Sarah Short Circuit

Heal, Nourish, Nurture

Category: Heal (page 1 of 3)

Falling through the cracks

Last week I attended the Australasian Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health Conference in Brisbane, where I presented my poster ‘Falling through the cracks; a lived experience of postpartum psychosis in NSW’. I was surprised and honored to receive a poster prize for ‘Thoughtful presentation of an area of perinatal mental illness of lived experience that requires greater support and advocacy’.

Falling through the cracks

 

Marce Conference Poster prize

 

Babes + Picnics

” It started with smiles and laughter, sprinkled with a lack of sleep, then spiralled into mania, sleep deprivation, racing thoughts and delusions…my family sought emergency care for me and I was hospitalised with postpartum psychosis.”

“I am a mum, just like any other mum and I am grateful to be able to connect with Babes + Picnics to add another piece to my healing journey”

My story is featured on Babes + Picnics Australia as part of their Anxiety & PND Awareness guest posts supporting PANDA. Connecting with other mums helped with my healing and recovery and I gained some amazing friends too with our babies turning 5 this month! If you are a local mum, please reach out and come along to the Babes + Picnics Sutherland Shire picnic this week!

Know the signs and seek help early. PANDA National Helpline 1300 729 360 panda.org.au

Babes and Picnics

Thank you Fi from Mumma Morrison for sharing my story today as part of her #RealMums Blog Series!

Earlier in the year I was so excited to be a part of May’s sold out Babes + Picnics SUTHERLAND SHIRE Mother’s Day luncheon. As a local shire mum, a mum who has experienced perinatal mental health and a PANDA Community Champion I was honored to be asked to be a guest speaker sharing my story of healing and recovery, and raising awareness of postpartum psychosis in our community.

L to R: Sarah, Fi, Karla, Julie

L to R: Sarah, Fi, Karla, Julie

It was a privilege to be given the opportunity to share my story of motherhood and postpartum psychosis, alongside Fi Mumma Morrison speaking about her journey of motherhood and postnatal anxiety and the loving Julie Clarke for sharing important information about postnatal depression, as well as proudly supporting PANDA.

I am proud to be a PANDA Community Champion with these lovely local ladies sharing our stories at the B+P Luncheon. It was a pleasure to speak with local member Melanie Gibbons MP about the experiences new mums have with perinatal mental health, and the need for more support in NSW for mums who go through severe postnatal depression, anxiety and postpartum psychosis not having access to a public Mother Baby Unit. Thank you Fi and Karla for putting together such a supportive event of connection, supporting PANDA and bringing awareness to perinatal mental health issues.

L to R: Fi, Sarah, Deborah, Melanie, baby Audrey, Ashleigh

L to R: Fi, Sarah, Deborah, Melanie, baby Audrey, Ashleigh

PANDA‘s new website is now live! As a PANDA Community Champion I am proud to have been given the opportunity recently to assist in the development of the new site around postpartum psychosis, helping to ensure the content was accessible and reflected the voices of us mums and families who have experienced postpartum psychosis. Take a look at panda.org.au/info-support/postnatal-psychosis/

Head over and read my interview with fellow PANDA Community Champion Fi at Mumma Morrison as part of her #RealMums Blog Series!

Know the signs and seek help early. PANDA National Helpline 1300 729 360 panda.org.au

 

Unsure

I have been unsure how to write down my feelings of being unsure. This unsure-ness has been building within me for a while. Unsure of making a choice…

I always had thought that I would have many children, at least 2. I have always been very maternal and nurturing since I was a teenager. I have to forewarn any mums whose baby I hold that I will put them sleep, not matter the temperament of the child. Any where I go I catch the gaze of a baby and it’s like we connect with an unspoken language. I looked forward to becoming a mum myself, though terrified of the process, the snuggles at the end would be worth it.

I had no idea the journey I would go to become a mother, the overwhelm, the struggles and the postpartum psychosis. I now savour each moment with my son after the shaky start we went through.  As the first few months went by I focused on healing myself, recovering day by day. The doctors had cautioned my family that if I were to fall pregnant too soon after my psychosis that there would be a chance I may not come out of it.

As my son approached the age of 2, the questions began to start ‘When are you going to have another baby?’. I would quickly mutter ‘I had health problems so we are not sure yet’ and quickly change the story. I knew from my own research that there is up to a 50% chance of postpartum psychosis recurring in subsequent pregnancies. So I did what I did best and sought out more information.

