Dear Mamas Episode 9 Transcript: Anxiety

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. As of this episode, we are very excited to be part of The Spinoff family of podcasts, and we have a sponsor – Little Big Crate, delivering gorgeous threads for your little big person, right to your front door. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on The Spinoff Parents. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen. Huge thanks to Mary Cronin for this transcript.

In this episode we discuss our experiences with anxiety, plus Emily has a best-selling book and a whole lot of speaking engagements, and Holly has some big news.

We mention Holly’s essay about anxiety, You Never Regret a Swim and our friend Leah McFall’s column in Sunday magazine. Emily has written often about mental health, most notably this post.

If you think you or someone else might be experiencing anxiety or depression, check out the resources at Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa, or take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. And don’t be like us and wait to ask for help!

HW: Kia ora, welcome to the latest episode of The Spinoff Parents podcast, Dear Mamas, I’m Holly Walker and I’m here with Emily Writes.

EW: Hi

HW: We’re a little bit late with our February episode, it’s going to be coming to you in March, but we’ve got pretty good excuses, which we’ll talk about in a minute. But we thought we’d start out with a shout out to our lovely sponsors, Little Big Crate.

EW: Yeah, we totally love Little Big Crate. If you don’t know about Little Big Crate, they send the most gorgeous threads to your little person, right to your front door. All you have to do is fill out a couple of questions about your baby’s style and then they put together a bunch of beautiful, often NZ made by NZ mums, collection of clothes, and you pick the stuff you want, and everything you don’t want, you send back. So, it’s a really cool thing. You should check it out at Little Big Crate Dot Com, and yeah. Really recommend it. Thanks, Little Big Crate.

HW: Yeah. It’s a great way to support local designers, often who are mums, and makes a great gift for anyone.

EW: and the stuff lasts forever. I bought something out of the last Crate, and I was like, ‘oh, bit expensive,’ but he’s worn it every day and it lasts and lasts and lasts, it really is good quality stuff. That’s what you’re paying for, the quality, I guess.

HW: Awesome. Thank you Little Big Crate, thank you for sponsoring our podcast.

EW: Yeah, thanks, Little Big Crate, you’re awesome.

HW: so, yes. It’s early March, we missed February, but we’ve got good reasons, and we thought we would talk about those a little bit before we get into the topic of discussion today. It’s just the two of us today, we don’t have a guest. We’re freestyling  it. So, as many of you will know, it’s been a big month for Emily.

EW: Yeah, but talk about your news first, it’s too exciting!

HW: Well, my news: as you may remember, a few episodes ago we did a podcast about whether we are done having kids, and I was very much on the fence about whether I was ‘one and done’. And we talked to Andrea, who had twelve children, who kind of put us in our place.  Maybe as a result of that conversation, maybe as a result of being all free and easy and relaxed over the Christmas holidays, I am pregnant! So we ARE having another baby.

EW: YAY! babies!

HW: Yeah, so, it’s very exciting, I’m due in mid-September, gonna have a four year age-gap, which I think is really good, actually. And Esther is very excited about being a big sister.

EW: Oh, that’s so great. How did you tell her?

HW: We told her in the bath. We told her early, which then we realised we were telling everyone early, because once she knew, you know, she told her daycare teachers, she told our families, she told basically everybody she talked to. So it’s been an early announcement. But she had some great questions. Her first question was, ‘who’s it called?’ And we said, ‘uh, we don’t know yet,’ And then her next question was, ‘why do we need a new baby?’ Which was also a good question.

EW: Oh, that’s hilarious, oh my gosh. I remember when we told Eddie, his big thing was that the baby was in my tummy. I mean, he was very young then, you know, and so he used to get his bottle and put it on my belly button, because he thought that that’s how you feed the baby, through the belly button. And so he’d sit there, with his hand on my tummy, and be like, ‘go to sleep, baby!’ With his bottle in my belly button. It was so cute.

HW: Oh, that’s gorgeous. I’ve had to introduce the idea that I can’t do certain things because I’ve got a baby in my tummy. So, I don’t want to lift her up as much and that’s not because I’m not capable at this point in the pregnancy, because it’s early still, and I can do most things, but because I don’t actually want to carry her around. But she’s latched on to this idea, so now whenever I say, ‘that’s too loud,’ or ‘don’t eat that because it’s too spicy,’, she’s like, ‘for the baby? Is it too loud for the baby? Is it too spicy for the baby?’ So, a lot of things are ‘too loud for the baby’ in our house at the moment.

