FOR Luisa Pelizzari, a diagnosis of postnatal depression was a total shock – but not one without relief.
The Albury radio announcer said while she had always been a happy person, upon the birth of her first child at the age of 37, she lost who she was.
“I still find it difficult to describe,” she said.
“I’d say that I was gone, and that somebody took over my brain, I didn’t know the person that was there and there was a terrible deep sadness with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.”
She said it was joined by a creeping feeling on her back, high anxiety, and the fear that something would happen that she couldn’t cope with, or something would happen to her baby.
She said she’d never been depressed before in her life, and even though she knew something was wrong, the diagnoses was a shock.
“It was a huge relief when I was diagnosed.
“Even though I was afraid, I was in a bad place and that gave me the hope that I could feel better again.
“My thoughts (at the time) were that I was going to be like this forever.
“My message is that you won’t be like that forever, you will be ok.”
Luisa said while she had always been an independent person and felt in control of her life, postnatal depression took that away.
“When my husband went back to work (after the birth of their first child) it was the worst.
“I thought being a parent was hard... when my daughter was about three months old I started having breastfeeding
issues and I found that difficult to deal with and I wouldn’t give up (trying to breastfeed).”
She said that combined with lack of sleep was what “flicked the switch” in her brain.
It was when her daughter was about five months old that Luisa said she “cracked it and lost it, it kind of crept up”.
The local parents and childrens unit realised she was suffering and referred her to her local GP.
She had put it down to struggling with the lack of sleep and feeling out of control – she didn’t have a say in what happened to her baby.
“I’d always been a breakfast radio presenter, so people thought I’d be used to the lack of sleep,” Luisa said.
“But you are doing something you’ve never done before.
“Even if you’ve had children before, it’s different.
“It’s important to remember it can come with any baby – suddenly it will just seem like everything is harder.”
While she said postnatal depression was talked about in antenatal classes, she never thought it would happen to her.
She said the couple had always planned on having two children. She did have a second, when her daughter was three and a half years old.
“I kept putting off having the second one... the proposition of another baby was scary and I thought it (postnatal depression) might happen again.”
It did – but this time Luisa said she was prepared.
“I was ready for it, I knew I could identify it.”
The second-time around she said her son was only a few weeks old when she and her husband noticed it again.
“The early detection made a big difference.”
She said what made her notice something was wrong the first time was no longer enjoying things she used to love.
Her husband took her out to the movies, and she said she remembered sitting in the cinema just wanting the movie to end so she could go home.
“I didn’t want to go out or talk to people, my personality changed completely.”
She urged others who thought they might be suffering to put their hand up for help.
“Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help.
“Don’t shoulder it on your own, don’t do it to yourself or your family.”
She said while some people felt asking for help was admitting defeat, that wasn’t the case.
“Sometimes you think you are doing a bad job of being a parent, thinking ‘I should be able to handle it better’, it does make you feel a little incompetent.”
Luisa said since her diagnosis she had spoken to many people who’d had postnatal depression – including her sister.
“I found out my sister, who lives in Queensland, had it too. It is hereditary... so discuss it with your daughters.”
It was also important for family members to encourage those suffering to get help.
She said while she hoped most people had an honest and open enough relationship to be able to tell their loved one that they thought something was wrong, it was often a case of encouraging them to seek help via other methods.
“Often when suffering you pin it on the baby like ‘it’s not settling’... so maybe by encouraging them to see somebody about getting the baby to sleep better will help.”
She said most parent-children services had good links to mental health support services and that could be enough to get them help.
For tips on looking after yourself and helping others with PND click here
This article was first published in The Land's 2013 Glove Box Guide to Mental Health. To read more from the guide, click here.