I got married to the most incredible woman in 2009 ! After you've been married for a while you find that people start to ask you when you're going to have kids. So after enjoying enough time together (although we would have packed a lot more in if we knew what having kids was like) we decided to take the leap.
Like many others we struggled to fall pregnant, and after a year of trying decided to seek professional help. That journey is a tough one, with many ups and downs but we eventually had success as we welcomed our son into the world. It was an amazing experience as this little boy just fit so seamlessly into our little family. I remember coming home from work and asking my wife if she wanted to rest while I took over caring for this sweet little boy.
I have fond memories of him falling asleep on my chest as I watched footy or cricket on the couch. Things were going so well with this new addition to our clan that when we got invited to a wedding in New Zealand we decided to take our little baby. We had a week in NZ before the wedding and thought that we could do a tour in a hire car. We were having a ball! That was until my wife got food poisoning. She was so unwell that we were forced to go to a doctor to get her something to relieve her symptoms. The doctor checked on a number of things before asking my wife whether she thought she may be pregnant. This seemed like a long shot but we agreed to a test just in case.
Sure enough, the results came back and we had the surprise of our life. To me it was a massive shock but I thought I had adequately come to terms with it before the arrival of our second child, a stunning little girl. As we took her home I had just assumed that it would be as effortless as our first, but the reality of having two babies hit home quite quickly.
Circumstantially, our lives had never been better. We had just built our dream home, I had a promotion at work, a new car and two healthy children. But quickly the situation felt out of control and my mood started to deteriorate.
To begin with it wasn't anything out of the ordinary... just the normal struggles that any parent of a newborn would experience. That coupled with sleep affected nights just meant that I found myself in a rut, I was just a bit shaky in my mental health.
As the weeks went by I just assumed that I would bounce back, that I could work my way out of it (I had been successful in working my way out of dark patches before). But in reality, the more I wrapped it up and ignored my feelings, the worse I got. As the months started to tick by my positive lifestyle was decaying too. I was in; what is best described as a "zombie" like mode. I was quite depressed and feeling very negative about the person I was, but I was able to just exist.
My high capacity helped me to just go about life in a way that no one would think any less of me. It was now 3 or 4 months after the birth of my daughter and I knew I was spiraling. I was lacking quality sleep, my nutrition had gone out the window and I had lost all motivation to continue in the direction I was heading. I knew I had to say something but I just couldn't bring myself to share my feelings.
I felt like I didn't have the right to say I was struggling when I was "just the dad". My wife was the one that was doing most of the work in caring for this new baby, so I felt like a real sook for being in need of some support. So again I just wrapped it up and tried harder. As the months went by, my mental health continued to head in a negative direction. My depressive state got to the point where I had tipped over to a period where I was extremely unwell.
By this stage my mind was telling me things that were so far removed from reality. Thoughts like, "you are a terrible father", "your kids could get a new dad... they are so young that they wouldn't even remember you", "your wife deserves a better husband" were running through my head on repeat.
I was convinced that I needed to get away from the people that I loved by any means necessary. I knew that I needed to speak to someone, but by that stage, the thoughts in my head seemed so dark that they couldn't possibly be shared with another human being. I had everything I thought I ever wanted but I had got to the stage that I was grappling with this thought... "do I even like my own daughter".
I didn't have the strength in me to share such a horrible thought with anyone. My brain was convincing me that I was a risk to this little baby... to the point that I would fight falling asleep in my own house because I was afraid that I may harm her in my sleep.
In this unwell state my actions became completely and utterly reckless. I was convinced that the only "control" I had in this situation was the ability to destroy my life and my future. I didn't want to take my life (I had seen the hurt that this causes) so I was adamant that blowing up my life was the best option. For months I did everything in my power to burn every bridge I could find in a vain attempt to have some control of this spiralling situation. My anger and hatred towards myself grew and grew and my normal behaviour continued to decay. I thought so little of myself and I wanted everyone around me to affirm that.
It all culminated 4 1/2 years ago in an attempt to take my life in a car accident.
In the days following, the toxic behaviour and the thoughts I was having towards myself and my daughter began to trickle out. My wife and family helped me get the support I needed. After many stints in Mental Health Facilities, a round of Electroconvulsive Therapy and hundreds of appointments with psychologists, I can say that I am well in regards to my mental health.
The road back was a long and tough one and I still struggle with the shame associated with an experience like this. However, I have learnt so many quality self-care techniques that allow me (with the support of my wife) to move in the right direction when I feel myself becoming discouraged. I have an incredible relationship with my daughter that is often the envy of my wife (she's a real daddy's girl).
LIVIN has been a real help in teaching me how to look after my mental health. After connecting with them through their social media platforms, I now help out in any way I can to spread their crucial message.
LIVIN's message, "It Ain't Weak to Speak" really resonated with me.
In my professional life I was taught the opposite. I was sold the lie that if you shared your weakness/struggles with others, people would use it against you. I now know that early intervention is the best intervention and that speaking up when I am struggling with discouragement or shame is actually a strength. It's what allows me to be the best husband and father that I can be!
It is a startling statics that 1 in 10 Dads experience Perinatal anxiety or depression which is why it's important if you're struggling to reach out for help and use the resources available through great organisations such as PANDA.