” Leave it Aaaht Treacle, this Eastenders storyline can’t be realistic can it?”

I don’t know if you know what I’ve been up to. I don’t know if I said it enough. My mouth that can fit my entire fist in it ( party trick life goals right there eh ?) has been working overtime telling anyone who dares to be my friend , sell me my copy of the National Enquirer, comes to my desk to stare at my acrylic nails colours of the week or who reads my political rants about what I’ve been up to for the last 18 months. Aside from attempting to lose 87 stone whilst eating considerably more than a gust of wind and a glass of air, weeping at the Brexit result , stamping my little heeled feet in horror that a orange pancaked make up face man with a multi colored hair piece , wandering knob and the inability to run his own Twitter account has been voted to run the most powerful country on earth , I have been , as ever , on my mental health soapbox.

My son is soon to be seven. My dear sweet , wild boy with more personality in his leather jacket than your old anorak with a beer stain down it. My little love who is truly the best thing that has ever happened to me. Nearly seven years ago , I gave birth to him in a medicated c section haze, he was held up and looked like he was Jesus surrounded by a beacon of light and then instead of feeling like Mother Earth, I began hallucinating about climbing out of the hospital barred windows, was found crawling around the postnatal ward on on my hands and knees and then became so terrified of my own child, that I couldn’t look at or be in the same room on my own with him.

Six long , torturous weeks past. My hair fell out in clumps, I tried to scrub my skin off in the hope I would be like a snake and shedding a layer would get rid of my angst and I began chanting , going up and down stairs over and over . Bang on six weeks, I hit catastrophic meltdown point where I got on my in laws bed on all fours like a dog and screamed so hard my mouth bled at the sides, I smacked my head into a wall and then locked myself in a bathroom and spent a fair while staring at the razor thinking it looked pretty when the sun hit it. When I emerged , after my terrified husband attempted to break the door down , I collapsed in a heap , sobbing , screaming and shaking. I was in my pants , having not been able to work out how to put my clothes on and I didn’t want to be near my baby.

I was broken. I was a shell of my former self. I was unwell. I was suffering from postpartum psychosis.

I was admitted to a psychiatric mother and baby unit that morning . 200 miles from our home. I walked in , rambling , crying , my mind blown. I had no idea who I was anymore. Six weeks prior, I had been pregnant, vibrant , smiling , the girl who walked around showing people how her fist can for almost down her throat, full of joy about becoming a mother. I had had parties for the baby in my tummy , made from our love and growing with mine. But within an hour of my sons birth, I wasn’t hit by the gush of love you hear about. No. I was hit , with brute force , by an uncontrollable psychotic train. It knocked me off my tracks, and took me off on an unplanned tangent on the journey of motherhood I had planned. I spent six weeks in terror. Lights flashed in front of my eyes, I thought I was floating in the corner of the room looking down on myself,I was convinced the duvet cover was dancing , I closed my eyes and thought my head was In a vice and at my worst, I thought I was buried alive in a coffin. I felt trapped in my body, my life, in my role as a mum to a child who was here forever and I wanted to escape. Not just to Ibiza for a mad weekend but the world. I sat and thought about how I could unzip clouds and climb through them and then had blind panic when I realized I would then be trapped in space. And the fear of what would I do then!?

Since getting better, I have wanted to help other mums. I write my blog, I speak at new mum groups, I am members of online mums groups and am alerted if a mum appear to be showing symptoms so I can signpost her to safe help and support. I never just wanted to be a campaigner . I wanted to provide real help to real mums and provide an in your face awareness of perinatal mental illnesses to a wide range of people. To tell people about it who normally wouldn’t be targeted . So , I don’t know if you do know , but in May 2015, that opportunity came , when a TV soap decided to run a storyline on Postpartum Psychosis and asked my friend Kathryn Grant and I for input, as survivors of the illness. We were personally supported by the charity Mind and the wonderful Jenni Regan worked her socks off , along with APP and Bipolar UK, to ensure the portrayal was safe and accurate. Take a look at Jenni’s blog on the Mind site which gives an insight into how they did this http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/eastenders-staceys-postpartum-psychosis/#.WEciNUrfWrU .

So along came Eastenders and like it or not, soaps can get a message across and I think that’s a brilliant thing. Antenatal classes cost more than some people’s monthly salary and not everyone is able to jog along to these to find out about what happens when you lose your mind after dropping your sproglet. We need to cater to the masses as it’s not only millionaires have children. Real people have babies and real people watch soaps. Bar the fact that in soaps someone’s dad is also their second cousins thrice re moved dog and unless you are on Jeremy Kyle, this doesn’t happen in real life often, soaps do go some way to portray real life and in real life women get postpartum psychosis. .The positive effect is a brilliant thing.

When we were was asked by mind to help Eastenders with their postpartum psychosis storyline, Kathryn and I admit we were was pensive. Mental health is so often portrayed in a negative light in the media that I thought, oh god, what if I get involved as someone who suffered and it goes horribly wrong, the character kills her baby and a week later everyone is in the Vic drinking a gin and tonic before throwing chips at each other outside Ian’s chippy. Awareness won’t be achieved and the general public would yet again be fed an awful sensationalised version of an illness that can be devastatingly awful but one that is entirely treatable. Thankfully, Eastenders, with the support of Mind and other charities like Bipolar UK and APP, created a storyline that is so realistic in its portrayal, within a couple of short weeks of it launching, postpartum psychosis was at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

I’ve been mapping social media over the last few months , picking up perceptions of the programme,the portrayal and its impact. In this blog, I will use this anecdotal evidence to show how responsible media portrayals of mental illness can be incredible at opening up conversations about mental health and inform people about conditions they have never heard of , but that could happen to them.

Why is Stacey on her hands and needs scrubbing the oven , which no one ever wants to do and thinks that her baby is the Second Coming ?

Every mums group I am in on Facebook was talking about it – why is Stacey hiding in corners ,why is she turning all the lights off , why is she on the roof of the Vic , why is she smashing all those glasses? Mick will invoice her for them .Is she off her meds and most importantly, what the dickens is wrong with her ? Surely this can’t happen after you have a baby as no one appears to have ever heard of it? Women are happy when they have a baby aren’t they ?

The comments about what on earth was wrong with Stacey were widespread. They ranged from total and utter disbelief ” I think Eastenders have stepped over the line with this crazy storyline . The moment she said Arthur is God, I couldn’t stop laughing” to sadness and sorrow.

Some people have babies and its glorious . And that’s amazing. Some people have babies and its not glorious straight away. They may be sad, tearful and exhausted but after a few weeks this lifts. It’s awful while it lasts but it goes and motherhood starts to work out for them. Others have babies and feel even more sad , even more tearful, even more exhausted and this doesn’t lift easily and motherhood is more of a struggle. It might take them more than a rest to feel better. They might need some medication , some therapy, some help from a charity while their feelings and the muddles in their mind work themselves out. And then some mothers give birth and feel manic. They hear and see things that other people don’t and believe things to be real when they are as unrealistic as could be. Did you give birth and think you were in charge of North Korea? What about thinking you were being buried alive while you were lying in bed? Or think you were locked in a room about to be attacked while trying to find a panic button? Or think that your baby was the son of God? No? Well some people do. People like me.

I manically cleaned. I once spent two hours standing still in the kitchen in fear . I forgot how to get dressed and would stare at my clothes , confused what to do with them. I thought I was on The Truman Show . I tried to climb out of a window to escape my fear. I ordered eight juice extractors and then threw them in the garden. I was afraid of my own baby and ‘I have made a terrible mistake ‘ became my mantra . I had awful visions , thoughts that would pop into my head and I was paranoid of anyone and everyone.

Postpartum Psychosis is a serious illness with dramatic symptoms , so perhaps perfect fodder for a soap opera. What became very clear though , is that Eastenders didn’t have to overdramatize any of Stacey’s symptoms , as the characteristics of the illness are enough. One comment I had about the storyline from a mum was this – ” “You have really changed my opinion on this storyline. Knowing it really does happen and is this extreme , I didn’t know”.

Stacey’s symptoms to PP sufferers was incredibly accurate. The belief that your baby is God is a real symptom, that has affected real life women. When Kathryn and I met Lacey, the actress who plays Stacey, she was really interested in how these symptoms feel completely real to the sufferer. I remember Kathryn saying her visions of being on a gurney felt as real as us being in that room that day. It’s the reality of the mum suffering. It may seem extreme but it’s real. Kathryn’s thoughts on the portrayal are here http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/eastenders-my-postpartum-psychosis/#.WEciv0rfWrU.

For details on PP symptoms , please have a look at this from the charity Action On Postpartum Psychosis who are the experts on the illness and are a fountain of information and support for women and their families http://www.app-network.org/what-is-pp/ .

If a mum thinks her baby is flying around the living room, doesn’t that mean she could harm it?

In a word, no.

