This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and in my blog I wanted to share my PND story. I shared this story last October at the Pregnancy and Parenthood Show but haven’t felt okay about fulling sharing it but this week feels right.
*TRIGGER WARNING* - this post may trigger something for you. If it does please seek advice and support from your GP/Counsellor.
MY PND STORY
Nearly a year ago now I was diagnosed with PND after struggling with the transition into motherhood. And today I just want to share with you about why talking matters and my own experience of PND.
Before I was diagnosed I’d spent 5 months not telling anyone how I was feeling. The general consensus from everyone was that I was struggling a bit but no one really knew how much! I hadn’t felt ‘right’ since having Isabella and at first I put these feelings down to the baby blues but as time went on those feeling stayed and worsened.
I think perhaps these feelings even began when I was pregnant as I spent most of my pregnancy being sick or feeling sick (with undiagnosed HG) and felt like I’d lost 9 months of my life as I just couldn’t function properly.
The feelings of regret, guilt, that I’m not good enough; had become too much. I just felt empty, like I was going through the motions rather than being present.
I made the decision to go and see a doctor after finally opening up to a friend I trusted and her confirming that I did need to go. This was after weeks of feeling the overwhelming sense that Chris and Isabella would be better off if I left and went to live with my parents. I then finally spoke to my husband who hadn’t really realised there was a problem other than I didn’t really want to do anything for Isabella if I didn’t have to. I’ll explain that a bit more, if I was on my own I would change her feed her etc but if someone else was there who could care for her, like my mum or my husband I’d do everything I possibly could to get out of changing her or feeding her.
I saw the doctor the next day and he confirmed what I thought. I had PND. He talked to me for ages, told me about what would happen next, about medication and resaurred me that it wasn’t my fault. It was nothing I had done and was due to a decrease in serotonin which can happen after a big life changing event. Just saying those words to him that I didn’t feel right felt like a massive weight of my shoulders. I immediately felt lighter. But then I began to realise what do I do with this label I now have, what will people think?
The first person I told to their face was my mum. She wasn’t sure what to say, but the more we talked about it the more it made sense to her. I guess as a parent it’s hard for you to see your child really struggling.
I then made the decision to tell close friends and family, most peoples reactions were supportive, ‘is there anything I can do?’, ‘I’m really sorry to hear that’ but some where less supportive.
A week later, as I began to get my head around everything, I made the decision to post about my diagnosis on social media. Now this wasn’t an easy decision and it put me in a very vulnerable place, but I also knew that I didn’t have anything to hide. 1 in 3 mums are diagnosed with PND and there are many more who don’t seek help because of the stigma, worry and anxiety seeking out that help can cause.
So I posted, I talked about how I’d been feeling, I did feel embarrassed and worried about what people will say. How they will react and if they will judge me. But I knew deep down I had to be honest in order for me to get better, because I have to and I want to get better. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up thinking mummy wasn’t happy or that I didn’t love her.
But the love, support and messages I received were immense and incredibly overwhelming. There was no judgment (at least not from those commenting or messaging), just overwhelming support for a mum who was struggling. Since that point I had continued to be very open and honest about my diagnosis, my struggles, the process of receiving counselling and my road to recovery. The kindness and support from mostly complete strangers has been incredible. I’ve only to this day received a couple of negative comments from people I knew, one who expressed their concerns for me posting such things online. However, for me surely it would be worse to suffer in silence and for me to have got worse rather than talking openly about it.
People have asked questions, some I think have felt ashamed for me or not known how to ask how I am, some I think do not believe the diagnosis, some have asked about medication, but most have been very supportive!
Now many things happened in the weeks after I’d have Isabella, fall outs because of the decisions we made as new parents, I spent a lot of time feeling jealous about the bond my husband and Isabella had almost instantly and I felt that I was now somehow second best and he didn’t love me as much as he had done before, I lost my confidence completely and I also felt lost, alone and like my voice wasn’t being heard above everyone else’s needs. When I talk about everyone else’s needs I mean about visitors, people putting the pressure on to hold Isabella, and the doctors not listening to me when I asked for treatment for oral thrush for Isabella when she was 2 weeks old, a horrible ordeal which lasted 6 weeks and resulted in me stopping breastfeeding even though I didn’t want to.
Throughout the next few weeks after my diagnosis I went for counselling, I told my workplace and I began to speak openly about it face to face with people. However, also around this time I began to find it more and more difficult to leave the house, unless it was something I had to attend. And I also began to realise just who was there to support me, those that would text, call or get me out of the house on those really dark days. I did however, continue to share my PND story via my businesses social media. I documented my counselling appointments and the good and the bad days.
The reason I made the decision to share my diagnosis and experiences, was a personal one and is obviously not something everyone wants to do but I knew for myself and my recovery talking about how I was feeling, how I had been feeling and how I was struggling it was important. I knew that by speaking up through the platform I had worked hard to create would be tough but I also hoped that somewhere within me sharing my struggling I may also help other mums who were struggling or who had been struggling to seek the help they needed.
For me, being open and honest about my experiences and exposing the very vulnerable elements of myself I have found myself better able to cope with how I have been feeling, acknowledge those feelings and move forward. I’m a big advocate for talking, especially when it comes to how I’ve been feeling. Posting throughout the first few months of my recovery, massively helped me to pinpoint the triggers, the emotions and the effects of certain situations or events.
I know that I have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Having PND makes me no less of a mum or a human being. The stigma attached to mental health needs to be broken, so many parents suffer in silence, and afraid of what others may say, what may happen to their baby if they admit they need may need some help. It shouldn’t be this way. And I hope by sharing my experiences it may help other mums and dads to feel safe to go and seek the help they may need or just open up that conversation with someone whether through social media or face to face. Talking is such a great tool and I really believe that it’s the first step to recovery.
Talking openly about PND, whether it’s on social media, with friends or family, a doctor, a counsellor or even journaling is a massive tool to aiding recovery alongside the support offered through counselling and/or medication through our NHS.
A year ago I was hiding exactly how I was really feeling, how much I was actually struggling. Now even though I do still struggle some days I am completely open and honest with how I’m feeling. But it’s important to reflect on just how far I’ve come over the past year; the steps I took to help me start to recover, the triggers and what helps me to feel a little brighter.
I believe that talking really does help, and acknowledging how you have been feeling is so important in order to get better.
So if you are struggling or know someone who is and need to get some support know that there is support out there, from you GP, from your health visitor, from family and friends and peer support through pre and post natal services. It might feel like a really scary vulnerable time but know that getting the support you need will really help you to see the light at the end of what can be a very dark tunnel. It can be a long process but you will get there!