EW: Oh, that’s so perfect. The baby doesn’t like Paw Patrol! You should introduce that. I remember – it’s so nice, thinking about it now; it wasn’t at the time, because I was a massive whale, but Eddie used to sit on my bump. It was so big, and he was so tiny, like a little bird, so that he could sit right on top of my bump. And he used to walk around with his hand on his back, going, ‘I’m so pregnant!’ He totally told everyone that he was pregnant and that he was having a baby and that’s his big thing. He’s super upset that, at the moment, he can’t have a baby.  But oh, this is the best news!

HW: Yeah! it’s taken me a little bit of getting used to the idea, because as we discussed in the earlier podcast, I was on the fence, and I am nervous about it for lots of reasons, actually to do with the topic we are going to discuss today, which is anxiety, but we can talk about that more in a minute, and I’m sure I’ll be talking about this a lot through the coming months of the podcast this year. Also, we should celebrate! This marks one year of the Dear Mamas Podcast! It’s only our ninth episode, as we had some long gaps, slightly more than one month, but yeah! We’ve been doing this for one year now.

EW: That is so cool, I can’t believe it’s been a year.

HW: So thank you to all our listeners!

EW: And now we’re sponsored!

HW: We’re sponsored, we’re on The Spinoff: bigger and better things. Speaking of bigger and better things, tell us what you’ve been up to!

EW: it is just a total whirlwind with the book. I feel like I’ve been counting down to the book coming out, and I had this date in my mind, like, on the first of March it comes out, but then suddenly it was in stores, like I started getting texts from people that it was in stores, and the launch was meant to be in Wellington, and I mean, it is in Wellington but then Penguin was like, ‘oh, we’re going to do this Auckland event first, and then you’ll have the Wellington thing,’ and I was like, ‘oh, there’s so much stuff!’ And yeah, I’ve just had these crazy three days in Auckland of being interviewed by every single radio station on the planet.

HW: Do you feel like you’re repeating yourself now?

EW: yeah, I do. And I feel like when I talk, I start saying something, and I know I said it in another interview, and I’m like, oh, I’m just just gonna bore people to death with the same story, but then I think, nobody’s listening to all of these. They listen to their radio station, and so, it’s fine. But yeah, it’s a lot. The Sunday thing was heaps.

HW: So, you were on the TVNZ Sunday programme?

EW: yeah, and I had four days of being filmed. And they were lovely, everyone was super nice. But I was really nervous about how it was going to be covered. It sounds stupid, but I have kind of kept a low profile, in terms of, I don’t post lots of pictures of myself and the kids,and I don’t particularly seek out lots of publicity, because it’s about the writing, nothing else. And so, to suddenly have my whole family and me on TV and know that people will finally hear my voice and see my face, I mean, it’s just a lot. And I was in Auckland by myself watching. I set it up so that me and my sister could watch it together, she’s in Sydney, so I held up my phone on FaceTime, or Skype or whatever,  so she could watch it with me so I didn’t feel like I was watching it alone, and my husband was texting me throughout it,  but it was weird. It felt weird to not have my family with me while I was doing all that Auckland stuff. My husband came to the Auckland book launch and hid in the corner, which I was very proud of, because he’s very shy. My big stretch goal was to sell 5,000 books over a year, and I thought that was probably a bit too ambitious, because people don’t really buy books these days, and a print run is 1,500 or 2000 books.

EW: But you’ve sold all 5,000 books! That’s bloody awesome, congratulations.

EW: I’m so happy, I just can’t believe it, I’m so stoked. I’m just the happiest bunny, right now.

HW: Well, it’s really well deserved, and I know that people will be absolutely loving the book. My sister has very sweetly offered to buy me a copy as a pregnancy present, so I’ll bring it along for you to sign at the launch next week.

EW: I’m so glad you’re coming to the launch, I really hope people come to the launch.

HW: Yeah, so the book is Rants in the Dark by Emily Writes, its published by Penguin Random House. You may be able to find a copy, but I think they’re scarce.

