Mental illness

Breaking the stigma around mental illness

Yesterday I did something completely liberating and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I took a massive step and admitted on my Facebook that I am recovering from a mental breakdown. Some people may see that writing a status admitting this as attention seeking or even over sharing, but for me I think it’s so important to lift the stigma around mental illness. Anyone who reads my blog knows what I have been dealing with, but putting a status on Facebook is as subtle as standing in a crowded room and shouting it for everyone to hear.

The reasons why I have taken this bold move was because I can’t stand uncomfortable silences, they make me anxious and make me talk crap to fill them. I’m going to have to face going back to work on Friday after nearly a month off and would prefer knowing that everyone knows what has happened and they can either say nothing or if they want they can talk to me. By being honest and open I am telling people I am not scared of this and also this illness has not defined me. I am still Michelle, wife, mother of two sprogs, Technical Assistant and part-time blogger. Nothing has changed besides me going mental, recognising it and seeking help. Why should I hide that? Why should I be ashamed?

By being honest I have had so much from support and love from people who I really think has been key to my recovery. The more we talk about mental illness, the more people become comfortable and the more normalised it becomes. The more I’ve read into mental illnesses the more I’ve come to understand and appreciate it. The human mind is so much more complex than we know and they still don’t understand it completely.

1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem each year in the UK so for anyone to think now with the knowledge we have on this subject that it doesn’t exist or you can just get over it is just ignorant. I can’t just brush it under the carpet and pretend it is not there. It is part of my life and I am trying my best to overcome it and if I can help some people along the way, then that is even better.

Today I have been discharged from the CRISIS team at hospital and will be now having support through the community mental health team. I take medication every day and cannot see myself coming off these anytime soon and will be starting counselling in December. I have things in place to get better and I have support. I am confident that I can and will get better. Read steps to get help with postnatal depression

Finding happiness again

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I survived another week

I survived another week

I survived another week which was the hardest week of my life. Click here for last weeks blog post. Things have been tough to say the least, but after finally having things in place to get better and the support of my family and friends I finally can see a future again and make plans with my life. The biggest thing this week is that I’ve been able to get sleep and because of that I have been able to see things a lot clearer. I have forced myself out over the last few days to see some friends and do some stuff for myself and actually getting out, even though hard has made a huge difference. I’m still finding evenings hard especially with my husband at work, but I have now found ways to cope and keep busy.

The last couple of weeks I’ve felt extremely discounted from everything and unable to cope with daily life. I no longer cared about looking after myself and was only taking care of my children’s basic needs and leaving everything up to my husband as I was drowning in depression. I’ve felt like a complete failure as a mother and wife and been consumed with guilt which was eating away at me and making me more depressed. Mr T was refusing to feed from me which made me feel like an even bigger failure and that he no longer needed me in any way anymore. He was trying to latch on and coming off screaming like he couldn’t get anything and I was having to put him to bed crying, which really broke my heart. I think he was picking up on the stress as now I’m on new medication and getting sleep he’s back to feeding first thing in the morning and again at night. I’ve always cherished this time with him and its given me a purpose when I’ve been at my lowest. I know the day will come when he no longer needs this comfort from me and as long as it’s on his terms I will be happy for this journey to end.

Miss J has seen me cry over the last couple of weeks which I’ve hated her to see. She’s such a sweet and caring girl and has tried to make me feel better which has then again made me feel guilty as it’s not her job to make me feel happy. I have to remind myself that my daughter is a credit to me and her sweet caring side is from the way I have nurtured her and its something I should be incredibly proud of.  She has been more challenging than usual which I put down to her picking up on my depression and also her not being at school and being stuck in with me most days when I haven’t met her emotional needs. She’s back at school now and happy and I’ve made the most of story time and cuddles before bed with her. Miss J changed my life for the better when she was born in 2012 and made me something I had always wanted to be which was a mother. I really do love her with all my heart and thank my lucky stars everyday that she was given to me as she really has saved me.

My husband is not one with the words, but his actions always mean so much more to me. He has helped out so much with the children and showed me support and affection. He has built me back up and reminded me of how important I am to our family and has made me feel loved. I forget to give him the credit he is due and how important he is to me. My husband is my soul mate and for him to stick by me through all of this which has actually made us stronger is a massive two fingers up at postnatal depression.

I have had amazing support from the CRISIS team, my husband, friends, family, work and Facebook groups who have been there to listen to my fears, worries and have built me back up from rock bottom. without this amazing support system in place I can honestly say I’m not sure what would have happened to me. I was in a dark place and unable to see clearly or rationally and can honestly say I was scared for my own safety.

I am not cured and still have a long road, but I now know the support I need to get again if I ever to go back to that place. I will keep on fighting and will gain strength from this to become again the wife, mother and friend I was before, because I survived.