One of the things that was so great about the first few episodes of the storyline in particular was how showed how much Stacey loves her baby. There is an untrue notion that women with perinatal mental health problems want to harm their baby. Yes, people can get intrusive thoughts and visions but developing postpartum psychosis doesn’t suddenly mean you are a danger to your child and the programme went to great lengths to show this. There was an unfortunate article printed last year about intrusive thoughts with the title ‘ I want to drown my baby’ which of course is not what women who suffer intrusive thoughts want to do. Intrusive thoughts about drowning your baby may pop into your head and they are horrific and very distressing and the reason they are as it’s what you don’t want to do . The title should have been something like ‘ I had intrusive thoughts about drowning my baby’ but of course, it would have got less clicks. And hence , intrusive thoughts are not talked about which they need to be as they are very common , horrendous to suffer and absolutely do not mean the mum wants to carry out any of the things that have shot into her head.

Some of the comments that cropped up on social media were about the fact that Stacey could be a danger to her child such as ” her condition will make her harm her baby” and the ” the reason she has gone into a normal psych ward is people who are psychotic can harm their baby. That baby isn’t safe with her. It’s my opinion and I don’t care what you think”. Said the person with no medical training who uses Google as a diagnostic tool while using Twitter as the second opinion back up service. These comments were based on no real evidence but are a common misconception – mew mum thinks baby is flying around living room while bleaching the net curtains= she wants to hurt the baby.

One person , who wasn’t watching the programme said ” Bipolar is very serious. She could harm her baby” which was responded to by another person saying ” I have Bipolar , I would never harm my children. This storyline is great for raising awareness of postpartum psychosis , which is a different illness to Bipolar.”

As the programme went on , I saw this comment :
“There is a shortage of mother and baby units beds. I’m in a mums group with one of the mums who is working with eastenders as a case study. She says very few mums actually cause harm to their babies”.

Let me be clear. Yes, there are times where terrible things have happened and have done so because someone has a mental health condition. However , this doesn’t mean it’s a blanket rule and eastenders went someway to show how Stacey loved her baby and how she had no desires to hurt or was a threat to him. And she wanted to protect him and be with him. The episode where Martin went away with Arthur had people across the country in tears. It was devastating. Mums who have and had PP, we love our babies. We aren’t monsters and we want to be a mum like everyone else.

Don’t people who are already not right in themselves get this thing?

Again , in a word , no.

Well this was one that made the Internet get into a right old ants in pants tantrum. The episode aired where ( and the programme did this brilliantly ) a psychiatrist explained about PP and how anyone can get it but Stacey was at a higher risk because of her Bipolar.

The National Centre for Mental HEalt and APP have produced this very helpful leaflet https://www.bipolaruk.org/information-on-postpartum-psychosis via Bipolar UK , explaining the relationship between Bipolar and PP :

” Women with bipolar disorder may become unwell during pregnancy but are at a particularly high risk of becoming ill following childbirth. Episodes of postpartum psychosis occur after approximately 25% of births to women with bipolar disorder.
This is several hundred times higher than for women who have not had previous psychiatric illness. Postnatal depression follows a further 25% of births. Therefore, about half of women with bipolar disorder (50 in 100) stay well after having a baby and about half may have an episode of illness.”

I had lots of comments sent to me about this ranging from ” eastenders have got it all wrong. You can’t get postpartum psychosis unless you have bipolar” to someone responding with ” well the doctor on eastenders just stated the fact that anyone can get it”. And the doctor on Eastenders was right.

And what was so good about these debates as they inspired many media stories about PP- Kathryn and I featured in many of them – and they worked to diminish the myths of the illness and to inform people about the real facts.

I don’t have Bipolar and I got PP so the doctor on the soap was totally correct!

This would never happen in real life would it ?

There was lots of talk about whether the storyline was realistic or not.

Reading the storyline before it was screened had me very emotional when I read scripts but then when it was on screen, it was so powerful that I cried for many reasons. Crying because it was so realistic, crying when Stacey looked to the sky as if she was searching for an answer she couldn’t find anywhere else which I would when at my lowest. As she paced the square, her eyes looked sunken with fear as she looked for something or someone she could trust. The scene on top of the Vic with Martin when he told Stacey he would look after her resonated me with me so much – I remember telling the researchers at how I only felt safe with John. I would scream and shout, crying in emotional pain that he had to look after me. One day we were walking down the street and I stopped and looked at the sky. I sensed a danger but I didn’t know what off. I grabbed John and said I need an ambulance, something catastrophic is about to happen, something is coming, I can feel it. John held me, cuddled me and kissed my head. He told me I wasn’t in danger and that he would always look after me and that he loved me. The episode on top of the Vic resembled that fear, that idea that something was about to happen and Martins attempt to gain Stacey’s trust so he could keep her and Arthur’s safe.

On social media, women who have experienced PP came out to thank the programme :

” The programme has been spot on in terms of psychosis . Lacey is always fantastic at these story lines”

” The hallucinations have been filmed brilliantly. The blurred screens, seeing them from the characters viewpoint is very realistic. It’s obvious this has been researched well” .

Some people who had experienced hallucinations said the blurring didn’t work well as when experiencing a hallucination , it’s totally real to the sufferer which is true . I guess the programme needed to find a way where the viewer would be able to differentiate when Stacey was experiencing a hallucination and the blurring enabled that to happen. I thought it was good but it’s personal preference isn’t it? One scene that was absolutely incredible was when she thought her Uncle Charlie was driving her cab. It was extraordinary.

Health Care Professionals came out on Twitter in force to say they felt it’s not an accurate portrayal. Lots of things are being said such as ‘where is the health visitor, where is the midwife/this wouldn’t happen in real life/she has bipolar, a doctor would have told her family about pp when she was pregnant and have said ‘I guess if they show how hcps do get things right, it would be less dramatic wouldn’t it? ‘ Yes it would, as would the real life cases that are left hanging by lack of care from HCPs. This storyline hasn’t just been dreamed up – everyday women are struggling and begging for help and it’s not given. The reality of mums alarming symptoms being picked up is not the utopia some think it is. I get phone calls from gps saying ‘Eve, I have a woman who seems unwell with postnatal sadness, what can I do with her? ‘‘. I am not a medical professional!!!! I’ve spoken to GPs, midwives and health visitors who have told me there is no such thing as a perinatal psychiatrist. HEAD.BANG.OM.TABLE. I went to a perinatal conference last year and someone from a London MBU said ‘we always have spare beds, I’m baffled how women are struggling for help’. I spoke to him afterwards about two women who had been told they were on a waiting list for beds in the unit he worked in. No liaison , no clue.

Health professionals – don’t take Eastenders lack of you as an insult. Some of you are truly wonderful, you have fantastic pathways to care that work, mums se the same midwife all through their pregnancy, health visitors notice that mum doesn’t seem right and she is fast tracked to get help. Hurrah. However, this isn’t always the case . I am on hundreds of mums groups on Facebook, some of them specific perinatal groups where there are countless ‘ I have bi-polar and I am 8 months pregnant and no one has mentioned postpartum psychosis to me / I have told my health visitor I don’t like looking at my baby and she said she knows 16 yr. olds who have babies who are coping so I should as well/ my gp said PND is a modern illness that didn’t exist when he had children and that I should be grateful I have a child as she had a woman in surgery this morning who wants IVF/ I told the midwife I thought I saw my baby inside the pillow moving around when she was actually in her cot and she said to get some sleep / when should the midwife come ? I had a baby two weeks ago and keep phoning the clinic and they say I need to request a visit ? I have and she didn’t show up/ I had my 6 week check and read that I would have to fill in a questionnaire on my feelings and I was so relieved as I have been having scary thoughts of seeing my baby fall down the stairs and I’m scared . but at the six week check there was nothing to fill in and they only saw me for 3 minutes’.

HCPS – use Eastenders as a learning experience , a learning objective even . sling out an email to all your health visitors and say ‘ when you visit a new mum , remember she may be emotionally unwell and may feel like she can’t say. Look out for these symptoms ( List them ) and ensure you tell her you are there to help her if she is feeling overwhelmed or is becoming unwell’. I keep reading tweets saying ‘I’m a HCP and I’m screaming at the TV , where is the Health visitor’ but dont scream at the TV . This storyline is based on real life experiences and heavily lends itself to mine – john recalls how , when Joe was five weeks old our hv said ‘ to be honest, there is nothing we can do. Go to Nottingham , they can probably help you there’. However , the researchers did their work – it’s not just me who was forgotten about , lots of women have been . and I hope the storyline helps to jog the minds of commissioners to even out the postcode lottery of perinatal mental health support so that we can end the scenario of in one area a mum goes into a mother and baby unit the day after her baby arrives after her psychosis is picked up on the postnatal ward by a perinatal psychiatrist, and in the other , another mum is discharged from hospital while her mind is whirling in the air and every HCP she sees says , oh its fine , how much does the baby weigh though ?

Lots of comments I had come through said what this one does – ” I hope this storyline raises awareness amongst doctor, nurses, midwives and health visitors as well’.

Surely if you get PP, Social Services will take your baby away ?

One of the biggest fears about divulging your perinatal mental illness symptoms to doctors is that mums think they will take your baby away. I will say that when Stacey went into the adult without Arthur, I got lots of messages saying this will stop women coming forward because they think it means their baby will be taken from them.

