My Journey with Postnatal Depression led me to help other mums

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Almost 8 years ago I began my motherhood journey, only I had unwanted company – Postnatal Depression.

I was a 19 year old new mum, struggling to breastfeed and lacking the emotional support I so desperately needed, it is no wonder than the cloud of PND descended and a wall between me and my daughter came down. I was still doing everything for her but it was if I couldn’t quite touch her, smell her, hear her. Those feelings are simply awful, not feeling good enough, wondering what you did wrong, why all the other mums are coping when you are fighting each day just to survive.

I wish I’d known then that none of it was my fault, I was poorly. I was the 1 in 7 mums who suffer with Postnatal Depression. I wasn’t alone but my god I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life.

I felt so many emotions, anger, sadness, guilt, but empty all at the same time. I didn’t want to be here any more, but still I suffered on in silence.

I lied to the health care professionals, “I’m fine” I would say. “Just tired”. I lied on the depression scale test you get given at 6 weeks postpartum, So many women do for so many reasons, I wish I hadn’t felt afraid to say I was struggling.

When I finally found the courage to seek help, my daughter was around 8 months old, by then I was very unwell, I was having regular intrusive thoughts and just wanted to escape, I couldn’t keep fighting with the thoughts in my mind anymore, I’d had enough, I thought all my strength was gone.

Thankfully, although I didn’t realise it at the time, I found a little pool of strength within me, it wasn’t much but it was enough to help pull me closer to the light at the end of the tunnel, to help me get through the really awful days where all I wanted to do was hide under a duvet and escape from reality for a while but all the while soldiering on, caring for my daughter and making sure her needs were met.

I slowly started to get better but sadly for me, I went on to experience Antenatal and Postnatal Depression a further 2 times with my sons. It’s one of the hardest things I think about having PND and being a mum, it takes so much from you at a time where you should be able to enjoy the little moments, instead we are left with photographs we can barely look at and memories that are faded or simply not there at all of those precious first moments with our child. PND is cruel but it can be beaten.

My journey with PND is one I am still on, although now the dark days are few and far between (I still take Anti Depressants because they help me be the best mum I can be). I found hope, where I didn’t think there was any and those little glimmers of hope are what helped me see that I wasn’t alone and that recovery was possible.

In 2014 my journey with PND led me to find what I truly believe is my purpose. I was now in a position to be able to offer that hope of recovery with others while connecting with those who were just starting their journey or those even further ahead than me.

I began #PNDHour, a simple hashtag which connects those affected by all maternal mental illness with a weekly tweet chat, every single Wednesday between 8-9pm via my profile @PNDandMe, I also have a Facebook page.

The purpose of PND and Me is ultimately to let those who are fighting know that they are not alone. It can feel like a very lonely journey some days, but you are never truly alone.

There is always someone out there who will listen to your story, who will help you get better, you have to take the big brave step of asking for help. I know it is hard, I truly do but please don’t be afraid, you are a good mum, you are just poorly. You can get better.

We are all at different stages of maternal mental illness, but those of us a little further along can offer that beacon of hope a mum starting her journey really needs.

If you take anything away from this blog let it be these things :

If you are a mum who is currently suffering with PND, please know that you are not alone and that help is out there, don’t be afraid to speak out. You are going to get better. Your journey may be different to others but keep fighting and find what works for you.

If you are mum further along the journey, or completely out of the fog of PND, extend your hand to other mums, help us break the silence and the stigma that keeps so many from seeking help.

Ultimately, know that you are doing your best, that is and always be – enough.

Rosey xxx

 

L.E.A.S.H. A guide to help GPs better detect Postnatal Depression, from a woman’s perspective

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Ahead of #PNDHour which is linking in with Sport Relief and the #MumTalk chat with GP’s, I thought I’d write some of my tips for GP’s when a mum who presents with postnatal depression visits your surgery. I hope they will help give an insight into the women you are helping.

