Postnatal depression almost cost me my husband and my son

The mental health condition affects 10 to 20 per cent of new mums.
The mental health condition affects 10 to 20 per cent of new mums. Photo: Shutterstock

I always knew I was a candidate for postnatal depression.

I have a fairly extensive history of clinical depression, self-harm and anxiety as a result of constant bullying when I was 10-years-old. 

Even though I knew and even though I was trying to prepare for it, the reality of my mental illness was terrifying and debilitating.

In October 2017, I gave birth to my first child. He was 15 weeks early and severely underweight, and his twin brother had miscarried nine weeks before delivery.

He was in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for three months and the whole time he was hospitalised I managed to stay strong and keep my mental health on track.

When he finally left hospital and came home with my husband and I, my carefully constructed mental wellbeing started to crumble almost immediately.

My husband worked up to 90 hours a week and would sometimes go days without even seeing our son. I was alone with him from 6am until around 9pm most days.

We moved towns just after his birth to a place where I didn't have any friends or family to help out with the baby. I also didn't have anyone to simply provide me with some adult conversation.

I started to spiral and my insomnia got worse until I was going through most days on just two or three hours sleep. I would go days without showering and eating, and I had trouble remembering when I had last done either.

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I also had difficulty bonding with my baby. Sometimes just looking at him was enough to make me cry as I didn't feel love for him, I felt trapped and I hated everything about my life.

I had to push to get a mental health assessment for months; my GP did nothing more than hand me a prescription for antidepressants, so my family's early childhood  nurse finally organised it.

I was diagnosed with postnatal depression, PTSD, and anxiety and had three months of therapy. When I was at my worst I spent a week in a psychiatric facility.

I now take antidepressants and my husband works part-time so he can spend more time with our son, and lighten my burden as well. I'm finally bonding with my child and, after almost a year of being his mum, I feel love every time I look at him. It's the best feeling in the world.

I know now that I wouldn't have been as sick as I was if I'd talked about it sooner - but I didn't want to inconvenience or worry anyone. However, the choice to downplay my illness almost cost me both my husband and son.

It's been an incredibly difficult year for my family and my mental health struggle is far from over. I now make sure to be honest when I don't feel great, when I'm burning out or even when it's hard to just speak up because I never want to go back to where I was three months ago. 

Having a mental illness means fighting with the worst parts of yourself every single day, and its exhausting.

Trying to deal with it alone is even more so.

Mental health needs to be talked about, loudly and constantly.

Only then will people like me and so many others stop feeling like failures because we have an illness.

For postnatal depression support and advice, contact Beyond Blue or Lifeline

- Stuff