I had heard that for mums in my situation it would be best to have a mental health care plan in place which included being able to access a Mother Baby Unit (MBU) to be able to receive the appropriate care. There is only 1 MBU in NSW and to have the best chance to access this care I knew I would need a Perinatal Psychiatrist as part of my care plan. One of the mums from my son’s play group opened up to me one day about her experience and I asked for her recommendation of a perinatal psychiatrist at St John of God Hospital, Burwood, where the MBU is based.

My husband and I went together to the first couple of appointments at St John of God, reliving our experiences of my postpartum psychosis and emphasising to the psychiatrist that were some details I do not remember and choose not discuss any further. It was the first time since being discharged from the mental health ward that I was able to talk about what I had been through, the distress, the trauma and the impact on me and my family. By the third appointment I felt comfortable to attend on my own, as I opened up more the psychiatrist thought that I was no coping and starting to write something down asking me ‘Do you want it on or off label?’ I was flabbergasted, what did that mean? The psychiatrist thought I was hypo-manic and was wanting to write Bipolar Disorder on the medication script to make the prescription cheaper. All I wanted was someone to listen to what I had been through! I quickly ended the session and have never been back. I was totally distraught, in tears to my husband on the phone and thought to myself ‘I’ve burnt that bridge’.

I strengthened my resolve and began to work more on myself, starting with Awaken the Change Within 2014 retreat only a month after my distressing appointment with the psychiatrist. Focusing on self-development was almost like a distraction, not having to make that choice, that it is ok to wait as I am working on healing myself more. I discovered a passion for wellness as learnt about self-care, essential oils, nutrition and food. The choice was always lingering in the back of my mind.

The Marcé Society Conference 2016 was the first time I met other women who had experience postpartum psychosis like I had, who truly knew the turmoil I was going through in making my choice. Brenda spoke with me about discovering my ‘maternal number’, that perhaps my maternal number is 1 and that is ok. Connecting with other mums who had gone on to have another child or two, and being apart of an online group of other pp mums sharing conversations of weighing up whether or not to risk having another child, it was reassuring to feeI I was not alone in my making my choice.

I drew a line in the sand to make a choice by February 2017 and be at peace with this choice. As February drew closer, my health started to take a dive with headaches. Seeing my Chiro, he indicated that the headaches had an emotional element, ‘was there something I was unsure about?’.

Why February? The choice was not just about emotions and feelings, it also came down to finances. February was went my son started 3 days of preschool and we need to update (and stretch) the budget. Our family was fortunate that we had top hospital cover when I experienced postpartum psychosis, and this cover was my only chance of gaining access to the MBU provided I am voluntarily admitted. We kept our top hospital cover as this was the only level of cover that included psychiatric hospital care. Mental health has a major impact on one’s income due to reduced capacity to work, higher unemployment rates and less savings. Money for us was tight even though I was back working part-time, our savings is virtually non-existent. Fortunately at the time I read Barefoot Investor whose advice around health care cover was to drop Extras and keep Hospital cover. We were had just changed our cover to lower hospital cover with extras and were still in the cooling off period. With a quick phone call I put back in place my safety net of top hospital cover with no extras, so if any thing with my health changes in the future I know we will be ok!

As I was coming to a place of peace with my choice, I was chatting before a yin yoga class with my former yoga teacher Iknew from before I was married. She always seems to know when to ask the right question and I opened up to her my thoughts in making my choice. Thinking I how much my health has improved for the better, the impact on the relationship with my husband and my son, she reassured it was was a choice made with wisdom not out of selfishness. On my yoga mat tears trickled down my cheek as I surrendered, I am enough just as I am.

Today I shed some more tears even though a few months have passed. From the wardrobe I pulled out the piles and boxes of my son’s clothing that I have been hanging onto to pass onto another baby, another toddler, another child of mine. As I folded up the little jumpsuits, singlets, tshirts and shorts I knew in my heart I was passing onto another little one, another family in need who will be so grateful and appreciative of these little clothes of love. Next week local charity Dandelion Support Network is having a Donation Day on Sunday 18 June 2017. Dandelion is a volunteer run charity who accept, sort and safety check nursery items, clothing, toys and linen to pass onto families in need free of charge. Recently Dandelion put a call out for newborn clothing and boys size 2 and 3 so I knew now is the right time for me to donate as my son is now almost 5.

At the end of the day I am at peace with the choice I make that is best for me. Taking into account many factors including my health, sleep triggers, finance, my husband and more I have made my choice. First and last!

Resources

 

Full recovery is possible

My story of postpartum psychosis has been published in The Guardian today alongside some great new research! I am so proud of the mother I have become and proud to be a PANDA Community Champion raising awareness of postpartum psychosis in our community.

