Post-Natal Depression – Breaking the silence

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Post-natal depression. Breaking the silence.

Post-natal depression is a hard thing to discuss.
It has the word ‘depression’ in it, which instantly brings with it negativity, judgement and prejudice.
So let’s call it the baby blues? Erm, well let’s not. It is so much more than that. It can be debilitating and it can lead to tragic circumstances.
We’ve all seen the horrifically sad newspaper headlines about Mothers that did not get the help that they needed, yet, our midwives and health visitors all ask us questions about how we feel- their leading questions are designed to flag up any possibilities of PND, our Gp’s do the same at our 6 week check. If so, how do people go undetected?
For me, I was just so good at putting on an act that I couldn’t drop it, even if I wanted too.
I’d had plenty of time to perfect is as it seems in hindsight, for myself and the Mental Health team that helped me, that I had also suffered from pre-natal depression and anxiety. I knew I was anxious at the time but I unfortunately had a husband that didn’t understand this and who has a deep set prejudice against Mental Health problems (You just have to think positively it’s your fault you feel this way so sort yourself out, you’ve got everything you’ve ever wanted to what’s your problem?) and so I just thought that it was because we were arguing and my marriage was going wrong.
I had a lot of things to deal with in my pregnancy (physical health problems and the development of two lifelong conditions) which you can read about on here but I was so desperate for my baby and adored him from the moment I knew I was carrying him at 10 days. I had longed for a child all my life.
I was lucky and I had no issues with my bond with my son. I struggled but conquered breast feeding and just loved being a Mummy. I was tired and in a lot of pain and although I had a huge amount of family help and support, my husband worked very long hours and had no idea how to ‘be there’ for me emotionally, and after the vulnerability that can come with a traumatic birth and the various hormone surges and losses, it was his love and care that I craved.
Again, I had no idea that I was unwell. My marriage was failing and was indeed over by the time my son reached 7 months old. Due to my physical illnesses, I visited my amazing Gp’s often. I was a proud Mummy, showing off my capabilities as a Mother and acting as the together Mummy that I had always wanted to be. In the 5 months prior to my son’s birth, my anxiety was put down to my physical health decline. In the time post birth, it was put down to my marriage breakdown (and why not). I finally went to my Gp’s without my son. I had no one to be brave for in that moment and my mask slipped. I broke down in my Dr’s surgery and my Gp diagnosed me with PND, referred me to the Mental Health Team and I started on antidepressants. My husband refused to believe that Depression was an actual illness and encouraged me to get over myself and deal with it, which of course, did not help in any way and predictably made it worse. My Gp even printed out some information for him to read. He refused over and over but after I sobbed and begged one evening, he finally relented. He later told me that he had only pretended to read it.
My husband left and moved out in August and I waited for my appointment. The primary care team that would have assessed me had a new post system and there was an issue with appointments being sent and received. Somehow I was missed. I saw my Gp over and over and different antidepressants were tried. When my son was 8 months old, I faced the agonising decision to change to a medication that was supposed to be very good for PND but meant that I was unable to breastfeed any longer. Brilliant. I had dreamt of breastfeeding my son. I had struggled so hard to establish it and I had wanted to continue until my son chose to stop. I had to choose and in the end, I chose to get better for my son, by taking the new tablets. I was devastated though. I felt so sad and envious of other mothers that were still feeding. Why was everything going wrong?