For support please have a look at Minds website

Taking a second to appreciate my children

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A letter to myself in the depths of depression

I know You really didn’t expect to feel like this and it’s caught you off guard, but please don’t be scared as I know how confusing this can be. Depression is hard, consuming, isolating, scary and painful, but you will get through it. I know you are struggling and you can’t see the light, but it is there. You will feel joy and happiness again and will be in charge of your mind once again.

You are blinded and consumed with fear and anxiety, but please listen to me when I say you are not alone. Please don’t hide, please don’t isolate yourself as there are people who want to help you. You might not see it yet but you do have a purpose and you’re loved so don’t think you are not. Don’t feel like your crazy and you’re losing your mind and that you’re slowly falling apart piece by piece as these horrible thoughts and feelings can only manifest if you give them power, which you no longer have to do.

You are stronger than you know, because to go through this battle you have to be. Sure, I know there is stigma and judgement around mental illness, but us survivors are doing all we can to get rid of it and we would love for you to come join us. Battling this disease is not something you need to do alone and I can assure you, that you’ll never be alone. We are here beside you, you can call us, visit us or find us online. We are here to help you and remind you that you have people around you who care and people who have beaten this. Let go of the worry about other people’s opinions as the only opinions that matter are your friends and you know that they care for you.

Please don’t be scared of the doctor or health visitor, they see this everyday and they know you’re not a rubbish mum, your mind is just a bit broken and needs help to heal. Don’t feel guilty for feeling exhausted as there is nothing harder than battling with your own mind on a day-to-day basis. I know you are struggling to bond with your baby and feel like you’ve let Miss J down, but you haven’t and they will never remember this, so please don’t beat yourself up. Please don’t let the guilt consume you any longer and learn to let go. It is doing you no favours and that guilt and self-doubt is keeping you prisoner and stopping you from getting better.

Tell your partner, friends and family so they can support you and if they don’t understand please turn to someone else for support. You’ll find the more you talk about it the more people you will find who have been through something similar. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in their lives so please don’t feel like the odd one out. Things are going to get tough with prescription changes, doses increased and councillors, but you have got the power to conquer this. Some days you’ll feel like you’re back on track and then it will come out of nowhere again like a black cloud, but these days will get fewer and you will have more good days than bad and you’ll know that you have the ability to feel happiness again.

You’ve done nothing wrong and you didn’t deserve this. You will get better and you can battle this and in this progress you’ll see how strong you really are.

http://www.mind.org.uk

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Signs of postnatal depression 

I have had some lovely feedback from people since writing my blog, but one common reaction I get is that they never knew I had postnatal depression as I seemed fine? So many people said they could never have guessed as I was still up and dressed to take my daughter to preschool and I still smiled and said hello. That’s the thing with PND as it’s not something that necessarily shows on the outside, unless you take a closer look. My husband was even surprised when I told him that I needed to get help, but now looking back he says that he wishes he had known more and was able to pick up on it.

I know I am guilty of painting a picture that I am doing fine when inside I am completely consumed and at breaking point. I was even in denial with myself over my illness and refused to accept it until it was nearly too late. I think it is so important for partners, parents and friends to recognize the symptoms and step in when needed. I know my husband now feels guilty that he couldn’t have done something sooner to have helped me.

My Health visitor came to see me at around 6 weeks and did the Edinburgh Scale (EPDS) which is a great resource for getting an idea if you have PND, but for me I wasn’t truthful and lied as I didn’t want her to think badly of me. When I finally admitted I needed help it was EPDS that I found online that helped me realise how bad it was, this led me to finally calling the GP and seeing my Health visitor and asking for help. If I had only been honest at six weeks postpartum with myself my PND journey might not have been so difficult.

Some days I would feel like I was getting a handle on things and stuff wouldn’t be as bad, which dragged me into a false sense of security that I didn’t have PND and I was in fact fine.  PND hits 1 in 7 mothers and is far more common than I ever thought. I was also under the illusion as I hadn’t had it with my oldest then why should I get it this time around?

Some symptoms of PND are below, but you may not have them all:

  •  Feeling sad or low mood.
  • Little interest of doing things you once enjoyed.
  • Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time.
  • Trouble switching off and sleeping at night.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to look after your baby.
  • Problems concentrating and making decisions.
  • Loss of appetite or comfort eating.
  • Feeling agitated and irritable.
  • Feelings of guilt and blaming yourself.
  • Feeling unable to bond with your baby.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or hurting your baby.

 The main signs you may notice in someone are:

  •  Crying for no obvious reason.
  • Withdrawing contact from people.
  • Only taking care of my baby’s basic needs.
  • Loss of sense of humor.
  • Speaking very negatively about themselves.
  • Loss of confidence.

If you are or you know someone struggling please urge them to see the GP or Heath visitor.

Below is the link to the Edinburgh Scale Questionnaire:

http://www.netmums.com/parenting-support/postnatal-depression/postnatal-depression-the-edinburgh-scale



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Trying to see clearly through the fog of depression and anxiety.