EW: There are copies, Unity Books has heaps. The thing is, go to the bookstore that is hosting one of the launches, because they get extra in. Whereas all the other bookstores went, ‘hmmm, new author, first time book,’ and Penguin said, ‘well we reckon it will sell,’ but booksellers always say that, I imagine. I think the problem is that bookstores took just a small amount. And Book Depository went to Penguin for more copies, but Penguin is waiting on another reprint. So, you will get it, and please do still buy it. You will make me very happy if you buy it. I know it’s one of those books that people will hopefully probably share around with their antenatal group, but please buy it as well!

HW: I know lots of people who have been buying multiple copies to give to all the expectant parents in their lives.

EW: Oh, yay, and I’ll totally sign it. Just hit me up! I’ll meet you at the supermarket and sign it. But I mean, like, shit. Perfect topic, today.

HW: Yes. Yes! And it’s interesting, there are often two sides of this coin. There’s success, and doing things that are high profile, and that is often a realisation of what we have been wanting to do for a really long time, but on the flip side, it comes with massive anxiety. It certainly does for both of us, and so that’s why we thought we’d talk about that today. So, maybe, do you want to start, Em, and maybe talk about anxiety in your life.

EW: well, I mean, I’ve always had a generalised anxiety disorder. I hope that this is picking up on the microphone because I’m kind of doing this weird twist thing – I just recorded on Nine to Noon and we talked about antenatal anxiety and depression and while I was talking I  felt like my throat was going to close up, and I just really needed a water and I was doing all these really weird like super uncomfortable…

HW: It is difficult to talk about. Physically difficult to talk about.

EW: it’s very hard to talk about. And I do want to talk about physical symptoms of anxiety too, because I’ve had this major breakthrough that I want to talk about.  But anyway, I’ve always had anxiety, when I was a kid I did a lot of work with The Phobic Trust to try and get on top of my anxiety, I had really bad agoraphobia . Agoraphobia is a fear of being around lots of people, of going out – the big thing is going out. I mean, for me, the big thing was going out. So, I was seeing a therapist and was on medication when I was a kid.

HW: When you say a kid, how old were you?

EW: About twelve? So: young. I had panic attacks. I had panic attacks all the time, when I tried to leave the house and stuff. So I always struggled with anxiety, but had long periods where it’s been okay because I just got into this…I guess it’s like having diabetes or something – I don’t know, I don’t have diabetes and I don’t want to offend anyone with diabetes but I imagine that you have your medication or your insulin or your ways of dealing with it or whatever, and then you manage it. For my anxiety, it was like that, and I would be able to go off the medication and have long periods where things like just counting through panic attacks and doing little exercises to help stop catastrophic thinking, that would give me years of calm and peace. And also I got a lot of stability in my life when I met my husband, we moved in together really young but it was a very stable, safe environment for me to just chill. So I’ve had long periods where it was fine. I was nervous when I got pregnant, but not that nervous. I was like, ‘I can manage it,’. And then I was very anxious and stressed during both pregnancies, that was my antenatal anxiety and depression. I call it my antenatal depression and anxiety rather than just ‘I’m always an anxious person’, because I was not on medication or anything before then and I was coping fine. I wouldn’t have even really said I had anxiety necessarily …

HW: But the symptoms intensified during pregnancy?

EW: Yeah. And my second pregnancy was so bad that I went under the care of Maternal Mental Health. Also, once the babies came I was also really happy, it was an instant thing, which is very common with antenatal depression which is why I was diagnosed  with that.

HW: So, is that like, the symptoms lift as soon as the baby’s born?

EW: Yeah, the second its feet are out.

HW: Wow!

EW: It’s crazy. It’s literally not crazy. You know what I mean? So yeah, I had a period, even when Eddie was intensely sick, I still got through that okay but recently I had a really bad flare-up of my anxiety and ended up going back on medication for the first time in a long time because I actually didn’t have medication when I was pregnant because I had really intense therapy instead – sometimes you can have one or the other . But I had about six months of therapy, weekly. I saw my great new therapist a lot and went on medication and then I went on more medication for the book tour and this is what I wanted to talk about, it’s like a fucking amazing thing, this new combo of drugs that I’m on. They’re beta blockers. She was like, I want you to try these beta-blockers with my normal anti-anxiety pills because I said, I’m having really physical symptoms before interviews and stuff: racing heart, sweating, short of breath, shaking hands – my hands were really bad, and then I would feel really dizzy from all of these symptoms and that would make it really hard for me. And before Extraordinary Tales, this event I did at the Oscar House, I had a full panic attack before it, and I was like, ‘I cannot go on, I cannot do this,’. And I had a friend talk me down and help me breathe through it and then I went on . But I said to my GP, ‘I feel like I can’t do this book tour, is there something else I can try?’ And she said, ‘let’s try this beta blocker,’ and it’s great!

