Kirsty McKenzie has a pretty recognisable face around Instagram. Known as @themummysomniac, the mama-of-three takes a raw and honest approach to sharing her motherhood journey. Over on her blog, Kirsty is raw and honest, and has often talked about her experience with postnatal depression.
With Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness Week approaching (12-18 November) we decided to have a chat to Kirsty about her experience with the illness and what advice she'd give to others who need help.
Kirsty, we know you as @themummysomniac, but can you tell us a bit more about you and your family? What does life look like for you today?
Well, we’re a family of five as of a few short months ago. My husband Nathan, and I have three girls. Abbie 4.5, Eliana 2 (3 in December) and Hannah, 5 months. Life at the moment is fairly hectic. We’ve just moved from Canberra up to Brisbane. Nathan’s gone back to work, so I’m at home with the kids, and attempting to tackle the last of the boxes and set up of the new house! Thankfully, we’re nearly done, and we’re starting to get to the fun stuff. The decorating, and a few little renovations! Apart from that, it’s just life with three little ones, and I try to squeeze in my blog where I can.
You’ve spoken pretty openly about your past experience with PND. When did you start to realise that your feelings were more than just the ‘baby blues’?
It was about the 10 weeks mark with my first bub. I think at the time, my husband had started to notice things were not quite right, before I really did. The cliché of ‘I was crying more than the baby’ was quite true for me, but that was also coupled with aggression. I was so volatile. Much more than just the kind of emotional reactions fuelled by the hormones and lack of sleep. I didn’t ever want to be alone with the baby. I would load up the nappy bag and the pram, and head to the shops every day, just so I didn’t have to be on my own. If I’m honest (and this is actually really hard to admit), I had moments where I thought I might actually do her harm. I just knew that wasn’t ‘normal’. So, we made our first doctors appointment.
When thinking back to your time living with PND, what was the greatest/hardest hurdle that you had to overcome?
Opening up to people about it. Learning that I had to trust other people. I had such a huge fear of judgment. That was extremely difficult to come to terms with. Thankfully, the majority of people were incredibly supportive.
And what about coming out the other side? What did you do to find your happy?
I talked. I found that being open, and honest, really helped me. It’s what led me to start writing my blog. I found that for me, communication was the best therapy. I absolutely love writing and story telling, and I find putting my feelings into words, and sending it out into the universe (or the internet, as the case may be), helps me ‘let go’ of my hang ups. That’s exactly why I continue to do it to this day.
We seem to be talking about PND more and more these days (thankfully!). Why do you think it’s important to destigmatise PND as an illness?
The stigma is the reason women don’t come forward to talk about how they’re feeling. No one wants to be branded. We’re all led to believe that motherhood is supposed to be the most amazing, joyful experience of our lives, and the fact that it can also be very overwhelming, and incredibly difficult, is glossed over. New mums need so much support - whether PND is present, or not. When it is, we need it even more. So we need to feel comfortable, and confident with opening up about our feelings. We need to know that we’re not going to be judged, or branded with any negative labels.
If you could give one piece of advice to mamas living with PND, what would it be?
Go easy on yourself, and remember that it’s ok to ask for, and accept whatever assistance you have available to you. Whether it’s from friends, family, co-workers, or your partner. If they offer, do what you can to accept. Which is sometimes the hardest part. Accepting help does not mean you’re a failure.
And finally, describe #mumlife in three words!
Pass the wine! (Ok, kidding) ... Chaotic, overwhelming (both good and bad) and incredible.
Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness Week will take place from 12 – 18 November. The week was established by PANDA as an opportunity to raise awareness about perinatal depression, including signs to look for and where to go for help.