Listen

Allow her to talk, she may be finding it hard to be open with you, especially if you’ve not met before, she is opening herself up at a very vulnerable time, so it is important to give her the opportunity to find her words. Perhaps offer her a pen and paper if she is struggling to find the words.

Eyes

She may be downplaying just how awful she is feeling or has felt, perhaps for the fear of being judged as a bad mum or the fear of having her child[ren] being taken away. Look into her eyes, the smile can hide a lot but the eyes tell a story of their own, it is hard to hide the truth in your eyes when you are really struggling.

If you are giving her the EDPS to answer, my tip would be to  ASK her the questions, I know so many women (myself included) who lied on this test when given it to fill out. It is harder to blur the truth verbally, listen to her and look into her eyes when you are asking her each question.

Acknowledge

A number of things go through the mind of a mother who thinks she may have postnatal depression and makes the appointment with her GP, she worries about being judged, she worries if she is ill enough to even warrant help – Reassure her.

Seeking help and putting ourselves out there exposes our vulnerability. It can be terrifying to make that step, so it is important to acknowledge that she has done the right thing and that she can now get the help she deserves.

Speak Mindfully

Don’t dismiss her feelings. I so often hear of women who have sought help only to be told unhelpful things like “You just need to get some sleep”. If a mum leaves her appointment feeling like she’s wasted your time, there’s a chance she won’t got back again and will continue suffering – alone and without the care and support she deserves.

Hope & Help

Give her some hope, reassure her that she can get better. When you suffer with postnatal depression is can sometimes be impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel, this is often the time that we are there sat in front of you crying out for help. We need hope.

If you aren’t sure of what support services are in your area for mums with postnatal depression, please try and take the time to familiarise yourself with any well run, safe support groups that may be available. Obviously professional support has it’s place in recovery but waiting lists can often leave mums in limbo after her initial contact with you, so having support in this period can be really important. It offers both help and hope of recovery by meeting other mums who have or are going through similar things. It is SO important to know we are not alone.

 

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Why the motherhood challenge isn’t helpful.

You may have seen these photo challenges going about, “Share 3 photos that make you happy to be a mum” etc. So I’m going to weigh in!

For those suffering with mental illness these things can be really tough to see.

The sharing culture on Facebook is such that when you scroll down your timeline you’d not think for the most part than anyone is struggling being a mum that day, and let’s not forget the women struggling to conceive or those who’ve lost their babies/children.

We see the happy moments without doubt however they are tucked between the days of sleep deprivation, tantrums and tears that likely overshadow these happy moments, especially for a mum suffering with depression/anxiety.

For me, I am a proud mum but I struggle to feel good enough and challenges like this only serve to fuel that self doubt and I’m certain I’m not alone in feeling that way.

Depression has a way of making you feel useless and it is hard to shake those feelings.

Being a mum is hard but remember that you are doing your best and that is enough!

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(This photo shows me 36weeks pregnant with my 3rd child, I hated this pregnancy & suffered with severe Antenatal Depression & was put on medication and is one of the photo’s I shared for my take on the photo challenge).

Just because you see smiles & happy status’ on Facebook, doesn’t mean they truly reflect how hard that mum is fighting just to get through each day.

The Motherhood Photo Challenge seems to have appeared from nowhere & has had mixed reactions, some don’t see why there is such a fuss and I can understand that but doing what I do I can’t help but feel it’s unhelpful, because yes we are all “happy” mums some of the time but anyone who says otherwise, is lying.

Parenting is bloody hard work and we need to be more honest about it, perhaps then mother’s won’t struggle with feeling “good enough” because they are not constantly striving to be the perfect mum, who doesn’t exist!

Can we stop looking for the happy mums who have it all together (because let’s face it I bet they haven’t) & show the mums that are good enough & lose their shit?

I know which I’d rather see on my timeline because then I wouldn’t feel alone & like I was the only mum struggling with this whole motherhood thing!

