I put off writing this post for a while because I wasn’t sure how to approach the topic of my experience with prenatal anxiety and depression. Or just anxiety and depression in general. When I first started this blog I knew I wanted to share this journey because hearing the experiences of others with anxiety/depression helped me a lot. I hope that by sharing my experience I can help someone else who may be going through something similar. So, here’s my story.
It was 2015 and I was in my second trimester of pregnancy when I first experienced more than my normal anxiety. It started with me being irritable and unable to sleep and then these symptoms progressively got worse. It wasn’t until my husband and I were on a weekend getaway that my husband started to suspect that I was experiencing more than just “regular pregnancy symptoms”. We were out spending a beautiful weekend in the mountains but I was waking up with a jolt every 2-3 hours. I felt scared and worried but I didn’t know why. Up until this point, I had considered all my mood swings, night wakings, and worries to be due to my pregnancy but then my heart started to tell me it was something more. We made the best of the weekend and when we got home we had a talk.
My husband was blunt (but gentle) with me and told me he thought I had an anxiety disorder. This was hard for me to accept. I felt I was supposed to be happy because I was pregnant and I didn’t believe I could have a mental disorder. The word “disorder” was scary on its own. After a long conversation we decided that I should reduce my hours at work to try and relax and get back to being myself. I thought I was going to be on a quick and easy road to recovery. However, soon after I started paying attention to my anxiety, I slipped into depression.
I didn’t know it at the time but anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Along with being worried and scared I began to spend all my spare time in bed. I didn’t want to eat, talk to friends, or go out. I cried, felt guilty, and battled against intrusive thoughts. I spent a long time in this state before I finally started to heal.
For me healing started with a prayer. I asked God to help me heal and I reminded myself I wasn’t alone. I began to read a self help book, started to see a counsellor and tried medication. I had a large support group of family and friends that held my hand through the ordeal. I started to feel less guilty about my state and started to accept it for what it was. The more I came to terms with my disorder (let’s just call it what it is) the more I talked about what I was experiencing. I started to realize my situation wasn’t all that uncommon. That’s the one big thing I want to get across in this post. If you’re experiencing anxiety and depression (pregnant or not) you’re not alone. Along with that knowledge, I’d like to share three things that helped me the most.
- Prayer. I understand and respect that not everybody is religious, but if you are don’t forget that God is with you.
- The knowledge that nothing is permanently wrong with you. I remember uncontrollably crying at work (ACK!) when a co-worker told me this. “When people break their bones they go get casts to heal. It’s the same with depression, something is broken and you need things to help you heal.” That advice has always stuck with me because it made me realize that I could be healed. Suddenly the situation it wasn’t a new and unfortunate me, it was just a state that I was in that could be fixed.
- Don’t bottle things up, seek help. My family and friends were more than willing to help me but seeking help from a counsellor was one of the best things I did. It wasn’t perfect to start off with. The first psychologist I saw didn’t work out but I fortunately found Shannon from Birth Narratives. I was able to open my heart to Shannon after only one meeting. Shannon was patient, kind, and wholeheartedly understanding. She checked up on me after I had finished my counselling and even after I had given birth. Shannon will always hold a special place in my heart for all that she did for me. If you’re in the Calgary area and are looking for a counsellor to chat about depression and anxiety while pregnant or post partum I fully recommend Birth Narratives. Talking to a counsellor helped me when I felt nothing else would.
It’s already been a year but my experience still seem so fresh. Although the memories bring about negative feelings I constantly remind myself it’s part of my history and who I am today. I hope my story can help someone like the stories of others helped me. Everyone tells you you’re not alone when you’re anxious and depressed. I remember feeling like those words were empty words but honestly, it’s the truth. I was there and I’m still here now, so know you’ve got at least one person with you.
Note: Shannon didn’t ask me to write about her or Birth Narratives for this post. Find Shannon at www.birthnarratives.ca/.