A post that I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time but every time I’ve sat down to, I just haven’t been able to find the words.
For quite a long time I’ve struggled with my mental health. To start at the beginning; I suffered social anxiety throughout my teenage years which I do think was a direct result of being bullied in primary school. My confidence was always very low and I always thought people were looking at me negatively or judging me. I found it very difficult to do anything alone. I’d never go to a till and pay, and I’d never start a conversation with someone I didn’t know. To this day I’m fairly shy around new people but since having my kids I do feel as though I’ve got a new found confidence and am quite determined to never show any social anxiety in front of my kids so I force myself into situations that I’d usually avoid. I do feel a great sense of achievement by doing this; both for overcoming a fear and for showing my children what is ‘normal’.
At the age of around 14-15 I found that social anxiety got a bit easier to deal with as I gained a bit of confidence and became less self-conscious. I feel like I grew up quite a bit around this age and realised that ‘fitting in’ and being liked was less important than I thought and started to accept things for how they were and started to be more ‘me’ and less who I thought I needed to be.
Moving on to a week after my 16th birthday, I met Kieran. A total random encounter that would change my life forever. I went to a party last minute with a friend who was going to meet a boy she’d been talking to for a while and she said he ‘had a friend’. I’d never been into parties so it was totally out of my comfort zone but for some reason I went anyway. Kieran and I hit it off and after a week we were together. That’s it really, we just worked. He was an outspoken, confident ‘popular’ type and I was a shy introvert and I feel like we brought out the best in each other.
In all honestly the next few years were good. I was very happy with life and aside from the odd female hormone driven mood swing, my mental health was great.
Fast forward to 2014, shortly after our daughter was born in crept a tidal wave of emotions. After a long labour, Indie was born via Emergency Cesarean, cried for 2 seconds and stopped breathing. She was resuscitated and taken straight to Neo-Natal Intensive Care before I could meet her. I eventually met her the next day and it was a week before we could bring her home. Like normal, the baby blues hit shortly after, but they never went away. I remember very little from the newborn days of Indie and it all seems a haze. I eventually went to my GP who diagnosed me with Post Natal Depression. I felt embarrassed and ashamed at the time as I really had never encountered it before and I always though Post Natal Depression meant that you ‘struggled to love your child’, how wrong I was. Whilst pregnant with Indie my dad was diagnosed with cancer and even though it really upset me I didn’t really ‘deal’ with how I felt about it at the time. I kind of suppressed my feelings because I didn’t want to get stressed and upset and harm the baby in any way.
It took a good few months of support to come to terms with everything and start to get better. I temporarily took anti-depressants but after a few weeks I panicked and stopped taking them. I think what really helped was very long talks with my husband about Indie’s birth and the events leading up to, and after it. My dad operation was a success, he went into remission and life became easy again. It’s like the depression really did just disappear. I remember going back to my GP to tell them they must have misdiagnosed me and, after telling me off for coming off my tablets without observation, they assured me that I wasn’t ‘being silly’ like I thought. They explained that coming to terms with the trauma surrounding Indie’s birth had started to settle my mental state. I still remained very anxious but it was totally bearable after feeling so down for so long.
For the next 18 months I felt great. I really didn’t have even a hint of depression and again aside from the usual female hormone induced mood swings, I really felt good. In 2015 I fell pregnant for the second time. In all honesty the risk of Post Natal Depression did not even enter my head. Maybe it was naive of me but I really felt I’d ‘beaten it’. Whilst pregnant with Harry my dad was told that his Cancer was back and that he needed to start Radiotherapy. Again I was so upset by this, my dad is my world and I was petrified at the thought of losing him. I focused again on the baby I was carrying and tried my best not to let it upset me or cause the baby any stress. It must have seemed like I brushed it aside when it was ever brought up in conversation but it was just my coping mechanism at the time. It didn’t occur to me that I was oppressing feelings again and I know now that I should have dealt with how I felt there and then.
Fast forward to a week after Harry’s birth (a very happy and positive experience compared to Indie’s) and baby blues hit. One minute I was crying hysterically over absolutely nothing and then the next minute I was totally fine and all was forgotten. After about a week of this I noticed that it was getting worse and a bit more frequent. I started to notice that I had triggers that would set me off and immediately I knew something wasn’t right.
I started to feel like everything was a chore. I had no enjoyment in anything I did and failed to see the positive in anything. I adored my children yet I felt like looking after Harry was a chore. I was so, so upset and felt so much guilt towards Indie. I felt like I had ‘chosen’ to spend less time with her by having another baby and I would look at her and just cry. I couldn’t see the positive in any situation and I felt lost, empty and isolated. I had family around me and a very supportive husband but I didn’t want any help. I felt guilty and ashamed.
I went to my GP who immediately diagnosed Post Natal Depression again and offered me Anti-Depressants. Unlike last time when I was reluctant to take tablets, this time I jumped at the chance. Anyone who knows me know that I am quite reluctant to take medication. Aside from the contraceptive pill and Paracetamol, I try to keep my body clear of anything else. I have one kidney and used to suffer with High Blood Pressure so I like to think that I try not to ‘alter’ my body if I can help it. This time was different. I knew that I had a newborn baby waiting for me at home and I wanted to start enjoying him. I had a toddler who needed me to be a good mummy to her and I had a husband who needed to return to work in a weeks time. I needed a ‘quick fix’. I knew that what I ultimately needed was support and therapy in the long run, but that takes time and I didn’t want to taint this lovely time with the sadness and negative thoughts that I was feeling. I planned to take the tablets until I had established a routine and was in a place that I had time and energy to deal with my feelings with therapy.