The New Year came and went. My son turned one in January 2013 and I carried on with family help and a brave face. One day, in February, I went shopping in my local town. I walked there slowly which was a real accomplishment. We bought what we needed and window shopped. My Dad called for a chat. We spoke for a few minutes and then I said I’d call back after I got home.
I shuffled home, getting slower and slower, the pain increasing with every step. By the time I reached my door, I didn’t know what to do. My son was asleep. I couldn’t decide how to get him in the house as I had steps and couldn’t bring the pram in. I couldn’t work out how to get him in and put the pram in the car without leaving him on his own (something that had never worried me before). I felt ill. My head was cotton wool. I was distressed. I called my Mum. She dashed over from work, stayed the night and has still to this day, 2.5yrs on, has not fully returned home to her and Dad’s house. A lot of this was due to my physical health that was separate to my PND (although until all the physical diagnoses came rolling in, there was question as to whether the PND was worsening my physical health) but that day changed everything. I was so desperately distressed as to what was happening to me and couldn’t understand why. I lost all ability to concentrate on anything, or deal with anything other than my son, although I needed a lot of help from my family.
My Gp was contacted, a cancelled appointment was found and I was assessed within days. This was a Friday and by the Monday I had seen a psychiatrist who immediately changed my medication and was able to involve the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) directly.
I received great support and help but the person that was assigned to help me every week, by coming to my home to talk, listen and teach me, was inexperienced and I very quickly put my ‘front’ and ‘face’ back on. She praised my progress and life went on. Except for me, inside, it didn’t. I was desperately racked with anxiety. I couldn’t make a decision about anything other than my son and what happened with him. I was scared of doing anything, going anywhere, being late, people visiting, the house not being perfect, not doing enough for my son, not spending enough time helping him develop and learn, being a burden on my family. My own skin.
I knew that the lady that was supposed to be helping me with my mental health wasn’t suitable or helping and in the end, my Mum and I explained this to the psychiatrist and team in a meeting. Eventually, they realised how ill I was and that I needed more but it was a big fight. I just was unable to show anyone the extent of my distress, even when I tried. No one understood how bad things were.
Mum and I rang and emailed every PND Baby and Mother Unit within a hundred miles. They all agreed that I was a perfect candidate for their help but as my baby was over one, was a toddler with greater social and physical needs, they couldn’t help me as he couldn’t come too. Separating us was not an option from their point of view or mine. He was and is, my everything.
So, a wonderful, experienced and passionate CMHT nurse was assigned to help me. Around August 2013. She instantly recognised that I was very, very unwell. She saw me twice weekly for months. At Christmas, a year after I was first seen by primary care, my nurse was moving and I was passed to her equally excellent colleague. She also saw me twice weekly from Jan 2014, we dropped to once a week and a few times, tried to drop to fortnightly but it took some time. Monthly happened by accident and we reached Jan 2015.

We struggled to find another date for an appointment and it suddenly was May. She came and within 10 minutes was discussing discharge.
I was so shocked! ‘No! Hang on, you can’t! I’m not well enough! Well, I am, but what if I’m not?’ She smiled and repeated that I didn’t need her anymore. I had made it. At times, I didn’t think I would ever reach here. I’ve been through some terrible times with my now ex-husband and the divorce, faced flash points and lost friends. I’ve faced some of the hardest events in my life, all whilst dealing with severe PND and I have made it through to the other side.
I have obviously left out a lot. I draw the line at baring my soul and deepest secrets to the world. I have been to hell and back to get here but the most important thing that I can say to someone that feels or may have found themselves in a similar position, is that you CAN do it. You can get better. I still do and will continue to take medication. For forever if I feel I need it. There have been times that I have thought truly, that my son and family would be better off without me. My son was young enough that he’d have no memories of me and my family would get their lives back. I have been there. I have begged for help. I have fought. I have cried enough tears to fill a pool. I have felt so desperate and alone. I have felt that I will never, ever get better but I have done it. It’s been 3.5yrs since I had my baby and circumstances seemed to align to make it as hard as possible to get help and get better but I have done it.
Please ask for help, talk and do what you can to get help. Don’t be ashamed. It is not your fault. You have done nothing to deserve this or make it happen. Your children will not be taken away from you (this was my absolute biggest fear).
This has happened to you.

Love

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51 Comments

  1. 04/07/2015 / 18:26

    Thank you for sharing so candidly. I know this will help other mothers feel less alone. Anxiety of any kind can be so debilitating. People just don’t get how stuck you feel. You cant make a decision and the fact that you cant make a decision makes you feel useless. I think when you have your child you can start telling your self lies too like I am not a good enough mother. I cant keep my house clean. I cant do this or that properly like you should. Which makes your anxiety worse. Mine went through the roof with Kennedy and I started worrying about everything. I blamed myself for everything and she was a poorly baby that gets sick a lot and no matter how many times people said its normal some babies are just like that she will outgrow it. I worried a I leaving the diaper on too long that’s why she gets rash and then started going through a pack a day. I wear myself out some days with worry. Having her in day care has helped some and I feel like I am getting better but I am not out of the woods yet. When people say parenting is thought it really is. It compounds and highlights all our shortcomings and sometimes when you are in the thick of things you cant see the other side. I even began to be ineffective at work. I am so sorry that you had a partner that does not recognise that your struggle is real. I am soooo lucky Sergio makes sure I get all my meds every day and when I am particularly stressed out he takes her for the day so I can rest. Bless him he has come home with sooo many chocolates and completely ruined my figure because he just wants me happy. Thank God I am not an alcoholic because he is such an enabler that I would be a raging drunk right now!