Post Adoption Depression – One mums story

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When me and my husband found out we could not have a child of our own the next natural step for us was adoption, we didn’t even look into IVF as we knew it wasn’t for us.  We had our assessment and everything went really well, went to panel and everyone agreed that we would make good parents we were delighted and started looking for our child straight away.  

It didn’t take long and just 5 months later we had a positive link with a little boy, things slowed down a little but he eventually came home after another 5 months.

When he came home it was wonderful, he was the perfect little child we hoped for. Both family’s just fell in love with him straight away and my husband took a few weeks off work and we settled into family life, it felt perfect. Then my husband went back to work and things started to change, the way I felt started to change.

I started to feel like a failure, a little lost, guilty and very sad.  A failure as we had been through so much and this was the end result, I failed my family, my husband and this little child.  Lost as I have worked since I was young, been around adults for all that time and now it was just me and him.  Guilty because it was so hard taking this little child away from everything he knew to live with strangers and also we had fought so hard to get where we were how dare I feel this way!  Sad for the life I thought I had lost.  I found myself visiting people and going out most days because I didn’t want to spend time at home with him by myself.  If we stayed in, I wouldn’t bother getting dressed and would spend the day in my PJ’s. 

I could’t say anything to my husband because we fought so hard to be where we are, so I let it carry on.  People came to visit and tell me how amazing it all was and I would smile and agree but all the time thinking how would you know, have you taken a child away from his life? Have you had to go through panels for approval to be a parent?  I felt like I was alone, no one knew how I felt or what we had been through.  

We still had a lot of social work visits and between been terrified that they would notice something was amiss with me and the fear they would take the little one away and trying to act like everything was fine, it was exhausting and I felt physically drained after every visit. 

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Finally I plucked up the courage to go to the doctor, told him everything and I was told “Just the blues after all the excitement of the adoption” and also “You need to get over it” so I left thinking I was the most selfish, horrid person in the world for feeling this way, how could I be a good parent to this little boy, he deserved so much better! 

I eventually started to talk to my husband slowly and he didn’t push me as he knew I was struggling telling him and I also found a forum online that helped adoptive parents. I did lots of research and came across information about post adoption depression and recognised all the symptoms but at this point I had lost all confidence in the doctor and couldn’t go back.  I found alternative ways of dealing with depression and eventually when I started feeling a little better it gave me confidence to parent this beautiful little boy.

I had to make an emergency appointment with the doctor recently and it happened to be the same doctor I had seen about the depression and he mentioned about the visit I had previously had and he said that only now has post adoption depression is a “recognised thing”. I pointed out that this is not just becoming a recognised thing and it has actually been recognised for a long time and I felt very let down by him. 

I am pleased to say I am so much better now, I do still have low days every now and them but now I love spending time with my little boy, my heart feel like it misses a beat when I hear him calling me mummy! 

PND Survivor Turned Photographer – looking for mums to photograph

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Hello my name is Farah Hughes, I was diagnosed with post natal depression in 2010 I suffered with it for just over three years, it was one of the most scariest times of my life.

My daughter is now five years old, and I have recently completed a Foundation Degree in Photography and Digital Imaging.

I am now completing my BA Applied Media course, which I never believed I would be saying!

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Farah and her Daughter

 

I am looking to create a book, the book will consist of photographs of mothers with their children, who are either currently fighting post-natal, postpartum psychosis or who have recovered.

This is something very personal to me.

I wish to do this not just for myself, or my daughter, but for those who are going through the same as myself or worse.

I strongly wish women to see how common post-natal is. Whilst saying this, I also firmly wish to deal with this in a very delicate manner.

Here is a link to a book I have personally been inspired by through the photographs:

These images have been done very gracefully, considering the mothers feelings, whilst being very natural and real.

This is something I would like to do myself, I would like to do the photographs in the women’s own homes, with the use of natural lighting, keeping everything gentle. This is the very place I fought post-natal, at home.

