It Was Very Isolating – Mental Health Awareness – Kayleigh’s Story
Hi all, and welcome back to my page. Today is day 9 of my mental health awareness month. If you missed yesterdays interview, get that here. Today we are joined by Kayleigh from pigeon and the peacock, who has battled with postnatal anxiety. Kayleigh has kindly shared her experience in order to help raise awareness. Please show Kayleigh some support, like, comment, and share this post.
I’m Kayleigh Rose. I live in wintery Alberta, Canada, with my husband and two toddlers (one girl, one boy). I started blogging as a way to help me work through postpartum anxiety by writing honestly about my experiences and using humour to appreciate the lighter side of life.
What type of Post Natal metal health condition did you, or do you have?
Reflecting on my life, I think it’s reasonable to say that I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was in elementary school. In a way, being diagnosed with postpartum anxiety (PPA) was a blessing, because for the first time in my life I received tools and support to work through anxiety symptoms. I certainly had some PPA after my first child was born in 2014. But it was significantly worse with my second in 2016, for a couple reasons. One, my children were very close in age and having two in diapers and needing your for everything is a struggle. Second, I actually fell and hit my temple on the corner of the bathroom sink the morning my son was born, which resulting in me blacking out and sustaining a concussion.
Oh my Goodness, that sounds really traumatic.
When did you first realise that you had a mental health condition, what were your first symptoms?
I realized a few weeks after my son was born that I had more than just the “post-baby blues” and stress that I experienced with my first. My head still throbbed. I would faint if I bent over. During that time, I also went through a phone questionnaire with a public health nurse to see if I scored for postpartum anxiety or depression. Boy did I ever! I had all the classic symptoms of a mental health condition on top of dealing with the physical repercussions of my concussion: intrusive thoughts, anxiety about leaving the house/showering/letting my baby nap without constantly checking him, fatigue, lack of concentration, insomnia, lack of appetite, forgetfulness, mood swings, and probably other things I’ve forgotten.
Do you feel as though this had an impact on your parenting?
I struggled to create a healthy routine for our household. My relationship with my husband suffered greatly (looking back, he and I both agree he was also suffering from a form of depression, which is common for new dads to experience too). We fought. I couldn’t keep the house organized or figure out dinners. My ability to spend time with my older child and get her out for playdates really tanked as well (remember, I had anxiety about leaving my house).
Depression and anxiety can have a massive impact on relationships. It can be a really tough time for couples.
What was your biggest worry about having a mental health condition?
My biggest worry was that I would fail my family – that I wouldn’t be strong enough or well enough to give my children the childhood they deserved, or that I wouldn’t be able to keep my marriage from falling apart. It was also very isolating – I feared being really honest about how I was thinking and feeling, because experience told me that most people would minimize how I was feeling and not be supportive.
Did you receive any help? If so, what was it?
Yes, I did receive help, though it took a while. My son was born in February 2016. My doctor diagnosed me with postpartum anxiety at 8 weeks (April). At that time, she did not diagnose me with a concussion. I was told by my doctor it was probably low blood iron levels (though they proved to be normal), and that the side of my head that was still swollen was nothing to worry about.
Thankfully she referred me to a women’s perinatal health program. Because this program was free though, there was a long waiting list. I didn’t start receiving cognitive behavioural therapy through that program until August. That was an excruciating four months, where my anxiety symptoms really spiked and my marriage went through its hardest season. I ended up doing their in-home counselling program where someone came to me (I tried going to their office twice but ended up finding it too stressful to get to appointments on time). I also had a family social worker come check in once a month and provide additional tools and coping ideas for anxiety.
As for post-concussion syndrome, my doctor finally determined that was a factor in November 2016 (when my son was nine months old). She put me on a low-dose of an anti-anxiety medication that I took just at night, to help reduce my insomnia and give my brain a better chance to heal itself.
In House counselling sounds amazing. This is what is needed for people suffering from anxiety. I am glad you eventually got the support you needed.
Has your mental health improved since?
Absolutely. Time certainly heals. I’ve also gotten better at using the coping mechanisms I was taught through the counselling/therapy program. As for the concussion, I still get dizzy if I’m upside down too much, and occasionally get headaches emanating from the spot where I hit my head. But for the most part, I feel much more capable and “normal” again.
What do you do personally, to help your own mental health?
A few things have been integral to my healing journey:
– A creative outlet to express my experiences and emotions (for me, this is blogging and dancing)
– Finding ways to eat healthy balanced meals and keep my nutrition intake high (I have started using an online grocery and meal kit delivery service to simplify things)
– Marriage counselling to help my husband and I reconnect and reduce the relational stress that was contributing to my anxiety
– Changing my home environment – we moved out of a rental situation that had gotten negative into our own home
– Not letting myself turn into a “Mombie” (I wrote this blog post on how I combat insomnia)
– Pursuing a rich spiritual life that includes prayer, music and making time to get together with positive people in my faith community
Do you feel there is enough support out there, for parents with a mental health condition?
Yes, but you still have to assert yourself and seek it out. I needed to go to the doctor multiple times before getting properly diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. Since moving to our own home, I have found a naturopath who has experience with concussions, and he has offered much more specific care than my doctor. So, take a look at alternative, holistic health options too! As for the counselling/therapy program, I had to get on the phone multiple times during those four months and ask where I was at in the wait list, honestly explain how much I needed it and ask what my options were while I waited.
Thank you so much Kayleigh. I have found that people really have to fight to seek the support they need. There defiantly needs to be more support/counselling for those who need it, and it has to be easier to access.
Lastly what advice would you give to parents suffering from a postnatal mental health condition?
Please don’t give up. There are resources available to you. There are other people who understand what you are dealing with. Not every day will be terrible. And the more you apply yourself to the healing journey, the fewer terrible days you will have.
Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer my quetions, and help me raise awareness. If anyone would like to contact Kayleigh, or follow her journey, her details are below. Tomorrows interview is with Jen from raising my little superheros, who is talking to me about her children.Both Jen’s children have Autism but also suffer from anxiety. Post goes live at 9am!
Tweeting toddler shenanigans @KayleighRoses
Much Love 💕