A new Dawn: recovering from postnatal depression

Dawn shares her family's experience with postnatal depression and her long road to recovery.

Recently I had a moment where I felt genuinely happy. That simple emotion nearly bowled me over with gratitude because only two years ago I had to seek help for postnatal depression and anxiety.

It’s been a long road from where I started.

After giving birth to my daughter I became terrified of driving. I ordered groceries online and barely left the house. I pictured terrible accidents happening to me, my baby, my husband. There was a running commentary of negativity and judgement playing in my mind. My confidence disappeared. 

I felt guilty for not enjoying motherhood more.

I knew this gig wasn’t meant to be easy, especially as an American expat without my extended family close by, but the overwhelming feelings of helplessness and isolation were more than I could handle.

For a while I blamed hormones and sleeplessness. When I finally mustered up the courage to ask for help, my daughter was five months old.
A family making lunch
Unsure where to turn I called my Maternal Child Health nurse and she led me to the Bupa Parent and Baby Wellbeing program which is run in partnership with the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI).  I was entitled to one on one sessions with a therapist (or psychologist) with no out-of-pocket costs.
My therapist was patient, flexible and I could bring my daughter along which relieved a lot of the stress I felt about leaving the house. 
I was desperate to feel better immediately but we started at a manageable pace with simple concepts I could practise every day. We spoke about how my negative thoughts were causing negative emotions and I eventually learned to recognise this as it was happening.
My therapist helped me realise that every comment from a well-meaning family member was not a judgement on my parenting. No one was being harder on me than I was on myself.
When good days started to outnumber the bad days I could see that I had made progress.
A woman painting outside
As my energy and confidence returned, I got in touch with things I enjoyed doing before becoming a mother like yoga, writing and painting. These activities helped me heal even further.
I started making memories with my baby without anxiety tainting the background. The first time I took my daughter to the ocean I could see how my fears had been holding me hostage, preventing me from introducing my little girl to the things I love about this world.
I continued painting and writing and now I sell my artwork online and have a business inspiring new mums to rediscover their identity through creativity.
Asking for help took me on an unexpected journey. Being open about my experience and hearing from others taught me that we are all very similar in our struggles for perfection in motherhood. I think we need to be kinder to ourselves and know it’s OK to ask for a helping hand from time to time.
I won’t say that I’m ‘better’ but I feel stronger knowing I have the necessary tools and the support network in place should postnatal depression happen to me again.
The Bupa Parent and Baby Wellbeing Program not only helped me deal with postnatal depression and anxiety but it helped give me my life back. Now I am a person my daughter can look up to and that is the greatest gift I can give to my family and to myself.
Mum and Dad walking hand in hand with their daughter

Bupa Health Insurance

Struggling to cope? Bupa has partnered with the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) to offer the Parent and Baby Wellbeing Program. Support services are fully covered if you have hospital or hospital and extras cover with Bupa.

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