Post Natal Depression – It’s Ok Not To Be Ok: PANDAS PND Awareness Week

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Although I haven’t suffered from Post Natal Depression (aside from the common mild baby blues just after Ella was born) I know a few people who have.

Men and Postnatal DepressionHaving not suffered I hope I’ve done PND justice for those who have and are suffering with it in today’s blog post. I also hope that I do raise awareness for people who need help. Parenthood is a rocky enough ride and we need to support each other whatever way we can. And please remember – both men and women can suffer from Pre and Postnatal depression.

My baby blues mainly consisted of midnight meltdowns – sleep deprivation plus a crying baby made me yearn for my old life. What the hell had I done?!

All joking aside though, it’s hard work being a new parent and adjusting to your new life.

Mild baby blues are extremely common to start with and normally disappear within a couple of weeks.

But for some people, they never go away.

Postnatal Depression Symptoms PANDAS

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair few sporadic down days after having Ella and I’ve put coping mechanisms in place for these. But it’s when these odd days become long periods of time that it’s best to talk about it and seek help.

I was worried that I’d be prone to PND. I’m the type of person who needs to keep busy. I have an overactive imagination which needs distracting otherwise I overanalyse and worry about ridiculous things.

I’m very aware of depression. I know people who have suffered it and I’ve experienced it mildly a few years ago, when I wasn’t happy in a job. At the time I don’t think I acknowledged how down I really was and I didn’t really talk about it (other than whinge to my hubby!)

Looking back, I wish I had spoken up. My focus at the time was determination to change my life. I shifted my focus into getting another job and writing.

I’ve always found writing therapeutic and, after having a bad day a few weeks ago, I’ve thrown myself back into it again.

Me time.

Which I think is important because as parents, you tend to forget about yourself. Allowing yourself time each day for something that is just for you that you enjoy, is important. Take the offers of help and have a nap, a bath, go for a walk to the shops or out for a drink with a friend.

The baby will be fine in the company that it’s in. And you will return to your bundle of joy revitalised and with new energy to give them those big cuddles that you sometimes take for granted.

Reflecting on the early years of this blog, writing is what kept me going through a time when I felt low. It gave me a purpose. And although we have the biggest purpose in the world looking after our gorgeous babas, we do need to have a purpose that is just for ourselves.

PANDAS Post Natal Deprssion - writing

If you’re reading this and are feeling any of the symptoms, speak up and get help. Write things down if that helps. I know it does for me as it clears my ever-clogged brain.

After experiencing that very low period in my life, I was worried that I’d suffer from Postnatal Depression.

Having worked full-time all my adult life, I’ve been so used to being busy. The thought of going from a chaotic work lifestyle surrounded by people, to a much slower pace at home with only a baby scared me and I worried how I would adapt.

I was hoping that I knew enough about myself that I could avoid feeling it.

 

I’m of the opinion that a healthy mind and an active lifestyle make for a happy mama – and a happy mama equals a happy baba. So my strategy for after having Ella was to get busy and get involved – to get out there to Baby Groups and Buggy Bootcamps.

You may well have a chuckle at all that absurd things I get caught up in but I’m telling you – they’ve saved my sanity.

Socialising, fresh air and exercising.

Planning something to get out of the house for in a morning (such as the Tots ‘N’ Tums classes in Blyth) helped me enormously in those daunting early days when I was left alone with a baby. To get out and meet other parents and have a chat with a cuppa.

I was also lucky to have a good support network of friends who’d already had kids. They encouraged me to go out with them early on, even giving me lifts when I couldn’t drive after my section, which I’m eternally grateful for.

And it seems to have worked for me so far.

But this doesn’t work for everyone.

I’ve learnt that Post Natal Depression is not something you’re ‘prone’ too and there’s not a ‘type’ of person to suffer from it.

Anyone can get postnatal depressopm

It just happens.

It makes you feel like you don’t want to do any of these things no matter how well intended you may have once been.

And it doesn’t always happen in those early weeks. It can creep up on some people a few months after the baby’s birth too.

This has only come to light in the last couple of weeks with some of the mammies I got to know when I was pregnant. I hadn’t seen some of them for a while at any of the groups and there were reasons for this.

I heard accounts of what they’ve been through with Post Natal Depression and Post Natal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And the common theme that helped them all through – was talking.

Postnatal PTSD/Birth Trauma Symptoms PANDAS

Talking to someone about it – that has been the key to their journey of recovery.

Asking for help.

And that’s what groups like PANDAS is here for – a support group which gives people with pre and postnatal illnesses the chance to support each other through their ongoing recovery and build the confidence they need to return to a good quality of life.

You can read more about the group at their website: PANDASfoundation.org.uk

Below are some very honest accounts from some women who have experienced Postnatal Depression

 My Journey With Postnatal Depression by Heather Raffle

I realised I had post natal depression late in October 2014. Austin was only 4 weeks old. I never imagined for one second that I would ever suffer from post natal depression even though I’d suffered from depression in the past. My mother suffered very badly from post natal depression and had recognised the signs in me so sent me to the DR’s. I felt horrendous, a failure, not a real mother. How could everyone else cope and I couldn’t. The whirlpool of self-doubt and embarrassment just didn’t stop. Then I talked to my wonderful dr, she had suffered with her 1st baby and was told to just get on with it. She was the most understanding and comforting person I’d spoken to in weeks. She wanted to treat me with antidepressants, something that they commonly do with post natal depression because other methods of help are just too time consuming for a mother of a new baby. 