“People can mistakenly describe what women like me go through as ‘baby blues’ or ‘depression’, but I was definitely not depressed,” West says.

West received treatment after a friend told her she was not behaving like her usual self and called the National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline [Panda]. They advised that West should be taken to hospital immediately for psychiatric care, and West is now a strong advocate for the helpline.

“I have to speak up because I don’t like the thought of other families going through what we did. This has to change and to do that we need better recognition of the condition.”

Source: Postpartum psychosis: research reveals full recovery possible within weeks | Life and style | The Guardian

 

Know the signs and seek help early. PANDA National Helpline 1300 729 360 panda.org.au

Shaky start

Becoming a mum was shaky start for me, not at all how I had imagined it to be. I had prepared myself in the months and weeks leading up to my due date. I read books, attended antenatal classes, participated in an Australian Breastfeeding Australia workshop, everything and anything to get ready to bring my baby into the world. However on my due date is when things started to unravel for me.

The night of my due date my waters broke and I thought to myself that everything is happening just as it should. The next day I went up to the hospital to get checked out and I was in the early stages of labour so sent home to progress the labour. This cycle continued for the next four days however my labour was not progressing. To be safe my doctor kept me in hospital, I was becoming tired and my baby was starting to show signs of distress. Within the space of 10 minutes I was prepped and being wheeled down the corridor to the operating theatre. My son was brought into this world in the nick of time with a cesarean section.

After the operation, I waited in the recovery ward for my son to be brought into me. And I waited, watching the time tick by, minute by minute waiting. Waiting for someone, anyone to come and tell me what was going on. I could hear commotion beside me with nurses rushing in and out, talking in hushed tones. Not quiet enough to be overhead by me as I understood the whispers of medical lingo to know that the patient beside me had passed away.

Paralysed, both physically from the analgesia and emotionally from being separated my baby, I laid there waiting. In a hospital that allows mothers to connect with their newborn during recovery after surgery, I did not get this precious time with my new baby. It was a long 45 minutes later my midwife came to take me back to the maternity ward where my son had been sharing his first skin to skin cuddles with his father.

On the ward I soaked up the snuggles and inhaled the scent of my baby boy with the biggest, exhausted smile on my face. I was elated to be with my family however no one spoke of what had happened on the recovery ward. Our parents came in to visit their new grandson and my dad noticed that I had the shakes. Little body tremors like my body had gone into shock. These shakes would come and go during the first few days after the birth. I felt quite lightheaded which I put down to having just gone through an operation. I remember sitting up nursing my son when this wave of nausea came crashing over me as I quickly asked my husband to take our baby before I vomited everywhere. The nurses came to our aid and helped me back to bed where they tilted the bed back to get some blood flow back to my head. And I slept, more sleep than I had had in the past 4 days, I rested till my baby needed his next feed.

Breast feeding with a cold cloth on my head

As new parents we muddled our way through the first few days, a blur of feed, sleep, change nappy, repeat. I strongly wanted to breastfeed my son, doing everything by the books and what I had been taught. My body didn’t get the same memo. Each time my son would latch on and start to feed I would get this feeling of starting to warm up to the point of being unbearable, my feet would start to swell and I would start to tremor. I would sit there and clutch my baby as I watched my feet swell up. It was like I was trapped in my body not able to say much as I either got the shakes or passed out. There was a number of times where we would either call my dad or our friends down the street to come and hold the baby whilst my husband supported me to land back on earth. I continued to experience these episodes of tremors and passing out till one episode I felt my chest was going to explode and the ambulance was called.

My feet swelling up

Hours later spent in the emergency department, with tests and a chest x-ray, it was a week to the day since giving birth to my baby. I was in a lot of stress during breast feeding and I had been calling the midwives regularly as I was emotionally upset that my baby was not breast feeding. I was very distressed about the health of my baby as I thought he had not been putting on weight. I had not had decent sleep in days and I had difficulty concentrating. The doctors described my episode as ‘went blank and then floppy followed by nodding of head, trembling of hands and feet’.

Diagnosis: Vasovagal Syncope

On my discharge papers an Acute Community Treatment Team (ACTT) referral was made re postpartum depression/blues with the ACTT social worker stating ‘Not an ACTT issue’.  Over the following days this all changed as I unravelled further…

What is vasovagal syncope? I will let you know in the next blog post!

