I have this really vivid memory lurking in my mind, it has been well over a year since this day yet I remember it all as if it happened this morning. Alex was about 2 or 3 weeks old, I was bathing him in his tiny little baby bath and chatting to Oli at the same time. For a mere 5 seconds I looked up and met Oli’s gaze while we were talking and when I looked back down at my baby, Alex had his face in the water. In just a matter of a few seconds he had silently rolled his head to the side, his head was still resting on my palm but his mouth and nose had become submerged. A matter of seconds, that’s all it was. I took him straight out of his little bath as he cried and thrashed his body around in my arms. He was scared, I was terrified. I got him dressed, cuddled him close and while I was feeding him I reached for my phone. That was the day my phone began to mentally torture me. View Post
The year is almost over and, you know what? 2017 should have been a brilliant year for me but I have spent a good chunk of it feeling unhappy. When Alex was born last October I never could have imagined I would be spending so much of his first year feeling sad and battling with anxiety but yet, unfortunately, that has been the reality of 2017 for me. Being a parent is so hard at times and some days, even if you don’t have post natal depression, it can be hard to get a genuine smile on your face. Raising children is the worlds most difficult job and us parents give so much of ourselves to our little people that it is no wonder we can often feel run down, emotional and upset.
As the year has progressed I have started to feel better and I am a lot happier this December than I was in January. I am so relieved to be seeing the year out on a high note and no longer living under the heavy black cloud of PND. It hasn’t been easy to get to this point and I would be lying if I said I no longer have bad days, I don’t think anyone can say they have been happy for 365 days in a row though, can they? I have worked really hard on looking after my mental wellbeing over the past year and it is such a relief to be about to enter a new year as the happy version of myself I knew I was capable of becoming again – nice try PND but I knew I could beat you. My work is not done though, I am determined to keep up my quest for happiness and to become a more positive parent for my boys and for my own wellbeing too. If you too want to feel happier as a mum and want to try and ease yourself away from a dark place to somewhere more positive, then here is a list of things I have done and continue to do every day to try and keep negativity (from myself and others) away. Let’s all make 2018 a year full of positivity, happiness and confidence – we got this mamas! View Post
This time last year I was not in a good place. In fact, 12 months ago I was in a very dark and very scary place. Memories of December 2016 will always make me sad, I had a newborn baby and a three year old excited for Christmas and I felt as far away from festive as was possible. I didn’t know it at the time but I was suffering with post natal depression. I knew something wasn’t right, I knew I felt unbearably sad and anxious all the time but I hadn’t yet admitted to myself or anyone else what was really going on.
Post natal depression is such a cruel mental illness. Having a baby is supposed to be one of the most amazing things you can ever experience but post natal depression violently bursts that happy new mum bubble. A baby who loves you and who you love back completely unconditionally, what could be better? But when your own mind turns against you, makes you feel sad when you want to be happy and horrible thoughts taint those precious moments with your baby, it is a truly heartbreaking thing to experience as a mum. You feel like a failure (why aren’t I happy? I am supposed to be happy, am I an awful mother?), you feel robbed of this special time (Why can’t I just enjoy this time with my baby?) and you feel like things will never get any easier (I am never going to feel happy again). Feeling all these things any time of the year is difficult and just horrible but imagine feeling this way at Christmas? Imagine spending your baby’s first ever Christmas feeling like you are drowning in your own sadness and that you can’t talk about it with anyone because it’s Christmas and you don’t want to kill their festive cheer. That is exactly how I felt last Christmas and, unfortunately, that is how so many new mums will be feeling this December too. View Post
Today, Tuesday 10th October, is World Mental Health day. There is a real stigma surrounding mental health. Those you have never suffered or studied it don’t really understand the complexity of mental illness and many of those who have suffered do not feel they can talk openly about their mental health with others. There is a real stigma attached to mental illness and the only way we can break through that is to start talking openly about it with each other.