If there are any women who would like to share their stories, please do let me know, or a very brief sentence, this can be from your darkest moment, to how you recovered, or a message to others you wish to share.

I am looking to photograph approximately forty women, with their children.

I am based in Cornwall and am more than happy to travel around the south west, it would be an honour to meet you all!

If this is something you feel you would be happy to be a part of, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I would love to hear from you.

If there are any questions please do not hesitate to ask, I am more than happy to answer any.

Here are links to my work:

Website: farahhughes.photography

Facebook: www.facebook.com/FarahhughesPhotography-402827606589733/

Twitter: twitter.com/farah_hughes

Instagram: www.instagram.com/farahhughes/

Email: farahhughes@gmail.com

I look forward to hearing from you

Farah Hughes

From Darkness to Light

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PND and Me and #PNDHour wouldn’t have been existence had I not spent time shrouded in the darkness that is Postnatal Depression.

When I was in the clutches of this hidden illness, clawing at the surface and struggling to stay alive and fight the demons in my mind I couldn’t have envisioned one day being in the light again but not only that being a hand to help others who are still fighting the darkness.

I do all of this because I know it feels, how hopeless and dark life can be on the bad days and how seeing the light sometimes is almost impossible.

PND and me is everything I wish I’d had when I was there in the darkness, It offers hope for recovery by bringing women together who’ve experience perinatal mental illness and  saying “You are not alone in this”.

PND and Me isn’t about me, Rosey. It is about all of us who’ve at one point or another felt the darkness take over because of mental illness and pulling each other from the dark, when one person slips we all grab hold like a virtual life ring and say “You can beat this and you are not alone”. We reassure. comfort and simply to listen to those struggling, all these things offer a little light in the darkness.

The darkness of mental illness can at times, be all consuming but there is always hope to be found in the little things and knowing you are not alone can help shine a light on those moments and help the darkness disappear and with the right professional and peer support you can recover.

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The light you need is within you, even on the hardest days there are little glimmers of hope there, hold onto them, write them down, bank them in your mind, do whatever you can to keep hold of that light because with that, hope will grow and your light within will grow and slowly push the darkness away.

Never underestimate just how bloody strong and brave you are for fighting the darkness of mental illness and know that you are an amazing person. It takes a strong person to fight their own mind every day.

I am so proud of the community that PND and me has created, it is filled with inspirational people. By myself I am just a small light but together we are a powerful beacon of HOPE for those suffering with perinatal mental illness.

If you’re reading this and you feel alone, please know you have the #PNDFamily by your side, we can be there to help you find the light in your darkness.

Thank you to everyone whose walked this journey with me and continues to offer hope to one another, our community continues to grow stronger and reach more women affected by perinatal mental illness.

Thank you all for being a constant inspiration, my own little beacon of hope.

I love you all

Rosey xxx

 

Mummy of 2 with PND

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This is my personal journey of living with Post Natal Depression (PND).

I want to get my story out there because I know how awful this horrible illness is. You might not be able to see it but it is all around you. Let’s break the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

” I HAVE A MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS AND I AM NOT ASHAMED”.

I know first-hand how lonely and useless it can feel suffering from this horrible demon. I convinced myself I was the only one feeling these things, and thinking the sorts of terrible things I was thinking. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact I had PND and speak about my experience. In fact the first time round I never really accepted it and never spoke about it to anyone. It also took me a long time to realise I AM NOT ALONE!!!

That first time I experienced the horrible dark demon taking over I never really got any support. That might be my own fault though. I never told anyone how I was feeling. I thought they would think of me as a bad mother and not able to cope and take my baby away from me.

My health visitor would come and visit me after I had my first precious boy. She kept visiting and I pretended a lot was fine; the questionnaires they give were so easy to just lie. I have to admit I DID LIE. I didn’t mean to but I thought if I answered honestly I would get my child taken off me and I would have social work on my door…so that’s what I did and I didn’t admit to anyone how I was feeling…. I just got on with life.

