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.
Mental health after pregnancy – social media made my anxiety and PND worse
Alex was completely fine after his minor incident in the bath and as he contently slept in my arms, I did the thing paranoid, anxious and depressed new mums should never do: I Googled what had just happened. During my heart-breaking journey through forums, news articles and medical warnings about children drowning my anxiety began to reach the point where I kept having to check Alex was breathing, even though he was right there happy in my arms. I managed to drag myself out of the terrifying depths of my Google search and went to bed, full of dread that Alex was going to be dead when I woke up. The next day I was scrolling through Facebook and was met with a news article that had somehow made it’s way into my newsfeed, amongst the updates and photos from my friends and family. The article had a headline that caught my eye immediately, I was still on edge from the day before and when I saw the words ‘secondary drowning’ my heart sank. The story was about a child who had been swimming happily on holiday and 24hours after returning from fun at the pool he had drowned. Apparently it is possible to ‘drown’ hours after being in water if you manage to get some water on your lungs. Well, obviously my anxiety sky rocketed and I was convinced this was going to happen to Alex. I was scared for days that something bad was going to happen, all the while trying to outwardly appear fine and under control as I hadn’t yet found the courage to tell anyone I was suffering so badly with my mental health.
As if Facebook knew how I was feeling and wanted to torment me further, more and more news articles began to flash up in my news feed, each one pushing my anxiety up even higher and I was left feeling as though my baby was just never going to be safe again. For every 10 updates from friends and family, there was a mum posting in a mums chat group an article she’d read about the dangers of car seats/cot bumpers/prams/choking – the list of potential ways I was being told my baby could die was just unbearably overwhelming. There is not a single doubt in my mind that Facebook made my anxiety and post natal depression worse. I know I was struggling anyway, but this constant horrific barrage of stories and articles about awful things happening to babies just like my own unequivocally had a negative impact on my mental health.
It wasn’t only Facebook though, social media in general has on many different occasions affected my mood and mental wellbeing. I am better now, but when I was suffering with post natal depression I would go on to Instagram and as I was scrolling through everyone else’s photos I felt as though everyone else was happy in the world apart from me. I would see photos of mums holding their babies with smiles on their faces, captioned with tales from their lovely and joyful day. I would see photos of toddlers kissing and hugging their baby siblings and feel shit because my three year old was showing no interest in the baby at all. Everyone was smiling and everyone was happy and after 10 minutes on Instagram I could easily be left feeling inadequate and like a rubbish mum for days as I wasn’t smiling like everyone else.
Some days Twitter would grab my attention and I’d spend some time scrolling on there. People seem to tell it as it is a bit more on Twitter, which can be a blessing in some ways but also makes an easy breeding ground for keyboard warriors and internet bullies. Luckily I am yet to have to deal with the horrible experience of being trolled but that doesn’t mean Twitter didn’t also manage to play a part in ripping apart my self confidence and negatively impacting my mood during those months where I was suffering with my mental health. This time last year I probably had around 3000 followers on Twitter, not loads but not zero either. Occasionally if something was troubling me, I would try and sugar coat the issue slightly, pop it in a tweet and ask if anyone else was feeling the same. I understood I was opening myself up for potential trolling but I didn’t care, I just wanted to know that there were others out there who understood how I was feeling. As it transpired, most of the time there wasn’t. Every time I checked my notifications and not one of my 3000 followers had replied to say they too felt the same, my heart would sink a little deeper into the painful part of my chest and tears would threaten to spill from my eyes. Despite having followers on all different platforms, there were times social media made me feel so alone.
I am not holding Facebook, Instagram and Twitter responsible for the troubles I faced when Alex was a baby; it is unfortunate but I think getting post natal depression and anxiety was just part of my journey into second time motherhood. However, I do believe social media is responsible for intensifying my low mood and making my mental health worse during what was already a difficult time in my life. In the end I ended up deleting the Facebook app from my phone for months, the articles and good intentioned warnings from other mums about terrible tragedies involving babies just got too much for me. I wised up on the reality of social media in general too, the majority of people are only sharing the smile and the happy times online but that doesn’t mean they are not having the tough days too. I have also been guilty of holding back the complete truth of what is happening in my life and instead painted a very rosy and perfect lie over on my squares on Instagram. I don’t do that anymore, if things are shit then I tell my followers that I am feeling shit. If I have had a bad day then I will tell you, just like I would if it had been the best day ever. I never want anyone to feel lonely and anxious because of what they have or haven’t seen on social media and if I see a new mum reaching out for solidarity or reassurance online then, if I have been there too, I will a hundred times tell her that she’s not on her own.
I have written this post in collaboration with Head Talks, an amazing website full of useful resources to help inform, reassure and inspire people around the subject of mental health and wellbeing. Head Talks was founded by Oliver Chittenden (find out his story here) who wants Head Talks to be a safe online place for people who want to have healthier relationships with themselves and their loved ones by focussing on improving their mental health.
Fashion blogger Roxi Nafousi was interviewed for Head Talks about her opinion on social media and the detrimental effects it can have on our mental health. You can watch the interview, Beyond The Perfect Image, here and Roxi shares similar advice to me – if you are not feeling mentally well then it is best to stay well away from social media.
