I have a personal interest in emotional wellness and how that translates as mental wellness. I am a survivor of post-natal depression myself, having been down the path of the traditional care model (in Australia) before taking matters in my own hands.
Firstly you need to get brave enough (or have things dire enough) to seek help to begin with. In my case it was through my community Maternal and Child Health Nurse. I opened up about my struggles when my daughter was 6 months old. She was very supportive and gave me the next step: go to your doctor.
So I did. And my doctor had me answer questions to gauge how bad I was feeling and whether I erred on the side of anxiety or depression, then prescribed me anti-depressant medication and referred me to a psychologist.
I took my medication and I saw my psychologist, who was a lovely woman, but it was just talking. I had very close relationships with other women/mums who were going through similar things and our frank discussions meant that the psychologist’s approach of talk therapy was nothing different, it wasn’t helpful beyond what my friendships were doing.
I also discovered that the medication that I was on was numbing me. Admittedly I did feel better initially, but I had no highs and no lows. One example is that I watched The Notebook for the first time while on anti-depressants. I had heard all about it, how romantic it was and what a tear-jerker it would be, to keep my tissues handy. I kept my tissues handy.. but I didn’t cry. I recognised that it was a touching movie, but the sadness and tears just couldn’t come. Similarly during sex I couldn’t orgasm. I was stuck in emotional limbo, and I wanted to feel life again.
I saw my doctor again, approximately 6 months later. She wanted to increase my medication, saying it wasn’t working right if I was feeling numb, not that I needed to go off it (which is what I had asked for). So I increased it. I do not recall feeling dramatically better. I found myself pregnant again soon after and she told me to stop the medication, cold turkey. Considering everything I had read about the medication had said to keep constant contact with the prescribing doctor and to make sure to ease off it gradually, I was confused by this advice, but followed it. This had me experiencing brain ‘zaps’, vertigo, nausea and anxiety. I felt so bad that I swore I would never go on an anti-depressant again (if I could help it).
I also decided I was better off trusting myself than any doctor!
So I used my own knowledge and beliefs to resolve my issues. I used flower essences to support me, Emergency Essence for example. I journalled a lot. I used Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques. I also used homeopathic remedies and energy techniques such as reiki and EFT. And the more that I did this inner work and the more that I learned showed me the reasons underlying that were making me feel bad. Even with a great life (looking from the outside in), people can have past hurts to process and issues that are triggered by seemingly harmless or unrelated things.
Becoming a mother is a big change. There is (understandable) grieving of the life that you used to have and that you have given up. There is self-doubt and wondering if you’re doing a good enough job. Then guilt, and fears for your child. This does not even take into account the changes to a woman’s body, the hormonal changes, the recovery from childbirth, and the lack of sleep.
Driven to help others
Because of my own experiences, I became very keen to support other women who were still in a dark place that I once was. And once I became certified in Reiki II, as an Australian Bush Flower Essence Practitioner and as an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Master Practitioner, I was practically overflowing with techniques and approaches to help others to battle their demons with. I wanted to share what I had learned and remind other women that there was ALWAYS light, and that I had found tools to assist. That if they weren’t getting anywhere with the traditional approach, that it was not necessarily the end of hope. That their ‘irrationalities’ had very clear roots in emotional traumas and that they were able to be worked through.
However it seemed hard for other sufferers to take on or try my ideas. I understand that things such as EFT might seem odd (tapping on your face to change your feelings – what the…!?) but many did not even consider it as an option.
Focusing My Energy Elsewhere
These sufferers seemed stuck but still hurting through their issues. They had bought what they had been sold (just as I had). They were told that they had a chemical imbalance in the brain. That it wasn’t necessarily anything to do with how they felt or anything they could do anything about. And when they struggled to face the day or struggled to control their emotions, they felt it was time to switch medications, or increase the medication, or to see a new psychologist, or to check themselves into hospital. It seemed a foreign concept to put the spotlight on emotions and to look back at what might have created that and to focus on evolving it.
I decided that I was working very hard, to convince people to believe me about something that went against what someone they had trusted had told them. I was burning out on trying so hard It wasn’t a personal thing, it was just their beliefs and what they were comfortable doing. I decided to move on from these groups and focus my energies on those who need and want my brand of help. Because they are out there!
I am still so passionate about this, together with emotional wellness in children. I just can’t let it go. And I do feel that I have some purpose relating to this experience in my life. And I feel that the tides are slowly turning on how mental health is approached, paving the way for people like me to get in there and make a real difference to the ever rising statistics of people suffering through the murky depths of emotional pain.
I am very encouraged by reading articles such as this one which doubts the chemical imbalance theory and the recommendation for doctors to consider a holistic approach before medication. And articles such as this one which shows the energy techniques ARE out there and being used by the medically trained, even if they’re not openly talked about.
So where I will personally end up, I do not know, but I feel that the future is bright and the way is being paved for ‘alternative’ approaches such as EFT to be welcomed. And I for one can’t wait!