Mental health after pregnancy – Reflecting on the darkest days

Mental health after pregnancy – Reflecting on the darkest days

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.

With this realisation that talking and writing  feels like some kind or therapy for me, I have decided it is time to reflect on the worse days, the days where the tearfulness and anxiety seemed to completely take hold and I felt like my life wasn’t my own anymore, days when I just wished I could shut my brain up as I didn’t want to think these awful, terrifying thoughts anymore. I am feeling better again now but I feel like I need to release all these thoughts out of my mind and onto the page, with them still kept secretly locked up in my brain I don’t feel like I can ever completely move away from them and start living my happy life again. I am hoping that by dumping all the horrible thoughts and feelings here that I can finally be free of them and, with the thoughts released, be set free of my anxiety and depression too.

I don’t really know much about trigger warnings but maybe this post should have one. I will be talking about some pretty upsetting things that you may not wish to read.

Mental health after pregnancy – Reflecting on the darkest days.

‘You can’t look after them both, something awful is going to happen and it will be all your fault.’

This was the first negative thought, it crept in around about the time Alex was 6 weeks old and sleep deprivation was at it’s worst. One morning I was determined to get out the house with the boys and I decided a trip to feed the ducks would be totally manageable on my own. Just as I was about to start getting us all ready my vision was suddenly clouded by a thought so vivid you would have thought it was a memory. I could see the lake stretching out in front of us, I could see the ducks swimming around and there floating near the edge of the water was Leo. Face down in the water. Dead.

Within seconds the thought was gone but it’s fleeting visit to my mind was enough to cause some serious damage. We didn’t go feed the ducks that day, in fact, we didn’t go feed the ducks again for about 6 months. You see, once that intrusive thought happened once it continued to appear almost daily, getting worse each and every time. At it’s worse this thought made me visualise the deaths of both my boys. Where to start with it would be only Leo in the water, in my mind he has ended up there because I have been preoccupied looking after Alex, the thoughts soon began to show me frantically trying to jump in and save Leo only for Alex to then be stolen from his pram or to fall into the water himself. It was like watching a scene plucked straight out from my very worse nightmare, I had taken my eyes off my boy and because of that I had lost him and in my attempt to save him I had lost everything.

It may be hard for those of you who have never experience this to understand but having thoughts like this just pop in to your mind when you’re just trying to go about your normal day is almost debilitating, there is no wonder I began to feel so anxious about leaving the house with the two of them when my own mind was telling me I wasn’t good enough to do it. I felt they weren’t safe enough with me and something awful was going to happen and it will be because of my incompetence as a mother.

It wasn’t just going to feed the ducks, water seemed to be a major trigger for these kind of thoughts but there were other things too. My mind had shown me soo many images of cars mowing down Leo or Alex’s pram getting knocked down and crushed by a reversing car in a car park that it got to a point where I was only really comfortable walking places with the pram and I would always have Leo on the buggy board or hold his hand that little bit too tightly as we walked along the pavement. There were a few weeks where although we did go out and to the outside world I probably looked like I was coping amazingly well with two small boys, on the inside I was terrified, crippled with fear and just faking my way through our outing until I could get us all back to the safety of home.

‘You do know he’s not just sleeping, don’t you?’

This is something that worried me a little bit when Leo was a baby but nowhere near as much as it did with Alex. Whenever I went to check on Alex and he was sleeping so peacefully you could barely hear his breath or see his chest move, a little voice would pipe up and tell me he was dead. I would be too terrified to touch his chest to check or to bend down and listen for his breathing. Instead I would look at him and let silent tears escape my eyes, accepting the thought as fact as scenes of my fictional future began to present themselves in my mind: telling Oli his baby was gone, telling Leo his brother was gone, Alex’s funeral, me crying uncontrollably over a tiny coffin. Although this thought was horrendous and happened regularly, it was only for a month or so, during the darkest days. Now when I see my boys sleeping, I always check their breath but not because some voice is telling me they have died, but just because. SIDS is a very real thing and something we should all be made aware of and know how to try and prevent but worrying about it to the extent I did just isn’t good for you.

