Stephanie’s Post Natal Depression Story
To cure all your post Christmas blues I thought I’d talk about PND just to cheer you all up. I’m not good with the sarcasm but on a serious note I think people can often feel depressed, especially around this time of year and it’s important that we can talk about it. I have quite a lot to say.
Specifically in relation to my experience of what I now know to be PND (post natal depression aka paranoid neurotic demon). I say this as I did not have a clue that what I was going through was in fact this, as it crept up on me a few months after Henry was born and I only really acknowledged it after my second son was born. I was almost in denial. I had a lot of trouble at work and was not supported at the time or during my pregnancy or maternity. I think a lot of my low mood was a consequence of that, but my feelings continued even after all the ordeal was over.
It was and is so easy to hide from others and pretend everything is fine on social media etc but deep down you cant hide from yourself, you know the truth. I wish I had recognised the signs of post natal depression a lot sooner and got the support and treatment I needed.
Postnatal depression can happen to parents (including dads) and is a type of depression that’s experienced after having a baby. It is very common, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. It’s so important to seek help as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed. Symptoms could last months or get worse and have a significant impact on you, your baby and your family.
With the right support, which can include self-help strategies and therapy, most women make a full recovery
‘Postnatal depression can affect women in different ways. It can start at any point in the first year after giving birth and may develop suddenly or gradually.
Many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is often called the “baby blues” and is so common that it’s considered normal. The “baby blues” don’t last for more than 2 weeks after giving birth.
If your symptoms last longer or start later, you could have postnatal depression.
Symptoms of Post Natal Depression
The main symptoms include:
• a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
• loss of interest in the world around you and no longer enjoying things that used to give you pleasure
• lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
• trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
• feeling that you’re unable to look after your baby
• problems concentrating and making decisions
• loss of appetite or an increased appetite (comfort eating)
• feeling agitated, irritable or very apathetic (you “can’t be bothered”)
• feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame
• difficulty bonding with your baby with a feeling of indifference and no sense of enjoyment in their company
• frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby; these can be scary, but they’re very rarely acted upon
These symptoms can affect your day-to-day life and your relationships with your baby, your family and friends.
If you think you may be depressed, talk to your GP or health visitor as soon as possible so you can access the support you need.
Don’t struggle on alone and hope the problem will go away. It can continue for months or years if nothing is done.
Fathers and partners can also become depressed after the birth of a baby. You should seek help if this is affecting you.
Read more about treating postnatal depression.
Spotting the signs in others
Postnatal depression can develop gradually and it can be hard to recognise. Some parents may avoid talking to family and friends about how they’re feeling because they worry they’ll be judged for not coping or not appearing happy.
Signs for partners, family and friends to look out for in new parents include:
• frequently crying for no obvious reason
• having difficulty bonding with their baby, looking after them only as a duty and not wanting to play with them
• withdrawing from contact with other people
• speaking negatively all the time and claiming that they’re hopeless
• neglecting themselves, such as not washing or changing their clothes
• losing all sense of time, such as being unaware whether 10 minutes or 2 hours have passed
• losing their sense of humour
• constantly worrying that something is wrong with their baby, regardless of reassurance
If you think someone you know is depressed, encourage them to talk about their feelings to you, a friend, their GP or their health visitor.’ (NHS 2018)
I was ignorant to it. How could I have it? I’m far too strong a person to have that. Truth is that PND can happen to anyone no matter how strong, intelligent, successful you are and it can come along at any time.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me. We went to Scotland for our first wedding anniversary. Henry was 7months old. It was then when I first became aware that the way I was feeling was not ‘normal’. I felt constantly on edge, I could not sleep, one minute I was fine the next I was crying. I was angry for no reason, everything and everyone just pissed me off and I wanted to run away. The images above are me trying to hold it all together, inside I was screaming. The photo at the house was pre panic attack, something I’d never experienced before. Can you spot the signs?
My relationship with people changed I went through a very strange phase. I did not trust people, I backed off from my friends. I questioned my all my relationships. Even with my own mum, it’s like we clashed….we had some right humdingers. high insight we realised that it was a big shock to the system. She told me of how it was terrifying when I gave birth and I was her baby…. and now her baby had her own baby.. it was hard to know our new roles… we are closer than ever now but for sometime it was bizarre and she was going through her own issues in terms of the menopause… which is another taboo subject that is not talked about enough…I resented family anyone that was just trying to help…pushed them away.
