This segment is based on post-natal depression (PND) and I will be doing it in two parts. I hadn’t actually thought about writing a post relating to this condition; despite knowing people who had suffered, it totally slipped my radar. And so when it was suggested by someone I jumped at the chance of helping rid some misconceptions about this condition and sharing the experiences of two very special, strong women.
1) What have been your biggest struggles with post-natal depression?
Post-natal depression has been the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my life. Everyone tells you becoming a mummy is one of the most amazing experiences of your life when unfortunately those suffering with PND are struggling to cope with the symptoms along with the responsibility of taking care of a baby. It’s an exhausting mix.
2) What age was your child when you first began suffering from post-natal depression?
I didn’t have the best of pregnancies and then my son arrived 3 weeks early after quite a traumatic birth. I was given a lot of drugs during my birth as I had to have surgical forceps as my baby’s head was stuck on my pelvis, the come down from the drugs was awful. I felt in a vacant space in my head like I was having the most terrible hangover and was extremely emotional. People mention having the “baby blues” which I thought it was but it didn’t seem to ever stop. I think the symptoms started in the first few days after birth.
3) Was there any support/help available to you for when you were in crisis? If not, how did this make you feel?
I have found PND to be the loneliest time of my life and I completely hid my feelings from everyone. I was so scared of being perceived as a bad mother as I knew in my head I wasn’t feeling what I expected to feel after having my first child. I felt I needed to say it was the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I was “over the moon” with my new bundle of joy. When inside I was having a complete breakdown. I didn’t even open up to my partner or my parents, I wanted them to think I was happy with my son who I had been so excited to meet and wanted so badly.
4) Had anyone spoken to you about the risks of PND during your pregnancy or after the birth of your child?
I have struggled at times with my mental health and depression but had been well a number of years before I started a family. I was in a good place when we started trying for a baby and I had been off of anti depressants and medication for ages. I had been warned by my midwife that I was high risk of having PND after having depression in the past but I convinced myself it wasn’t going to happen.
5) How do you feel mental health is portrayed in the media?
I feel like mental health is more widely talked about especially in regards to depression and anxiety now which is fantastic, although I think PND isn’t portrayed very much. I remember hearing on the news that a lady in Bristol had wandered out of a hospital shortly after giving birth and had taken her own life. Everyone was saying how awful it was and how could she do it when all I could think was about the poor new mum who felt she couldn’t cope. I sympathised with her situation so much and it made want to hide my feelings even more.
6) When did you or someone else realise that something wasn’t right and what were the signs?
Me and my partner are both self employed so we couldn’t afford to take long off work to have a baby. I had booked 8 weeks off and my partner had 3 days. Both our parents worked full time so as soon as my partner returned to work I was by myself with the baby for 9-12 hours a day. I felt so alone, I didn’t feel I knew what I was doing and would fret over making an decision or doing anything for my baby. I was scared of feeding him incase he choked, I watched him sleep incase he stopped breathing. I felt so overwhelmed with responsibility over my baby. I was terrified something was going to happen on my watch and it was going to be my fault. I was basically scared to death of my own baby! I felt like I was being the most awful mother and I wasn’t enjoining any of it. It all felt too much. I decided anybody else could do a better job than me and that I was failing my son. I had decided enough was enough when he was about 4 weeks old and I would simply end it all but I wanted to be sure my baby would be ok. I asked my partner if we weren’t together to please meet someone really nice who would bring my baby up at their own and give him the best of life. He obviously thought I was joking but I wasn’t and when he realised he started to ask if I was ok and I broke down. I had bottled it up for weeks and just couldn’t take it anymore. He contacted my parents and together we visited a doctor who started me on treatment for PND.
7) What advice would you give to someone else who may be suffering from PND?
That you are not alone! The phase “it’s ok not to be ok” is very commonly heard in regards to mental health now but I know I personally didn’t feel I could say that at a time I was struggling the most. There are so many people who can’t have children and you know you are blessed to have a child so saying you aren’t coping or enjoying it makes you feel so guilty. I know now that I it was the PND controlling these feelings, I was ill and it was nothing to feel ashamed of or guilty about.
8) How do you feel your experiences have shaped you as a person?
I still struggle with anxiety symptoms caused by PND 4 years later. I still get very worried about being in the house overnight alone with my son as I’m scared something awful will happen. I don’t take him to many things by myself for the same reasons. I do however have a very happy, outgoing and beautiful boy who doesn’t seem to be at all affected by my condition and he often tells me I’m the best mummy in the world which fills me with emotion.
9) What are the common misconceptions surrounding PND?
I think people associate PND with the baby blues, feeling exhausted and down a few days after birth, people don’t realise PND can last for years. It also upsets me so much when people think if you have PND you somehow don’t love your baby. I know In my case it was quite the opposite. I loved him so much I felt I wasn’t giving him what he deserved.
10) Do you speak openly about your mental health? If not, how do you feel people would react if you did?
I’ve been openly talking about my PND for about 2 years now and when I discuss it I’m always amazed how many people open up and say they have struggled too and sadly often it’s alone. I think PND is one of the most “taboo” subjects to talk about and I’d love to change that. I’ve considered writing a book on my experiences with it.