‘Hide away from everyone, maybe just don’t exist anymore.’

Ok, before any family reading this start freaking out that I have been thinking about hurting myself this isn’t true. There have been times though where I have found my mind drifting to a place where it definitely shouldn’t be drifting. Where I have thought about not exactly killing myself but not being here either. Not dead, not alive just not anything. My GP seems to think it’s ok to think like this sometimes, especially when you are going through a stressful situation so I am trying not to dwell on that thought that, thankfully, didn’t pop up too often.

When Alex was about 2 months old and all of these feeling were coming to a head we were approaching our first family Christmas as a four and we had invited all my in laws to come and stay. Now, I love my in laws and I love their company but I was feeling so tearful and miserable thanks to the daily onslaught of depressing thoughts that I didn’t want to be around them. I didn’t want to be around anyone, I didn’t want to be around myself so the thought of having a house full of people just sent me over the edge. I lay in my bedroom and cried in bed, I hid under the covers trying to shut out the world. We couldn’t cancel though and at this point Oli knew nothing so I had to just carry on. I felt overwhelmed by all the organising and tidying that needed doing, I felt exhausted after 2 months of no sleep and I felt as far away from festive as was possible. I ignored my own needs and focussed as best as I could on making sure everyone had a lovely Christmas. Just a day or two after everyone left I was on to the phone to my health visitor in tears, that was the hardest day but from that emotional phone call things have gradually got better.

Anixety, the product of intrusive thoughts

Prior to having Alex I had known what it felt like to feel anxious, I was scared of driving on the motorway alone,  of going to new places and public speaking but that was more down to my quiet/shyish nature rather than anything else. This anxiety I know now, well, it is just on a whole different scale. Having these thoughts barge their way into my mind, clouding my vision of happy family moments with scenes that look like they are straight out of a horror film is something I have never experienced before. The way the thoughts can have such a physical impact on my body too has also surprised me. Whenever I am near water with the boys or high up (on a bridge for example) I can feel my heart start to race and sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe. I feel dizzy, panicked and worry I am not going to be able to catch my breath and, more often than not, all this is going on and I am trying to outwardly still look ok. I never know how to explain what is going on to those around me, I always worry that if I just open up and say ‘I’m terrified my son is going to drown because my brain told me so’ that I might sound like I have lost my mind.

Moving on from post natal depression and anxiety

The GP wants me to try mindfulness techniques, I have heard lots of good things but am yet to really do some proper research and try it out. She also wants me to look in to a local service that offers CBT over the phone which she feels would be really beneficial. I want to do these things but at this moment I am feeling ok, I know I should make the most of this improvement in my mental state though and seek help now when I am feeling better, rather than waiting until I am trapped in the depths of depression again and finding it hard to concentrate and focus on anything.

I am confident that my feelings of depression were caused by the horrible intrusive thoughts I was having, seeing your worst nightmare played out multiple times a day in your mind is going to make the strongest of person feel miserable. It is no wonder I turned from a relaxed mummy in to someone full to the brim with stress and anxiety. It is no wonder I found myself crying more than I was laughing. When you just want to be enjoying your children but your own brain is stopping that from happening, it is no surprise really that I have been sat in my doctors office on more than one occasion crying because I wish things could have been different. It is important for me to remind myself that it is not my fault that this happened to me, 1 in 10 mums suffer from post natal depression or some kind of mental health condition after pregnancy and it is none of our fault.

Setting myself free..

For now this will be the last post I write about mental health after pregnancy. I know it is important to talk and writing has been really cathartic for me but this is something I want to start to forget about now. The 6 months or so where I was held in the grip of anxiety and depression, I just want to forget about it all. I don’t know if this is the right attitude to have or not but now that I am going through another good patch I really want to hold on to this positive mood and not let thoughts of what has happened in the past drag me back down.