Today, February 1st 2018, is Time to Talk Day. So, wherever you are and whoever you are with, make sure you take some time today to have a conversation about mental health and wellbeing. Stigmas can only be removed and change can only be made if we all make an effort to raise awareness of the many mental health issues thousands of us suffer with every day.
If you feel like you may be suffering with post natal depression here is a list of resources and charities that can help and support you.
If you found this post useful you may also like to read the other posts about anxiety, post natal depression and mental illness over in the mental health section of my blog.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I have collaborated with Head Talks as raising awareness and helping people will mental health issues is something I am passionate about.
Social media can be an amazing tool but if you are in a dark place as so many of us can be post birth then it can be your worst enemy. As a new mum I remember thinking that everyone else had it locked down and were all happy with their babies when I was really struggling. I now realise with the benefit of hindsight that it’s all one big fat time but it can really make you so anxious at the time. Thanks for linking up with this important post huni #coolmumclub xoxo
I read this with interest as I have been suffering with anxiety and wondered how much social media impacts on making it worse. For the time being I feel that it helps, I am getting out more and trying to switch off more. I try to look at it like a good relationship, it’s all about a bit of give and take 🙂
Social media has been great in so many ways, but unfortunately it can highlight what you feel is lacking or amplify your biggest fears. So good that you were able to realise what was happening, its good to write it all down and Im sure so many women will relate. #blogcrush
As a Mum who has also struggled with anxiety and OCD I wholeheartedly agree with your post. There are times when I think both Google and Facebook’s algorhythms have managed to look at my searches and continually redirect me to articles which would only fuel my fears. I have, over time, got past the manipulated perfection we often see people post on social media but it is very easy to fall down the rabbit hole. Great post xx #blogcrush
Loved this post. I’ve been through a similar ordeal with my first child. I suffer from anxiety and I think the only thing that is saving me from throwing it on my children is that I grew up with anxious parents and I know for a fact that contributed to my own anxiety, which is crippling at times.
I’m so glad to read you grew aware of it and I think posts like this are very important for supporting parents in the same situation. #BlogCrush
Such a great post. Social media can be an amazing platform but what is projected on these platforms can just add to extra anxiety to those who are already suffering. As you said we can’t blame these social media platforms for having depression or anxiety but you so right it does intensify it. Glad that you are creating awareness in a positive way for other moms.#Blogcrush
Social Medua can be great for interaction when you can’t leave the house but those ‘filtered shots’ and ‘filtered lifestyles’ don’t truest represent what’s happening in most peoples lives. I totally understand how it could harm people who are already down. It’s similar to magazines with photoshopped models in my opinion.
what a brilliant post. It is terrifying how isolating and ostracized social media can make you feel if your head is in the wrong place or if you are already suffering from anxiety , PND etc. I have several friends struggling at the moment either as new parents or with mental health issues. I really hope that time to talk day helps kickstart further awareness into mental health issues #blogcrush
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Wow, such a comprehensive and helpful post. The time after having a baby can be so lonely, social media just makes it lonelier as when you say everyone else seems to be having all the fun. What mums all need during this difficult time is real life interaction with other real-life people! #BlogCrush
It’s crazy isn’t it, the place where you can find so much information and support can suddenly become the place that torments you when you are already feeling anxious and depressed. Talking is good, but talking to the right people in the right place is so important. x
This is a brilliant post. You really capture what it can be like having anxiety whilst parenting. I agree that social media can add to low mood and anxious thoughts, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the treadmill of bad news or vast amounts of cookie cutter images. Social media is sometimes a trigger for me, but has also helped me. I have found a lot of support from parents online and from writing my blog. It’s just trying to find the right balance for me. #BlogCrush
I have anxiety and suffered this same ordeal when my baby got a few gulps of water in her sink bath and started coughing. I found articles on secondary drowning and checked on her breathing constantly and watched for signs of it appearing. Social media is so dangerous, not just for its negativity, but for it’s algorithms that can follow what you search for and will implement it into ads and articles that pop up for you. It’s a never ending sick cycle. I’m glad you’re little one is well and hope you are resting easy!
I used to see accounts on Instagram that made me feel not so great so what I do is unfollow them. I also bear into consideration that most of Social Media is a like a window and everyone puts forward their best face. It’s the beautifully curated and polished flat lays that get me. They just look so artificial.