This isn’t what happened with Stacey. Her baby wasn’t removed from her by social services – it went home with its dad so she could go into a ward where babies aren’t allowed and when a place opened up for her in a unit, she went into it with her baby. At no point in the storyline was there a mention of Arthur being removed from her for having PP.

The fear of a baby being taken is undoubtably one of the biggest reason mums don’t divulge their symptoms. It is beyond terrifying to think that by opening up to not feeling like you are in a rose petal covered bubble , that a doctor will say, right then, here take these pills, make yourself a cup of tea and pack the babies bag because Social Services will come and swoop them away at any moment. Without explanation and with a fear that they will never see them again. Health care professionals, need to do all they can to reassure mums what will and won’t likely happen, point them to guidance that explains procedures and also explain that Social Services, if they do ever become involved, actually want to support . A doctor friend of mine pointed me to this page that she shares with her patients when they say they are scared to be honest about their feelings because they are scared their precious baby will be removed from their care – http://childprotectionresource.online/reporting-post-natal-depression/ .

We know that very few mothers are a real risk to their baby but there may be times of course where extra help , support and intervention is needed. But, by helping to soothe the very real fears of mums would undoubtedly mean we would have more of them coming forward early on in their illness and getting help more quickly.

I never knew this could happen. Eastenders has opened my eyes. 

Well it’s certainly raised awareness hasn’t it ? Where do I start???!!! It has been beyond the realms of anything we as perinatal mental health survivors , campaigners and supporters could have wished for. It enabled spin off programmers such as the moving ‘ My baby, psychosis and me’ documentary ( https://www.maternalmentalhealth.org.uk/my-baby-psychosis-and-me/) featuring my brave friend Hannah to be filmed which gave an insight into mother and baby units and the treatments offered in them.

Below are some of the comments I had about the programme and a major theme is a thanks to the BBC for researching it so well , the charities involved and bringing in real life case studies like Kathryn and I in to tell a realistic tale.

” Fantastic informative storyline”

” This whole storyline has been handled amazingly. I can’t keep my eyes off the screen”

” Eve , this storyline has really opened my eyes , thank you to all involved. The BBC , you and Kathryn, the lady Jenni you mention , the charities involved and the actors”.

“The bbc should be applauded , and mind and you and your friend. Your input into this is helping society understand my more and specifically in new mums. Thank you so much”

” My sister was talking about the storyline and she is in awe of it”

” This storyline is so educational and will help lots of parents everywhere.

” I was telling my husband how impressed I was with the storyline this evening and how sad I was for the characters involved . It’s good to know the producers/writers take their roles so seriously and get people with first hand experience involved to help them share such an important thing.”

“Well done for this.i didn’t even know this was a condition and naively put it down to her bipolar”

” The eastenders storyline has brought me to tears and now knowing the involvement of real mums, it has me even more”

” Before eastenders, I had never heard of this illness before and education really is about losing the stigma attached.

” I have been watching eastenders and although this storyline is upsetting, it has been done amazingly. It makes sense they have consulted with real life women. It will raise awareness and probably win them awards”

” It was heartbreaking to watch , my heart goes out to anyone who finds the self in that situation. It’s good that it’s being highlighted by the bbc , it’s more common than we think” .

” I am hooked on the storyline and it will help so many”

” I had honestly never heard of this until eastenders started doing to storyline. Well done for raising awareness”

Stacey needs to be with her baby – the need for mother and baby units 

Perhaps the most incredible thing to happen from the storyline is the awareness of specialized psychiatric mother and baby units. There are less than twenty across the UK and there are a million more times of women who need a bed in one. The night that Stacey went to to the normal psych ward without her baby, mums groups on Facebook erupted in horror. I had been sure to tell admin to tag me in any threads so I could explain things and I shared my blog on why units are so essential.

The outpouring of disbelief and desire to help change this was phenomenal. A woman is 33 times more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric ward after having a bay more than any other time in her life and the NICE guidelines are clear that women should be placed in a specialized psychiatric mother and baby unit. But there is one fairly big problem – we don’t have a lot of them. There are around 700,000 babies born every year in the UK. More than every one in ten mums develop postnatal depression, and 1-2 in every thousand mums develop postpartum psychosis. So , there appears to be a far amount of unwell mums but we only have 17 units across the whole of the UK.

Everyone in the medical world knows there aren’t enough units or beds in the ones that exist. And even though this is the case, units are still closing down . There are no units in Wales or Northern Ireland and it’s been said that overall , about 80 more beds are needed across the UK to support mums and babies during recovery. This means that my story of having to trek millions of miles to get into a unit is not a one-off. There are lots of women with stories similar to mine or even worse, having to take a place in a normal psych unit without their baby,which is ridiculous as it defeats the entire object of everything. Dr Liz McDonald, one of the country’s leading perinatal psychiatrists, calls this“the bleakest of all postcode lotteries” .

One person who messaged me said ” why couldn’t they just send her to one of those was where she can take the baby with her? ” and the point was , they could have , if the was a space , but there wasn’t , just like in real life. If a woman can’t get a place in a mother and baby unit and she can’t be treated at home, she can be admitted to an adult ward , without her baby. And this is what happened to Stacey in Eastenders. And the soap did this well and knew what they were doing when they wrote this part in but I am not sure they realized how powerful this story insertion would be when watched by the public, when watched by mums at home . I saw it unwind on social media and the response was nothing short of incredible . Incredible in the sense that they realized how awful this was and wanted to know how they could help change this.

A main area for concern was the fact that Stacey went into a psychiatric unit without her baby. The programmers had showed her breastfeeding in her sling so mums in these groups knew she was feeding her baby. There was horror when Martin went home with the baby and despair that she couldn’t go into somewhere with him . To put it into context, within an hour of this episode being shown , my blog on mother and baby units had been read 12,000 times.

Below are some of the comments sent to me on Facebook from people I don’t know.

” I know it’s only a programme but eastenders- can they really say Stacey’s breastfed baby cannot stay with her? I know she is suffering from her illness but she doesn’t pose a threat to her son either”

” Eve, have shared the link to your blog about mother and baby units so many times since the Stacey storyline. Seeing people discuss the storyline on Facebook and them not quite getting the reason behind it means it’s essential for them to know why it’s running”

” I know it’s just a programme but surely they can’t take Arthur away from Stacey ?” .

” I had goose bumps and cried during last nights episode . Completely heartbreaking for Stacey. Mental health in general needs to be taken more seriously in this country.

” is anyone else really affected by Stacey on eastenders tonight ? Is it correct that if a newborn is breastfed, it’s still not allowed to stay with you in the hospital? So upsetting”.

The feeling then switched to desire to help mums. The ‘what can we do’ feeling was apparent across the whole of the social media pages I am on. See some of the quotes I had sent to me below:

” this is an amazing thing you are doing with Eastenders Eve.and your friend Jenni and Kathryn and the charities involved you have mentioned. Is there a specific charity people could support through just giving or similar to help women with PP or help fund more mother and baby units?’

” wouldn’t it be time to start a petition to ensure there are enough psychiatric mother and baby units in more places around the country?”

” eastenders is tough going tonight, mum and baby should never be separated . I had no idea this went on. This is awful. How can we raise money for this Eve ? Any specific charities ‘”

In all the groups I am in and across public pages , I posted links to Open House Nottingham , a group run by former patients star of the Nottingham Mother and Baby Unit I was in, who provide peer support to current patients https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/openhouse and Action On Postpartm Psychosis, who started the #realstaceys campaign http://www.app-network.org/realstaceys/ .

There was a brilliant tweet one night which said ” ohh, eastenders just got political in the postpartum psychosis storyline” when Martin told another character about the lack of units across the country and they were right. Yes, this is the extreme end of what can happen but it’s exactly that – if there is no room at the mother and baby inn, the mum can go to a normal ward and her little baby goes home without her. Which is not what should be happening.

If you watched Eastenders you will know that as soon as Martin found out about Mother and Baby Units, he desperately tried to get Stacey a bed in one , calling them up and down the country to try and nab a space as soon as one became free. It was hard watching these scene because this is exactly what John did while trying to get me a bed- we were in London and no one knew of any units, no one knew of any beds and then John, after finding out where units were located thanks to Dr Google, sat and called them , begging and pleading to get me in. His mum then mentioned her friend had told her there was one in the hospital near them and as soon as he heard this , we packed up and got the train thee , me like a zombie on the train, staring into space. A 200 mile journey to get the help I so desperately needed ,a 200 mile journey to keep me alive.

After numerous doctor appointments , locums losing notes and doctors telling me unless I had planned my own suicide I was classed as low risk, I was assessed and went into the unit to begin my recovery. As we walked down the hallway and I saw the signs saying psychiatric wards, I was crying. John held my hand tightly and kissed my forehead. He told me he would never leave me, that he would love me forever and that I was going to get better.

