Kerry-Lynne blogs about how asking for help for her PND was the best thing she ever did.
When my daughter was born I had postnatal depression (PND). It’s not something I’ve talked about openly. A few close family members and friends knew. I felt too ashamed, guilty and embarrassed to admit it. But over the last few years I have admired the growing number of people who have spoken openly about their mental health experiences so I thought I would share my story.
My children are my life. I adore them and wouldn’t change them. They are gorgeous inside and out and I can only hope to be a mum who raises them to be kind, loving people who try their best and work to achieve what they want to do.
"But that’s the cruelty of PND. I knew and felt all of this but I also felt desperately, desperately sad, alone and out of control."
It started creeping in when my husband went back to work. Suddenly I was juggling a toddler and a baby. I fed her myself, which meant I spent a lot of time glued to the sofa in the early days, which my toddler found frustrating. He had to learn to adapt from being an only child whose needs were our absolute focus, to suddenly sharing our attention.
I worked hard to find activities we could do while I was feeding, such as reading, sticker books and flash cards. But sometimes that’s not what he wanted to do.
"I was lucky enough to have fantastic family support though. Relatives would come and take my toddler out or give me a hand with the ironing."
As a baby, my daughter had colic, something our firstborn never had. It was awful. Sometimes I held her or wore her in a sling for 21 hours a day. We used colic relief drops and cuddled her constantly to relieve her discomfort, but it was distressing and exhausting. I honestly felt as though it would never end.
I also turned 30 a few weeks after having my daughter, and (selfishly) felt a little sad that I wasn’t looking fabulous and having a party with cocktails – the way I’d imagined my 30th birthday to be, before I became a mum. Instead, I was a hormonal, exhausted wreck with the sore and wobbly body of a woman who had recently given birth.
"I knew something was wrong within a few weeks of having my daughter. I was tearful, angry and impatient. The slightest problem triggered tears."
Mentally, I felt like a stretched elastic band that could snap at any moment. I also had thoughts that made me feel as though it would be better not to be around anymore.
I didn’t seek help for a few months. It was only when these thoughts became more and more apparent that I decided I couldn’t take the strain anymore and admitted I needed help.
"Where I live we have a fantastic mental health support service for expectant and new mums, which means you can be seen quickly. They were marvellous."
As well as offering face to face appointments and the option to attend a support group, they spoke to me about medication. I explained that I had lost many of the joys my children gave me. I honestly didn’t think I’d recover, but I was adamant that I didn’t want to take medication.
I remember having a conversation with a psychologist one day. I said I was worried that I wouldn’t feel like myself if I took medication. She said, “But you don’t feel like yourself now, do you?” She explained that like any other medical problem, it needed addressing and that medication could really help. Her wise words won me over.
"I felt so ashamed collecting my prescription, and the night before I was due to start the medication, I cried and cried and cried. I felt as though I’d failed."
But I took the tablets and within a few days I felt lighter. Smiles that had been missing for so long started appearing. My patience grew stronger, and the joy that children bring became more and more apparent.
Within weeks, I felt like my old self again. I was discharged from the new mum mental health service not long after, and reassured that I could visit the service again if I needed to. That was a comfort, but luckily I was well enough to not feel I needed to go back.
"Recovering was incredible. I felt as though colour was filling what had been a colourless world."
It took time but every day I felt that bit better and able to be the mum I wanted to be for my gorgeous kids.
Two years on, I am so glad that I sought help to get well again. It’s an experience I look back on from time to time but it has made me so much stronger.
And now is the time that I feel able to talk about it more openly.
That’s why I’m going to run a 10km race for Mind, who do so much awesome work to help people living with mental health problems and their loved ones. They also do a cracking job of reducing stigma around mental health.
So if you’re a parent (or anyone for that matter) and you feel you need support with your mental health, please, please seek help. Talk to someone. As hard as it may feel to do, it will make things better.
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