Overcoming Post Natal Depression PND
Healing the “Pretty Nutty Disaster” from within
It’s taken me a long time to admit I’ve struggled with postnatal depression (I prefer to refer to my version of PND as a “pretty nutty disaster”). Although I’d like to think most of the time my smile comes very much from the heart, there have been times over the last few years when I’ve used it to hide what’s really going on internally. Even years ago at acting school in Australia, they told me my smile was a mask I sometimes wore around, which always confused me. Now I get it though. I think my closest friends would say I’m a happy, positive and optimistic person but the truth is, since falling pregnant with our beautiful, soon-to-be-4-year-old daughter, at times, I’ve been far from it.
Like many mothers I’ve hid my shame, guilt, exhaustion and self-admonishment for fear of being seen as not coping. Around the time of my daughter’s birth and in the years immediately following, there wasn’t really time in our household for “not coping”, my partner dealing with a lot of stress in his new job and often working around the clock and on weekends. Quite honestly, I deeply believed that the eternal optimist me should be able to get out of the black hole she’d created for herself. It’s only since hearing other women, mothers and friends talking about the state of their mental health, that I’ve realized how vital it is to open up the channels of dialogue around this topic, in order to be able to get the right support, stop the suffering in silence and possibly even pave new ways for alternative, therapeutic methods.
Our whole way of living and relating to each other has completely shifted. The community so necessary to raising a child is not always so easy to come by, especially if you’re living on the other side of the globe, far away from family and close friends. I’ve come to learn, this kind of isolation is one of the many factors that heightens the risk of turning into a “pretty nutty disaster” but the irony is, when you’re struggling with PND, the tendency is to isolate oneself even more in a desperate attempt to privately tackle the darkness and overwhelmment.
In a world where projecting the notion of a “perfect life” through digital media is becoming increasingly obsessed over, how can we, as mothers, develop the necessary faith and trust in our own intuition and judgment, connect with our higher selves and get back to a place of loving ourselves wholly and completely without the perpetual comparing and self-bullying? It baffles me to contemplate how strong we have to be these days to stay connected with our true selves. How can we all get a whole lot more present….fast?
To begin to heal my PND and anxiety, it was vital to get to the realization that, in order to set myself free from my prison of totally overwhelming negative, self-destructive thoughts, I needed to train myself in the art of presence and stop identifying with my thoughts. As Eckhart Tolle describes in The Power of Now, Whenever you watch the mind, you withdraw consciousness from mind forms, and it then becomes what we call the watcher or the witness. Consequently, the watcher – pure consciousness beyond form – becomes stronger, and the mental formation becomes weaker.” So is quietening the mind through meditation then the key? Well I believe it’s essential. For some women, escaping the mental cage seems insurmountable and anti-depressants may be the only alternative. I’m convinced that the more we speak out about mental illness, the more hopeful we can be of discovering other alternatives and exploring preventative measures.
I’m so grateful to my dear friend Tanja, colleague and founder of Mandalia Birth, who suggested I do a Personal and Business Coaching Course three years ago at The Coaching Academy, Berlin. My daughter was only one year old and I’d just finished a theatre production in Berlin where I’d felt completely lost, overwhelmed with anxiety, having to squeeze in breastfeeding around rehearsal and performance times, not to mention the sheer terror (and utter disappointment) of feeling so exposed and confronted to be on stage again and the chronic longing to just flee to my daughter. It felt like everything I’d been preparing for for my entire life, had been lost to this new role which, don’t get me wrong, I loved, but which seemed to have broken me apart to expose my every fear, fragility, obsession and insecurity.
Learning about the building blocks required to resolve old patterns and traumas, how we can rewire our thinking and and create new neural pathways has always been one of my favorite interests and studying these topics in-depth and many more, through the course, was one of the first steps to me breaking free from the “pretty nutty disaster” cage of personal torment I’d built for myself. I’ll admit, focusing on my studies and finding a way to access my visions and goals again and reevaluate my innermost dreams was at times downright confronting and at the same time, incredibly empowering.
I feel deeply grateful for having been given the incredible opportunity to begin the journey to heal myself by learning some of the fundamentals behind our unconscious mind, how we can let go of limiting belief systems and rebuild strong mental foundations based on self-love and presence. Combining that knowledge with a steadfast aim to tame all of that mental chatter has been invaluable. Even though there’s no magical cure and it’s an ongoing process, even when it feels like you’ll never again know your true essence, I’ve learned there is a way to let the light shine in again, to feel inspired and turn the worrier into a warrior. As this crazy, beautiful world speeds up around us, it’s paramount we learn to slow our internal world right down and find a way to simplify things, one day at a time.