When we arrived in the mother and baby unit, the nurse gave me a hug and told me everything would be ok.they were there to help me , I was safe , Joe was safe and I was going to get better. There were bedrooms, a family room, a living room it’s toys and books,a bathroom with bubble bath and a kitchen with cupboards full of chocolate biscuits,which I took full advantage off and stuffed my face. It was lovely and nothing like I had assumed a psychiatric ward would be. I was shown to my room and saw a cot in there for Joe. He obviously slept in our room at home but john was with me then. No no no he isn’t going to be in he with me is he I thought. I knew john couldn’t stay with me and the realisation that I was going to be in a bedroom on my own with joe was terrifying. I had a massive meltdown. I pushed a chair into the middle of my room and decided I felt safe in it and sat in it screaming . John got the nurse who came in and sat on the arm of the chair and cuddled me. She kept saying it’s ok eve you can do this , we will help you ok? I promise you and kissed me on the forehead.

I was in such a state , I was given some meds which I only knew as magic blue pills to calm me. Once they had , I sat on the bed with john and the nurse talked to me. John explained my terror at being with Joe on my own and she explained that in order for me to recover, I needed Joe with me. Yes, it would be hard but essentially I needed to , with safe support, feel the fear, do it, and work through the problems with the help of the unit. They said I needed exposure therapy meaning I needed to be in the unit recovering but while getting used to Joe’s presence in a safe calm environment and doing things for him on my own.

I was petrified but the nurses knew exactly what they were doing. They were clear Joe would be in the room with me , I was no danger to him but they would gently support me . So , for the first week , I slept in the bedroom next to the nurses office , with Joe in the cot ,with my bedroom door open. The nurses would sit there on a chair and when I woke up screaming , they would come and sit with me and rock me back to sleep stroking my hair telling me I was ok. They would say , Joe needs a feed and stand next to me reassuringly while I lifted him from the cot and would sit on the chair by the door , not crowding me on the bed, but not so far away that I would feel so scared that I couldn’t function.

The first week was long, hard and terrifying. John would be waiting outside the unit doors to open at 9am every morning and stayed until the doors closed at night . He would lay on my bed with me and every so often , I would feel ok to have Joe lay with us . One day, the nurses said , why don’t you have a bath. Joe was asleep and john washed me. At the time I don’t think I appreciated it but now I see what a lovely thing that was and as I came out of the bathroom the nurse said Joe needs a feed mummy and would you like a hot chocolate or something ? Gently gently, I was being guided to start accepting Joe into my life, the thing that would be a constant but what I was so scared off.

The nurses gave me hugs and promised me things would get better. One of them gave me a folder to read which contained letters from women who had been in the unit and recovered. The stories gave me hope. And they had got better.

There were nurses on duty 24 hours a day but in the unit, you are encouraged to spend time with your baby and bond. I washed Joe’s clothes, sat with him in the day, looking out of the window and reading to him and when I woke up in the night having meltdowns, feelings of being out of my body or panic attacks (which were very frequent), I could go to the lounge and talk to a nurse to calm down. My time there was very difficult – I had debilitating moments and felt scared but the help and support of doctors and nurses who understood the illness helped me on my road to recovery.
At the end of the first week there, I did something I hadn’t been able to do since the day Joe was born – I sat on my bed with my door , which had been open for a week , closed. I peered at Joe, I felt nervous but this was massive. With the support of john , the nurses, everyone in the unit, I was on my own in a room with Joe, with the door closed. It was the biggest turning point in my illness and when I emerged from my room , the nurses hugged me. My mum turned up and the nurses told her what I had done and she cried, john told me he was so proud of me. And I was proud of myself. For me , if I had been in a normal psych ward I wouldn’t have experienced that moment. It was my first big personal step to recovery and the biggest turning point in my illness.

My time in the mother and baby unit saved me. It was safe , warm , kind and caring. The staff treated me like a real person and understood my symptoms. They knew I wasn’t a monster and they knew how scared I was. And my fear was of being alive. Being alive and being mother to a child that was here forever , a child I thought was a mistake. I was cared for and nurtured. I was cuddled and given confidence. I had people looking after me who knew how to make me better and my goodness, they did. And the programme showing Stacey experiencing similar showed viewers just how important the units are :

” it’s hard to watch but totally agree there should be more facilities for mother and baby. It’s not fair to rip them apart like that’

” babies should be allowed to be with their mums at all times. Why couldn’t they get a cot in from labour ward for the baby and put it next to her”

” I work on mental health wards and they aren’t the right environment for a baby. Hence why more special mother and baby ones are needed. I think the actress deserves a medal for her acting and I believe if we keep watching it , it will highlight the need for mother mother and baby units in the UK”

My time in the unit was fairly short but my absolute recovery was far longer. I still have and always will now suffer from anxiety but it’s an after effect I can and do manage. Sometimes it’s hard , most of the time , I control it and not the other way around. But the unit kickstarted my re-introduction to being me again , into being well and I to being the mum I had dreamed of being. Because of the unit I got better and I am alive to be mummy to the best boy I the whole world ever.

If you watched Eastenders, my story might be familiar to you. Stacey got a place in a unit, she was pensive about having the baby back in with her but the staff gently encouraged it. They gave her a folder of recovery stories and the staff were kind and supportive. I saw one comment on Twitter saying ” while the action was good during the postpartum psychosis storyline , the hospital was hugely unrealistic”. The team spent an awful lot of time researching units . They visited them and Kathryn and I would get emails from the Eastenders team and the lovely people at Mind and phone calls about positions of furniture and whether flowers were allowed on units. They built a specific set and it looked very like the unit I was in and the ones I have visited.

There was a quote on Twitter that has stuck in my mind. It talked about ” the incredible power of soaps as an agent of socialization. Postpartum psychosis in our living rooms” and it’s so true. This very serious but unknown about illness ,was being played into the homes of millions in real time. It focused on many different aspects – the symptoms, the treatment and the recovery and great care was taken to ensure this was portrayed responsibly and accurately.

I don’t know if the eastenders postpartum psychosis storyline will lead to bette healthcare provision for those suffering but what I do know is that it’s informed millions of women and their families about the condition so should it bolt them out of the blue, they at least know something about it. They at least know there are specific places for them to go to get better and they know that recovery is truly possible. It may not bring us the 80 or so more beds in the units , which it has been determined we need to support those women who are unwell and bring them to a recoverable point but it has served to inform and for that , I and the other #realstaceys are truly grateful.

 

A spoon full of sympathetic sugar really can help the medicine go down

Sometimes you go to the doctor because a bigger than your average blackhead on your neck looks like it is about to ooze something that could garner 3 million disgust loving hits on You Tube. I don’t know about you , but I have been known to fashion a head torch at 3am to lovingly turn to the husbands back in bed to try and seek out a juicy blackhead for me to squeeze . According to him, the head torch fell out of the camping box above us and my acrylic nail accidentally stabbed him in the back while I was caressing his big strong back , overwhelmed by it in the middle of the night . But I digress…..

You think , hmm, said blackhead is a bit disgusting and is starting to do my head in a bit. I’ve left it a while and didn’t go to the doctor, as who goes to the doc with something that a fair amount of people can suffer from but no one really talks about – you don’t really hear people going ” Susan , look , look at this blackhead booming out of the back of my neck” while at the water filter in work do you ? Unless you’re me maybe . But , it hurts now and you’re finding it hard to cover up and people are starting to notice that you are wearing a polo neck everyday in your windowless office, so no one notices it. You know when you go you the doctor they will may say ,why didn’t you come sooner , ping on the latex gloves and fix your little problem there and then. If you are unlucky, they might say , yikes, that little blighter is gaining some momentum and has surpassed blackhead stage and is now a giant come done and I’m not too sure I can whip it out of your neck here so let’s refer you to the specialist to cauterize it which will fix you up good and proper. Or , at worst , which you most definitely you don’t want to hear is , you have skin, it’s a blackhead , it can happen and even though it’s three foot wide and making your life a misery, you just need to pull yourself together and think how lucky you are that you have skin. Some people would really like skin.

So – why did you wait so long to go to the doctor and pull down your roll neck to reveal your ailment ?

– you were embarrassed and thought the doctor won’t have seen anything so awful in their entire career ?
– You were ashamed and thought the doctor would think you were weak for not being able to get rid of the bloody thing yourself ?
– You were worried the doctor would have concerns about your hygiene and thought they might send you to social services ?
– Not take you seriously and say blackheads are to be expected as you have a face . And to pull yourself together and get on with it. Everyone gets blackheads?

Maybe one ? Maybe all three ? Maybe for another reason ? But its not just blackheads that make us shuffle our feet slowly when it comes to going to the doctor though is it ? What about when we produce a baby and become a mothership and don’t feel the ‘ oh my god isn’t it the best thing ever’ joy the supplement in the Sunday newspaper said it would be? When you are pregnant , we are fed the line that all the pain we go through is worth it , when you see your baby , the moons will align , your heart and head will ping together like sugar and spice and all things nice and life will continue in a more joyous way than ever.

So when this doesn’t happen , your head and heart go a tad haywire. You are a mother now, you have a beautiful child , it knows your heartbeat , your smell, your voice. But you don’t feel quite right. You don’t just feel sad, you feel like your heart is aching in a way you have never experienced. You are beyond tired, you feel scared , you aren’t quite sure if you can do this . This new job you have for life, it’s not just tough, it’s unknown. You have presents and visitors and overly helpful mother in laws coming to stay and bleaching the toilet , ironing your paper maternity pants and eating all your biscuits but you feel more lonely than you have ever felt in your life. Life is whizzing on around you , with balloons and cards clogging up the living room. But soon the balloons start to deflate. And as they do , so do you . Your head doesn’t feel like it’s yours anymore, your mind feels like it’s been taken over and you feel like nature is playing a terrible trick on you.