I was prescribed a fairly high dose of Anti-Depressants given my history with Post Natal Depression. The first 3-4 weeks of the tablets were horrible. I felt the same as before taking them but on top of that they made me feel nauseous, dizzy and a bit ‘out of it’. I persevered as this is a common side effect until your body gets used to taking them after 4-6 weeks. Literally to the day, after 4 weeks of taking them I felt fine. I felt great. Everything became manageable and I started to be able to enjoy my kids again. Nothing phased me. I didn’t feel sad, or low and I felt ‘normal’ and was very content in my happy little circle. At the same sort of time my Dad received the news that he was also in remission which as you can imagine lifted my spirits further.
This feeling continued for about 4 months and meant I really could enjoy the time I had raising my children, the newborn days and establishing ourselves as a family of four. I don’t think therapy could have changed me that quickly. After around 4 months of taking them I started noticing some unwanted side effects. I started to feel as though my brain was going a hundred miles an hour, like I was doing everything very quickly, thinking at double speed. I started to want to redecorate the whole house and made unrealistic plans. What started out with me thinking ‘I’d like a frame on that wall’ ended in me deciding the whole room needed re-plastering, new flooring, a new ceiling and new furniture and they were thoughts that I couldn’t put aside. I just felt ‘not myself’ and as though my brain was going into overdrive and overreacting. It sounds so weird to put into words but then it wasn’t logical thinking so it’s not going to sound right. I started getting unrealistic expectations and started to become careless with our money (something I usually pride myself in controlling very well). I went back to my GP and they immediately realised I was starting to suffer Mania.
mental illness marked by periods of great excitement or euphoria, delusions, and overactivity.
an excessive enthusiasm or desire; an obsession.
This is something I had never even heard of but I was relieved that it was so immediately recognised. According to my GP it is a common unwanted side effect of a high dose of Anti-Depressants and it basically meant that my brain had started to deal with my depressive thoughts and that the dose was now a little too high for me. It was around the time that I was hoping to start to ‘wean’ myself off the tablets anyway and start preparing for therapy so I was quite relieved when they suggested my dosage be reduced to half. After around a week, the Mania symptoms went away. I’ve now been on a half dose for 2 months and feel content. I’d love to say I feel great but like anyone, I have good days and bad days. Thankfully the good days now outnumber the bad so I am hopeful that I’m going in the right direction. In a couple weeks time I am due to start having CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) in the hope that I can learn some techniques to help deal with the Depression and Anxiety that I experience and then eventually come off the tablets completely. Mental Health is a never-ending journey but I am feeling hopeful and positive that if nothing else I am taking steps in the right direction.
If you want to talk to anyone then please feel free to message me anytime. There is nothing worse than feeling alone or isolated and I’d like to help prevent that if I can. You are not alone and things CAN get better.
POST NATAL DEPRESSION – A YEAR ON
“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.”
The past year has together been the best and hardest twelve months of our lives. After a traumatic birth, the sleepless nights took us a bit by surprise. I never really know what we expected, but it was certainly nowhere near as easy as we’d thought. It was a huge adjustment welcoming a little baby into our pretty independent carefree lives, but one that we certainly wanted and loved.
I suffered with postnatal depression at the beginning; when little one finally left neo-natal intensive care and we were allowed home, I knew something was wrong. I would stare into my little girls eyes, and I loved her more than anything but it also made me sad. I would break down in tears for what seemed like no reason, when I wanted nothing more than to immerse myself in motherhood and be happy.
Looking back now I realise that my post natal depression stemmed from guilt. I realised that I had instantly taken to being a mum, I loved my daughter and cared for her. I made sure I provided everything she needed and I was confident that I was doing everything right.
But whenever I looked into my daughter eyes, all I did was look back to her time in intensive care. When she was alone, without me, without anyone. I feel I failed her. After an emergency caesarean I was left bed bound and not able to meet my baby until the next day. Even then I was only allowed out of my ward for 10 minutes at a time every few hours because they had no beds on a ward near her. She spent 3 long days and nights alone in NICU and I feel guilt for this every single day. I wish I could have done more.
I went to my GP when Indie was four weeks old and wasn’t offered support, instead I was prescribed anti-depressants. I took them for two months and maybe they took the edge off, but I was unable to tell if I was feeling better or if it was just the medication so I decided that after eight weeks I would stop taking them and focus on thinking positively.
The good thing is that I have a really supportive husband who I can really talk to, and once I discovered what I felt to be the ‘root cause’ of my PND, I became able to fully immerse myself in motherhood and started to forget the past and enjoy the present. I’d be lying if I said that it’s always easy, because sometimes I sit there and find myself reliving her birth and our hospital stay in my head and think about things I could have done differently. But now with the reassurance and support from my husband I am able to look at her and take comfort in the fact that I am giving her everything I possibly can now! We are happy. We truly are.
For more about Cara and plenty of useful tips visit http://justcallmecara.blogspot.co.uk/