I have written about mental health on this blog before. After I gave birth to Alex last October, within a few weeks of him being born I developed depression and anxiety. I didn’t want to tell anyone for a long time as I was terrified of being judged by others and I felt ashamed of the way I was feeling. No new mum should feel like that. Awareness days are a brilliant way to get people talking and that’s what my post is all about today. Recently I had a very open and honest chat with 3 other bloggers about our mental health and how we have struggled since becoming parents. The point of this post is to show how depression and anxiety after pregnancy is more common than we think. I really hope that if you think you might have post natal depression, or any other kind of mental illness after giving birth, that this post helps you see that you are not on your own and there are people out there who understand how you feel. View Post
Recently I went to see my GP again about my mental health as I had been struggling with a low mood and had been feeling emotionally run down for a while. I went through a period of a couple months where I had started to feel back on top form, I was loving my life as a mum of two and everything was good but then that familiar cloud of depression began to lurk over my days again. The doctor doesn’t want to give me medication and I don’t think that’s what I want either, actually as soon as I spoke (cried at) to her I felt a weight lift off my shoulders and in the days that followed I started to feel better. Since I started opening up about my mental health way back at the beginning of the year I have learnt that talking is a powerful tool when it comes to recovery. Talking and writing have helped me so much and it may be hard to get the words out but once you overcome that hurdle it really does help. View Post
It is Wednesday so that means it is time for me to hand my blog over to a new blogger on the block for my next instalment of The Newbie Takeover. This week I have Charlie from Our Altered Life guest posting for me. This is a very important post about mental health and how the reality of living with a mental health condition can be completely different to the myths we are told. View Post
I never thought I would suffer with post natal depression. Then again, I doubt many women think they will get it either. It is not what you think about when you are pregnant is it? You are too busy thinking about the little human growing inside you, planning for their arrival and imaging the life as a family that is waiting for you just around the corner. Thoughts of whether you will feel sad for months on end or if you will feel completely overwhelmed by it all aren’t really common place amongst the excitement over adorable baby clothes and decorating the nursery.
Well, I didn’t consider I would get PND anyway. But I did and it is not what I had expected it to be.
Post natal depression, it is not how I imagined
I always thought post natal depression meant you couldn’t love your baby, for me that is not the case. I thought sufferers of post natal depression were suicidal, that is not the case for me either. The media made me believe if you suffered from PND then you thought about hurting your baby, you thought about hurting yourself or you just sat in the dark and cried for months. I was misguided, misinformed, and I was naïve. Post natal depression is not black and white, it is not a one size fits all condition. For some women post natal depression shows itself in one way and in others it comes to the surface in a totally different manner.
Post natal depression caught me completely off guard. I didn’t see it coming, I never expected it to become a part of my life, I thought I was too happy to ever get depressed. I am happily married, have a lovely family and children who are my world, what have I got to be sad about? And that is my naivety to the complexity of mental health, displayed neatly in that last sentence. There doesn’t need to be a reason, depression can hit any of us at any time, sometimes circumstances and situations can cause it and other times it can just show up uninvited.
My second baby was about 2 months old when I realised something wasn’t quite right. Again, my misconception of post natal depression led me to ignore my symptoms for weeks, convinced I must just be feeling down, the baby blues maybe, as post natal depression crops up within the days after birth doesn’t it? You can’t be feeling happy for almost 2 months and then suddenly just get it can you? Post natal depression isn’t like the flu, you don’t just ‘catch it’. Often it can begin as a slow burn, something you can just push aside and try to ignore, but as time wears on the sadness and anxiety shout louder, refusing to let you carry on with life as normal.
Before I was one of them, I thought sufferers of post natal depression were sad all the time, crying all the time and they were easy to spot because they rarely smiled. This is not the case at all. Over Christmas I fake smiled my way through countless family gatherings, I pretended to be happy when I wasn’t. I lied to everyone around me every time they asked how I was and I said I was ok. No amount of forced smiles or ignoring the elephant in my brain could stop the sadness and anxiety that was constantly niggling in my chest, picking at me and dragging my mood down to depths I wasn’t willing to go. Just because someone is smiling doesn’t mean they are happy, don’t assume a new mum is coping just because she says she is ok – it is hard enough admitting to yourself that you are struggling, let alone telling friends and family that you are depressed.
The smiles though, they are not always fake. It is possible to be depressed but to also have times of happiness. I mean, I have post natal depression but I still have days that are full of fun, my kids and my family make me laugh for real and I do still use my genuine smile too. Having post natal depression just means for me there is always this unhappiness within me, sometimes it feels like it consumes me but there are other days where I can manage it. There are lots of days where I can tackle the sadness head on, lock it away and go about my day, genuinely enjoying my time with my family and not even giving it a second thought. Those are my favourite kind of day, some time really soon I hope to be able to keep that sadness locked away for good.