The exhaustion that postnatal depression and anxiety brings is deliberating and consuming. My days at times have merged into one where I get up and do the things I have to do, but I’m not present in the moment, I am detached, I am just running slowly on autopilot. This has made me feel like a terrible mother at times as all I’ve been able to do is focus on the children’s basics needs but nothing more. The antidepressants stop me from feeling any heightened emotions, sure I can feel happy and sad but not in the same way I used to.

Anxiety is such a struggle for me, the way it makes my heart race, sweaty hands and that need to leave the situation immediately. CBT has been so helpful to me but I constantly have to stop myself going back to my old coping mechanisms that hold me back from getting involved and living my life. One of the hardest things I find about anxiety is how exhausting it is, over thinking everything and not being able to sleep which then starts to really negatively effect my mental state.

Depression and anxiety really have controlled my life for so long and have put in so many limitations. I hate how depression has taken away my confidence and made me feel guilty over things I haven’t been able to control. I believe that I am always going to have to fight this battle and that scares the shit out of me. I feel so weak and overwhelmed at times but the rational side of me knows that I am not weak ad I have come so far, but at times that all feels pointless. When my head is ready to explode all I want to do is run away and escape, not permanently, I just want a break from my own mind.

I am still fighting and will continue to fight for my husband and kids as it’s all I know how to do. I mask the pain well to spare them the burden of my problems and even though I feel hopelessly alone at times I know I never will be. I take comfort in the fact i have more good days than bad days now and when I do have a blip it is usually short lived. Please get help if you need it as talking about it does help and if I hadn’t of got help when I did I really don’t know what would of happened to me.

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How PND damaged my relationship with my daughter

PND and how it damaged my relationship with my daughter and how we got it back.

My daughter Miss J has always been the sweetest little girl and when she was born eight days late, after a three day labour all was forgiven as soon as I held her. My bond with Miss J has always been so strong and she really has been my sidekick and when my anxiety has been bad just having her by my side gives me strength.

The first twenty weeks of pregnancy with Mr T were fairly easy besides a few hospital trips early on, but after twenty weeks things started to get very hard as I was diagnosed with SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) and later Polyhydramnios. Abruptly the walks to the park, chasing around and sitting on the floor playing stopped. I felt incredibly guilty that I was unable to play with my daughter or even push her in her pushchair, but the pain got too much.

I think this is where my depression started and then escalated. Towards the end of my pregnancy I was having to lean on my mum for help with my daughter as I just wasn’t able to give her the attention she craved. Miss J wasn’t wanting me anymore and was crying when I took her home from my mums house, which made me feel like a terrible mother. I kept telling myself that once the baby was here it would be so much better as I wouldn’t be in pain anymore but I was very much wrong.

When Mr T arrived 3 weeks early I felt a huge relief. I had been induced and been away from my daughter for two days so was extremely emotional and wanting to get out of hospital as soon as I could. I left hospital too early as I was still extremely anaemic after a iron transfusion and was having dizzy spells constantly, but I pushed to leave as soon as I could. With Mr T back home I was so excited to introduce him to his big sister, but the reality wasn’t as I had imagined. Miss J only being three wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about and kept asking me to put him back in my tummy. She didn’t bond with him and ignored his existence besides trying to cover his face with a muslin when he cried.

The rational side of me knew that this was normal behaviour but inside it was killing me. I was patient and didn’t force her to be with him but it was so frustrating and making me stressed. Miss J was getting jealous that I was breastfeeding him so I would encourage her to feed her doll but she was acting out trying to get my attention anyway possible.

Mr T was not a good sleeper and would be up most the night screaming. He had bad reflux so I was forever changing his clothes and feeding him. My husband was working 12 hour night shifts so I had no way of getting help. Miss J was fobbed off with TV as I was too exhausted to entertain her and between me breastfeeding and holding a reflux baby upright I was failing her and was feeling terrible mummy guilt. I was resenting her for not letting me bond with my newborn and I was resenting him for ruining our relationship. Something had to give before I broke which is when my mum stepped in.

My mum didn’t work Fridays so we would go out or I would go to hers and she would take care of Miss J, where I would leave her for the night and collect the next day. It meant that once a week I only had to put one child to bed and I could nap when Mr T napped. It worked so well that she still does it now. I felt at first I was letting her down and worried that she would love my mother more than me, but its been the best solution for us both.

Eventually once Mr T could interact with her at around four months she started to take an interest in him. It was extremely slow and frustrating, but she now adores her brother, will take care of him and is incredibly protective of him. Once she started to bond with him and I sought help for my PND our relationship slowly improved. She started preschool when Mr T was 4 months old, which meant she got a break from us both and I think that was the best thing possible at the time.

Sixteen months on from Mr T’s arrival and the mummy guilt seems to be lifting. Miss J and me are best buds and I focus on spending some time where it is just us two when I can. She’s an incredibly kind and happy child and even though she can be a madam she is mostly very well behaved.  I thought she would remember it all, resent me forever and that her and her brother would never be the best of friends. Its amazing how PND can make you think so irrational, but I can now see it from the other side and we are now one big loving family.

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