Daredevil Grant Denyer was beside himself as his wife Chezzi wept uncontrollably. Coming home from an overseas work trip, the Family Feud host had simply asked her how she was feeling.
But that was enough to send Chezzi – then struggling to cope with eight-month-old baby Sailor, breastfeeding problems, recurrent mastitis, insomnia and isolation – over the edge.
‘I remember feeling this explosion building in me,’ recalls the Mummy Time TV powerhouse, who is now campaigning to help other women suffering from postnatal anxiety and depression.
‘The anger was just coming up from my throat and through my head. How dare he ask if I was OK? Couldn’t he see how overwhelmed I was?
‘I remember handing the baby to Grant and just tearing strips off him. How could I be angry at my baby? I never wanted to hurt her, but I got angry at her and angry at Grant, and that was out of character for me,’ admits the honest mother of Sailor, six, and two-year-old Scout.
‘I feared that if I didn’t get help, they were going to send me away and lock me up – because that’s how crazy I felt at that time, she explains.
‘I could see it in Grant’s eyes,’ says Chezzi, 38, revealing how undiagnosed postnatal anxiety ‘definitely’ put her marriage under pressure in the past.
‘I was just not normal. I’m sure he thought he had married a monster, because I was all over the place, trying so hard to keep it together. He was petrified. He didn’t know what to do, because I had always been the one to take charge and now I was a big heap – but a heap that functioned a lot of the time, which was confusing!’
The day after her ‘mini-breakdown’ Chezzi finally sought professional help from a counsellor. She was promptly diagnosed not only with posttraumatic stress disorder – the legacy, in part, of Grant’s back-breaking monster truck smash in 2008 – but also with postnatal anxiety.
It’s an all-too-common but little recognised condition that puzzles many mums – and medical professionals – because it doesn’t quite tick all the postnatal depression boxes.
Nonetheless, it is real and very painful, as self-confessed ‘calamity mum’ Chezzi discovered to her cost.
‘I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t have a name for it,’ smiles the former Sunrise producer, who launched her online chat show and mothers’ group last September.
‘I compared myself to other mums, other celebrity mums, and put such pressure on myself. I thought I should be feeling this overwhelming love and smelling roses and hearing birds singing, but motherhood isn’t always like that.’
Blissfully happy at last on the family farm near Bathurst, Chezzi is out to help other mums battling out-of-control anxiety.
With 40-year-old Grant’s backing, she has launched a new Baby Brain range of merchandise, with all proceeds going to PANDA – a not-for-profit organisation offering support to women and families affected by pre and postnatal anxiety and depression.
‘I’m passionate about letting other mums know there is help if you need it,’ she says. ‘I wish I’d known about PANDA when I was struggling with a newborn.
Admitting that I was in trouble started the journey to recovery – and it has been a journey.
‘But today I would say our lives have taken a complete 360 turn for the better. We are incredibly happy and fulfilled, and I’m really, really grateful, but I don’t take any of it for granted. We are very lucky to have turned our lives around, and that’s why I feel like I have a duty to speak out about this.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now!