Mindfulness, Meditation and My Postnatal Depression
Dear Mindfulness Diary,
Well I am over two years into my mindfulness practise and what a difference it has made to life. Back then, I was a part time working Mother and Wife with low self-esteem, stressed out Teaching in Further Education, wasn’t sleeping, felt wired yet exhausted, couldn’t switch off, was tearful, angry, had feelings of dread, negativity, I had lost my perspective and had started having panic attacks.
Admitting to my Husband how I felt was a start, we agreed for me to give up some work responsibilities which was hard as I thought that was all I had to define me as a person.
At first I felt liberated but realised I had spent too long being stressed and didn’t know how to get the old me back. After a few weeks I didn’t feel much better and visited my GP who diagnosed me with anxiety and prescribed some medication. Many years ago I suffered from postnatal depression and the feelings felt the same. I had a horrible nine weeks until I started feeling better.
Well, I say a horrible nine weeks – in hindsight they were wonderful weeks. There is a famous quote “great change is always preceded by chaos”. I remembered back to my postnatal days when I discovered meditation and decided to dig my old tapes out – yes tapes! I remember as soon as I put one on it was a light bulb moment. I realised after doing a 20 minute meditation and falling asleep, when I awoke my mind felt so clear and refreshed – I felt like I had slept for eight hours.
I had plenty of time on my hands so I discovered meditation apps I could download, I read all I could about the effects of mindfulness and meditation and was fascinated how it worked on the brain. So I researched more about the brain and it’s chemicals that produce low mood, what to do to combat them; exercise, eating serotonin boosting foods, sunlight, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation. I recovered really well and the anxiety gradually faded.
I was looking through a job website one day and saw a job for a Meditation Teacher – I didn’t think such jobs existed! This led me to train for a Meditation Teaching Diploma. Before I had qualified I had booked a room for six weeks in the hope that I would get some customers! Two years on I teach classes, workshops, well being days, after school clubs and offer post-natal depression drop in sessions.
I learnt that Mindfulness and Meditation are the same thing. Mindfulness is informal which is what we can embed into our daily lives and Meditation is something we make a point to go and do.
The most interesting thing I learnt is that mental health problems can stem from the brain being wired for survival. When the Amygdala senses danger or stress it produces chemicals to enable us to fight or run. The trouble is it can’t identify between a real threat or an imagined one. So most of us are overusing our left side of the brain by constantly being overworked, planning, procrastinating, analysing , never getting through the tasks we set ourselves daily that we are left in constant state of danger which we can never recover from. Mindfulness and Meditation use the right side of the brain that relax the left side giving it time to recover.
On the days I feel my anxiety is creeping back, I use Mindfulness to bring me to the present and even five minutes meditation where ever I am re-sets my brain.
In her next blog, Gail will be discussing ways to use Mindfulness in your daily life. If you think you may be suffering from postnatal depression, talk to someone: your partner, friend, health visitor or doctor. You are not alone and there is support out there for you. For more information on postnatal depression click here.