PANDA week – Cara's story
The depression started for me, almost before I was even pregnant. We had to go through IVF to conceive and that was a hugely challenging time. I started seeing a psychiatrist early on in my pregnancy because I already felt like things were not right. Pregnancy was hard, I didn't enjoy it in the way I thought I should and I was ashamed of that. Having had body issues in the past, everything was just amplified in pregnancy. All my friends seemed to love their pregnancies and I didn't so I felt like there was something wrong with me.
And then there was the traumatic birth – C section with an undiagnosed broken pelvis from a fall in my last trimester. I can tell you, it got really dark, really quickly.
I don’t actually remember a lot of the first year of being a mum – it’s a total blur. There’s a story in my head about what I think happened and then there’s the story that everyone else tells me. During that first 12 months I was in and out of psych wards, went through multiple medication changes with no success and was subject to some pretty gnarly treatments including Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation which feels like having a woodpecker go at your head for 45 mins a day every day for weeks.
I fell in love with my daughter the minute I met her but being away from her for long stints of time while I was in hospital meant that I felt like we weren’t connected. It started this narrative in my mind that I wasn’t a good mother, that I was neglecting her, that I should be the primary caregiver instead of my husband. And the longer I was away from her, the more that narrative fed into itself, it was a pretty horrid time.
After my first stint in hospital, I came home and my husband went back to work and my mum went back to Sydney and all of a sudden I was caring full time again for a little girl with horrendous reflux and I straight up was not coping. It would reach 2 or 3 in the afternoon and I’d call my husband and tell him he had to come home and then I’d just buckle.
After 9 months, when the depression still wasn't lifting, my psychiatrist changed my meds once again in a last ditch effort. It took a few months but they did eventually start to make a difference. I also took part in a therapy group as an out patient and that changed my life. I extended my mat leave so I could be there every week for one hour of individual therapy and 4 hours of group therapy. That enabled me to start changing my narrative and focusing on being proactive and doing the things that were going to help me manage the beast.
It’s been a wild journey and for a long time I was ashamed. I still see a psychiatrist and a psychologist regularly and I’m on medication but that doesn't bother me anymore. I look at it now like any other illness that needs regular treatment. Depression can be like a cancer. It feeds and metastasises and can very quickly get out of control. So I’m very conscious now of keeping things in check. I need to be on top of it so I can be there for my daughter.
If this has touched a nerve for you, you can reach out to PANDA, Beyond Blue or Lifeline. We’d love to hear from you if you have experienced PND or struggles post partum. You can get in touch via our instagram DMs or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, 8-14 November is PANDA week — an important chance to encourage conversation and raise awareness of perinatal anxiety and depression. While prevalent in society, these issues remain shrouded in 'ickiness' and continue to be difficult to discuss.
Both founders of Not a Pony had their own experiences with post natal depression, which is why we are so focused on elevating mothers, shining a light on sensitive issues, and why the Tired Mama Pack is amongst our core offering. We know first-hand the difference it can make when someone sees your struggle, acknowledges it without judgement, and offers help.
This week we will share our own stories, as well as those of our amazing friends and followers so that we can help reduce the stigma around PND and encourage open and 'ick'-free discussion about mental health.
5% of all sales this week will be donated to @pandanational to help fund their life-saving work, so if you've been thinking about showing someone some love with one of our prints or packs, this week is a great week to do it!