I kept this act up for a while but then I admitted to everything I was feeling… I told my health visitor and her only; not my partner, not my parents, nobody exactly how I was feeling. I didn’t know who to go for support and I just got on with my life.

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I then spoke to my GP and I was prescribed antidepressants which I stayed on for a few months and started to feel better. I did this all without the knowledge of my partner, parents, parents in law and friend and other family. I carried on with life, went back to work, saw my friends and family and started to feel a bit more normal again.

My eldest son was two and a half when I gave birth to our second son. Unfortunately I had a pretty rough pregnancy and throughout it I was in and out of hospital constantly with complications. Thankfully our little one arrived 10 days early. I had quite a traumatic birth but our boy was safe and healthy. They told me that due to the problems that I had endured that this was the most probable reason for the PND demon returning. Only this time it had returned stronger than ever.

Again I kept it to myself for a while; the same low feelings, crying, loneliness, anxious about the smallest of things, anger, being scared and not knowing what on earth I was feeling at times. But it started getting worse; the demon was becoming to get more of a hold over me. I started getting worse thoughts than I had ever had before. I was constantly exhausted, had a cloud of darkness around me all the time, didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, didn’t want to socialise with anyone and I just didn’t want to be me.

I think the worst of it all was I did not want to be around my boys at times. They would be crying and I would be in a daze like state not even hearing them, or I would be hearing them but wishing I couldn’t. I felt that I wasn’t good enough to be their mum, that I would make things worse. I would look at my little one and just have no feelings at all. I think that was one of the worst feelings as that made everything a bit of a vicious circle, I didn’t want to be near my precious boys yet I loved them with every inch of my heart and it made me feel worse about myself because I was feeling like that.

“Thankfully I was able to fight through the darkness”

There were days when I was scared of myself, could I hurt my boys? Terrified that I could somehow crack and something awful would happen. Looking back I am so glad I got help when I did because if I hadn’t I dread to think how things could have ended. I had thoughts of wanting to hurt myself. I would wonder if I harmed myself that it would somehow make me feel better. Thankfully I was able to fight through the darkness and I never hurt myself. It took me a while to admit to anyone I needed help but when I did it was such a relief, I started back on my antidepressants and take things day by day.

Thankfully this time round I have had a lot more support. I have regular doctor appointments, I meet with my community psychiatric nurse (CPN) monthly, but most importantly I didn’t keep it all hidden away and have the most fabulous friends and family there for me. They have put up with my bad days, my good days and everything in between and if it wasn’t for these people I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today. I also started talking with Rosey from PND&Me regularly online. We would just chat about nothing at times – that in itself has helped; knowing I can message her at any time and she knows what I am going through.

I also started logging on to twitter to #PNDChat and #PNDHour – it is fantastic. I haven’t been able to catch the chat the last couple of months but it is so comforting the amount of people you can talk to who have been in that same place as you, to know you are not alone and all the medical professionals who are involved in the chats is amazing too.

It wasn’t easy telling my husband, family and friends, those I am closest to about all the horrible things I was thinking and then about my diagnosis. I was terrified what people would think of me, scared that I would be made an outcast or people would think I was crazy, making it up or that it wasn’t a real medical condition. I have had that a few times – just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I believe what you can’t see can be one of the most horrendous things you can experience – that’s what my experience was. I always thought it would never happen to me, I was strong, I could handle it, in the end I needed help to just get through the day – I am not ashamed of that and you shouldn’t be either.

I am so thankful for those I have in my life, my husband, parents, family, friends, my CPN, Rosey and other people who I am in contact with through the internet who have suffered similar symptoms as me.

If you feel you are being taken over by a horrible darkness of a mental health problem, please speak out and ask for help. Don’t be afraid – you are not alone.

