After kicking things off last week I’m very pleased to introduce my first guest writer Rosey who blogs over at http://pndandme.co.uk She’s also the founder of the very successful #PNDhour and is an advocate for mothers everywhere who suffer from mental health issues.
(NB Mental Health Matters will usually run every other Thursday but as it’s Mental Health Awareness Week I decided to post a week early. The next guest post will go live in two weeks time.)
This is Rosey’s story of her journey with depression.
I’m a stay at home mum to my three children Kimble aged 7, Connor 5 and Harvey 2. We live on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. I experienced Antenatal and Postnatal Depression with all three to varying degrees.
My first pregnancy when I was 19 was fairly straight forward but very quickly I sunk into Antenatal Depression but I didn’t realise that’s what it was at the time, I just thought it was normal pregnancy hormones affecting my moods, making me irritable and teary. I think expectant mums need to be aware of the symptoms of Antenatal Depression from the very first contact with a health care professional in pregnancy as it can be managed with the right support which can help prevent it from developing in to Postnatal Depression which for me unfortunately it did.
The best way to describe how PND manifested for me almost straight away after the birth of my daughter is that the ‘headfog’ descended. My positive thoughts were constantly battling to get through the fog however the negative ones slipped through with ease, The thoughts that would make me feel like I was better off not here, that my daughter deserved a happy mum.
PND affects mums in different ways but for me it was often the sheer exhaustion that made the hardest days a real battle just to get simple thing like getting dressed. For a long time I blamed my low moods on tiredness, when my Health Visitor gave me the Edinburgh Depression test to fill out at her 6 week check, I lied on my answers because I was scared to admit to a professional that I was struggling as I was afraid of what might happen next but when my daughter was about 9 months old I finally sought help from my GP, unfortunately I was only offered Anti-Depressants as there was nothing else available in my area.
When I became pregnant for a 2nd time with my son Connor I was looking forward to having another child but was terrified I would develop PND again but because I was aware of the symptoms I was able to keep a better eye on my moods in pregnancy and after the birth, so although I struggled during these times I felt better prepared because I knew what to look out for so was able to cope better when the tough times did come and go. That knowledge really made a big difference I only wish I’d known first time and not been afraid to seek help when I first started suffering with Perinatal Mental illness.
My 3rd pregnancy was my worst experience of Antenatal Depression, I found the whole thing, mentally, physically and emotionally draining. I didn’t bond with my bump and there were days where I just wanted to hide under the duvet but with two small children to look after I had to get up and get through the day whilst battling the intrusive thoughts in my mind that made me feel worthless
The isolation I felt was overwhelming and was definitely a big contribution to how low I felt and how long it took me to seek help because I didn’t realise how many other mums were feeling the same way, I honestly think if I’d had access to an accredited peer support group I would have sought help a lot sooner than I did. Which is why in part I began #PNDHour support.
My twitter page @PNDandMe began after writing a poem of the same name and I began sharing it and realised there was an opportunity to set up a dedicated hour to connect those affected by Perinatal Mental Illness, so in January 2014 I began every week on a Wednesday between 8-9pm discussing a different topic from Symptoms of PND to Self Care to name just a few! It has grown bigger than I ever expected and now each Wednesday supports between 30-60 mums from around the UK. I’m a trained Mental Health First Aider and I also have an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) certificate these help me to carry out #PNDHour safely which I think is massively important for anyone offering postnatal depression peer support.
The main aims of setting up the #PNDHour were :
◾To provide a safe space to discuss topics surrounding Perinatal mental illness.
◾To help connect those affected by the illness and provide peer support.
◾To increase awareness and encourage open conversations about the illness.
◾To discuss where improvements could be made in all areas of the support provided for those affected.
Another quite unexpected outcome from this starting #PNDHour is how it is helping health care professionals see from a mum’s point of view what they need, with a number of Drs, Health Visitors and Midwives either joining in or observing the hour. I think mums know their voices are being heard is a fantastic part of why #PNDHour has been so successful.
All in all starting my blog and beginning #PNDHour have helped me more in my recovery than anything else, I’m now feeling more prepared to deal with any bad patches I may have and sharing my story has been incredibly therapeutic – I wish I’d discovered the benefits of therapeutic writing a lot sooner!
I’d really like to see more mums feel able to speak out about their experience with Perinatal Mental Illness, it is nothing to be ashamed of and suffering with a mental illness does NOT make them a bad mum. It is so important that mums know they are not alone if they feel they are suffering with a mental illness and that with the right support they can get better.