I've always considered myself a strong person - the type of person other people turn to for help and support. There's never been a problem I couldn't solve in my life until last year - when everything fell apart in my head, while life chugged on as normal.
It started gradually and accumulated over time. We added a second baby to our family less than two years ago and it was not an easy pregnancy (unlike my first one). I was vomiting every hour, then up at night because of acid reflux. I continued working and still looked after my son during the day. At the same time, extended family contributed to my stress levels to the point where I couldn't sleep at night.
After my daughter was born and we came home, the sleep deprivation continued. She was not an easy baby, whined constantly and kept me up night after night while my son needed me during the mornings. The first alarm bell went off when I found myself screaming at both children at the top of my voice for minor things.
I was struggling to get through my days wishing for time to move faster so I could hand over the kids to my husband after he came home from work. We started fighting a lot too. Nothing seemed to bring me any joy. It felt like someone had clicked off a light switch, leaving me in permanent darkness. I felt overwhelmed, sleep deprived and deeply unhappy.
One night at 2 a.m. before my daughter was about to turn one, I imagined packing my bags and leaving. I visualised the sense of relief I'd feel after I walked out the door with my purse.
What stopped me from packing my bag was the thought of my husband, children finding out I was gone - how scared, and confused they would be. How would they feel? Was this a memory I wanted my children to have for life? Could I bail on my partner like this?
The night passed and I stayed put, with difficulty. The next morning I went to see my GP. I needed help but didn't know where to start. I sat there sobbing trying to tell her how in despair I was. For the first time in my life, my logical brain had filled with mental quicksand, and inch by inch it was swallowing me up.
My GP listened sympathetically and told me simply, "I think you need to see someone."
Up until this point, I'd never entertained the idea of seeing 'someone'. I knew it meant a psychiatrist or a psychologist who listened to you pouring out your troubles. It was a very American idea and sounded rather self-indulgent to me.
I could easily save all that money and complain to my sister or friends – we were all in the same boat. Our Indian upbringing meant we simply cried, handled our problems and then got on with it – not sat around telling a stranger our private and personal affairs.
Two of my Indian girlfriends saw someone every month and had been receiving therapy for years. They called it their 'mental health check' day and knowing my history encouraged me to go too. I listened politely to their advice but shrugged mentally, confident in the knowledge I could handle it myself. I didn't need or want therapy – hadn't I dealt with so many crises before in my life? I was strong and capable, yes even after having kids.
Until that night at 2 a.m., when everything fell apart in my head and I seriously considered walking out on my beautiful family.
My GP referred me to a psychologist as part of Medicare's Mental Health Plan. The day I called a clinic to make my first appointment was nerve-wracking. I put it off for as long as I could, feeling ashamed that I'd reached this point – but it was clear to me that I needed professional help - gripe sessions with friends were not cutting it anymore.
On the day of my appointment, I walked into the psychologist's office and all my feelings and confusion gushed out in a torrent. I cried as I spoke. There were so many jumbles in my head – me, kids, society, relationship with parents, religion - like different balls of yarn tangled together. However, I felt safe to reveal what had been lurking in the dark recesses of my mind.
So far, the five sessions I've attended have given me clarity on my past, my experiences as a child and as an adult. It's the best thing I've done for my family and me – to ask for help when I couldn't be strong for myself.