If you are struggling, know someone who is or just want to feel more informed about mental health after pregnancy then you can find all my candid, raw and completely honest posts about my experience over in the mental health section of my blog. And for anyone who is having a really tough time, know from someone who has been there that it does get better, you are stronger than you think and soon you will be able to smile your beautiful real smile again. Promise.

mental health after pregnancy

Have you suffered from post natal depression or any mental health condition? How are you feeling now? Feel free to share your experience below so I can give you a virtual hug and hopefully we can help any other mums out there who are struggling start to open up about their feelings and hopefully seek some support.

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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  1. August 7, 2017 / 3:25 pm

    I am so sorry that you have been struggling with these horrible, horrible thoughts and fears. It is so hard when your brain is against you. I’m really glad that you are feeling a bit better now, though, and retaining control of it. Your posts on postnatal mental health have been so honest and open – I am sure lots of people will really relate to it and feel a bit less alone thanks to you. #mg
    Lucy At Home recently posted…Blogcrush Week 25 – 4th August 2017My Profile

  2. August 7, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    What an honest post and thank you so much for sharing – the more we share issues around mental health, hopefully the easier it becomes for people to find the support they need. My sister-in-law suffered with PND after the birth of their first child and for about the first 4 months my brother-in-law had to be off work to be a full time parent to the baby and carer for her. She did get through it but it was a very worrying time and I know she would have wished there was more support (this was about 13 years ago) X #MG

  3. August 8, 2017 / 11:28 am

    I suffered from Post Pardum depression after having my first child. Those were bad days. Sometimes I wouldn’t sleep because I was too scared that he would stop breathing or he would cry for me and I wouldn’t hear him. I had tons of intrusive thoughts but I never went to see anyone about them. I kept them inside and that wasn’t a good thing to do. By the time my son was 4 I was diagnosed with PTSD (from something else) and realized that had I gotten help sooner, my life would have made more sense and I would have started healing. It’s so good that you are talking about it and sharing it with others. I have also found a few mindfulness techniques that have helped me over the years but most recently I’ve gotten into meditation. It really does help soothe the soul. I have an app that I use that I love and I wrote about it on my blog. Here is the link to my post in case you are interested in trying it out: Either way, find what works for you and you will be okay. I wish you the best:) #mg

  4. August 8, 2017 / 9:37 pm

    I can’t even imagine what it must be like to go through this. To watch your worst fears play in front of you. Thank you for sharing so honestly all of those feelings, it is something that needs to be spoken about more. Hopefully people will be more aware of when others are going through similar and be able to support them. It’s good to hear that you have a supportive doctor who wants to help you. Stay strong 🙂 #TriumphantTales

  5. August 8, 2017 / 9:59 pm

    #PostsFromTheHeart I loved reading this because it’s so true and you highlight issues that too many people hide. Good for you x

  6. Roxanne
    August 9, 2017 / 9:48 am

    Thank you so much for opening up and being so brave and honest. I have just written my first post about my mental health and it’s petrifying to put it out there! The thoughts you have had must be so terrifying and I’m so glad at the moment you’re feeling ok. You’re doing amazing x

  7. August 9, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I didn’t fir the standard definition of ‘postpartum depression’ so I didn’t get – or really seek – any support, but I experienced anxiety and intrusive thoughts like you mentioned, and I probably should have been more open about it. We all should be. #fortheloveofBLOG
    The Squirmy Popple recently posted…My blogging income and stats reportMy Profile

  8. August 9, 2017 / 7:14 pm

    This is such a brave post. Depression and anxiety are horrible to deal with. I have suffered with depression since my dad passed away last year. I am slowly coming off the medication now and feel much better. I was very lucky to have a very supportive husband and friends. I hope you find your smile much more as time goes by.
    Ali Duke recently posted…My Empties July 2017My Profile

