Mental Health Week: Guest post - An Anxious Time

Today I am so pleased to be able to bring you a guest post from my friend Dayarne Smith who blogs at Simple Joys and Silver Linings. Dayarne is a writer, freelance journalist, magazine editor, wife and mum.  She has also experienced debilitating episodes of anxiety throughout her life.  

When I heard Dayarne's story I realised that it was a story that should be heard.  While she may not consider it special - and indeed anxiety is the most prevalent mental health challenge faced by Australians, with around 14 % of all adults affected by it - Dayarne shows us, through her beautiful story, that mental health issues such as anxiety in no way define a person.  They can be one facet of a life but that life can still be big, fulfilling and inspiring.

Take it away Dayarne....

It’s hard to explain how much my life has changed in two short years. I know that two years may seem like a long time, but in the scheme of a lifetime it passes so quickly.

Today, I’m a work-at-home mum with two gorgeous kids {about to turn 3 and 5}, a businesswoman, a wife, a regional magazine editor, a newbie blogger. Super busy, but really happy.

Two years ago, I was a woman on the edge. Struggling through every day and night with a new baby and a two-year-old, knowing that what I was feeling was nowhere near ok.

Since my early 20s I have suffered from an anxiety disorder.

At times I didn’t sleep or eat for days. My stomach would churn and my mind would race. I knew my fears were unrealistic, but I couldn’t control them.

I went to work, did my job efficiently and almost no-one knew.

Only my husband knew the full extent of my problem, and I never sought help. I’m still not sure why.

I had a great childhood, my marriage was rock solid and I had friends and a good job. I think I felt like I had no right to complain.

When I was 30, I fell pregnant with my first child. I was over the moon, but had concerns about how I would cope. I knew I could be predisposed to post natal depression and my husband and family were all on the lookout for the warning signs. Funnily enough, it was an amazing, calm time in my life. It was a completely blissful experience. She was an easy baby and I felt blessed.

When I had my second child, I expected things to be the same.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. A difficult pregnancy and traumatic birth took its toll. My beautiful baby boy was colicky, didn’t sleep much at night and I had trouble breastfeeding. I also had an extremely active two-year-old and a shift-working husband. I was exhausted, insecure and fragile.

I hadn’t eaten or slept for five days and I knew something wasn’t right. I was having some pretty scary thoughts and I told my husband I didn’t want to be here anymore.

I don’t think either of us will ever forget that conversation.

At 4am he and the children were asleep and I was still awake. Sitting alone in the dark in my living room, I called the Lifeline 24-hour crisis line. It was a turning point.

I went to my GP that day and was referred to a specialist mother and baby unit at a private Sydney hospital. I was admitted the next day. It was my husband’s birthday and my baby was five months old.

My little boy and I spent two weeks in that hospital. I started counselling, medication and got to know other mums who were all struggling like I was. I found comfort knowing I wasn’t alone and that there were plenty of other ‘normal’, lovely women who were just having a really shitty time.

I came home and worked really hard on getting better. I joined the gym. I needed a project, so I pulled out the neglected plants in my front garden and replanted it. It was a great project outside in the sun, burning up some energy and taking my mind off things.

My amazing mum took six weeks off work and stayed with us, helping me with the kids and housework and letting me sleep and start to heal. I’ll be forever grateful.

Day by day things improved. After six months of counselling, I felt well enough to stop. I haven’t been back, but if I need to I will.

It has been almost two-and-a-half years since I was in hospital. I still take medication every day and that’s something I’m comfortable with. I know it isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok.

Now, I talk openly about my PND and anxiety, because why should I hide it? I’m doing really well – I rarely feel anxious these days. But I also know there are women and mums out there struggling unnecessarily and feeling so alone.

If I could say anything to them it’s this:

Please know you’re not alone. There is help and things will get better.

You can find your way back from the lowest of lows and be happy and have an amazing life.

I know you can.

Dayarne


For crisis support and suicide prevention, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Lifeline is a 24-hour phone counselling service.

If you are struggling, please see your doctor.

You can read more about Anxiety here