Having post natal depression for me doesn’t mean I am suicidal or that I can’t bond with my child. For me, this horrible mental health condition shows itself in the form of intrusive thoughts, anxiety and tears that just can not be explained. It is a constant weight on my shoulders (thankfully now not as heavy as it once was), it is the dull shadow that is cast over my days and is the reason I look at my baby and sometimes feel sad. The sadness is not because he makes me unhappy, he doesn’t, it is because for the 7 months he has been on this planet he hasn’t been able to see the real me. I am not a miserable and anxious person, in my heart I am happy and positive. I love to laugh and to smile and take pleasure in everything life has to offer, unfortunately there are days the person I really am and the person this depression want me to be start to blur together; a mess of heightened emotions and feelings. Mostly I am sad for my youngest child as he hasn’t had the same baby days as his big brother, a time when I was able to be the happy mum I always wanted to be, not this tearful imposter.
I have also learnt that there is no easy cure. Talking helps, it really does help if you can find the courage to get the words out. Anti depressants can work for some, I have turned these down for my own reasons but there is no shame in taking pills to feel better. You’d take paracetamol for a headache, wouldn’t you? Self care is important, time for yourself doing something you enjoy can work wonders. Unfortunately, I have also come to realise that you can start to feel better, almost like your old happy self, only for post natal depression to resurface again, once more unannounced and very much not invited. At this moment in time I am struggling again, I have that uneasy feeling and can’t budge that niggling in my chest. I am hoping this is just a small bump in the road back to happiness and I can work through these feelings again.
I guess all I am trying to say is this, our mental health is complex and it is hard to understand what someone else is going through. If I could show who I am now to the person I was a year ago, that past version of myself wouldn’t think they are looking at someone suffering with post natal depression. What we perceive something to be and what it actually is can be two completely different things. If you are a new mum and think you might have pnd but are reluctant to seek help because you don’t feel how the media has made you believe you should feel then please seek some support. Like lots of illnesses, post natal depression is not the same for everyone, you can love your baby and have never even contemplated hurting yourself or your children but that doesn’t mean you might not have this very common mental health condition. Post natal depression affects around 1 in 10 new mums, there is no way all those mums feel it in the same way.
If you think you have post natal depression, click this link for a list of charities and helpful resources and please speak to someone about it. Bottling up these feelings will only make you feel worse. If you want to read more about my struggles with post natal depression then you can find all my posts about it in the mental health section on my blog.
You can find this post linked to some of these amazing blog link ups –
Maternity Mondays | Marvellous Mondays | Posts from the Heart | #MG | Big Pink Link | Twinkly Tuesday | Dream Team | Tried and Tested | Blogger Club UK | Best and Worst | Family Fun | Cool Mum Club | A Blogging Good Time | The List Linky | PoCoLo |For the Love of Blog | KCACOLS …and of course #BlogCrush, the linky I co host every Friday.
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Recently I shared my story about my mental health after pregnancy, how I have been feeling anxious and horrible since I gave birth to Alex in October. I have been completely overwhelmed by the response I have had to the post, everyone has been so supportive and I was actually quite surprised to see how many fellow bloggers have felt the same way as me, I really felt like I was the only one. Although I was terrified publishing that post, worried I would be judged or people would view me differently, I needn’t have worried as the response has been nothing but positive. I have had a post sitting in my drafts for months now, a post I wrote the day I realised something had to give. The day where I phoned my health visitor in tears and spoke to my GP. The first day of my fight to get myself back on track, to find myself again amongst the anxiety and stress, yet it was also the day where I felt like I had hit rock bottom. After allowing myself to be honest and share my experience of perinatal anxiety I have started to feel a lot better. It is a slow climb though and there are still bad days, days that are just so difficult, where the intrusive thoughts take over and I feel like I am being the worst possible Mum ever. But writing about all those horrible thoughts and feelings has really helped me to start to feel better so I have decided it is time I pressed publish on that post that has been sitting gathering dust in my drafts folder for months. It is quite hard for me to read back as the feelings I wrote about are still very raw but I know that by sharing them it will help me to recover from this and hopefully show other mums who are feeling this way that they are not alone. View Post
Yes, you did read that right.
I am a woman of lists: to do lists, shopping lists and now, blogging ideas lists. To do lists help me keep on top of everything going on and even if there is loads of stuff to do I always feel like having it written down makes it seem more manageable.
Anyway, we all know the purpose of the do list but this post is all about writing a to don’t list and how this practice can help improve your mental wellbeing.