Joining The Dots: Recognising the triggers of Postnatal Depression & Anxiety

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My treatment for Postnatal Depression

During my treatment for Postnatal Depression, Anxiety and General Depression Disorder, my psychologist worked with me using many useful cognitive therapies. One of them I found hugely effective was the ‘Join the Dots’ activity which allowed me to write down the thoughts and feelings which were problematic for me and understand what they were in order to ‘catch’ them before they got worse. For me, it was all about recognising and acting on the triggers and the more I could understand what they were and how they made me feel, the easier it was to manage. I use these most days to keep my depression and anxiety in check. 

I wanted to share with you my responses on the ‘Join the Dots’ activity that I did with my psychologist. I umm’d and ahh’d about sharing this on my blog as it has been one of the toughest personal challenges in my life, but I figured that it could help someone else in my situation.  You can see below the headings in bold and my responses in blue.

Body (feelings, sensations, urges)
Racing heart
Feeling sick
Nervous
Wanting to cry
Pins and needles
Mind (thoughts, memories, beliefs, worries)
Worry about the worst
Over analysing
Procrastinate
Dwell and repeat over and over
I want to disappear
Distraction
How have you tried to distract yourself from these thoughts and feelings?
Internet (social media, blogging)
Shopping
TV
Opting Out (quit, avoid, procrastinate, withdraw from – people, places, activities, situations when we don’t like the thoughts and feelings they bring up)
Some of the things I’ve opted out of in the past:
Mothers group
Playgroup (Haven’t opted out but have wanted to)
Social outings with people I don’t know well
Social outings where I have to put in an effort to be ‘ok’
Running my own business 
Thinking  (blaming others, worrying, rehashing past, fantasizing, positive thinking, problem solving, self-criticism, analysing, denial and so on?) If only? What if? Not fair? Why Me?
How I have tried to think my way out of it:
Analyzing reasons I shouldn’t go
Worrying about what others will think
Doubting my ability
Thinking about how happy I’ll be if I avoid it
Substances, Self-harm, Other Strategies
Substances I’ve tried putting into my body:
I have not tried self harm but I like to have a drink or two of wine to make my worry feelings disappear and to boost my confidence.
Did these strategies get rid of your painful thoughts and feelings in the long run so that they never came back?
No, they didn’t work at all and they always came back.

When you have used these strategies excessively, rigidly or inappropriately, what have they cost you in terms of health, vitality, energy, relationships, work, leisure, money etc?
There has been a lot of wasted time, wasted experiences, loss of wonderful memories because I was too busy worrying and feeling down, fewer friends and it has lead to poor health, I’ve never been sick so often.
 
So you can see how this activity can really make you stop and think about your triggers, understand what they are and embed them in your mind ready to catch them early when they try to rear their ugly head. It’s about catching them before they take over.

If you experience depression and anxiety like I do and haven’t done this yet, I would recommend it. You can find the worksheet on page 6 at this link (there are also some other useful worksheets here).
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Today I’m linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT
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Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva is the Editor and Owner of The Multitasking Woman - a lifestyle and parenting blog.She always has her fingers in many different pies but wouldn't have it any other way. Eva is a Mum to her 4-year-old son, 2 month old daughter, two chickens, one dog and a fish called Bob and a wife to Mr G. They all live happily in their little cottage on the outskirts of Brisbane.

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55 Comments

  1. March 24, 2014 / 8:52 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve just discovered that my 16yo daughter has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, so I’m trying to get as much knowledge as I can to help her.

    • March 24, 2014 / 9:17 pm

      My pleasure Cate, I hope your daughter finds it and the worksheets useful. It’s a tough journey but it sounds like your daughter has a great supporter in you.

  2. March 24, 2014 / 9:43 pm

    So glad you decided to share, Eva. Every acknowledgement of this helps us all realise we’re never alone when feeling this way x

  3. March 24, 2014 / 10:45 pm

    You could have been describing me here Eva. I also suffer from anxiety and depression and it is a continual struggle to find ways to control my mind and master the negatives. I can imagine how hard it would have been to share this – thanks for being brave enough to do so x

  4. March 25, 2014 / 5:45 am

    I love the picture at the end of your post – it sums out what you are saying perfectly! Thank you for sharing such a important post.

  5. March 25, 2014 / 7:18 am

    I’ve had my own battles with the “Black Dog” which I am currently sharing in a weekly series – posting each Friday on the many “Faces of Depression”. I haven’t come across a matrix/survey like this before but I think it could be a good idea!

    Visiting today from #teamIBOT xxx

  6. March 25, 2014 / 9:38 am

    that is so helpful, thanks for being vulnerable

  7. March 25, 2014 / 10:01 am

    Thanks for sharing Eva. I’m sure this is going to be really helpful for lots of people. Thankfully I’ve got past PND now, but I still have downer days and it’s important to be aware of things that make it worse. One thing I’ve noticed that make a huge difference for me are diet drinks. The stuff in that causes me to crash big time.

  8. March 25, 2014 / 11:29 am

    I love that little picture at the end!! So cute and made me smile! Perhaps I should print that off and stick it somewhere to always remind me. Thanks for sharing such private and personal information.

  9. March 25, 2014 / 11:40 am

    Thank you for your openness to share about your experiences. Depression is a horrid affair, and it’s good for everyone to know that are others who feel these ways and that they can work towards a happier future.

  10. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 25, 2014 / 12:31 pm

    I hope they worked out well!

