“Enough!” she cried as she fell to her knees exhausted with the effort it took to persist with the act. Each day on the outside she smiled, tightly. On the inside she screamed, painfully.
Those around her thought she was managing well. She usually did; that’s what they expected from her. When asked, she parroted words she thought were those you should say in these situations. It seemed to make everyone happy to hear “I’m great. It’s amazing”. But it wasn’t. She was a failure. Most of all, she was ashamed about how she felt and the thoughts that muddled and darkened her experience of what everyone called ‘new motherhood’.
Now, four years later, I can confidently tell you that to say “I’m not OK” or “I’m not coping” or “I don’t think I can do this” is not shameful. You’re simply saying “I am human”. I decided that it was more painful to keep battling internally than it was to speak up and say “I’m not coping”.
One day I would like to try and paint the internal landscape of post-natal anxiety and depression as perhaps others would truly connect with imagery rather than attempted vocabulary.
It was easy to be ashamed; women have been mothering since, well, the beginning of time! It’s a natural physiological process, including the release of hormones to help with nurturance and attachment. Women across cultures have long, traumatic labours – it’s nothing new. I could go on as it’s easy for me to tap into the justification for why I ‘should’ be ashamed.
Apart from actually managing to make it through that first year of parenting, the best thing I ever did was to speak up and essentially admit that I was human. I did not have super powers of perfection and total adaptability in each and every moment. This is what I was expecting of myself. This is what I saw in every other mother. Yes, they were sleep deprived and sometimes confused as to why their child was crying, but I applied the double standard approach – it was OK for them, but not for me. But it was more than that. I was in pain.
Once I spoke up something happened within me and consequently, around me.
I accepted my experience and therefore accepted myself. I gave myself permission to grieve. I allowed myself an immense amount of room for mistakes which I now consider as lessons. And I let those around me in. Imagine if every time you made a mistake someone whispered in your ear “It’s OK”. Imagine if every time you tripped and fell, someone helped you up and said “It’s OK”. Imagine if every time you felt despair, someone told you “It’s OK”. This is what happens when you speak up and let people in. Eventually, the person to whisper in your ear becomes yourself. This can be applied not only to post-natal anxiety and depression, but to any experience in life where you feel defeated, battling or alone.
Alone. Isolated. Internal or external isolation – either way it can be painful. It’s easy to feel that you’re just a small fraction of the Universe and therefore devalue your own importance. Yet, within you is the Universe exploring consciousness and life. The human experience is multi-dimensional. We’re made up of interconnecting layers of complex vibration from the physical plane of the body and structure to the etheric layers of the aura and the higher vibration of spiritual dimensions. You are spinning particles of light which cross and connect to all around you. You are literally never alone. Your pain is my pain. My joy is your joy. It’s the magnificence of connection.
Know that when you despair within the confusion of motherhood, there are many despairing with you. When you meet another parent and they smile at you, give them the gift of understanding and appreciate that they are also multi-dimensional and experience much within their internal landscape too. Be lifted by the knowledge that those who share joy, happiness and laughter will touch you in your time of need.
So, go ahead – be a life change artist. Start by being honest with yourself. Be open. Have compassion for yourself and your valued, unique experience. This in turn intensifies your compassion for others and expands compassion in our Universe. It is the greatest of gifts you can give.
Whether it’s a vibration, a wave or a ripple; admit that you’re human. It will change your life.
Simple and natural techniques to help relieve anxiety and depression
- Lime essential oil is a beautiful oil which brings about a sense of calm. It’s excellent for agitation and is often used to help children sleep. Put a few drops in an oil burner or in the bath. If you use it on the skin, be sure to mix a drop with about five mls of carrier oil such as almond or coconut oil.
- Massaging the palms of your hands is a technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the centre of your palm is an acupoint which treats anxiety and calms the mind. Again, you can also give your children a lovely hand massage.
- Remember that a gentle walk or swim can help clear your mind, get you outside and relieve feelings of depression, frustration or constriction. There has been a lot of research into the benefits of exercise for depression. Vitamin D from the sun is a great way to lift your spirits!
Resources for post-natal anxiety and depression
If you need support or information about any mental health challenge, contact a counsellor, psychologist, complementary medicine practitioner or general practitioner
- Find your local post natal anxiety and depression support group – ask for help if you have trouble finding your nearest organisation
- Visit PANDA, the Australian organisation for information and resources
Author: Kate Pamphilon is Live Well's resident Kinesiology practitioner, and the creator of Holistic by Nature.
This blog first appeared at Reflections From a Redhead