HW: Awesome!

EW: I had no idea of the tie-in between physical symptoms and mental, because I’d always just seen it as mental. But when you take away the physical symptoms…

HW: You’re able to feel a lot calmer because your body’s not freaking out.

EW: Totally. It’s totally revolutionary. I’ve managed to do all of these events and about thirty media interviews and it will be eight events, once this month is over.  And I’ve been able to do all of that without any panic attacks, which I’m real stoked about, I’m real happy. Thank God I got over this internalised shitty judgement stigma around medication. Because shout out to my medication! I fell like I spent the longest time going, I don’t wanna be on medication, I don’t want to be on drugs. I’ve never been a Big Pharma type but you absorb all this information, all the times people are like,’ oh, go for a walk instead of taking  medication; If you just go outside…’ which is a really funny thing to say to someone who has panic attacks when they leave their front door. That was a very long way of saying that I am really stoked that there is such great medication out there. Obviously sometimes it’s a long, long, long long journey to get the right medication that actually works. I wish I knew how manageable it could have been. I wish I sorted that out a bit earlier. But yay, I have now. So: go me!

HW: Well done. You’re making me think, listening to you, because my experience of anxiety has taken me a long time to identify that it’s something that I’ve experienced. It probably does go back. It became most apparent in the postnatal period after I had Esther and things really came to a head, for lots of reasons. But then, once you realise what are the symptoms, and what that experience feels like, I think I’ve probably had some form of anxiety for most of my life but had never identified that before. For me, it’s got to do with how easy it is for me to feel relaxed, and often that’s a very difficult thing for me to do and I can be quite anxious in social situations but I’d never associated it with excessive worrying, which is what I thought anxiety was. So I didn’t think I was an anxious person, because I didn’t worry a lot about stuff. But I found it difficult to sleep, and I would resist going out in social situations and all that kind of thing which is I think are markers of it. But when I was in parliament before I had Esther, I was in parliament, and that’s a really intense, high pressure situation to be in with a lot of public expectation, so, trying to perform to some sort of ideal of what you think you’re supposed to be, as an MP, but you’re all things to all people a lot of the time. I did start to experience quite a lot of those symptoms and I actually had my first panic attack before I was even pregnant with Esther. It was quite funny in retrospect, although it was a horrible experience at the time. I was invited to go and speak at a forum in Nelson, which organised monthly speakers to come and speak on their area of expertise . It was called Aspiring Conversations, so I thought I was going in to some sort of round table situation where I could have a conversation with maybe fifteen or twenty people and it could be quite informal, and they gave me a topic to speak on which I didn’t really identify with, but I was too busy with the craziness of parliament to stop and think about what I really wanted to talk about and tell them that, so I just accepted their topic and didn’t engage with it, until on the plane on the way down I wrote maybe five bulletpoints on a piece of paper and thought, I can just wing this, we’ll have a back-and-forth conversation, it will be fine. Got there, realised that people were seated for dinner, and I was the speaker during the meal. There were a hundred people there, and I had forty minutes to fill, by myself, standing up in front of the room. So I got up and I introduced myself and talked about why I was in parliament and what the main things I was working on were, I started to cover off the bullet points on the topic that they’d given me and all of that took, maybe 10-15 minutes. And I was getting to the bottom of my list of bullet points thinking, ‘shit. I just don’t have anything to say,’ and I had a panic attack. I’d never had one before. So, my vision clouded over, my heart was racing, I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I knew I was about to, as I had fainted before, and it felt like that. So I said, ‘I’m really sorry, I’m feeling really unwell, I think I’m going to have to stop for a second,’. And people rushed up to whisk me away, and lay me on this couch, someone stuck my feet in the air, and a doctor came rushing from the crowd to check my blood pressure, and it was just the most embarrassing experience of my life. And people were saying it must be the heat or it must be my blood pressure, and I kind of knew what it was, but I went along with that. That killed most of the 40 minutes. Eventually I managed to get back up and finish the bullet points and answer a few questions and then 40 minutes was up.

