pop my brain on the mental equivalent of a footrest and take a load off. I do exercises that help relax my mind, and it helps me get back on track so I can start tackling life again.

And when my friends have babies, I make a point of asking them how they really are and offering help whenever I can.

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