Global Stress Summit

Postpartum and the Thyroid

Listening to Dr Kelly Brogan on the Thyroid Sessions back in 2014 was the first realisation that my thyroid may be a piece of my postpartum psychosis puzzle. Dr Kelly discussed the triangle of psychiatric symptoms, gluten intolerance and thyroid dysfunction and this was the first time I heard a medical doctor discuss postpartum psychosis directly. Women with first episode postpartum psychosis were 19% positive for thyroid antibodies and within 9 months 67% had a higher risk to develop autoimmune hypothyroidism (1). Dr Kelly discussed how postpartum thyroid symptoms can be easily attributed to being a new mum, such as lead limbs, feeling fatigued, super forgetful, mentally disorganised which at 9 months postpartum could be symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease or postpartum thyroiditis. Postpartum issues lead straight to psychiatry, no acknowledgement of the female hormones, not even a test for thyroid function. Dr Kelly says that psychiatric symptoms are usually endocrine related: thyroid or adrenal or blood sugar regulation with insulin or leptin or your sex hormones progesterone or oestrogen. Also, zinc, selenium, magnesium and iodine are key nutrients in thyroid function. To find out more about these psychiatric pretenders I recommend reading A Mind of Your Own.

Typically when you go to your General Practitioner, the thyroid test is limited to blood test TSH, which is a pituitary hormone measure, an indirect measure of thyroid function. To get the full picture of your thyroid free thyroid levels T3 and T4, reverse T3 and thyroid autoantibodies. My GP was reluctant to do further tests as my TSH came back ‘normal’ until I showed him a copy of the research paper (1). Remember there is not one size fits all, you may have symptoms even being in the ‘normal’ range.

The Thyroid Secret is on now and I am looking forward to tuning in to Episode 7: Motherhood Interrupted to discover more about the role of thyroid in the postpartum period (starts on Wednesday 8 March 10am Sydney time).

PS: My test results including my thyroid antibodies came back all good and my GP has noted on my file to check and monitor my thyroid function  if and when I fall pregnant.

References

1. Prevalence of autoimmune thyroid dysfunction in postpartum psychosis. The British Journal of Psychiatry Mar 2011, 198 (4) 264-268

Further Reading

 

Click

I am about to listen to another speaker at the MINDD Forum 2015. A gentleman stands up and starts clicking his pen as he speaks. He continues to click and click and CLICK! I become irritated with all that clicking not being able to fully focus on what he is saying. Why won’t he just stop that infuriating click?

Dr Frank Golick pauses and asks “Who in the room is finding this clicking noise annoying?” Now you have my attention. Dr Golik proceeds with his talk on ‘Pyrroles: Mental Health impacts’ and as I sit there having never heard of pyrolles before it clicks. It is like Dr Golik is describing me and my health issues right back to high school.

Symptoms that I could relate to include:

  • stress intolerance
  • high irritability and mood swings
  • morning nausea which is aggravated by smells and taste (since high school for me)
  • tendency to skip or delay breakfast (I have always tended to do this)
  • difficultly taking supplements in the morning (always make me gag)
  • dry skin
  • little dream recall
  • white spots on nails (this is due to Zinc deficiency not Calcium as we all think)
  • stretch marks (who doesn’t have these especially after becoming a mother)
  • poor wound healing
  • anxiety and inner tension
  • headaches and migraines
  • tendency to stay up late (I have never been a morning person)
  • sensitive to bright lights, loud noises and smells (why I the clicking irritated me!)

There are other symptoms and traits of pyrolles though I have ticked the majority of the boxes. We all produce pyrolles, though some of us have an excess. This excess binds to vitamins B6 and zinc as well as other vitamins including manganese and B3 and leads to over excretion of these nutrients in the urine and a potential nutrient deficiency. This leads me back to my initial thoughts of nutrient deficiency triggering my postpartum psychosis.

Dr Golik continues his talk relating the symptoms and traits of pyrolles to conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar and depression. As he discussing these Pyrolle Disorder Biotypes a name keeps popping up: Dr William Walsh. Dr Walsh has a book Nutrient Power:  Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain on the power of nutrients on mental function.

Looking into this further I look up the Walsh Research Institute to find a practitioner to get tested…

Further Information

A Quirky Journey 53: Pyroluria with Jules Galloway ND

The Low Tox Life Podcast #18: Jules Galloway – Is Pyrroles the key to you feeling better?