    • Hannah Atkinson
      04/07/2015 / 22:32

      I left a reply on your other comment (thank you) but you are so right. I’m sorry you got hit hard- it must the biggest roller coaster of emotions and shock and then suddenly with little warning- bamn. You’re a mum. You’d better ace this now….I admire your strength and the way you write and are helping so many other mothers out there. Big love x

  2. 04/07/2015 / 18:42

    We don’t have the kind of health care system that is in place in the UK being a 3rd world country. And as an adoptive parent your worry that you will be judged even more if you say you are struggling like you defrauded the system by saying that you will be this amazing mum and now you cant live up to what you promised. And you fear they may come and take you child away because you have failed the test 🙁

    It sounds silly sometimes when you write your fears because they are not logical fears but try telling you mind that.

    I am thrilled you are at the point that you have been discharged. That is HUGE.

    I am glad to be web friends 🙂

    Stay blessed with your precious and adorable boy

    • Hannah Atkinson
      04/07/2015 / 22:27

      Thank you Laverne. all you fears and worries are so valid and genuine. You feal them and they are real to you but I hope you know that you are such a wonderful mummy and your daughter is testament to that and of course, her Daddy. You are the same as any Mummy. Guilt, self doubt, sleep deprivation and normal life stress except you have the added pressure of feeling the need to be perfect and enjoy every tantrum and sleepless night as you asked for it publicly. The web is a wonderful place to find support and you provide so much to others. Thank you x

  3. 04/07/2015 / 21:09

    Oh my god hun. What an amazing post. You are such a brave, strong, amazing woman. And when you’re not (strong) I’m here for you. I truly think I’ve found a friend for life. This post is so honest and heart-felt and I’m sure will help anyone who reads it that is suffering. I suffered with both but worse after my first, Joshua, as I had a very traumatic birth with him. You should be proud of yourself. I’m gonna sign off now as kitten keeps trying to type for me!!!

    • Hannah Atkinson
      04/07/2015 / 22:20

      Oh Abi, thank you. You’re definitely a friend for life. I am not amazing! I’m just a mummy. Mummy’s just get on with it. You know how I admire you. Enjoy the kitten and I’ll see you soon xx

  4. Ashley Beolens
    05/07/2015 / 18:16

    Discussing any mental health issue is both tough and incredibly rewarding, I found opening up about my own depression (not a lady so not postnatal) allowed me more of a connection with other sufferers and was pretty cathartic as well

    Well done for being brave enough to open up 🙂

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/07/2015 / 19:55

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you found it helped you too as yes, I think it helps you process and realise how far you’ve come

  5. 06/07/2015 / 01:43

    Hannah,
    Thanks for stopping by and I’m so glad you liked my Whipped Ganache Devil Dogs. Devil Dogs are readily available in supermarkets in the US. They are oblong cakes filled with a white cream, so my recipe is a variation.
    So sorry to hear about what you’ve been through. Many people don’t understand mental or emotional issues, they think you can just snap out of it but that’s not the case. I’ve seen many people struggle with these issues. You’re a very strong woman to have come so far.
    Annamaria

    • Hannah Atkinson
      07/07/2015 / 09:34

      Thank you Annamaria, it was just one of those things. I’ll let you know when I’ve tried devil dogs, I can’t wait!

  6. 06/07/2015 / 05:01

    What a truly moving post. I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that and that your husband bailed out when he should have been stronger. I am currently in a process of trying to find out what is wrong with me. I have periods of highs and lows and my lows are getting worse. Mental illness is so hard to get diagnosed correctly and for everyone involved to understand. Thank you so much for sharing this with #momsterslink.

    • Hannah Atkinson
      07/07/2015 / 09:33

      Thank you Trista. I’m through it and past it and it’s just one of those things to me now. I’ sorry that you are having horrible lows, I hope you have some support. always here if you need a chat x

  7. 06/07/2015 / 21:45

    You’re so courageous, Hannah… thanks for opening your heart to us, I know it’s not easy to talk about these things, especially when you haven’t been understood. You’re a powerful source of inspiration, girl! 🙂

    • Hannah Atkinson
      07/07/2015 / 09:32

      Bless you Lily, I don’t see it that way but it’s very kind of you to say so. Thanks for taking the time to comment x

  8. 07/07/2015 / 08:48

    I hear you sweetie. I was “diagnosed” then shoved on a wait list for help, I didn’t get it. They dropped me from the list when Jen was one year old.
    I’ve linked a relevant post if you don’t mind? It explains how I tried to “end it” when Jen was a baby due to PND. Any time you need me, want to yell at someone or vent please message me.

