When I hit my lowest point nine years ago I didn’t know I had post-natal depression, I just knew that I wasn’t coping. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning or leave the house during the day. I’d count down the hours until night-time and then go to bed dreading the long, sleepless hours ahead.
I was shocked at the emotions I was feeling. I was punching my brick walls with anger as I went up the stairs of our home to settle one of my daughters. Once, in a moment of fury and frustration, I stabbed a knife into a cutting board, snapping the handle off. I’ll never forget my oldest daughter’s look of terror at one of my fits of rage. I could never have imagined my own child fearing me. As I held my baby daughter in the girls’ top-floor bedroom, I would look out the window and think about throwing her out of it.
My strategy was to keep telling myself to get over it. But no matter how much I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t be feeling this way with all that I had – two healthy children, a home, food to eat, a partner and family I could call on – I couldn’t. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling because I was so ashamed. There were so many people far worse off than I was, people who needed help so much more than me. I couldn’t justify asking for help.
Most people experiencing symptoms of a mental illness don’t seek help from health services. If I had consulted my doctor or called an organisation such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute or PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia), I would have realised sooner that there were better strategies available than silence.
Physical exercise can have a powerful effect on mental health, and it’s widely considered a significant part of treatment for depression, so they may even have suggested that I start moving.