I have postnatal depression and I’m not ashamed.

Yes, I do have postnatal depression and no I’m not ashamed of it anymore. For over a year I have battled it every single day when at times it has made me close to the edge. It has consumed me and isolated me. Postnatal depression has been the dementor in my life for so long and at times it paralysed me and fed off my fear.

We need to get rid of the stigma around mental illness and educate people. I can’t just get over it, I can’t just suck it up. It has invaded every part of my life and damaged my closest relationships, but the day I admitted it and asked for help was the day a huge weight was lifted and the PND lost its control over me.

I’ve come along way in my battle and can see things from the other side now. The mummy guilt was horrible and the fear I would get my children taken away for admitting I had suicidal thoughts was frightening. Now I’ve got help even though some days are a struggle my life has got so much better. I now understand myself so much more and I appreciate that just like my body I also need to look after my mind. Isolating myself is a problem for me when I’m having a down few days, but now I recognise it I stop it from becoming habit so I don’t fall back into old traps.

If you you are going through this your self please do not be ashamed and talk about it. If you don’t have it and never have then be supportive and understanding as you never know the battles someone is going through in their head. They may look fine, but believe me they are not making it up and by being ignorant to it you are contributing to the problem. Everyone please open your minds and support each other. Please do not be ashamed over something you couldn’t help getting.

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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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Returning to work

Returning to work and why it was the best decision for me and my family. 

I had 13 months of maternity leave with Mr T including my holiday, which I was incredibly lucky to have. My husband worked extra to make sure I didn’t have to go back to work when my PND was at its worse, which I am eternally grateful for, but unfortunately I had to make the choice when my son was one to either return to work or get signed off work.

We had no option for me to be a stay at home mum and for the most part I do really enjoy my work, but the thought of going back whilst still suffering with PND scared me. It was still touch and go with my recovery with more good days than bad, but I was scared how it could rock the boat and if it would put me in a downward spiral.

In the end I decided to at least give it a go and if it got too much then I could always see my GP. I wasn’t convinced, but I told myself it might actually be a good thing for my recovery.

I was honest with my employers about my PND and they were incredibly supportive. It was rocky at the start especially with a change in my medication and feeling close to a complete breakdown for a week but now I’m on the right medication and we’ve got into a routine, I’m enjoying it more than ever.

I love being able to drink a hot cup of tea, chat with adults about something besides kids and not having to be a mum for the day, which then makes me appreciate my two days off in the week with my children. Routine has been key to my recovery and now I’ve been back at work for four months I’m feeling the best I’ve felt for a long time.

I definitely lost my identity being at home on maternity leave and was convinced I would be rubbish at my work when I went back, but I was surprised how quickly I got back into it and what a confidence boost it has been. I no longer feel guilty as I know this makes me a better mother.

I know it’s not for everyone but for me it works. I’ve got so much respect for stay at home mums and I’m not sure how you do it. My lunchbreak is over so I better get back to it.

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The power of positive affirmations. 

Over the last month I have been doing positive affirmations every morning and I’m shocked how much good it has done for my mental wellbeing. It wasn’t easy at first and I struggled to believe what I was saying, but now I really do believe and feel it and it gives me a huge boost. When anxiety gets the best of me I go through them in my head and my adrenaline seems to get rerouted to become confidence. It’s amazing how things we can do by ourselves can have such a positive on our mental wellbeing. Don’t feel like you are being stupid just know that you are becoming more mentally in tune with yourself and taking care of yourself inside.

Since my daughter Miss J came into our lives I’ve done everything to try and make her grow up feeling positive in herself so why couldn’t I do the same for me. Why did I tell my daughter she was beautiful, kind and could do anything whilst I told myself that I was ugly, fat and stupid. I would always give my friends good advice and pick them up when they were down but I seemed unable to do the same for myself.

