We all know the internet and social media is notorious for people telling the world how wonderful they are. Especially as New Years Eve lurks around the corner, the good ol’ wanky Oscar speeches #humblebrag posts come out about the plethora of said achievements.
And, we all know that I am famous on the internet for all the wrong reasons. Such as, being published worldwide as the token crazy lady who had a baby and lost her mind. Yeah, that old chestnut! But I’m cool with that. I’ve made peace with who I am and hope my honesty can actually help and empower others to love and accept themselves – failings, faults and flaws.
As many of you already know, I went through a long and dark battle from 2014-2016 where I was diagnosed and treated for PND, OCD, PTSD and GAD. It was an extremely difficult time that seemed to just go on forever and forever. You can read the full account in a three-part series I wrote called Modern Motherhood and Mental Illness: Part I, Part II and Part III.
So. What went down in 2018? We welcomed a baby girl into our family and named her Lucy. Armed with a library of knowledge and resources as well as a SWAT team of mental health professionals, I was ready to face any PND that might want to make an appearance. Besides sobbing while watching The Wiggles rendition of “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”, not a lot happened post-birth. Of course, the sleep deprivation and mental fog were there, but it seems that after the initial newborn shit-storm phase, I felt hunky dory. If you hold up my post-labour photo from three years ago with our firstborn, my eyes were filled with sadness. But with our second baby, I was so incredibly happy! You can see the photo and read the seriously sarcastic birth story here.
Two months later, we took a family vacay to New Zealand and upon our return, started to make preparations for our big move to Sweden. It was quite a feat to reduce our lives to a few suitcases and move to another continent on the other side of the equator, but we managed to do it. We migrated to Sweden in August and that’s when it hit me. Like waves crashing over waves, I started to come undone. I was completely blind-sighted and that’s why depression and anxiety is such a ninja, because it strikes at night when you least expect. It’s like b*tch, please, can you send me a memo next time to warn me?
The endless to-do list (literally, there were about 150 tasks) prior to moving overseas had built up so much stress and tension that soon took its toll. Combined with the grief and sadness of leaving our family and friends behind and the culture shock of adjusting to a new country, climate and language was A LOT to process. My 99-year-old Grandfather passed away only a few weeks after we arrived and I was heartbroken. Elias had several spontaneous bleeds due to his Haemophilia so we frequented the hospital and ER at least a dozen times in our first month. So, I crumbled – once again – under the enormous mental and emotional strain. As each day in our new home passed, I inched closer and closer to that cesspool of depression that was oh-so-familiar. Two months after landing, I sunk so deep I was ready to fly back to Australia – with or without Husband – and never return to Sweden again.
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Here's to a new season in a new country with new doctors at a new hospital 😎 Oh, and we will be giving Elias needles at home soon 😱😱😱 When our HTC nurse in Westmead, Australia told us that Haemophilia treatment in Sweden involved primary prophylaxis (giving factor regularly as a preventative measure) I rolled my eyes with contempt. But, here we are, about to start giving Elias injections *through the veins* 3 times a week and I couldn't be happier… Not in the sense of trying to pin down the squirmy little fella, but more because we won't have to deal with these impromptu bleeds anymore!! (at least in the long run). Who's laughing now?! 😆 And this is what I get for being a smart ass about the propylaxis here ha! We have had 4 trips to the Haemotology Treatment Centre here in Stockholm and 1 trip to emergency. It's only been one month and I've had enough. So this couldn't have come at a better time! Of course, it'll take time to get used to giving factor intravenously, it is one thing to see your baby hurting, but quite another to be the one doing it! The HTC staff are teaching us all the tricks, though these occasions often end in tears, tantrums and lots of ice cream bribing. Pray for us, for grace, peace and more grace. We've never done this before, but I guess we're just winging it like every other parent our there 😀
This was familiar territory. I had been in this dark place before. But what was different this time? I had a note. A NOTE! “What is that?” you say. Well, it was a note written by my psychiatrist, who I had been seeing since 2016. He specialised in the treatment of OCD and GAD and over time, helped get me from insane to moderately insane plus very sarcastic and a bit sassy too. What was written in the note? It read like this:
“Never in my life have a met someone as loopy as Mindi. She is so mental that I beg of you to help her. Save her from herself!”
JUST KIDDING! Haha! It was just a psychiatric summary outlining my history, diagnosis and management. Very brief but critical should there be any relapse. And there was a big relapse! I indulged in all the usual OCD behaviours such as checking the kids while sleeping to make sure they didn’t die and saying sorry to God in case I sinned, died in my sleep and was condemned to hell because I didn’t right the wrong. UGH. OCD!