  9. August 10, 2017 / 7:18 am

    I agree writing and talking make a huge difference. I know starting my blog helped me with anxiety. I also found mindfulness a huge help in my life. I would recommend trying it whilst you are in a good space, I am good now, but I do it as it just helps relax me in general. I use the app smiling minds and recently found 1 giant mind which I like too. Easy to have it on your phone and just do it when it suits you. Sending love xx
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…#mg is back #livingfearlesslyauthenticMy Profile

  10. August 11, 2017 / 9:57 am

    I suffered from a period of anxiety when my eldest was 11, that was 7 years ago. I realised that the only person that was going to help me was me and undertook CBT, overhauled my diet and exercise programme and generally pieced myself back together. It is important to share experiences on anxiety and depression and remove the stigma attached to them. It seems writing has been good therapy for you but I would recommend CBT if it ever becomes too much again. #PostsFromTheHeart
    Jo – Mother of Teenagers recently posted…The Mother & Teenager C25K ChallengeMy Profile

  11. August 11, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    I think this is a really important post to share and I hope it did offer you some catharsis in writing it. It’s very difficult to understand the reality of mental health if you’ve never suffered with depression, anxiety etc and so to have your experience explained so eloquently and emotionally is really beneficial to helping people recognise those feelings. I’ve suffered with intrusive thoughts for as long as I can remember, but having a name for them and recognising them for what they were has helped hugely. Now, when it happens, I just say to myself, ‘don’t worry – it’s just an intrusive thought’ and although it doesn’t feel any less horrible, it helps me to cast it off instead of get wrapped up in it. Thank you for speaking up and for linking with us at #Blogstravaganza

  12. August 11, 2017 / 9:31 pm

    Writing is such a powerful tool when it comes to mental health, I think mulling things over in a cohesive way helps us to organise and apply logic to the thoughts that rush through our heads…at least I found it does. I hope it gives you the same space.
    Sadie | Be Your Own Example recently posted…my postnatal body after baby number threeMy Profile

  13. August 12, 2017 / 12:48 pm

    I have high functioning depression and anxiety. I’ve lived like this for around ten years now after a past event, many moons ago. I won’t tell you I know how you feel, because everyone suffers in different ways. What I will say though is that, as you’ve said, talking is key. Talking is educating and talking is a must if you want to live life as fully as you can. I don’t talk about it enough, in fact if I don’t mention it no one knows, but that’s not a good thing. Talk, talk, talk! Thanks so much for sharing such a brave post with #Blogstravaganza xx

  14. August 13, 2017 / 9:00 pm

    Hi Wendy, I’m sorry to hear what an incredibly tough time you’ve been having. So great you can use the blog as therapy of some sort, and that letting it out to the doctor was a release in itself. All the very best for staying strong in the weeks and months to come. Thanks for linking up to #fortheloveofblog xx

  15. August 14, 2017 / 10:12 pm

    I suffered from PND and I can honestly say it was the worst experience of my life. I had this child I’d been so desperate to have yet couldnt enjoy it due to the PND and all I wanted was to escape from him. He is the best thing to happen since getting with Hubby and it hurts thinking about the times I wished he wasnt born. I am so happy I’m in a better place now and I’m so happy you’re getting to a better place too! Its the worst when you want to enjoy things but just cant because the dark cloud is ruining it all!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back tomorrow.

  16. August 14, 2017 / 10:12 pm

    Such an honest post, and so important to share our stories. So many women live with PND, I have had it for 13 years now, even becoming hospitalised at times when I was at my lowest, and I still found so much stigma attached to it. The more we talk, the more others feel they can share. Good for you. #postsfromtheheart

  17. Jija
    August 23, 2017 / 4:30 am

    Thank you so much Nicola, this was so helpful especially knowing how stressful and difficult pregnancy can be. This is exactly how I felt when I was pregnant and also had Gestational diabetes. By the way you look amazing in the pictures. How did you manage to get rid of the pregnancy weight after the baby? Any tips