I turned to selfhelp books and found lots of positive affirmations and decided I had nothing to lose. At first I tried to focus in to when I had moments of doubt and negative thought. I found becoming more aware of these thoughts helped so much as they didn’t just become fleeting thoughts that I never questioned. The more in tune I became the easier it got to challenge these thoughts and everytime I have a negative thought I now do an affirmation and it stops immediately. It takes practice but it works.

You can’t just say an affirmation you have to believe and feel it. Take a step back, focus on your breathing, get good posture and believe and feel it then repeat. The more times you do it the more it will become ingrained into you and the negative thoughts will slip away

“I am unconditionally loved in this very moment. I always have been, I always will be.”

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Learning to be positive again 

Writing these blogs and getting them out to an audience has left me rather exposed which has made me feel nervous. What if someone doesn’t like my post? What if someone leaves a horrible comment? And you know what I do care but I also don’t care as I feel from the feedback I have had so far I’m doing ok. I am my own worst enemy with self critical thoughts but I’m being brave and putting it out there. I need to learn to be positive again and stop the critical thinking.

I’ve been having counselling for just over a month and we have determined that I hold onto guilt and I lack confidence in myself. I think I’ve always been like this and have never thought that I have the ability to do anything I wanted, which has stopped me from achieving so much. I’ve left three course in college early and come back from Australia 9 months early as when things get too tough I throw it all in and run.

Things have shifted though as even though I’m not fully recovered from PND, I have stuck it out and not run when its all I’ve wanted to do. Another thing I have stuck out with is breastfeeding and I am now at 16 months and enjoying every second of it. I am finally at a place in my life where I can see that I am able to achieve things and I just need to be kinder to myself.

I think living in this day and age with Facebook, Instagram etc its so easy to think that everyone else is doing well and its just you that struggles, when in truth its lots of people. When I finally opened up about my depression and anxiety I found lots of other people also have the same problems. I couldn’t believe some of the people I had envied for having their shit together were just as screwed up as me.

It’s ok not to be ok and we do need to talk about it and remove the stigma attached. When things were at my worse before going to the Dr’s I had completely reverted and isolated myself from everyone which was a very dangerous place to be. I was so ashamed of how I felt and was convinced it was all my fault. I was mentally not able to make decisions for my wellbeing and I wish I hadn’t shut down so much so I could of got help earlier, but I was in denial.

To be almost out the other side I feel liberated and free but I still do have dark days and have to work hard to keep the negative thoughts away. I wish I could of told myself a year ago were I would be today, or even two months ago as I don’t think I would have believed it. Things can change but you just have to want the change and have the power. I got my power through antidepressants, CBT, counselling and my support group of friends.

Finding happiness again

 

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The exhaustion of PND, anxiety and antidepressants.

The first steps of getting help

I feel exhausted and unmotivated every single day and have to force myself out of bed. Initially it was the PND and anxiety which were exhausting and not letting me sleep, now I think it’s the antidepressants and it really pisses me off. I hate waking every morning with a foggy, almost hungover state of mind and it doesn’t matter how much sleep I do get I still feel like this everyday. I’ve never been one of those types that springs out of bed at 6am and ready to go but I really wish I could wake up and at least get going in the morning without the battle. Most of my days off I struggle to get out my pj’s and out the house by 11am, but now with Miss J’s at school I’ll be forced to get up and I’m hoping this will change. I definitely one of these people (at least on the antidepressants) that need to be forced into doing things otherwise I’ll sit around all day doing nothing which does nothing for my low mood.

I’m hoping this blog will be a step in the right direction to give me confidence by being able to see that I can carry on with something I enjoy with out the self critical and negative thoughts keeping me locked away in my own form of hell.

This week so far has been more positive than negative which has really given my wellbeing a boost that it needed and it’s also taught me that I can actually do something for just me rather than just being a mummy, wife and housekeeper. I feel for the first time in a long time that I’ve got this!

 

 

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The first steps of getting help with postnatal depression and anxiety

The first steps of getting help with postnatal depression and anxiety (antidepressants)

After speaking with my Dr and getting a prescription of Sertraline things got much worse before they got better. I had been warned by the Dr that these antidepressants could make me feel suicidal which they did. I was feeling broken, hopeless and guilty, but I was still trying to keep up the impression to the people closest that I was fine.