If your lucky, you may have heard that this can happen when you have a baby. Postnatal depression , anxiety, OCD, psychosis can rear their very unwelcome heads. And rather like your mother in law, they make themselves comfy in your space and don’t go easily. You’ve had enough , it’s time to go now thank you but no no , doesn’t budge. And sometimes it won’t easily without a bit of help. And this help usually comes in the shape of a health care professional.

However , it’s becoming more and more obvious to me, my friends who were ill like me, the fab health care professionals I have met in the last six years since I was unwell and the window cleaner, that lots of mums don’t go to the GP or tell their health visitor when they start experiencing symptoms of Postnatal Depression etc. Scratch when they start – some don’t go or say even after they have been feeling like it for a while. Why the dickens is this I hear you cry? I am a member of approx 37657546 mums groups on Facebook to try and see when a mum feels low and to signpost her to decent help. Aside from being smalltimemum1 , in the real world, I have been known to do a little bit of research and so I thought I would do some digging to see why mums don’t go to the doctor. No fancy sample sizes, no base weights , no blah blah research talk . Instead , just anecdotal evidence from real mums who have suffered. I put posts on some large Facebook groups where I know mums have posted about being unwell and asked them to say why they didn’t go to the doctor or tell another health care professional or if they did , weren’t entirely honest about their symptoms .

This blog is not to throw a pile of used maternity pads at doctors in disgust. Quite the opposite. I want to help mums. And to do that I want to help doctors understand mums whose minds have taken a trip somewhere they don’t want it to be after they have a baby and how their words and actions can impact on them. And I want to do this because when I became unwell with Postpartum Psychosis I encountered many health care professionals who were stumped at what was wrong with me. Some were ridiculous – ‘you have a baby now, it’s what women do, you will be ok soon’. One told me to bake a cake. Some said they had never seen a mum in a state like me before, babbling about cutting through the clouds with scissors and some said, oh my love, you’re not in a good way are you? We need to get you better.

The most helpful were those who let me cry on them , let my poor husband cry on them and who said , I’m not quite sure how to help you but I am going to phone a colleague who I think knows more than me. I’m writing this to give docs a bit more of a clue about how their actions , which may seem inoffensive and slight at delivery time , can have a long term effect on the woman. And what they can do to provide some comfort, some help and some hope to the woman in front of them , who desperately needs it.

There was a brilliant report published last year called ‘Falling Through The Gaps’ ( http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/toolkits/~/media/0DF1836E7D6B46788519F79E0ACF6EB2.ashx) which surveyed women , asking why they didn’t go to the GP when displaying symptoms of a perinatal mental illness . It’s a brilliant report and I suggest you read it. All of it. And then eat it so it stays in you ( don’t really do that – imagine having to go to casualty with that one). It has a great quote which I think sums up the thoughts of the women of the world – ‘ Once a woman has asked for help and need has been identified, the way GPs and other professionals respond is then crucial to ensure women get the treatment and support they require.’

I was eventually helped when Joe was six weeks old. Hello Dr Ghandi in Psychiatric Outpatients who gently asked me questions about whether I was hearing voices while nodding his head and saying don’t worry, I know this is awful but you will get some help now. Hello to the nurses in the Nottingham Mother and Baby Unit who, upon my walking in , sans knickers with a pair of leggings covering my lady area , yelling that I could smell burning and in the middle of an enormous panic attack at the thought of being in a room on my own with my son, took my hand and gave me a warm long cuddle and stroked my cheek and hair while rocking me on the bed. Hello to Dr Mark, the psychologist who sat and listened to me self analyze about why this happened to me and saw me every two weeks to ensure my rocky road to recovery didn’t turn into a collapsed jelly. Hello to my mental health nurse Gwyneth, who did my EMDR therapy and made me follow her finger around the room so I didn’t fear my memories anymore. Hello to Dr Fraser , my old GP who is now retired who desperately tried to get me help in London when all I faced was brick walls and hello to my health visitor Louise who , upon my discharge from the unit and my return to our home 200 miles away four months later, came and sat with me everyday at home for two hours. Thank you for letting me cry on you, thank you for admitting you weren’t quite sure what had happened to me but sat and held my hand and told me it was going to be ok. Thank you for sorting out Homestart to come and help me get through the day. Thank you for telling me I was a wonderful mummy during the time I felt I had let my own child down. Without all of you , I would not be here , in my living room marveling at my six year olds football skills. I wouldn’t be making a giant Jaffa cake with him after school and I wouldn’t be able to help support other mums who are in the grip of this awful illness.

The medical profession quite simply saved my life. My family and I are forever grateful. But I also know how my recovery could have been started far earlier than it did. I shouldn’t have had to wait for nearly two months after my sons birth for someone to finally listen to me and see what a terrible state I was in. I saw GP after GP, went to casualty, saw different midwives and health visitors , all who didn’t know anything about me and some who didn’t have the time to listen to my husband run through all my hideous symptoms as there were 24 other patients waiting to be seen in reception. I was barely looked at by them. Health visitors came to my house and prodded my boobs and asked ‘ if baby is doing well/ if mum is walking around to help her recovery from her c section’. I was void of a name. I was referred to as ‘ mum’ and treated like just another entity on their very long list of new mums to visit that day.

Women go to the GP when they feel like they have had enough. They don’t want feel like hurling their baby out of the window. They don’t want to feel they would be better off dead. They want to feel happy, to enjoy life again, to not be crying everyday. And to leave the doctors with not any flicker of hope can be truly awful because where do they turn now? They have probably booked appointments and cancelled them numerous times, with nerves kicking in and a fear of ‘ what do I say to the doctor?’ Flashing through their mind all day and night. It’s likely they have scoured the Internet for weeks on end to try and put a name to their thoughts and feelings and the moment they walk into the doctors room if they do make it to the appointment can be so nerve wracking that they can probably hear their heart pounding . They know a magic cure won’t be given to them , they know it may take meds, therapy, time , bad days here and there but they go to the doctor to start their recovery. And when no sense of that is felt when they leave , trust me , it’s awful. You feel like your options are exhausted. You’ve tried to smile, you have tried to live day by day , you tried the doctor and what now ? Where do you go now for help?

Below are some of the reasons women told me they didn’t tell a health care professional how they felt or didn’t return to the doctor after an unsuccessful first trip.

Postnatal Depression ‘isn’t real’ .

“I was told by my health visitor that PND didn’t exist in the 40s and 50s and she doesn’t understand why women have babies if they can’t cope with motherhood. She said that everyday she hears ‘ I have PND’ and that she didn’t hear it this much 15 years ago and it’s Loose Women on the TV putting ideas into women’s heads. So I didn’t go to the doctor as I thought they wouldn’t listen

This is an actual quote from someone who messaged me. So , let’s get this straight – PND is a modern illness that is caused by women wanting to have it all ? In ye olden days , women got wed, got preg, had ten babies and then made a steak and kidney suet pudding for tea. They had no time to be depressed – they had 18 pairs of pants to boil wash ! No time to cry when there is jam to be made for your owner ( husband ) to spread on his crumpet ! Ugh.

We of course know this is ridiculous . It’s been reported that Queen Victoria had postnatal depression and that was a fairly long time ago? Look at this blog about a dear lady in 1850 who it seems suffered postnatal depression and psychosis( http://tmsorangementalhealthcaretreatments.d20blogs.org/2014/02/12/emma-riches-postnatal-depression-1850s/) – not quite this modern illness is it. In short, it’s been around since cave ladies were having a free birth in a rock pool but it wasn’t spoken about. Women were treated for ‘nerves’, had their hands restrained, put in an asylum, hidden from public view and forgotten about.

I’ve heard it all from people as to why postnatal depression is a modern illness over the last few years. Daily Fail articles and the comments sections have some real corkers , such as- wait for it- having a baby outsides of marriage must cause women to feel hysterical as there is apparently no stability. So married women never get it? Hmm. They might as well have said that Postnatal depression is caused by radio signals and for a woman to turn all her electronic equipment off and she may see her mood may improve. I’m no Bill Gates. I can’t even make an excel spreadsheet and have to use a calculator to divide a £20 lunch bill between two people but I am struggling to understand how my wifi password can cause a panic attack. And how turning Radio Four off can stop me from wanting to give the baby to the nice lady next door and walking away.

It’s not a modern illness and for a health car professional to say that is ill informed and dangerous. Not all symptoms show themselves in the same way for some women. Some paint a mask on to show they are coping – dropping one kid at school with another in a buggy to be dropped at nursery while the newborn is strapped to the chest, going to work, cooking four different dinners, waking up 17 times a night to feed the baby . People say oooohhh look at Alison, hasn’t she taken motherhood in her stride- whizzing around and still has her hair perfectly curled in place. But Alison could actually be trying to mask her feelings. The hair and make up could be a cover to how she is feeling and a doctor needs to try and find a way through that so Alison opens up. And so we come to our next section ….