  11. Davina
    March 25, 2014 / 2:21 pm

    Wow, what a brave and honest post. I’ve had my own struggles with mental illness and I’ve experienced first hand the judgment and stigma associated with it. It’s so awesome that there are people like yourself out there who are willing to put their hearts on their sleeve and speak about their experiences.

  12. meandmyreadymadefamily
    March 25, 2014 / 3:34 pm

    It may have been tough and confronting to share, but your post will help people going through the same battles.. If I’m going to be completely honest, like me! I am susceptible to anxiety. Thanks lovely!

  13. Rebecca Thompson
    March 26, 2014 / 2:35 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I will definitely be utilising the worksheet, so it would seem you may well have helped someone out by being so brave in sharing.

  14. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:01 pm

    I haven’t read the book Tegan, but the link in the post to the worksheets is to the Happiness Trap website and I’ve found heaps of useful information there. Thanks Tegan x

  15. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:01 pm

    That’s great to hear Rebecca and there are heaps of other useful worksheets in the link at the bottom of the post.

  16. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:02 pm

    I’m so glad to hear that. 🙂

  17. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:02 pm

    Thanks Davina and I hope that everything improves for you.

  18. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:02 pm

    My pleasure Caitlin.

  19. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:03 pm

    My pleasure Jess. Yes, I have to try and stay away from damn Coke Zero!

  20. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:03 pm

    I’m glad it was so helpful.

  21. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:03 pm

    Glad it made you smile! It was a bit of a dreary post so I needed to put something cheerful at the end!

  22. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:04 pm

    Oh, I’ll have to check that serious out Janet. The link at the bottom of the post (sorry it’s not that clear) has heaps of useful worksheets.

  23. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:04 pm

    No problems Lucy.

  24. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:05 pm

    I knew there would be others in my exact same position and I’m so glad that my post could help, even if just a little bit and even if it’s to get people to stop for a minute and really think about it.

  25. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:05 pm

    That’s exactly right Shari. Thanks. x

  26. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 26, 2014 / 12:05 pm

    No problems Deb. x

  27. Mark Downey
    March 27, 2014 / 10:32 pm

    Simply Thank You

  28. Denise Mooney
    March 28, 2014 / 2:03 am

    So generous of you to share this Eva, thank you!

  29. March 28, 2014 / 4:08 am

    Thank you for sharing such a personal post Eva. You are truly amazing xx

  30. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 28, 2014 / 4:26 am

    Thanks bud. x

  31. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 28, 2014 / 4:27 am

    My pleasure Denise, I hope it can really help others in some way.

  32. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 28, 2014 / 4:27 am

    My pleasure Mark. 🙂

  33. March 28, 2014 / 9:52 am

    Great post.. I also write about depression & mental illness.. So nice to come across somebody going through similar battles.. Thanks for sharing xx

  34. Jane @ Hesitant Housewife
    March 28, 2014 / 11:17 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I suffer from depression, and I think it’s so important that we all keep talking about mental illness. I imagine you have helped a lot of people by writing this post xx

  35. March 28, 2014 / 12:46 pm

    This has really helped me Eva! Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing these inner thoughts. I hope you are proud of yourself. xx

  36. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 28, 2014 / 10:38 pm

    Thank you. I’ll have to go and have a look at your blog. Although mental illness is horrible, It certainly is nice when you see that you’re not alone because a lack of confidence is certainly one thing we all suffer from.

  37. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 28, 2014 / 10:39 pm

    No problems Jane and you are very right. I remember at the beginning when I’d had my son no one really talked about PND to me, not the health nurse, the doctor, friends and so I always thought that what I was experiencing was just all part of being a mum, hence why I was diagnosed so late. I have since learnt how important it is to understand it and I want to put my message out there in the hope that new mums can find help much sooner than I did.

  38. TheMultitaskingMummy
    March 28, 2014 / 10:39 pm

    Oh I’m so glad, that makes me so happy that I’ve helped someone. x

  39. Maxabella
    March 29, 2014 / 9:33 pm

    It’s good to own and share these things, Eva. Thanks for sharing so openly and heartfully. x

  40. March 30, 2014 / 9:41 am

    A very big thing to be able to share this with us Eva, you are a brave and smart woman to be able to recognise that by sharing this with others you might be able to help them. x

  41. March 31, 2014 / 12:53 pm

    What an open and honest post Eva. This is a very unselfish thing you have done and may go a very long way to helping others xx

  42. April 3, 2014 / 10:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing this and writing such a great post on a really important issue. It’s great that you shared some really useful sounding resources here too.

  43. TheMultitaskingMummy
    April 5, 2014 / 3:52 am

    My pleasure Jonathan. 🙂

  44. TheMultitaskingMummy
    April 5, 2014 / 3:52 am

    Thanks Sonia x

  45. TeganMC
    April 20, 2014 / 11:37 pm

    I have recently done this exact activity with my psychologist. Have you read The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris? It is the book that this activity is based on and a therapy called Acceptance Commitment Therapy.

    Good on you for making those connections and for being brave enough to share them with us. Sending love xx

  46. Lucy @ Bake Play Smile
    June 6, 2014 / 4:20 pm

    Oh stop, stop, stop!! You’re killing me! I’m a nutella nut and yet have never used it in my brownies before! Well that totally must change now! xx

  47. July 10, 2014 / 7:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing this!! I really need to do this and shall take it to my psych. xx