I am so sorry you went through this and isn’t it wonderful how many of us now raise awareness knowing just how awful mental health issues around pregnancy and parenting. Social media is an odd one because it can hurt so much and also build us up. I am really pleased you have shared resources that will help others including some I had not heard of before #BlogCrush
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This was a really good read, thank you for sharing your experiences so honestly. Will definitely share this. I recognise much of what you’ve experienced. At the same time, I have to say that as a parent of a child with quite severe disabilities, I’ve found an enourmous amount of knowledge and support via social media. If I hadn’t had the contacts I’ve had online in regards to that, I can’t see how I would have coped. So there are certainly both good and bad sides to social media. Your post can help spreading awareness of the sides which can have a negative effect, and that’s important, as I’m sure there are many out there who don’t yet see through the facade of the happy photos and overly positive updates. x
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I could totally relate to much of this post. I use the Internet as more of an accessibility tool so it’s harder to separate from, even though like you I too realised how harmful it can be to your mental health #blogcrush
Social media can be both great bringing you together with like minded people who might be in the same position as you but it can also be such a negative as people choose what to put on social media. I’m sure behind the photos a lot of people are suffering x
I think it’s very courageous of you to share something like this. Every word of it is absolutely true, social media can be a platform of reassurances but also creating problems like this too. Thanks for sharing #BlogCrush
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Thanks for sharing your story. I deleted my social media profile at one point and tried to go off grid for a few months because of my anxiety so I know how it feels to have social media slowly drove you mad.
Thanks for sharing your story. Social media made my anxiety horrific at one point, I deleted all my profiles and hid from social media for no than before I could face it again.
Time to talk is now and I couldn’t agree more, social media can detrimental in some areas and helpful in others. Thanks for sharing your story
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This was a great post. Although I’ve not yet had children I can definitely relate to social media adding to my own anxiety and depression. I was diagnosed with both last year and found my break from social media had a very big positive impact.
A fantastic post. I applaud your honesty. Stay strong.
So true. Love social media, but can leave you isolated, but also exacerbate the problems. My two are often made worse by social media, they are learning to filter, but it does take time. Thank you for sharing. #BlogCrush
I think that social media is such a powerful tool and there have been times when it has been a huge support to me and made me realise that I wasn’t alone when I too was really struggling. That being said I totally agree that the perfect life pictures that we all share can heap the pressure on at times when we’re feeling vulnerable. This is a really powerful read Wendy and I have so much respect for the great work you do to raise awareness. Dx #BlogCrush
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Oh I am so sorry you went through this. I must admit I never google anything as it would scare me half to death. Thank you for raising awareness for such an important cause too. Kaz
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Oh Wendy it breaks my heart to hear about what a tough time you had. There’s something about having a tiny baby that makes you second guess everything and worry so much about their safety. <3 thanks for spreading awareness, you're such a positive example to mums going through a tough time x #BlogCrush
I’m so guilty of comparing my lives to that of people of social media and often find myself spiralling into a depression pit. It’s so easy to forget that these are perfect little snippets, curated for the internet and life isn’t always peonies and rose lattes. I bet the people behind the image are suffering from the same problems too, it’s something I’ve always got to keep in mind.
I have a love-hate relationship with social media. It can be very useful, and has been an absolute lifeline for me many times. But it can also bring out the worst in people.
A really great read with some very interesting points. Having a new born is hard enough, settling into something new for you and the baby, but social media can pt pressure on to new or parents already.
Yup I totally know what you mean about social media making it worse – that moment when you desperately send something out into the internet void and hope, hope, hope that someone is listening… only to be met by a resounding silence – it’s horrible. Or to see everyone supposedly having a fab time and yet you feel rubbish – I remember one particularly rubbish Mother’s Day where everything seemed to go wrong and yet my social media channels were filled with beautiful pictures and happy memories from (what seemed like) everyone in the entire world except me. It’s a horrible feeling. Thank you for being so honest about it, and I’m sure it will be useful for others going through this. #blogcrush
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It sounds like a very scary time and experience for you. I think we’ve all had a moment like that at least once with our kids. I know myself I’ve experienced the MH side of things too. I’m glad you realised you needed to delete the apps. I wasn’t quite so tuned in unfortunately
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I totally know what you mean. Social media can be a great thing and it can be awful thing. I definitely know that it makes my anxiety worse at times, I have learned to switch off when I need to but it took time and it’s awful when you feel like there is no escape from it. #BlogCrush
It’s so true that positive things are so often shown on media as this is something that people radiate towards. I do feel that there’s room for raw honesty and things should not always be sugar coated. #CoolMumClub
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I can so identify with this. I know I have a single mum chip on my shoulder and social media happy family snaps play on this. How negative is that ? I want all my friends to be happy …. social media brings me lots of solidarity too though on tough days and with my blog rants . #blogcrush
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Wendy, I am so glad I found this post. I resonated with almost absolutely everything you very bravely shared. I actually set up my blog and Instagram to try and combat the ‘perfect squares’ and share a more raw and realistic account of motherhood. I do worry about the impact of seeing perfection everywhere on the mental health of new mums. I suppose all we can do is continue to offer an alternative more honest point of view!
Thank you Wendy for sharing Mental health after pregnancy – social media made my anxiety and post natal depression worse post. A great post on honesty and the grim exposure of social media. I completely empathize with the struggle.
What advice would you give to other Moms who can relate?
Just wanted to five my top 3 anxiety-busting tips!
1 – Meditate – as much or as little as you have time for. It has helped me through some tough times.
2 – Yoga & Cardio Exercise – I can’t think straight without raising my heart rate for at least 30 mins per day.
3 – Avoid Social Media – You know it’s true…haha! Living your life waiting for “likes” is the best way to increase stress IMO!!!
Hope this helps some of your readers.
Keep up the great work!
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