You can’t have Postnatal Depression as your eyebrows are on fleek

One woman told me her doctor said ” I seriously doubt you have postnatal depression . You’re up and out with the baby and have done your face. You look lovely so go out and enjoy your baby” and another said ‘I told my gp for a year that I thought i felt sad and very tearful and has no energy. I told her I had felt suicidal. She said “but you’re able to tell me this and this means you know your own mind. I’m not worried about you”. Not all mothers with PND are wandering around with the look of a life sentence strewn across an overly aged face . Some of them can even put their own pants on would you believe. For some mums , they continue with the grooming they did before baby came along. For some , they apply more make up, iron even more clothes, look swankier than ever because they are trying to mask how they really feel. Inside they feel like a crumpled up bra in the corner but they don’t want everyone to know they are suffering . To the outside world they want to seem to be coping but not to the doctor. They trust that a doctor can see through the layer of foundation covering the cracks in their mind.

However , the Falling Through The Gaps report showed just under half of the GPs surveyed said they ‘received no specific training in this field of work to identify an unwell mum and of those who had received training, just under a quarter had accessed it as part of core specialist training for general practice’. So I can totally see why it’s difficult. Doctors are human, it’s hard to spot things sometimes and we have all had that thing when a friend is sad or low and we say ‘ ooh but she seemed so happy, it’s come out of no where’ . But what you could do is do more than look. Looks can be deceiving , that’s the point of them. Ask questions , glance into her eyes, hold her hand . Tell her it’s ok to be open , tell it that you know having a baby can be hard . Even if your a male doctor who has never had a kid. You might not know what’s it’s like to push a half stone lump of flesh out of your vaginal area or to have major surgery on your stomach to help the baby into the world, but you have a heart and a head. Ask the questions that give you more answers than yes and no and listen to her responses. One woman who sent me some comments wrote ” Mental health is different for us all. Listen to us, listen hard and you’ll hear us telling you”.

Really listen. I was asked if I wanted to flush the baby down the toilet by the first doctor I saw. I actually think in reality that I wanted to flush myself down the loo as my husband liked the baby and I didn’t want to be alive anymore,but as she asked me she laughed . So I let out a fuzzy laugh and said I don’t know. Letting out a laugh when asking your patient if they effectively want their baby to go away forever, as if an answer of yes would be the most ridiculous thing in the world isn’t helpful. And won’t give you a true reflection of the real answer.

Maybe something like this could help ? A fab PND charity in Cheshire called The Smile Group have produced this GP checklist for mums to fill in and hand to their GP should they not know how to or are too scared to verbalize their symptoms. It’s brilliant and has helped many mums. Maybe it could help some health professionals too ? http://www.thesmilegroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/GP-Checklist.pdf

I don’t want to go back to the doctor as they said before I can take any anti-depressants, I have to stop breastfeeding.

I don’t wanna go to the docs and talk as I don’t want to feel pressured in to stop breastfeeding to take medicine/ my doctor said he can’t prescribe any anti- depressants until I stop breastfeeding and to come back when I have and he will give me some / my doctor said I can’t expect to be able to take any tablets while I am feeding and to stop reading things on the internet that say I can

I am not a doctor. If I was, I would most probably pin someone’s ears back if they came to see me about an ingrown toenail. I once thought my child had two bum holes when in fact one of them was a dimple so consider yourselves lucky I didn’t have any big ideas about wandering around with a stethoscope. However, knowing some truly splendid doctors now I do lots of awareness raising work for maternal mental health ,I am aware there are some anti depressants you can take while still being able to give your child boobie. For some mums, as it was for me, breastfeeding is key to help them bond with their baby. I couldn’t look at or hold Joe on my own but I could breastfeed him. If I had been made to give it up, it would have been terrible. Thankfully, when I was ill, I went into a mother and baby unit and the docs had libraries worth of info on what meds I could take and I was able to untangle the mess my mind was in while being able to continue nursing Joe.

Obviously , there are some anti depressants you can’t nurse on. And then it’s for you and your health care professional to discuss the best way forward to ensure you get better and what choices need to be made.

But doctors – please please talk to mums who come to you with some care and if you arent sure what you can prescribe , there is a medication fairy called Wendy Jones who knows about medications breastfeeding and who more than happy to talk to health care professionals and or mums – her website is here http://www.breastfeeding-and-medication.co.uk. You can also call the Drugs in Breastmilk helpline on 0844 412 4665 for advice – more details are here on the Breastfeeding Network’s webpage https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/contact-us/helplines/.

The doctor said it was normal to feel overwhelmed after having a baby. So I thought wanting to feel like running away was what every mum on the street felt like.

‘The worst thing a GP said to me was ‘its normal’. I believed them and it was ‘normal’ for me to be depressed for a long time. I wish he had listened, I wish he’d said ‘come back if you don’t feel more positive in a couple of weeks’, I wish he’d asked me why I was feeling that way

It’s not normal .Its normal to have the baby blues but these go after a days or weeks. If it lasts longer and it’s causing you to feel like a sack of potatoes that have been mashed while raw, it needs help. It may be common but it’s not normal and it’s not ok to not be well. Mothers deserve more. They deserve to be happy and feeling sad , fearful and at times to the point of suicide,is not normal in any way, even if as a doctor, you have seen four other mums that morning saying the same thing. The Falling Through The Gaps report had this quote – ” At the six week check the GP asked if I felt low and I told her I felt dreadful and she just said “every mum feels that – it’s normal”. I really believe that support in those early months might have changed my life, and my child’s life for the better. I asked for help and felt unheard” .

Read the last sentence again.

She felt unheard. Even though she spoke out.

Do you know how much courage it takes for a mum to come to you and say she isn’t feeling good? As women, we are born and grow up knowing that nature has blessed us with a body to bear the fruits of a loom should we desire. According to nature, we have wombs in case we want to grow a baby, breasts are there as natures way of feeding them and our vaginas are there for a baby to come into the world and so when we have a baby and it all goes a bit haywire, we think , what on earth? My body has done what nature says it can do so why isn’t my mind doing the same ? I would stare at women on the street with a new baby and think , how come you haven’t pulled your hair from its roots yet? How are you smiling ? How can you hold your baby as I can’t hold mine as I shake too much as I am scared of him? We have this perpetuated image of how things should be, having read every single mother and baby magazine going while pregnant . So, when we don’t feel like that and we feel we need medical help, it takes a lot of strength for a mum to book the appointment , attend the appointment and speak at the appointment.

‘I never had a diagnosis after my first baby but I was incredibly unwell, I finally plucked up the courage to see a GP and he told me I had the baby blues and to go home have a cup of tea and a chocolate bar and everything would be fine. It was 18 incredibly dark and painful months, filled with a longing to take my own life, the certainty I didn’t deserve my baby and almost the end of my marriage before I found the courage to step into the Dr’s surgery again. Please don’t treat us like silly little girls and suggest chocolate as a solution to mental health issues

Where do I start with this example??? This is familiar to me as I too was told by a doctor, after my husband telling them I thought the duvet cover was dancing and I couldn’t be in the same room as my son, to make a cake and really spend some time eating it and to enjoy it. As nice as cakes and tea are, a slice of cheesecake isn’t going to stop someone from being scared of their child. If it did, the shelves of Tesco’s would be permanently empty and pharmacists wouldn’t have a job. Its not normal. Can you imagine the absolute bravery it takes for a mum to go to her doctor and say I keep having visions of hurting my baby? Imagine her spilling that all out, how she is afraid to be with her baby in case something happens , for a doctor to say go home home and eat a walnut whip ? Eating a walnut whip will not stop you having visions of dropping your baby. I doubt there needs to be any research into this either , it seems fairly obvious. This mum sums it up here – ” I had my third 3rd baby I started to get horrendous thoughts . I attempted to speak to my gp who was really not hearing me and told me it was normal.”

The doctor snorted when I said I wasn’t coping and made mine feel stupid for not being able to cope

“I was feeling no bond with my baby, i had most of the symptoms of PND including the crying all the time, feeling hopeless, useless etc, feeling like something terrible was going to happen etc. I tried to ask the GP for help (i was about 9 weeks PP) my husband was there too. I told him how i felt and that i feared i was battling PND. He chuckled to himself (the DR) and told me that it was normal for new mums to feel this way, then turned to my husband and said its probably just womanly problems. At this point i just wanted to cry. I didnt ask for help again until i was pregnant with my second child, and my depression came back with force”.

Womanly problems eh? Us hysterical women moaning as we are being forced to do more than wash the pots and service our husbands. Can’t cope with a baby when 97 year old Mrs Smith who lives at number 13 down the road , managed to have 12 babies and always had a smile on her face. Didn’t see her depressed did you? She had no time to be depressed! Pull yourself together woman. Chuckle chuckle vision.

I had a doctor ask me if I had planned my own suicide. I said no . Reason being , I was unable to get myself dressed or go to the toilet as I had forgotten how to. My poor husband turned into my carer and the only reason I was able to get to the doctors was because he sat me on the toilet, dressed me and plonked me in a seat at the surgery . I was in such a state i don’t think I could have planned anything let alone my own death. The doctor, without looking at me and staring at her screen said ‘ then you are low risk, go home and get some sleep. All will seem better the morning’ .

