I had always dreamt of being a mum. As a child, I would play mum with my dolls and anytime a baby was in sight I would always want to hold them.
When Jonathan (Brown, former Brisbane Lions player) and I were married in 2008, our wedding was everything I dreamt of and more. We had decided that as soon as we were married we would start trying for babies.
My pregnancy with Olivia wasn't great, I had awful morning sickness for the majority of the pregnancy. From the moment I woke to the moment I went to sleep, I felt nauseous.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I started worrying that I wasn't going to bond with the baby, as I never rubbed my belly and gushed about the little person growing inside me. I thought ‘OMG stop kicking me, you are going to break a rib. Hurry up and come out already, I am so over feeling fat, tired and sick’. All of this I never actually told anyone in case I was judged for being ungrateful and cold.
The anxiety kicked in on the way to the hospital to be induced. I went from wanting to see how the labour progressed before going for pain relief to wanting the epidural as soon as I got to the hospital. I was petrified.
At 9:07am on the 30 October, our 8 pound 5 baby girl arrived and the physical pain was finally over, but this is where the mental pain began. I can't remember the beaming smile on Jonathan's face or the moment when I realised I had a baby girl.
I couldn't believe what just happened and I felt I couldn't express how I was feeling. This was the most amazing time in a new mum’s life and all I could think about was how terrible I was at labour. How was I going to tell everyone that I would never ever be doing that again?
Looking back, it would've been helpful if someone had asked me: how I was feeling? If it was what I expected? This is now something I do every time I go and visit a new Mum. First I give her a big hug and tell her how awesome she is and ask how she's feeling. Then I go and swoon over the baby because, let's be honest, the baby is always going to be beautiful but Mum might not be feeling so great.
I kind of turned into a robot, I was a Mum now and my job was to look after my baby. I got her into a strict routine and as time went by I thought I was doing really well.
I got out of the house a lot and took Olivia everywhere with me: out for coffee with friends, to the shops – wherever I went, she would come. I did love her and knew it was my job to protect her, but I was very matter of fact about everything. I still didn't have that feeling everyone talked about.
I would sleep every time Liv would sleep and I got plenty of sleep during the night, so I started to wonder how I could still be so tired and struggling to get out of bed.
As time went by, I still had the blocked ear and dizzy feeling I had throughout my pregnancy, which I had been told would go away when my hormones settled down. I felt as though I was on a boat. I felt like I wasn't in my body.
The next 13 months passed with me on the pursuit to find out why I was dizzy all the time and why my left ear was still blocking. The feeling was so awful that some days I struggled to do everyday tasks.
During a bad attack, I would start by feeling off balance, then nauseous. My face would turn pale as a ghost and I would feel really anxious and hold onto things as I walked to ensure I didn’t fall over, especially when carrying Olivia.
I saw three GPs; three ear, nose and throat specialists; one balance specialist; two acupuncturists; two naturopaths; and a Chinese medicine doctor, to try and find out what was wrong with me.
This illness had consumed me, and finding out what it was became an obsession. I felt I would win a prize if I found the missing link.
Eventually I went to my regular GP and cried uncontrollably. I don't even know if I made any sense but I had been on this path for a long time so I guess he knew this day was coming.
I started on medication for anxiety and depression and had to see him once a week for an hour chat.
I had been on medication for about four weeks and seeing my GP weekly when I walked into his office and said "I have postnatal depression don't I?". He responded with "Yes, yes you do". I admire the way he went about my diagnosis. He knew if he told me I had PND I would lose faith in him and find someone else who would look for the mystery illness I so desperately wanted to find.
I can't stress enough how important it is to have a good GP, one you trust and who listens to you. You never know where your mental health may take you, but having that professional support person there is extremely important.
Looking back, I do understand why no one close to me picked up on it. I was always smiling and happy on the outside but fading on the inside. I have a husband who loves me, a beautiful house, amazing friends and family, life was perfect. What's there to be depressed about? I just felt so ungrateful. Anxiety and depression definitely do not discriminate; they can affect anyone.
I know that there also are varying symptoms of mental health conditions and lots of information out there. If you suspect someone is struggling, the beyondblue website is a perfect place to start finding out more information.
I keep on top of my anxiety and depression all the time. If I feel I am starting to struggle, I try yoga, meditation and belly breathing to help, or have a nap.
After seeking help for PND, I have since gone on to have two more beautiful babies. Jack is almost 3 and Macy is 1.
If you think you have signs of depression or anxiety, or just need to vent to someone, please open up about your feelings. Make sure you speak up. Just start by opening up to a friend, family member or partner. However, I can't stress enough the importance of speaking to a GP and seeking professional advice.
If you don't feel comfortable with your current health professional, don't be afraid to keep searching until you find one you bond with. As you can tell from the list of professionals I consulted, I wasn't stopping until I found someone who I felt comfortable with.
You don't need to feel like this anymore. This is the best time of your life, don't miss out and regret not enjoying it. Don't let your past shape your future.