I had a miscarriage right before I fell pregnant again with Freddie and it was the most terrible thing ever. I blamed myself. I didn’t acknowledge my feelings because I was told it was so Early on it didn’t count. I was only 8 weeks when it happened. It felt like I wasn’t entitled to be upset before it was so early on and not planned etc but I still lost my child. I went shopping in the afternoon, started bleeding and I miscarried in the toilet, I saw the little embryo, I held it in my hand and then it was gone, nothing.
We seem to go through a lot and put up with a lot before we decide that we need help. Why is it so hard for us to ask for help. It’s not failure, it’s actually very productive and highly intuitive to be able to recognise you need a hand.
At my worst point I had become detached from everything and everyone I felt that I resented my family friends and felt alone. The scariest feelings came out of the blue like a blanket suffocation I could not control it all I could say was that I felt fearful and scared all the time but did not know why. Like there was a threat to my family, it was completely irrational. The feeling of detached from the world was the emptiest feeling and was so overwhelming that it made you feel like you weren’t for this world anymore that’s the thing with anxiety it tricks you Into thinking that people would be better off without you because you are ashamed. it couldn’t be more further from the truth
I didn’t want to admit it but I knew I had a problem, I was scared if I told someone they would take my baby away from me. I dreamt about all scenarios if something bad happened and played them out in my head. It was disturbing and I couldn’t switch it off. I realised it was because I cared so much that I was protecting them really but in the process becoming exhausted.
It’s important to recognise that depression, it has nothing to do with your ability to be a good mother, partner, daughter and in a lot of ways you over compensate to hide your mental illness. I have high performance anxiety so I can cope with a lot before I break down and the funny part is, in a crisis I can be so calm but if I spilt my coffee I would absolutely loose it! Seriously I would loose my shit at the most mundane slightest of life’s niggles and inconveniences, I can crumble.
I am onto my third baby now. I know that I am in a good place and can cope very well. I know that I am a good mother. I know that it will be hard work. It’s going to be tough, I will have bad days. I will also have support, I will also have good days, I will also be well loved. The reason I can say all this is because I went and got help, I took responsibility and took control. I am on the other side now. It’s not perfect but it’s far from where I was. It’s not about anyone else it’s about you and it’s very internalised. it’s all about perception and recognising triggers and ways of coping. I had counselling and spoke with my midwife and GP. I also read books, researched and got into reiki which I find really relaxing. Even if you are not spiritual it is very therapeutic and I find mediation really calming.
I was put on a low dose of citalopram 10mg (antidepressant) and I am not ashamed to say I am still taking them. I was desperate not to take medication because I didn’t like the idea of it and thought I could just get a grip and sort myself out. Taking a pill to help my mind function does not make me a nutter or any less of a person. I take 3 horse tablets everyday for my Crohn’s, if I miss a day I am in serve pain and at risk of a flare up, no one would question that. So why question it if someone takes an antidepressant? It makes me be able to be a better mother, it makes me more tolerant, it makes me logical and calmer it and it helps me be able to function day to day. If I had a pain I would take paracetamol so why is there still so much stigma about mental health? If your mind is faulty or you have a chemical imbalance, Hormone imbalance it needs treatment.
I have never felt more empowered, confident and positive in my whole life as I do right now. I have off days and good days. It’s about learning to accept that it is an ongoing process and that it is okay to have these feelings, they pass and do not define who you are. You are not your thoughts and feelings. You are you.
I cannot stress enough. If you are struggling please don’t be scared to reach out and get help. Call your midwife, go to your GP get whatever support you need. You are not alone.
Here are just a few useful links:
Contact telephone (UK)
*NHS dial 111
*NHS emergencies 999
• Association for Post Natal Illness (APNI) – helpline on 0207 386 0868 (10am to 2pm, Monday to Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS) – helpline on 0843 28 98 401 (9am to 8pm, Monday to Sunday)
*Home Start 08000 686368
(This charity offers support to families and may be able to provide someone to come round to help with your children)
Reference: Post Natal Depression NHS 2018
(Disclaimer:I don’t claim that this blog is anything profound, I am not the most punctual or articulate of writer so for you critics just bare with me)