This week I am focusing on maternal mental health for Maternal Mental Health Matters Week. I talk as openly as I can about my own story and my experiences with anxiety but today I am handing over to Karis from the blog Two x Twenty Five. Speaking out about our mental health struggles is brave whether we do it on a platform like this one or speaking to our nearest and dearest. This is Karis’ story.
Maternal Mental Health is a subject very close to my heart. As an anxiety sufferer and a mother myself I am pleased to share my story and experience with others in hope that it will encourage anyone who is in a similar situation to seek help and support.
I will introduce myself briefly before I continue with my story, my name is Karis. 26 years old and mother to two beautiful boys, Freddie and Noah. I have been suffering with anxiety for over a year and a half, however when I think about it I believe it has been embedded in me for a lot longer than that. I have always been a quite level headed, funny and easy going person and in some ways that is still the case. I have watched people close to me experience difficulties with mental health and regrettably not been as supportive or understanding as I should have been. In all honesty I never really understood mental illness. I never understood how someone could feel low when on the surface they seemed to have so much richness in their lives. It wasn’t until I experienced lows and anxiousness myself that I have realised how complex and testing the human mind can be.
I have made no secret that my anxiety very much centres around death. At my lowest I experienced continuing intrusive thoughts usually involving myself or someone close to me passing away suddenly. Since I can remember I have had this negative relationship with death, and when I let myself think about it I go into a complete panic. I have always managed to keep these emotions at bay, to not allow myself to overthink it and analyse every scenario that ‘could’ happen.
Unfortunately this changed shortly after giving birth to my first son, Freddie. I found myself thinking about death every minute of everyday. What triggered it? I think in my mind I realised I had a lot more to lose. I was in a loving relationship and had my son, my whole world. What would happen if this was suddenly taken away from me? A person extremely close to me was diagnosed with a heart condition and although at the time I dealt with it quite well I think it has also slowly fuelled those intrusive thoughts as well. After a short period off work and several appointments with my GP it was decided that starting a course of antidepressants would hopefully help me feel better. I remember sitting in front of my GP and I couldn’t keep it together. I had hit rock bottom and my anxiety was taking over my life. I couldn’t even let Adam go to the supermarket without sitting at home panicking that he had been killed on the way there. It was consuming my happiness at a time when I should have been enjoying quality time with my son.
After taking Sertraline for a few months I began to feel calmer and altogether less unbalanced. I was surprised when I could go almost an entire day without those horrible thoughts taking over my mind. I had been on the tablets for a while when I found out I was expecting my 2nd child and I think this helped me alot. I had a focus, something to work towards which I knew would bring more happiness into our lives. I decided shortly before Noah was born to stop taking my antidepressants and in all honesty I felt guilty. At every midwife appointment I was asked if I took any regular medication. I felt ashamed to say I took Sertraline because I had so much to be content with in my life. A loving family, a roof over my head and so much more but I wasn’t coping.
In light of it now I had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact I should have been proud that I was able to admit I had a problem and seek help for it. It is something so many of us suffer with, so why is it still a taboo subject? As parents I think we feel guilty that we aren’t coping or are unhappy because we have so much to be thankful for, or that is how I felt anyway.
Moving forward and after giving birth to Noah 6 months ago I do believe my anxiety has begun to take hold of me once more. The intrusive thoughts have slowly wormed their way back in and I know it is something I am going to have to deal with. I worry everyday that I won’t be around to watch my children grow up and some days those thoughts fill me with a regrettable sadness. What I am thankful for is Adam, my family and the boys. They are my comfort blanket. I can feel I am stronger this time, I am able to dismiss and distract myself from anxious feelings, whereas before I would let them take over me.
I hope in the future I can be rid of these emotions completely, although I know it is unlikely. I believe that talking about it and opening up about our experience as parents can only help others. I take comfort in knowing I am not alone in this and although I do not wish these feelings upon others I know that it is normal to feel this way. I believe that together we can support each other in this complex world of mental health. I smile everyday knowing that my boys are happy and healthy, they are my priority and focus and that only helps me in kicking this anxieties butt.
Lots of Love
A massive thank you to Karis for sharing her story.