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Postnatal depression left me suicidal.

Friday, 03 May 2024 Natalie

Natalie blogs about how she reached a terrible low before developing an unconditional love for her baby.

Content Warning: This blog contains references to suicidal thoughts. 

My pregnancy and birth were very traumatic for me, which triggered postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was diagnosed when Jasper was 14 months old. I wish I’d asked for help sooner, but I didn’t want anyone to know I was ill. I was scared what people would think – a useless mum who couldn’t cope with her baby.

Although I was very anxious throughout my pregnancy, I was so excited to meet my baby. I had a long induction, epidural, spinal blocks, a c-section and to top it off, a post-partum haemorrhage. When I finally got to hold Jasper I thought I’d get this overwhelming feeling of love, but I felt absolutely nothing. I didn’t feel any love for him whatsoever. I guess that’s when it all started. I spoke to the Health Visitor about how I was feeling, she told me it was ‘baby blues’ and it would go away,’ but it didn’t. I made excuses not to pick Jasper up other than to feed him, I just didn’t want him near me.

"The dark, intrusive thoughts and suicidal ideation were unbearable some days, so I spoke to the GP.”

When Jasper was 14 months old, I just thought ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’ and I told my husband that I wasn’t feeling right. The GP gave me antidepressants and I saw a counsellor. My medication was increased regularly, but the more the dose was increased the worse I felt.

The dark, intrusive thoughts and suicidal ideation were unbearable some days, so I spoke to the GP as I needed more support, only to be told there was a year’s waiting list to access mental health services. I didn’t know what to do as I reached out for help and it didn’t seem available, I was so scared of what I wanted to do, so I rang my husband Dan at work. My mother-in-law came round as Dan had called her on his way home. When she walked in, I fell to the floor in tears.

The GP moved me up the waiting list and the next morning, it was like the flick of a switch – like the day before never happened. I got up and went to work, putting my ‘everything’s fine’ mask back on.

“There were times you could have waved in front of me and I wouldn’t have noticed because I was so zoned out.”

Then Covid hit and we were told at work that we’d need to isolate. That was the breaking point for me. I felt like I was spiralling into a giant black hole, and everything was closing in on me - that’s when my mental health started to deteriorate even further. There were times you could have waved in front of me and I wouldn’t have noticed because I was so zoned out. Dan would talk to me and I’d just look at him blankly because all I had in my head were those dark thoughts. I couldn’t shut them off. I’d hear voices telling me ‘You’re useless’, ‘If you tell them, they’ll know’, they’ll take your baby away’ – It was constant torture.

I felt that the only way out was to disappear. I wrote letters for Dan and Jasper and I’d imagine them both being so happy and better off without me. I hated myself. I didn’t want to be alive anymore, let alone be a mum. The planned day arrived and I attempted suicide. I panicked and thought ‘what the hell have I done!’ so I went downstairs and told Dan. I’ll never forget that look on his face. It was like his heart had broken in front of my eyes. He called emergency services straight away and I was taken to hospital.

I stayed in hospital for a few days. I cried and pulled my curtains around me when they told me I was going to be fine, I didn’t want to be fine. I saw the crisis team and told them I was scared to go home as I was worried I’d try again.

They asked me if I could be admitted voluntarily to a mental health unit. If I didn’t go voluntarily, I’d be sectioned, so I agreed. As it was during Covid, we couldn’t have visitors and we had to stop facetiming as it upset Jasper that I wasn’t home. After a few weeks in the unit, after talking therapy with the nurses and psychiatrist, and a change in medication, I was allowed to go home with regular visits from the crisis team. I was then allocated a community psychiatric nurse (CPN) and a nurse prescriber to have regular medication reviews.

“I feel so lucky to be alive to watch Jasper grow. We now have an amazing bond, and I love him unconditionally.”

Throughout this time, I found the Mind website really useful to help me understand more about postnatal depression and PTSD. I also bought the Mind Wellbeing Journal, which I found a really useful tool when I needed to take some ‘me’ time and also helped me to write down thoughts and feelings.

I was discharged after 2 years, and earlier this year I made the decision to wean off my antidepressants. I’ve found certain things help me, such as having a routine. If things go a little off-piste, it can send me that way too. I also talk about how I’m feeling. If it’s not a great day that’s fine and I tell myself to start again tomorrow, it’s a new day! Dan has been amazing and so supportive. I really couldn’t have done it without him.

It’s a chapter in my life that I wish never happened, but I feel so lucky to be alive to watch Jasper grow. We now have an amazing bond and I love him unconditionally. We have lots of kisses and cuddles. Sometimes he tells me to stop, so I remind him that ‘mummy is catching up on her kisses’.

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