EW: That is my huge fear. I have had panic attacks in public before. I once had an ambulance called because of a panic attack, because I was like, I’m having a heart attack, because you get to a point where you can’t breathe. I couldn’t say thwt I was having a panic attack, because I couldn’t breathe enough to say it, and so a random person called an ambulance. But oh my gosh, [your experience], that’s so brutal.

HW: yep, it was brutal. but even though I knew I’d had a panic attack, I didn’t do anything about it. I thought it was a one-off, freak thing and did my best to forget about it. And then after Esther was born, that was when shit really hit the fan. I’ve talked about it in the podcast before in terms of me trying to still be an MP, breastfeed a baby who didn’t sleep. Dave, my partner, was the primary carer but he had developed chronic pain, so he couldn’t look after her, it all turned to shit. And during that period I developed the most severe manifestations of anxiety that I’ve had and for me one of the biggest symptoms was rage. Dave and I would get into these fights over tiny little things, and I wouldn’t be able to contextualise it. I was really scaring myself and him with this self-directed rage. So I would hit myself in the head, and you get this seeing red thing, and I would just lose it when I was really tired and really stressed. It was really scary.

EW: We just don’t talk about rage enough, as a manifestation of mental health  problems or issues. It’s hard: mental illness has such a strong stigma that sometimes I find it very hard to say I’m a mother with mental illness, even though I clearly am. Rage is not talked about, and I wish it was. Because there’s PND, which is getting more of a profile, which is wonderful, but it’s viewed as the Baby Blues, not getting out of bed, crying all the time, but there isn’t this talk about how anxiety and depression can manifest as screaming and yelling and not being able to control yourself. I had a few times where I just totally lost it with my husband, and one time when I had to go for a walk because I felt like I was going to punch a wall. And that’s so not me. And when I went on medication, that stopped. That was quite validating for me, because it made me think, ‘oh good, I’m not a monster,’. Because I’d felt, ‘I’m not this person who does this’. So it was really validating to do this and I wish I had not had this ridiculous idea about medication for so long. I’d been on medication before. There’s this idea with mental health issues that you’ll be on medication for a short time  and then you have to go off, and that’s never necessarily at a doctor’s recommendation. But in every group I’m in for mental health stuff, people are like, ‘I want to get off my medication,’. That’s interesting to me, and I would love to talk to a psych or a doctor about it because we don’t have thwt [attitude] for other long term chronic-ish illness, it’s not like there’s an aim to get off medication. Because I’m like, that’s it! I’m  sold on this particular combination of meds, and I’m like, ‘”I’m staying on them!”. Maybe not the beta blockers, because this is just a short period of my life which is a bit haywire…

HW: and an extreme amount of public speaking.

EW:  Yeah, but I feel like, I don’t want to go back to where I was before. I think we just don’t talk about the symptoms of anxiety, and with depression you can go, ‘this could be depression,’ because I think we know the symptoms of depression more.

HW: We’re more trained to recognise those. And often they’re all tied up together, I remember getting to quite a desperate point, around the time I decided to leave parliament, and there was one terrible day when I had a bunch of volunteers coming to go door knocking around the neighbourhood, it was before I had withdrawn from the Green Party List. Dave and I had some kind of fight, I don’t know what it was about, but literally 10 minutes before they were due to arrive, I was screaming, crawling up the hallway, bashing my head into the floor, and Esther was there watching and she was completely horrified, it was awful, it was one of the most awful moments of my life. As soon as she started crying, I was like, shit, I’ve got to sort my shit out, so I got up, got her, gave her a cuddle, the three of us had a cuddle. And then ten minutes later, these volunteers arrived, so I had to pull myself together and lead them out door knocking. It was horrible. And I hate doorknocking anyway, I’ve always hated doorknocking because I’m an anxious person and I hate knocking on strangers’ doors and saying, ‘hey! Vote for the Green Party!’. So around that time, things were pretty desperate and I remember finding the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale online and taking it.

EW: Yes, that’s a great, great resource – we’ll add a link to that.