Well that morning I woke up and smashed my forehead into a wall. I told john I wanted to go under a bus and at one point locked myself in the bathroom babbling that the razor I was holding was nice and shiny and peaceful . I refused to look at my son and went on fours on my in laws bed and barked like a dog. As you can see, all that rest the doctor advised four hours before at 3am hadn’t made all seem better had it? I thought I was a jack Russell looking for my lost tail…… I was in a psychiatric mother and baby unit a few hours later.

Reacting in a different way however can prove such a difference. Someone sent me through the following quote and my mood shifted from sadness to joy ask read it. Take a look.

I went to docs after speaking with m HV . Doc said I was over reacting, worrying about nothing and I shouldn’t expect to feel the same about my second baby as I did my first!! I was so shocked!! I told him things i had never said out loud!! I came out, called my HV and within 5mins was back in and seeing a different doctor who was amazing. He saw me ay least once a week until my councillor appointment came through. With my 3rd I decided to take the advice of my midwife and saw a councillor every week through my whole pregnancy x so far so good xx hard work and I use the coping strategies I learnt every day. My son’s (12yrs, 6yrs,22mths) are amazing!! Most of the time;)”

Look at the difference with a different approach. And how positive the mum is at the end. Her happiness, her children’s happiness and her recovery happened because someone listened to her and took steps to help her. This my friends is what good looks like.

I don’t want to tell anyone how I feel as I am worried my baby will be taken away by Social Services

” I never talk to anyone about how I feel and the thoughts I have had continuously going through my head because I worry that if I got professional help , they would take my daughter from me.”

“I didn’t ask for help because I had thoughts of hurting my little boy. I’d heard so many stories about Social Services and I just knew he would be taken away and id be called a bad parent. What I had wasn’t normal at all & I would be taken into a mental hospital.”

You can see that mums are terrified of opening one up. They are terrified their baby will be taken from them and that ‘bad mother’ will be written all over their files. An article in the holy grail that is the Daily Fail ( bear with me , yes it’s awful and I usually take glee in chucking into the bin) said that as many as 35,000 mothers each year are suffering in silence from post-natal depression, with many too afraid to seek help in case their babies are taken away from them. To live your life day after day with distressing visions entering your head on loop is like Nightmare on Elm Street crossed with Groundhog Day. They don’t just go. They seep through and stop you in your tracks. And most importantly, you don’t want them. You don’t like them. You want them to go away go away go away.

“Everyone worries about their baby and whether they’re safe so I thought it was just normal, never mind the fact I was washing my hands to the point they would cracking and bleed from fear they were contaminated and something awful would happen to him. That was just the begining. Negative scary thoughts started ruling my life. I was scared all the time but more scared if telling people what these thoughts were o was sure my son would be taken away from”.

Please please please when someone comes to you with symptoms of something like intrusive thoughts, what you should be saying is , well done for coming , I know this wasn’t easy. You aren’t evil, this doesn’t mean you want to hurt your baby and we are going got get you some support. Reassure them that Social Services, if intervention is ever needed in any case , doesn’t mean their baby will be automatically taken from them and repeat repeat and repeat again that they are not a bad parent but rather they are experiencing the symptoms of an illness. And why ? Because this may be the only chance to . And if you handle that chance wrong , that mother may not come back again. And if you read the first example above , that mother sunk to a terrible terrible low where she admits she almost took her life and she didn’t go to another GP for almost two years. And that isn’t good enough. That mother deserves to lead a happy life with her baby. And she deserves to be alive.

The fear of a baby being taken is undoubtably one of the biggest reason mums don’t divulge their symptoms. It is beyond terrifying to think that by opening up to not feeling like you are in a rose petal covered bubble , that a doctor will say, right then, here take these pills, make yourself a cup of tea and pack the babies bag because Social Services will come and swoop them away at any moment. Without explanation and with a fear that they will never see them again. As health care professionals, you need to do all you can to reassure mums what will and won’t likely happen, point them to guidance that explains procedures and also explain that Social Services, if they do ever become involved, actually want to support . A doctor friend of mine pointed me to this page that she shares with her patients when they say they are scared to be honest about their feelings because they are scared their precious baby will be removed from their care – http://childprotectionresource.online/reporting-post-natal-depression/. We know that very few mothers are a real risk to their baby but there may be times of course where extra help , support and intervention is needed. But, by helping to soothe the very real fears of mums would undoubtedly mean we would have more of them coming forward early on in their illness and getting help more quickly.


The doctor said I was too young to have pnd so I left and didn’t go back. I felt stupid for going and wondered what the hell could be wrong with me.

Hmm. Mental illnesses don’t discriminate . They can affect anyone at any time and seeing as 10-15 women in every 100 who have a baby develop postnatal depression,these women can be any age. Maybe it’s the ‘you are young , what have you got to be worried about attitude’ that is sometimes chucked at younger people that made this line come out ? What should this lady have done ? Counted down , sadly , to her next birthday where her symptoms would suddenly be valid? ‘ happy birthday to me , I’m not full of glee. I feel very sad and don’t want to drink tea’. There was some research done into age of mother and risks of postnatal depression which you can read an abstract from here http://www.morrispsych.com/postpartum-depression-are-older-mothers-more-at-risk/ and it confirms that age alone is not a factor for increased risk. So , whether you are 16 or 65. It can affect you .

It would be really nice to see the same person more than once

A massive reason for no disclosure appears to be because people are simply fed up of having to re- tell their story 87 times to 9767 different health care professionals. So you pluck up the courage to see one doc, blurt it all out, doctor is brilliant, supports , talks and books you a follow up in two weeks where they will discuss meds and you go back and it’s a new doctor. Who reads the screen instead of looking at you and nods while you re-tell your tale of wanting to run out of the house at 2am and never return and then says I don’t think meds are right for you . You think , but the other doctor said such and such. And then the health visitor comes round who is different to the one who came and weighed the baby and she throws in that postnatal depression can’t be diagnosed until12 weeks. When the first doctor said it was after six weeks. And this rings true with the Falling Through The Gaps report says that a few GPs said that information sharing did not work as well as it could.

‘Finally screwed up my courage to go to GP when #2 was a few months old. He seemed embarrassed and gave me a helpline number. Couldn’t face opening up to someone again who might also be so totally disinterested, so just decided to soldier on – probably took about 2 years to find my way out. I didn’t have enough spare energy to fight for the help I needed’

‘I had pnd & ptsd after #1 died, whilst pregnant with #2 I asked for mh referral. 3 times I asked my midwife to refer me, 3 times she told me the notes said they had contacted me & I hadn’t responded. Utter rubbish I’d never been contacted but it made me look bonkers so i gave up asking for help’.

‘I lie, put on a front and hide until I trust. That takes time. Apart from my perinatal team, i never saw the same person twice in 3 years’.

Head bang on table. Everyone is saying different stuff and they all have the common issue of not being able to access the same notes. We know this is a problem that cant be fixed easily but its really confusing to mums , at a time when things are confusing enough , to have different ideas thrown at them by a hundred different people. We all know that on one the Edinburgh Postnatal Scale could score overwhelmingly high and the next day not so much so and team this with two different doctors then it all gets a bit out of control. Being able to see the same doctor , HV or mental health professional ensures a consistency of care . I had an anxiety collapse a few years ago when I found out I was pregnant again. I went from being a very happy mummy to my gorgeous three year old, 2.5 years recovered, to a total wreck in the space of a couple of days . The wee covered pregnancy stick had sent my mind into total panic mode at the fear of going psychotic again and the doctor who knew me and what had happened to me after my son was born,after liaising with the mother and baby unit I had been in advised me to go back on to my meds. I went on these when I had psychosis after much trial and error with other pills and knew they were he ones for me. However , a duty psychiatrist asked me why on earth I was taking these meds and wanted to change them. This was the first time I had met him , he had spoken to me for 3 minutes and had no access to any of my notes. He said he was too busy to hear my whole back story ( it was 4am and I had waited 19 hours to see him) and said the meds he suggested would help but if I didn’t want them , then he couldn’t help me.

This was not helpful. The next day , we travelled 200 miles and saw the treatment team from the mother and baby unit I was in three years earlier. They liaised with a doctor I knew and the psychiatrist who was treating me and I went back on my old meds at a reduced dose. And my recovery began. I felt safe with doctors who knew me and my story.

I felt like the doctor wants to get me out of the door and he kept looking up at the time. Tick tick tock .

‘My first baby, we had her post birth gp check (usually at 6 weeks) and my post birth 8 week check combined at 8 weeks as a time/money saving initiative. My partner wanted to be there for my daughters check up. They did the pnd test where you score your mood etc from 1-5 while he was there (it was 4 and a half years ago so pretty hazy now) I remember not scoring as accurately, and negatively, as I felt because I didn’t want my partner to think I was weak’

All the alarm bells should be ringing . One lady said her six week check, which took place at about 12 weeks ,consisted of the doctor washing her hands , saying ‘things will start picking up now’ and then saying to give the baby orange juice to make him poo. It lasted about 4 minutes and she walked out wondering what had just happened. Gps are beyond busy. They are worked to the god damn bone and we should support our doctors to the very end but when you go in the door and feel like you are being pushed out the other twenty seconds later, it can have a terrible effect on that mother it’s happened to. And she may not come back . The Falling through the gaps Rory talked about the time pressures on GPs said they ‘are noted to act as a disincentive to disclosure’ and this is so worrying.