    • Hannah Atkinson
      07/07/2015 / 09:32

      Thanks Julie, I’ll take a look. That’s disgusting treatment. I can’t believe that they dropped you when she was one x

  9. 07/07/2015 / 15:09

    Thank you Hannah for your honesty here. PND is such a tough thing to have especially as it comes at a time when we feel we ‘should’ be happy because we have our baby. It can be a real fight to get the help needed and it is exacerbated by having a partner who wont accept it. That view of Mental health problems being something people should just get over is so incorrect. no one chooses to be in that much pain. I am so glad to hear that you have done so well. Although it is awful there is so much personal learning an growth from these experiences. It brings to mind that quote ‘The Harder you fall the higher you bounce’. Best of wishes. #bigfatlinky

    • Hannah Atkinson
      07/07/2015 / 20:43

      Thank you Kirsten. You are right. I’ve often thought what doesn’t kill you make you stronger but I prefer the harder fall, the higher yoou bounce x

  10. Free
    10/07/2015 / 13:23

    Hannah you are truly amazing weather you believe it or not. Sharing such a candid story takes a lot of courage. It’s great that you have your mom to give you the support you need. If you are ever in need of a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen I’m here for you.

    • Hannah Atkinson
      12/07/2015 / 16:43

      You are too kind. Thank you x

  11. 10/07/2015 / 15:01

    This is an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing this. Any mental health needs to be spoken about so pleased that you have. Thanks for linking up with us and sharing this on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there this week

    • Hannah Atkinson
      12/07/2015 / 16:42

      Thank you Martyn. It was a long journey but I made it- just!

    • Hannah Atkinson
      12/07/2015 / 16:42

      Oh my goodness, thank you so much!

  12. 12/07/2015 / 22:39

    Great post as always. You are one of the strongest people I know. Stay that way. You are amazing. Stay that way x

    • Hannah Atkinson
      15/07/2015 / 21:10

      Too kind. Thank you. Back atcha x

  13. Laura
    04/11/2015 / 22:20

    Thank you so, so much for sharing your story. I experienced PND too and now blog about it. It’s a devastating condition and getting the right help can be so challenging. So glad you found what you needed in the end and got better. #parentingpicks

    PS You may already know but there is a brilliant Twitter chat every Wed at 8pm GMT with the hashtag #pndhour which may be of interest x

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/11/2015 / 18:43

      Oh thank you Laura, I didn’t know. Would you mind tagging me one week so that I remember? I’m sorry that you had PND x

  14. 05/11/2015 / 00:09

    Oh Hannah; you are brave and I applaud you on sharing your story. So unfair that mental health is often not recognised as an ‘illness’. Your Mum sounds like a wonderful woman and you are clearly and truly in love with your child. Keep up the good fight.#parentingpics

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/11/2015 / 18:44

      Thank you Anna. My Mum is seriously, amazing. She deserves so many more thanks than I can ever give her. Yes, I am so in love with my little man. More and more each day x

  15. 05/11/2015 / 10:45

    Thank you so much for sharing. You are not alone. My depression started post-natal (18 years ago) and never went away. Shoved from Dr to Dr with no light at the end of the tunnel. It took a few dark years, but I am better (on meds) and take each day as it comes. I am so lucky to have an incredibly supportive husband who has been my rock. Please reach out if you need to talk, we are here for you x

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/11/2015 / 18:46

      Oh Sue, my love. Waiting years for treatment is horrific. You poor poor love. It’s hard enough with help. I’m so glad you have a wonderful husband and thank you for the offer to chat x

  16. 05/11/2015 / 11:08

    What an honest, moving post. It must have been hard to write. I’m glad you found good help in the end and came out the other side. I was fortunate enough not to suffer with PND, but every time they ran through the detection questions at my appointments, I did wonder how many people actually get picked up that way. Because, for many people, it is very obvious why the questions are asked and what answer they want to see to assume you are fine. & many people don’t want to admit they are not fine. So I would expect that a lot of people put on a front and fake the answers, and actually only get detected if and when they decide to report the difficulties themselves. I don’t really know what the answer would be for better detection, though. I have heard mention before of the difficulties faced by people in getting help once their children are over 1 – clearly something that needs to be looked at so people do not slip through the nets and get no support. I’m sure this post will help anyone else currently struggling with PND or anxiety. #findtribe