HW: It’s a series of questions that you answer. What flipped a switch for me, is, they were questions like, ‘I’ve been able to see the funny side of things’, and the range of answers were things like, As much as I always have/ Not as much/ Not at all, and I realised that I had moved on that scale, that I used to be able to see the funny side of things, and I couldn’t anymore. So, when you take that score,  a score of ten is high, and the maximum is 30. I had 21. Even then, I still didn’t act on the mental health stuff for quite a while. And I think that is to do with that stigma, and I’ve been listening to you thinking, maybe I need to examine my attitude about that …

EW: Well, it’s really hard. I’ve been on medication on and off my whole life, but the stuff you hear is strong. I’ve always known that I have anxiety, having been diagnosed really young, but still, I’ve had long periods where I should have been on medication but haven’t gone on it because I’ve been too worried, and now I think it comes with this maturity of being 31 and no longer in my twenties, and also just hitting a sort of rock bottom; I was so unwell, that I was going to just give up on the book but also I was treating my husband really shittily, I couldn’t help out as much at home during that period, I had to take a month off work, which was a massive hit for us financially, and I thought this is just absurd, my life is being stolen by something I know I have because I won’t take medication.

HW: And you were on the cusp of this great achievement that you couldn’t enjoy

EW: Yeah, and I didn’t want to give up the book. And I had no reason to, the book was going fine, but the anxiety was stealing any joy around it. And it fed into so much stuff, like Imposter Syndrome, so I would turn down events because I thought, ‘they don’t really want me,’.

HW: and for me, if you set high expectations for yourself in other areas of your life, for me, I feel like, ‘well, I SHOULD be able to manage my anxiety, I SHOULD be able to do it by exercise and talk therapy. If I do everything right, I should be able to manage this myself,’.

EW: Exactly. And I think I had thing thing like, ‘if I go on medication, does that mean I’ll always be on medication?’ And I had no reason to believe thwt either, but that’s the really shitty thing about anxiety, it lies to you and makes you believe stuff you know isn’t true. I call them my Anxiety Spirals, that’s when my anxiety is spiraalling and my thoughts are getting out of control and getting into catastrophic thinking territory.

HW: That catastrophic thinking that you just mentioned, that’s one of the classic symptoms of anxiety. Maybe it’s a good idea for us to talk a little bit about what those are, so that if anyone is listening to this and identifies with what we’re saying, they can maybe identify those.

EW: so, catastrophic thinking has been my biggest thing. An example of it is, if my husband didn’t come home, I would start with, ‘I wonder why he’s late? I wonder if he’s got caught up? I wonder if he’s had a car accident, oh my gosh, he’s gonna be in Intensive Care, oh my gosh, he’s gonna die, what am I gonna do at the funeral? How am I gonna raise our kids on my own? What’s gonna happen? What if one of the kids dies?’

HW: Then 10 minutes later he walks in the door. And you’ve been to hell and back in those ten minutes.

EW Yeah, exactly. When I was a teenager, I used to say to friends, you have to come on home, because by the time they would turn up, I had already have imagined them [dead]. I had this thing about people being late, I was convinced that something had happened to them. And it was very hard with the kids, I was getting bad catastrophic thinking. Like, a small thing, like if the baby lost his balance: ‘I wonder if this is a brain condition?’ So that’s one. I think hyperchondria is another one, being convinced that you yourself are physically unwell . I had a big thing of, ‘is that a lump? Am I getting sick? Am I physically unwell?’ I read this article about a lady whose baby just stopped feeding on one breast and it became [cancerous], and I was like, ‘oh my gosh, that’s me, I have cancer, I’m gonna die,’.

HW: Then there are the physical symptoms that we talked about earlier, so: shortness of breath, racing heart, sweating, tremors

EW: I find I get tremors a lot and feel quite dizzy. The rage is really important, and I think just on a low level, just feeling like you can’t go out and do the things you did before. I don’t drive, because driving makes me super anxious, just the act of getting into this big metal ting that can kill people  is just too I hope for me, and I’ve never been able to drive because of that. So that’s an extreme reaction to a normal situation, but you may have small things like, you want to go to coffee group but you can’t because the idea of seeing lots of people is too hard. But you can also be an extrovert – I’m very extroverted – and be socially anxious.