If you know of anyone or suspect that anyone is going through similar please speak to them, if they answer ‘I am ok’ when you ask how they are but you aren’t convinced dig a wee bit deeper. Sometimes the best thing that day can be somebody actually listening to you. If you or they don’t want to talk just send a wee text to say you are there for them, tell them positive things about themselves, and make them a cup of tea. These small things make the biggest difference.

A quote that helped me over the last few months was ‘Find beauty in the everyday’.

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I placed a coaster with this quote on my desk at work – reminded me every day to think positive. Find something that you can relate to and keep that thought tucked up in your mind and remember to look at it every day.

By no means have I beaten the demon but I am fighting. I have good days, bad days and very bad days. But on the whole I am doing a lot better. There is always hope!

Thank you for reading.

Amanda

5 top tips for mummys with poorly heads

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Some mummys have poorly heads  when they have children. This is Kimberley’s 5 top tips for PND mummys.

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  1. Sometimes a teddy bear cuddle is all you need

If you are feeling poorly  you could cuddle a teddy bear and it will make you be happy.

  2. Seeing the Doctor is important

If you are not feeling very well you should go to the doctor so you can get help so you can better.

3. Quiet time!

Having 5 minutes peace is important because mummys need time to themselves.

4. Friendship

If you go see friends, you get better by talking and laughing, so you are not alone.

  5. Children want to help

Children help mummys by giving them a cuddle if mummys are upset.

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My mummy had a poorly head and now she is happy.

If you’re a mummy with a poorly head, you will get better from hugs, kisses and cuddles.

Your children will always still love you that’s the very important part.

By Kimberley. Age 7.

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Celebrating our 100th #PNDHour

A big milestone! 100 hours dedicated to debunking myths, tackling stigma, connecting those with a personal or professional interest in perinatal mental illness and supporting those who need a little strength and hope.

We’ve grown from a handful of people tweeting during the hour to now losing count of how many amazing people are tweeting, sharing, favouriting and not to mention those lovely people who simply observe the hour.

Below are the statistics, so over 3,700 individuals have tweeted using the hashtag since the hour began 100 weeks ago back in January 2014!

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These statistics speak for themselves

When setting up #PNDHour I didn’t go into it thinking I wanted to reach X amount of people etc, I started it because I wanted offer support to the 1 in 7 who are affected by postnatal depression and now #PNDHour does SO much more!

We help educate professionals on what women affected by perinatal mental illness need from them and this means we have a big number of health care professionals joining us too which was an unexpected bonus!

I could go on but I think I’ll let this video tell the rest, it features 100 of those who have been connected, supported and I hope empowered by #PNDHour!

Join us every Wednesday 8-9pm via Twitter (@PNDandMe) and join the #PNDFamily. You are not alone xx

Here’s to the next 100, Thank you all.

Rosey xxx

 

Tommy’s Mums Voice Award

I was absolutely overwhelmed to receive and email to inform me I have been long-listed for the Tommy’s Mums Voice award sponsored by Seraphine which celebrates a mum who has spoken out about her own experiences and given hope to others. You can find out more about the awards here.

For me to be shortlisted I need to ask  you all a big favour! You need to send an email to mumsvoice@tommys.org with “PND and Me” in the subject box and write a sentence or two about why PND and Me should be shortlisted. Nominations close on 23rd December!

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Just being long-listed means a huge amount to me, I didn’t start the blog, or #PNDHour to win anything(lthough it would be amazing!), I just wanted to offer hope to those who are suffering with Antenatal/Postnatal Depression. I have been through the hell that is these illnesses and there is a light at the tunnel, even if you can’t see it yet, keep moving forward and you will see it and one day you will be looking back and realise just how strong you were to overcome perinatal mental illness.

I do what I do because I love helping others, I want to be the person I didn’t have when I was suffering, to be the person who helps reduce the isolation and loneliness that often comes with mental illness.

I want to encourage others to seek help, to know that they deserve the help that is out there and that they are a good mum.

Rosey xxx