 

I was told from the second Austin was born that I would have this unconditional love, this sense of belonging and undying need to protect him. Do you know what? I didn’t, I resented him. I resented his cries, his need for affection, his need to be loved by his mother, to add to the stress he was also lactose intolerant, something we didn’t realise until he was 6 weeks old. I felt this way until he was around 6 months old….but now, oh my word, I feel it! So strongly it physically hurts sometimes! Haha! 

Postnatal Hands PANDAS

 

The more I spoke to other mothers about it the more I realised its a very normal thing, so many women suffer and do it in silence because they’re afraid of judgement. Who are we to judge anyone else? All us mummies should stick together. 
When Austin was about 9 months old I started leading baby sensory classes, which was wonderful!! I got to see mummies at their most venerable, spend time with them, nurture them and help them all through the tough times they all faced, depression or not. That helped me come full circle, a safe haven for the mummies attending and me running them. 
Austin is 2 years old in October and I still have moments where I get sad about the lack of bonding we had in those first few weeks but he’s no less loved, he’ll always be my first beautiful baby and for the happiness he brings me everyday I can’t thank him enough. There is ALWAYS a light at the end of the tunnel and from experience please don’t be afraid to talk, it really does help. 

 Mummies need to take time to find themselves following the birth, especially with the first. It took me well over a year to make time for myself and to find my identity as a person and not a mother/wife.

The life of a PND Sufferer – by Rachael Logue

Rachael runs Tots ‘N’ Tums in Blyth and is also a local PANDAs contact

I didn’t recognise that I was suffering from Postnatal Depression straight away, despite being trained in PND and Mental Health and previously suffering depression.

You see, my own business collapsed three years ago when the funding ceased. I had to let go of twelve members of staff; twelve local people all with families to look after and roofs over their heads – twelve people who had bills to pay.

Just like me.

I suffered from anxiety which turned into depression.

Post Natal Depression - Image from Unsplash

Through suffering depression three years ago, I recognise that I have manias: On a high I can take loads of work on and I feel like I could conquer the world. Last week , I had three really good days where I was involved in Jolly Babies, Lush Tums Postnatal Yoga and then a day trip to Whitby with my family. On a low, I want to shut myself back in my bubble, away from the world.

I’ve learnt that it’s all about understanding me as a person.

Which I thought I did when it came to having my second child, Evie, back in February.

I had Evie at 09.50 in the morning and I was out of hospital and home by 5pm – make-up on the lot – getting on with motherhood. 

My feet hadn’t touched the ground.

I went back to work after six weeks on the Postnatal Depression project that I had created while I was pregnant.

I was busy;  I’d get up and take Cameron to school and then I was off working at the groups that I’d set up.

I was focusing so much on my family and supporting other families in my work that I completely forgot about myself.

My breakdown point was when I’d left the house really early one morning. I was just walking around Blyth in the rain in what I can only describe as a confused mist. I felt lost and numb.

Postnatal depression talking PANDASI remember the day. It was a Tuesday.

I couldn’t think straight.

I found myself walking towards and going into Talking Matters on the main street in Blyth. They couldn’t see me straightaway but they did give me a leaflet with a contact number on. I rang the number and talked, which helped a lot. 

I knew what I needed to do but I just hadn’t been thinking straight. I made a doctors appointment that day. 

I gained support from the doctor who didn’t dismiss it as just the ‘baby blues’.  They prescribed me some medication – sertraline. I’m now into week eight of taking this. 

Sertraline tabletsWhen I was suffering Postnatal Depression, I wasn’t one for not getting up and ready in a morning; I had to do this to take my oldest to school. It was the little things – like the thought of folding clothes. Simple chores became too much to deal with. I also went into a zone where I didn’t want to see or contact anybody. I wanted to stay at home, just me and Evie.

I retreated into my own little bubble.

You hear of mother’s not bonding with their babies, but my motherly instinct and love for Evie was over-the-top love. I’d do things like take Evie off my partner when he held her.

I’ve found that you do forget about yourself and therefore you do need to take time out. I did postnatal Yoga in Ridley Park on Friday and, although I had both kids with me, it was still time doing something for myself. Cameron even enjoyed it, it was accessible to things he never thought he would be interested in. It showed him that it’s not all about xbox and school, that it’s natural to go into the park and get involved in other activities with other people.

Rach Evie and Cameron

I’m slowly getting back on track now and I’m taking things one step at a time. I’m in a good place now and getting out and just talking with other parent’s has made a huge impact already. I’ve found that it’s good to talk and not suffer in silence.

 My PND Story – By Louise Sharp

I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I have trouble remembering the first two years of my son’s life. I can not tell you at what age he got his first tooth, his favourite food as a baby, his first word or when he began to sleep through the night.  I’m not even sure of what age he took his first steps.