Functional Nutrition Academy Feb 2017 Intake

Jammed Up

The start of 2017 has not been the greatest with a few health expressions to slow me down. The first week I endured a 3 day migraine with the second day resulting in a blood shot left eye; not a particularly great look on the first week back to work. Last week I took sometime to slow down and listen to my body with another health expression. I spent time bed napping and resting with body aches, stuffy nose and a smashing headache. Soothed my razor blade throat with Zesty Mumma ginger lemon-aid (I only had oranges). I had my diffusers pumping with Twenty8 Immune Boost, body boosted with this blend as well as added a few drops to my detox Epsom salt bath. Immune Boost blend is a potent combination of Eucalyptus, Lavender, Tea Tree, Cedarwood and Pine is perfect for strengthening the body’s immune system as well as a powerful decongestant with anti-bacterial properties. Took the edge off the headache with Twenty8 peppermint EO.

With all these headaches I was having recently I really was wanting to see my chiro. 12 months ago this notion would not have even crossed my mind. I have started to see a chiropractor in May 2016 after attending the MINDD Forum and ACNEM which really made me think more about how the postural alignment impacts the state of our health. After the first few sessions my fog of fatigue lifted, the clarity of thought was remarkable, and my chiro was able to pin point areas of concern without me saying a word. My chiro noted the sore spots base of head = adrenals, spot just below my right rib cage = food intolerances, stomach = gut issues, all linked via the vagus nerve (more about this another time).

My chiro worked with my body to promote healing, ironing out the kinks, releasing the tension in my neck and shoulders and discovering a lot of tension was located at the very top of my spine, the seat of much emotion for me. With regular chiro sessions, we got my body to a physical point of wellness, and a place to be able to start working through some of the emotion that had been brought to the surface.  I started to stretch the sessions further apart as life became busy. My body soon told me what it thought of this with the return of headaches. Over the Christmas/New Year I let my sessions slip too long and I unravelled into a health expression. I was grateful for my chiro Living Health Care to see me last week and un-jam me. Now to work out what is going on in my neural tree.

Keeping up the fluids and EOs has helped with a quick recovery, as well as booking in a follow up appointment with my chiro. What tips and tricks do you do when you have a health expression?

Shifting the perinatal paradigm

Conference breakfast with Dr Vijay Roach from the Gidget Foundation was sensational! It was so enlightening to listen to a doctor share their personal story of his family experience of perinatal mental illness from both a husbands and a doctors point of view. Dr Vijay reminded me of my own obestrician, who I still can recall visiting me in the mental health ward in his jeans and a tshirt, visiting me to see how I was going even though as doctor his duties were completed. This presentation by Dr Vijay was like an apology speech to me from the health professionals for what I have been through during my pregnancy, my traumatic birth expereince and my episode of postpartum psychosis. In tears, I gave Dr Vijay a huge hug of gratitude as a thank you on behalf of all consumers.


Different people have different perspectives including those in the birth industry. The birth industry is all about the things we ‘must’ do; natural birth, not drink alcohol, breast feed or demand feed and it goes on. Consumers are in the best position to understand what they experience. The Gidget Foundation is run by consumers and the Marce Society should be overrun by consumers (certainly not the case from what I saw at the 2016 conference). Illness works for health professionals, as an authority, understanding big words, knowing what is best for you even though they have never listened to your story, they disempower us with the words they speak.

Doctors will interpret the patient in the first 18 seconds of an appointment. Do women have a choice? Can women decline an exam? Refuse a test? Which woman wants to be the difficult patient? Doctors fail to recognise our feelings, beliefs, values, history, stories. What if the doctors don’t know all the information?

A male gynaecologist is no more disadvantaged, not limited by gender, as they too have the lens to make decisions, to listen actively in planning, pregnancy, trauma, birth to see the world through the woman’s lens. At no point in time did someone ask how we felt. We forget that women are people too, expect to do everything right, the pressure on pregnancy and mothers is huge.

We need to acknowledge what women give to us all. What doctors see as reality as correct is not right. Doctors communicate the fear yet missed the point. What happened to me? I need to understand why? We felt disempowered, no choice, had to do what the doctor said. Doctors hadn’t deliberately tried to harm but by participating in her trauma as health professionals we need to examine ourselves.

Think about the words we use, the posters of motherhood bliss in hospital wards. The gutless implications of the words we use. We do medicalise pregnancy and birth yet no one talks about the wonder of becoming parents and the human inside the womb. We forget the joy of existence. If we miss that, what else is existing? Consumers are people. If we are going to shift the paradigm we don’t need to disempower the consumer, we need their input. The true gift of the health professional is to empower those who seek their help. Its powerful to do no harm and to care; maybe we can make a difference. If we are going to change the paradigm we need to make the shift.

Gidget Breakfast Session – From Illness to Wellness; shifting the paradigm in perinatal mental health care, Dr Vijay Roach, International Marce Society Conference 2016.

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