HW:  A couple of years ago, I wrote a thing called ‘You never regret a swim’. I always loved swimming, I always loved going to the beach, Dave and I, before we had Esther, we had a rule: You never regret a swim. So if there was an opportunity to swim, we had this rule that you had to take it. It was a code for the way we wanted to live our lives, I guess.Esther was born in October, so it was summer quite soon afterwards, and she was tiny. We went to the beach once and he held her while I went for a swim but it just didn’t feel the same. I was anxious from being away from her, and I just couldn’t do it. And I thought, well, next summer we’ll be fine, because cause she’s only tiny now, but when she’s one, it’ll be fine. And then when she was one, Dave was really sick. And it wa really hard, I thought, ‘if I go to the beach with her, it’s going to be me by myself and I’ll have to deal with sunscreen and make sure she doesn’t get burnt and make sure she doesn’t cut herself on any of the shells  and make sure no strange dogs don’t jump up on her and make sure she doesn’t stay on the water too long and get cold and make sure I don’t get cold. That was the beautiful summer of 2015, which was the best summer that Wellington has had for years and years, and I didn’t go to the beach once because I was paralysed with anxiety about it. So, yeah: finding that you’re unable to do things that you might once have done.

EW: That’s the thing, it’s this idea that you want to do something but you can’t. I mean, I really love being around people, I love meeting new people and hearing their stories . I find wanlkijg into a room with a lot of people just so stressful  and speaking in front of people really really stressful. I just wish I’d gone to the GP sooner, I wish I’d realised.

HW: We talked in another podcast about what’s normal – I think it was the one where we talked with Jess about the physical fallout of parenting, that we often put up with stuff because we think it’s a normal part of parenting, whereas there is a line between what you should have to put up with and what’s a normal a normal consequence of sleep deprivation and what’s treatable.

EW: I do want to talk about the sleep deprivation thing. I said to a lot of people, ‘I’m going crazy from sleep deprivation. And they would say, ‘yeah, yeah, it’s really terrible,’ and I would say, ‘I’m going crazy,’. I feel like I said this so much. People were really sympathetic and everything, but I said, ‘I’m actually losing my fucking mind from not sleeping. And I think that there’s this idea that, OF COURSE that’s going to happen when you’re not sleeping, and you’ll get told 50 million times that sleep deprivation is used as a torture device. But there’s this idea that of course you will lose it by not sleeping. So that when the baby DOES sleep, you will sleep, and it will be alright. But the thing is, my anxiety flare-up was likely the result of not sleeping, but just knowing thwt that is the reason doesn’t change the fact that you have it. There was this thing of, ‘oh, but your kids will sleep, so it’s okay!’. Or, ‘we know what it is, so you don’t need to treat it!’so it took me a while to go, ‘well yeah, I know this is why I’m a mess, but I still have to fix it, and not be a mess,’. And it’s really hard to take charge, and go, ‘No! My kids deserve better, my husband deserves better, but most of all, I deserve better. I deserve to NOT have my kids childhoods and my time as a mother stolen from me, so I am going to go to my GP. I’m gonna talk about it. I’m gonna fix it,’.

HW: That might be a good place to finish. And we’ll put up some links with the info  of resources and places that people can go. The

EW: And we’ll link to your story, Holly, because I read your story and also Leah McFall’s story in Sunday [magazine] about her anxiety. When I read them, I was like, ‘I can do this! Because other women I respect and admire have been able to do this. And I think, just sharing stories makes you see that anxiety manifests in so many different ways, but what is a constant is that we have to do what we need to do in order to save our lives as much as we can, and also the lives of other women. The biggest thing I got out of writing about this on the blog Wass how many mums said, ‘I recognised these symptoms in my friend and we went to the midwife together,’. Do that!

HW: And that, I think, is the power of writing, and it’s the power of speaking, it’s why we do this podcast, it’s why you write, presumably, why I write, it’s giving voice to these experiences that others might identify with as well.

EW: Absolutely. [audible yawn] Oh, that was a big yawn. Gosh, I’d kill for a nap.

HW: Lets leave it there, maybe you can have a 15 minute shut-eye. Well just finish by saying thanks to Little Big Crate for sponsoring us and thanks to The Spinoff for hosting our podcast and we will see you again next month.

EW: Ka kite ano! Thank you!