I can only describe my 4 months of Post Natal Depression as feeling dead inside. Numb, why me? I need help. This is too hard, a wash of constant tears and emotions, Hating myself for having these feeling, rage, anger and then… silence. The silence was like an abyss inside that was hollow and suffocating. I became like a rusty robot, my body hurt. I was mute for 3 days.
While sitting at the dining table with my 6yo son he said, ‘Mummy how come you don’t talk much anymore?’ he just sat there staring at me. I felt so sad and heartbroken he was saying this but I was also so irritated, even him staring at me annoyed me. I pretended to eat my meal that I had no desire to consume. I can’t remember what my response was.
I was highly stressed. Trying to care for and nurture a baby with reflux, during 2 of the Auckland lockdowns. In a state of fight or flight. I had lost my appetite, I struggled to communicate, I couldn’t sleep because I knew my baby would wake in 30mins or so screaming. Wired. Some mornings before 10 am I would try to put him to sleep 7 times. I was so run down and my cortisol levels HIGH. I was extremely exhausted and sleep-deprived. And so sad.
Something needed to change. I was feeling like a prisoner in my own home, a victim.
Only I had the power to shift my internal language. I had all the tools and education I just needed to activate them.
After suffering a terrible sinus infection for 3 weeks, which required antibiotics to heal, I decided it was the last straw. All I wanted to do was emerge my whole body and face in cold water. To wash and cleanse it all away.
It was August, winter in New Zealand.
I had been educating myself on cold therapy and the benefits it provided. Therapeutics, mentally, emotionally and physically. Coldwater immersions actives the body natural healing powers. Supports your immune and lymphatic system, circulatory and digestive systems.
So it began. One day. Exhilarating!
Then every day we’d walk to the beach for a swim, baby would watch me swim, sometimes he’d sleep, mostly he’d cry. People would walk by, look into the pushchair and then look for the Mother. Id wave, yes hello I’m the mother and I’m having my peace, my freedom to be and just be with my breath.
Ocean plunging and cold shower rituals have forced me to breathe deeply and fully, moving my diaphram through it’s entire range, massaging the liver, stomach, organs and other tissues. Then an upward motion to the heart.
The ability to consciously regulate breath allows my body to leave a state of pain or stress and enter into a state of calm. Shifting the nervous system from sympathetic (stress, anxiety, high cortisol) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & repair).
Before I had started cold water immersions, I remember one hot summers evening walking out the door as soon as my husband arrived home from work. I walked with tears pouring from my eyes down to the beach, I thought oh my god take me, mother nature swallow me up whole – take me away from this sad existence.
Nearly 1 year on from my tornado experience of PND I still practice this ritual daily. Mother nature has been my nurturer, my saviour and my therapist. She’s held me close and provided me with ‘light’.
Through anger, sadness, paralysing grief of my 17-year-old cat, all the good days and all the not so wonderful days.
This ritual improves my mood, shifts my mindset from ‘this is hard’ – to ‘I can do hard things’. Being so present because of the deep breathing allows me to witness all that is moving through me and be the change. Living from a conscious present place in the world.
I have an ocean swimming buddy, Helma, She moved to New Zealand in 1959 as a German refugee. She’s always in the water before me, waiting like a little golden light. She is so happy and excitable it’s infectious.
Becoming more of me.