But, I had that note and it became a golden ticket into the system. The wonderful world of psychiatry, psychology and all that jazz. I used to be frightened by this world because of the way mental illness was played out in the media. Apparently, if you’re mental, you sit on the floor in a dark corner with your hands on your head rocking back and forth. Or, if you’re really sick, you scream and thrash about a lot until someone in white wraps you in a straight jacket and you get ‘taken away’ to a padded cell (probably to sit on the floor in a dark corner with your hands on your head rocking back and forth). Um, hello. This rarely happens!
For me, the whole process was so simple and non-threatening, I couldn’t believe it. I have to commend the Swedish mental health system in terms of how accessible it is. Australia and USA could certainly take a chapter out of Sweden’s book and I intend on writing a post about this. You can see a psychiatrist for 200 Kronor, which is about $30 AUD. It’s about the same cost for a psychologist. After a few sessions, it becomes FREE because you reach a cap. The whole thing is so accessible that you would be stupid NOT to get help.
So, I rocked up to the mental hospital with my note (OK it was actually a mental health unit within a hospital, but I prefer saying mental hospital for dramatic effect). Like a hall pass at a high school or a permission slip from my parents, I had my trusty psychiatric note. With that crinkly piece of folded-up paper, I was referred immediately to the anxiety clinic at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm. I met with a psychiatrist within one week and we got on top of things before I hit rock bottom again.
A few weeks later, I felt great and started to find enjoyment in our new life in Sweden. In the span of less than a month, I had made a complete turn-around. At the time of writing this, I still feel bouts of anxiety as the obsessions come and go, but that’s to be expected in the wake of what has been an eventful year full of major transitions. Stress is a trigger for OCD and all the other chronic mood disorders, so I’m just trying to be kind to myself but also stay busy.
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One thing I miss terribly about Australia is the sense of mateship you get 🇦🇺 As we say down under, “How ya goin’ mate?” 😎 In Australia, everyone’s your mate and what I love about this is we look out for each other. My favourite day (besides all the public holidays 🤣) is R U OK Day because our entire nation makes a conscious effort to stop and ask a mate how they’re going (or, as lingo would have it “how ya gaaaaain”). Most of you know what I went though for a few years concerning mental health and it still blows me away that people took time to check in on me regularly. No, they didn’t have all the answers and were far from being able to “fix” me, but they were there and that can mean all the difference! Asking R U OK is not trying to diagnose someone or fix their problems, it’s just listening. That’s all. Maybe it’s scary for you to ask R U OK because you might hear something that’s too confronting. Trust me on this, humans are incredibly resilient, you *CAN* handle it! You *CAN* cope 👊🏼 Maybe they will ask something of you that you can’t give. That it’ll cost you something. Many people feel lonely and just ask of your time and a listening ear. Everybody can do that, it’s free! And if it comes with a cuppa, well who can say no to coffee! ☕️☕️☕️ You don’t have to have a degree, be a trained counsellor, wellness coach or pastor to ask R U OK. Nope! 😆 If your mate has a heartbeat then you’re qualified to ask! Yes, we are all busy going about our lives but let’s keep the main thing the main thing – showing compassion and caring for others. You never know. Your small gesture could actually save a life! ✨ @ruokday @beyondblueofficial @pandanational
Oddly enough, I have accepted a full-time contract as a Content Manager and will be writing and producing content for a global company in Stockholm. In a million years I did not expect to be offered employment in a country where the only Swedish words I know are kaffe, vin and IKEA. But here we are! I start that in January and cannot wait to commission my braincells that I thought were all deadened in the process of being sprayed with milk, poop and vomit 24/7.
Whether you’re having a bad moment, a bad day, or it’s been a shocking prolonged season of suffering, remember, this too shall pass. I promise that if you keep holding on to hope and keep believing for the best that the sun will shine again. Pray for courage, strength and patience and if you don’t have it in you to pray, ask others to pray for you.
I am not an island and I certainly didn’t get to where I am today on my own accord. With a supportive Husband and family, as well as a circle of trusted friends, I’ve been able to get through some of the harshest of winters. If you’re reading this and you feel hopeless, just remember it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed for your dreams to come alive again. Reach out, speak up and act now. You owe it to yourself and YOU WILL live a long and fulfilling life despite the bumps in the road.