Isabelle and Alex's mental health story

Isabelle and Alexs storyIsabelle’s Story

"I gave birth to our first son Dylan in Victoria... My mum and my best friend came to help me when he was born. Dylan was a really difficult baby, constantly crying, and very colicky. I wasn’t sleeping, but I just thought, being a first time mum, this is what it was.

Mum went home, and then I was just crying all the time. I thought I was depressed so I went to the GP. He was really good, and asked me all the right questions... I got a referral to see a psychologist, and was going to go on antidepressants.

Dylan was only four and a half weeks old when I started to get worse. I hadn’t started the antidepressants, but luckily I was involved in a group with our church where the pastor had previously been a doctor. He recognised some of the unusual stuff. I was exhausted, and starting to get quite paranoid. I had thoughts that the authorities were going to take the baby away from me, and that I was being monitored...

Our friend, the pastor, told my husband Alex to ring the mental health team to get me assessed... I had gone downhill pretty quick, and I barely spoke during the assessment as I was so paranoid, and having delusionary hallucinations... After the assessment the doctor suggested I go on anti-psychotic medication. That was a bit traumatic because I had to stop breastfeeding...

"We found a private psychiatrist by googling. I couldn’t find anyone with specific expertise in NSW"

I had people from the mental health team coming to see me every day, to check up on me, and see how Dylan was. They gave me different medication options, linked me up with a GP, and with a lady who organised a Post-Natal Depression (PND) group...

My mum came back, and would pretty much dress me, as I was too anxious and confused. If Mum hadn’t been there I would’ve been hospitalised. She stayed about a month to care for me. Being really unwell lasted about three to four weeks. After that I could take care of myself and Dylan, but I was still feeling pretty flat, because the medication does 'deaden' you. The mental health team came daily for a while when I was really unwell... They had linked me up with a social worker who was really good. I also started to see a private psychologist fortnightly, then monthly, to work on goals and stuff I wanted to get back to doing. I was really happy with my care in Victoria, it was quite comprehensive."

Moving State

"We moved to NSW, then fell pregnant with our second child Jack... We wanted to do everything we could to prepare, and try to prevent [postnatal psychosis]... We found a private psychiatrist [but] I couldn’t find anyone with specific expertise in post-natal psychosis in NSW...

I had some friends who worked in the area in mental health, and through them found out there was a service that worked with mothers with pre and post-natal depression... They did a basic assessment to see whether it was an appropriate referral, and then it took about three weeks to see the psychologist... I found her really supportive and encouraging, and we worked on things that were important to me...

"I found her really supportive and encouraging, and we worked on things important to me."

My psychologist was really instrumental in facilitating the communication between herself and the hospital, and had spoken to the social work team at the hospital... At 38 weeks... I went into labour [and] Jack was born... At around four weeks, I noticed that something was amiss... I was alone for the first time with the two boys, and started to question whether the voices on the TV were real. Alex contacted a mental health support line. They agreed I should start on the medication, and the mental health team scheduled a visit...

By the weekend I was worse, and Alex took me to emergency... I ended up being admitted to the short term ward... It’s probably the worst thing to be in hospital when you are paranoid... I was [there] for a week and a half and didn’t see my psychologist while in there, but she did help with the transition home... My psychologist referred me to a post-natal depression course... it helped me fully recover and see how far I had come.

Eight months later I’m off medication. Those weeks being unwell were the most awful and frightening times I had ever experienced; however I think with the preventative planning and intense support I received, I made a very quick and full recovery..."

Alex’s Story

"I had been seeing a psychologist in Victoria. With the kids there is a lot of anxiety as there’s a lot of things I can’t control. When Isabelle was pregnant the second time, I went to the GP and got a Mental Health Care Plan. Leading up to the birth of Jack the support was good, I started seeing a psychologist... Isabelle was sick in emergency and I didn’t want to leave her there by herself... That night I had a panic attack... I was stressed out that the kids were going to get taken from us because I was worried that I was going to get mentally sick as well and not able to look after them. It seemed like a massive, overwhelming burden to look after them...

The psychologist put us in touch with a social welfare organisation. The case manager was good, and gave me confidence in what I was doing as I felt I wasn’t doing a good job... I wanted Isabelle to see her psychologist more after she got out of hospital and more follow-up would have been good, because I felt we were on our own a lot. A mums and bubs ward locally would have been great because Isabelle could have had Jack with her."

To read Isabelle and Alex's full story or to download a copy, click here.

*Names and photograph changed to protect privacy. The views and opinions in these stories do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN, and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by COORDINARE. COORDINARE is not responsible for negligence or otherwise for any damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided in these stories.