Miss J had just started pre-school, which eased my guilt slightly knowing she could have fun at least two days a week away from me. The playground made me feel super anxious as everyone already seemed to know each other. I had Mr T strapped in the baby carrier against me almost like body armour, I would keep my eyes forward and march Miss J into her nursery room and get out as quickly as I could. I now know the other mums are actually nice ladies and some have even become friends, one in particular has become a very close friend and a huge help in my ongoing recovery, but at the time I was so scared to talk to them and so worried about what they thought of me. Any conversations I did have with Miss J’s teacher and other mums over the next few months I would replay in my head  constantly, so worried that I had said something stupid.

The days at home with Mr T were strained and not what I had planned in my maternity leave fairy tale. Washing was mounting with Mr T throwing up constantly from his reflux, the husband worked every hour he could so we could afford for me to be at home and I was alone and empty. Many a times I just wanted to run away and hide or even end it, but the fact this baby boy needed my milk to sustain him kept me going. I’m all for feeding your baby, which ever way suits you and your family, but for me breastfeeding made me feel like I had some use even in the dark days.

After being on the antidepressants for a couple of weeks I forced myself to go to my local children’s centre to get Mr T weighed and to speak with a health visitor. I told the health visitor everything and broke down in tears whilst she held me. It was such a relief to tell a stranger and not feel so alone and trapped. My HV was lovely and offered me lots of support and set me up by visiting me every week at my home whilst sorting out cognitive behaviour therapy. I was so thankful to have the HV for support, especially with the antidepressants still failing to kick in and a six week wait for CBT to start.

After this I started to feel ready to come clean about my mental illness and confided in my best friend who was also on maternity leave and able to offer me support and comfort without judgement. On a girls night out after a few too many glasses of wine I came clean to the rest of my group of girlfriends who were amazingly supportive and still make the time to check in on me from time to time to see how I’m doing. Realising that I had support and that I had amazing friends around me gave me a glimmer of hope that I could come out through the other side.

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1st Day of school for Miss J

So Miss J started reception today. I was expecting to be in floods of tears but I did feel a bit emotionally dead if I’m honest. This is the part I hate about anti-depressants and why I struggle to feel emotions the good and the bad. Miss J was happy as anything to run off into her classroom with her new friends, without really giving me a second look. I think maybe if she would have been a bit clingy it might have been harder. I’m trying to remind myself that I’ve raised a confident, happy and emotionally balanced (as much as any of us humans can be) 4 year old that was happy enough in herself to start a new adventure. I just wish I could go about life in the eyes of a four year old and not have fears and negative thoughts about new challenges.

Everyday when I enter my workplace I have anxiety and am constantly battling this voice in my head saying I am stupid, worthless and I am bad at my job. I know in truth that I am actually pretty good at my job and that I should probably get paid more for what I do.

One thing I am not looking forward to when my daughter gets home is washing the skid marked knickers and no doubt ruined school uniform covered in sand, mud and grass stains. But that welcome back cuddle will all be worth it.

Below is mine and Miss J’s song from her favourite film Toy Story, which I think is appropriate for today.

When somebody loved me
Everything was beautiful
Every hour spent together
Lives within my heart

And when she was sad
I was there to dry her tears
And when was happy so was I
When she loved me

Through the summer and the fall
We had each other that was all
Just she and I together
Like it was meant to be

And when she was lonely
I was there to comfort her
And I knew that she loved me

So the years went by
I stayed the same
But she began to drift away
I was left alone
Still I waited for the day
When she’d say I will always love you

Lonely and forgotten
Never thought she’d look my way
And she smiled at me and held me
Just like she use to do
Like she loved me
When she loved me

When somebody loved me
Everything was beautiful
Every hour spent together
Lives within my heart
When she loved me

By Sarah McLachlan – When She Loved Me

 

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