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/11/2015 / 18:49

      Thank you Silly Mummy. That is such a lovely comment to leave. I agree that unless you have faced the fact that you have post natal depression or are putting on a front, be it intentional or not, it’s easy to slip through the net with these questions. I think those that are very unwell can easily get missed. It’s so sad. Thank you for your support x

  17. 05/11/2015 / 12:34

    Well done for having the bravery to share your story – it can’t have been easy to write and yet by sharing it here you are helping others. I can only imagine how awful PND is and yet it still seems to be misunderstood by a lot of people. Hopefully this will change as more people speak out. Big hugs xx #FindTribe

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/11/2015 / 18:50

      Thank you so much Aimee x

  18. 05/11/2015 / 12:37

    I absolutely adore you for writing that. So brave, well done. Made me tear up, but glad to hear you are doing so much better.
    What a shitty husband, sorry but that’s how I feel about it. You have wonderful parents x

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/11/2015 / 18:51

      Oh Sarah! That’s so so kind of you to say! I am 100% better. I have moments when I feel frustrated and overwhelmed but I am me again. My parents and sister are amazing. I agree about the husband! Ha ha

  19. 05/11/2015 / 13:26

    Thanks so much for sharing! It’s still such a difficult topic for people to talk openly about. I was quite lucky really as my depression stayed fairly consistent before, during and after pregnancy, though I went back on my antidepressants as soon as Marianna was born as she was on NICU for weeks and everyone was worried about what I might try to do! We live in a flying start area so their mental health nurse came out and visited for a bit but I couldn’t drop my face at all (my other half is out of work so he was there too) so eventually I just told her that I was fine. I used to work for a depression charity so I’m a bit better at recognising when I’m getting worse – the problem I have is then finding the energy / motivation to get any help for it. :/ #findyourtribe

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/11/2015 / 18:55

      Oh I’m so glad things were OK for you when you started your family. Having a baby in NICU could upset and stress anyone out. It’s good that you had the professional support but I also know exactly what you mean about dropping your face. Even if you want to drop it. You sound like you have a lot of good experience even if you still find it hard to be motivated to get help. I think that’s common. It’s the hard bit of being ill.

  20. 05/11/2015 / 13:46

    Hannah, you are so brave in sharing this.

    What an emotional post. It’s great that you had the support of your mum throughout. I’m sure this will help anyone who is struggling.

    You are truly amazing 🙂
    Laura xx

    #FindTribe

    • Hannah Atkinson
      05/11/2015 / 18:57

      Thanks Laura. I don’t feel brave but I hope that if one person reads it and resonates with it and seeks help, that’ll be enough x

  21. 06/11/2015 / 22:27

    I had a history of depression before becoming pregnant. I didn’t think that it would worsen after I had a baby, in fact I thought that I would love her so much that it would go away. Wrong, wrong, wrong! I finally got help after she was a year old and it was out of hand. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Hannah Atkinson
      09/11/2015 / 09:12

      Oh Chantal, it doesn’t matter how much you love them, it hasn’t got anything to do with that has it. I’m so glad you managed to get help too but sorry about your first year x

  22. 07/11/2015 / 23:02

    What an amazing post, you are so brave to write it for us to see but it is such an important topic and hopefully someone will see it and it may just nudge them into getting help x #FindTribe

    • Hannah Atkinson
      09/11/2015 / 09:16

      Thank you Jenni. That’s the main reason I wrote x

  23. 07/11/2015 / 23:11

    What a brave post to write. I really hope that this will help others who might be suffering from PND. I’ve had depression and anxiety in the past, and spent a fair bit of time during my pregnancy terrified I would get it again. I did but only very mildly and it was more to do with my thyroid not working than anything else. x
    #findtribe

    • Hannah Atkinson
      09/11/2015 / 09:21

      Oh I’m so glad that you only had it mild. Sorry that it was your thyroid though. I presume you have treatment?

  24. 09/11/2015 / 08:53

    Oh Hannah thank you so so much for having the bravery and honesty to write this post and to share it. I hope writing it was therapeutic for you and showed you how far you have obviously come – you’re doing wonderfully well although I’m sure it is something that will never truly disappear. The bravery in sharing it will help so many to recognise the signs and gain an idea of what to do to get help. Thank you so so much 🙂 Mim x #ParentingPicks

    • Hannah Atkinson
      09/11/2015 / 09:26

      Thank you Mim. Writing is my therapy. Once it’s written, it stops whirring around in my head and sleep becomes easier. Thank you for hosting x

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