 Postnatal Depression PANDASMy second child, I can tell you all her milestones. I think that’s mainly due to the amount of times I’ve had to go over them with paediatricians, therapists, doctors. She has autism, and was finally diagnosed at age six just last year.

My youngest,  Emily. I know all her firsts. Mainly because I was extra vigilant looking out for any red flags we had with my eldest daughter.

Each pregnancy was different. All had the usual sickness and discomfort.  But my third pregnancy, I just wasn’t feeling those feelings you associate with pregnancy. The excitement,  the happiness, the eagerness. I didn’t really feel anything.

I brought my feelings (or lack of) up with my midwife whilst getting my bloods done. I was assured it was perfectly normal , due to hormones and it would all settle down probably by my next appointment.

 

Postnatal Depression PND

Only it didn’t.  I didn’t take joy in shopping for baby clothes, I was in no rush to pack my hospital bag, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was emotionless.

I booked a 3D scan around the 32 week mark, hoping that would make everything feel more real, I don’t think it did. It was a wonderful experience, of course it was, but the sadness continued.

The years which followed my daughters birth in September 2011 were dark, very dark. I was dealing with the likelihood of my oldest daughter having autism, which was causing stress along with that lingering feeling of worthlessness. But before even falling pregnant with my daughter, I was dealing with body image issues. I hated my appearance to the point it was affecting my everyday life. These feelings got worse. I’d stay home all day unable to face the world, or I’d only leave the house when it was dark. I’d avoid mirrors and my reflection in windows. I’d panic if we had a party or wedding to go to. I hide away in the toilets to avoid any social interaction.  And my heart would pound and my  head spin if I saw anyone with a camera.

Pre/Antenatal Depression Symptoms PANDAS

I’d apologise to my children, as small as they were and unable to understand, for being a useless mother. I’d tell them I loved them as the tears rolled down my face, and that I was doing my best. I’d ask my husband why he was with me and give him the option to leave, which always left him gobsmacked and confused.

I’d go to bed each night and secretly wish I wouldn’t wake up. I’d have dreams of living a life where I am happy and have friends around me, and wake up devastated when I realised they were just that. A dream

My husband found me a video on Youtube about the ‘Black dog’, and asked me to watch it. I did. I broke down and he told me to get help.

Pre/Postnatal Anxiety: Symptoms PANDAS

I went to my GP, told her my feelings and filled in a questionnaire. From that she gathered I had depression and extreme anxiety. I was referred to the Mental Health Team. Again. I was already in therapy before falling pregnant with Emily dealing with body image issues. Hence my panic when faced with the prospect of having my photo taken. I was a mess. An absolute broken mess

That was September 2013. From then on I had fortnightly visits from my Health Visitor. She didn’t come to pry or check up on me. She came to lend and ear aswell as advice and support, and I thanked her for that.

October 2013 I began attending well-being courses. I picked up techniques to deal with stress, become assertive and gain confidence.

Summer 2014 I had my first appointment with I think it was a life coach. She pretty much assessed me to see if she could help. She couldn’t. My condition was too extreme.  I was then referred to a clinical psychologist. Again

PANDAS Pregnancy imageI met with my therapist every two weeks and I think I had around 10 sessions before I decided I felt ready to face the world alone once again.

I learned through these sessions I was suffering with post-natal depression, and that the depression had even grown DURING pregnancy. I found out through a quick glance at my notes at the doctor’s surgery as they came up on the computer screen during an appointment, that  I had been suffering with PND after the birth of my second child. I found out through a letter sent to my doctors and a copy to sent to me, that I’d even been suffering with PND after the birth of my first child way back in 1999. I had my son at 21 so I’d spent most of my adult life with depression. I genuinely thought I was just useless, unlikable, disgusting. I was non of those. I was depressed.

PND took away my memories of my first child growing from baby to toddler, it kept me indoors, it filled me with fear, took away my self-esteem and stripped me of my confidence.

 

When the therapy ended, I took up blogging. I decided to chase my dreams and enrolled on a distance learning course. This both occupied my mind and my confidence began to grow. I‘ve taken up exercise, and spend most days either in a gym or an exercise class. I’ve made new friends. I even spend two hours on a Sunday night as part of a team for a local radio station. I’m still building up my confidence to become more involved, but I know I will. I know I can do it. I can do anything if I continue to believe in myself.

Postnatal Depression PANDAS

Over the months I’ve thrown myself into situations I would usually avoid. I’ve done things I could never imagine doing and I am in a place now where I have never been in before. A very good place and although I am an anxious person by nature, I have my anxiety under control and I will never let depression take over my life or steal my memories again.

 

Depression During Pregnancy

 

You can also suffer from depression during pregnancy. Fellow blogger Adventures of a Monkey Footed Mummy experienced this and you can read all about her very honest account here.

Talk to someone

So please, please if you’re reading this and feel like this relates to what you’re experiencing, don’t hide it away.

If you’re suffering but not saying, just remember:

It’s OK not to be OK.

Love Missuswolf xxx

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