Kriss Akabusi’s daughter has revealed that her pre and postnatal mental health struggles left her having a ‘breakdown’ at an airport because she was so consumed by OCD compulsions and anxiety.
Speaking during a discussion with Ranvir Singh and Dr Hilary about pre and postnatal mental health problems on Lorraine after it was revealed that one in four new and expectant mothers are affected, Shakira Akabusi, 34, from London, said that her struggles had escalated for years.
Opening up about the moment at the airport the mother-of-four said: ‘We were meant to be going on holiday to California and we were at the airport. I could see all the cracks on the floor leading to the check in desk.
‘I had a complete breakdown. I knew I could not get to the check-in desk, let alone on holiday.
‘We had Rio with us at the time, he was three and a half (years old). It had been going on for years.
‘At that point I realised although I thought I was keeping everybody safe, that was the moment where I realised how much of a hold it actually had over me.
‘That was a really scary moment and that was the beginning of the change.’
She admitted that she hid her situation from her family, but it became ‘really evident’ and after the incident at the airport, things started to change.
Her compulsions, tapping and counting, were ‘extreme’ and geared around keeping Rio safe.
Shakira Akabusi, 34, from London, said that her struggles had escalated for years, during a discussion with Ranvir Singh and Dr Hilary about pre and postnatal mental health problems. Her OCD and anxiety symptoms escalated after the birth of first son Rio as she was performing the compulsions of counting and tapping, thinking they would keep him safe. Things came to a head after she had a ‘breakdown’ at an airport when she realised the hold that it had over her
The pre and postnatal wellness expert, track athlete and public speaker said that her anxiety had started to increase during her first pregnancy with Rio and after he was born.
The 34-year-old said: ‘I felt this immense protectiveness and this immense pressure to be so responsible.
‘Things really did increase from there to the point where I remember I was working in Brick Lane at the time.
‘I had to work from work in Brick Lane to Liverpool Street which is a seven minute walk and that seven minute walk would take me over three hours with the amount of compulsions I felt I needed to do.’
The pre and postnatal wellness expert, track athlete and public speaker said that her anxiety had started to increase during her first pregnancy with Rio and after he was born, pictured with her family
The 34-year-old said of hiding her struggles from her family: ‘For a long time I hid it. I would make it work.
‘I would be sitting here having this conversation with you and I would be doing all my compulsions. But it did become really evident.’
She added that it is ‘really difficult’ for families but she had to get herself into a place where she was ready to recover.
Shakira said that as a mother she was often told to trust her instincts but as she had anxiety also, her ‘instinct thoughts’ and ‘anxiety thoughts’ could get closely linked.
For her recovery, she said she had to learn to differentiate between the two- and said that making the distinction was part of what helped her recovery.
The 34-year-old told Ranvir and Dr Hilary that exercise and being active were a ‘huge part’ of her recovery as they gave her a ‘breakaway’ and opportunity to change her perspective
The 34-year-old also did different types of therapy, including talking therapy and hypnotherapy.
She added that exercise and being active were also very important to her recovery.
‘To me, exercise and being active was a huge part because what it gave me was a breakaway, the opportunity to change my perspective,’ she said.
‘When you have anxiety your thoughts are so busy in your brain and it gave me that opportunity to slow my thoughts and be able to make that distinction.’
Dr Hilary rounded off the discussion by emphasising the importance of family helping with practical things so that mothers can bond with their babies if they are experiencing mental health struggles.
He said: ‘You must share your feelings with friends and family.’
And Shakira agreed, adding: ‘Having that conversation is so important, opening up that discussion.’
What is Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
You do not have to be diagnosed with OCD to experience these common symptoms of perinatal anxiety.
It is estimated that as many as 3-5% of new mothers and some new fathers will experience these symptoms.
The repetitive, intrusive images and thoughts are very frightening and can feel like they come “out of the blue.” Research has shown that these images are anxious in nature, not delusional, and have very low risk of being acted upon. It is far more likely that the parent with this symptom takes steps to avoid triggers and avoid what they fear is potential harm to the baby.
Symptoms of perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive symptoms can include:
- Obsessions, also called intrusive thoughts, which are persistent, repetitive thoughts or mental images related to the baby. These thoughts are very upsetting and not something the woman has ever experienced before.
- Compulsions, where the mom may do certain things over and over again to reduce her fears and obsessions. This may include things like needing to clean constantly, check things many times, count or reorder things.
- A sense of horror about the obsessions
- Fear of being left alone with the infant
- Hypervigilance in protecting the infant
Source: Postpartum Support International