Great things health care professionals did :

But like I said. This blog isn’t to tear Heath Care Professionals down. Its to inform – as the reality is , we know you have to see about 74 people a day , which is why you whizz through appointments We know you are under so much pressure and that can be super stressful. And we know that you aren’t supported enough , and we support you. So , I wanted to include things form people about the brilliant stuff health care professionals have done to help mums who walkthrough their door search for a kickstart to recovery. I owe my life to the medical profession and know how much you do work to get your patients the help and support they need. The Falling Through The Gaps report showed that ‘women appeared most positive about the care they received when it felt personalised and integrated, when they were involved in making decisions about their care and when it was experienced as wrapping around their needs’.

So , where there is a real sense that women don’t feel listened to at times, there is , of course , many many examples of amazing care. There may be no perinatal pathway in your area, you as a GP may not have much knowledge of mental illness or even more specifically, perinatal mental illness and we know that. We know you work like hell in a system that doesn’t support you in anyway and we the patients support you. But what you can do is show kindness and compassion when a mum who comes to you really needs it. You can even say , look I am not quite sure how we are going to get you help but take a tissue, have a cry, tell me your biggest fear. If you can’t tell me , write it down and show me and I will see what I can do. Sometimes, a bit of understanding and kind words are all that are needed to show that mum it’s ok to go to the doctor and open up.

‘The best thing my GP did was praise me for seeking help. When you’re in a bad place it’s very difficult to view yourself in a positive light so the fact she’d made a point of saying it was very thoughtful. She also highlighted the various ways I could keep myself safe (Samaritans, a&e, back to her, family help) whilst I waited for antidepressants to kick in, including satisfying herself I had a good support network in place. She also liased with pharmacist to work out the best ad’s to take whilst breastfeeding. She really was exemplary in her care, in fact my whole GP practice are fantastic no matter who you get, I’ve been really impressed’

‘My health visitor was amazing and really helped me, took me to the doctors because I didn’t want to go alone/leave the house by myself with a very unhappy cmpa & reflux baby’

‘The one thing the GP told me that I’ll never forget and what helped me through the shittest of times is ‘You are all that little baby knows, he’s been inside you for 9 months and is now in the big world all by himself, he just needs his mummy and that’s okay, but it’s okay for mummy to need time’

‘When I was feeling even worse a few weeks later, I called my HV in tears to tell her what had been happening – she came round to see me in person, sorted a CBT referral there and then and put a complaint through to my GP about the way it had been handled. I don’t think I can thank her enough for how she dealt with it!’

‘I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant and have had antenatal depression during this pregnancy – I spotted it early, self referred to the counselling service after chatting to my husband, updated my midwife and HV and avoided going to the GP. It seems to be under control at this point, but if it comes back as PND after the baby is born, then we know what we’re looking for this time and the best way to get what I need from the system round here’

There is a harsh reality that mums avoid going to the doctor or don’t return to the doctor because of a previous negative experience . and this is so sad as its at a time when its vital for a mum to feel supported and comforted . Without doctors, health visitors etc, I know I am not alone when I say I am alive because of them ,which is why when I hear of a mum not wanting to go back to a doctor for help and is slipping more and more into a state because of a previous experience or because of fear , that I feel like something needs to be done to show mums they can come back.

Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit

I was lucky enough to be able to , as a survivor of perinatal mental illness, review and contribute to the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit , a resource for GPs which is here http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/toolkits/perinatal-mental-health-toolkit.aspx . It’s Brillo- pads and I am delighted Carrie Ladd invited mums to view it and review it . It is designed to help doctors support women who come to them displaying symptoms of a perinatal mental illness and contains details on clinical resources for professional, details on medications and breastfeeding, resources that can be shared with the patient and their families, best practice info and details of support in the community that can compliment mums while they are suffering and in recovery, as well as a whole wad of other stuff. I urge you to read it and have a scan if a mum comes into you tomorrow. It’s a wealth of info in one place that’s easy to guide yourself around. If you do have any questions , there is an email address you can message and I think it’s brilliant that there is a specific resource that is bursting at the seams with great info to help not just women, but doctors, who have a hard enough job as it is , seeing so many people day to day with so many different medical issues.

The fabulous Judy Shakespeare did a presentation on International Women’s Day and advised that if a woman consults a GP saying she thinks she has a perinatal mental health problem, she is almost certainly right. It’s a big step to go the doctor or open up to a health visitor about how you are feeling and when it feels like you leave the doctors 4 steps backwards , that can be truly terrifying.

Do not send her away without a flicker of hope or tell her it’s normal when , if you really listen, it isn’t. She might look okay. It it doesn’t mean she is. She is sat in front of you because she wants help and more importantly, needs it.

If only a boob flash a day would keep those ballaches at bay

I’m very in support of breastfeeding and particularly in support of women who wish to do it in public without fear of a frying pan being bashed over their head or a barrage of abuse for daring to show of a piece of flesh . Breasts, boobs, babylons, baps and bangers are a piece of skin. I am struggling to understand the public meltdown when a woman dares to feed her child without a duvet over her head . I can’t imagine we would say oh my goodness, look that woman is daring to wear a shirt that shows her elbows and engage in Facebook debates where women are called attention seeking for daring to show said elbows would we ? People will then say but elbows aren’t sexual and breasts are – a quick look at fetish sites shows us that some people like dry humping a tree or sticking their toes into a moving fan for pleasure so for some , elbows are a turn on yet I don’t think we are going to be going around covering tree bark with a blanket or wrapping up our feet so a man with a foot fetish on the tube doesn’t get a peek of our little toe and have a party in his pants before he reaches his destination.

A woman feeding her child via a piece of skin is not the same as a public romp outside buckingham palace, rolling around naked on the White House lawn or a woman over familiarizing herself with the aubergines ( we can all dream of a real life equivalent) in the fruit and veg aisle in Tesco. If I see a woman feeding her baby I say , look Joe, a lady giving boobie , like you have. And he says ahh, boobie, isn’t that nice, can I have 4 biscuits please?

My breasts are bigger than my sons head. To cover them up would have meant getting a family size tent from the camping shop to go over them or hire a marquee. Stylish as I am, even I couldn’t carry that off and may have also suffocated my child in the process. How nice , sorry poor kid that we are in casualty because you overheated – a woman on the internet said she didn’t want to see my ‘saggy baps’ while you were feeding .More fool her because a) my boobs are probably the only part of my body not to hit the floor yet and b ) if I was having intercourse on the number 143 bus I would probably cover myself up with a coat but as feeding a child isn’t the same as intercourse, I won’t be.

I’ve heard people say , cover yourself up , there are children around and look at mums in horror. A child seeing a woman feeding a child via their boobs will not be messed up for life and in this world of times of trouble, I think there are worse things in life a child could see than breastfeeding in public . I’m pretty certain that seeing a nipple making its way into a small child’s mouth will not ruin a child’s mind forever or cause him to break out in a fit of teenage acne.

I have heard ‘ cover yourself up in public when feeding, I don’t want my husband having to see another woman’s boobs . I hate to break it to you but your husband is probably seeing lots of partial bits of boobs all day , every day. A scoop neck top, a bikini, what the dickens, they may have even had milk from their mother’s boobs when younger. And even though you are their one true love, I imagine they have seen a whole lot more than a piece of skin in the chest area while caressing an ex-girlfriend.

Then I read ‘pump your milk and bring it in a bottle’ – quite often this is the call from mums who say ‘ I had 7 children and managed to feed them all discreetly while staring at a wall in a restaurant like I was in the naughty corner ‘. Just pump your milk lady and give it in a bottle so I don’t have to see your lils. Well , 1) pumping doesn’t work for everyone . A child sucking draws out more milk so whereas a kid could be satisfied drinking from the source , it may not be with the half an ounce you manage to express before dropping the machine and it going all over the floor and 2) some children don’t take bottles. And why should they just because grumpy spice would rather stare at a woman feeding and moan incessantly rather than turning their head the other way.  And then 3) Quite simply, jog on. What are we teaching our children about our body and its uses if they see us pumping before each time we go out because we are worried what people might say ? It’s entirely different if you are an exclusive pumper or you pump before you go out because you want to – knock yourself out and power to you mama . I’m talking about those who think women should be forced to do that.

The first purpose of boobs is to provide nutrition for a kid . That’s the point of them, that’s why we have milk ducts and nipples- they weren’t created to hang coats off or to adorn nipple tassels. At the start of evolution , I think the main focus would have been creating life , so giving men a penis and women vulvas and wombs, and then preserving life, so planting boobs on said women. I doubt the conversation went oh but let not forget the main purpose of these big mounds of skin is as a sex tool. Yes they double as fun bags in the bedroom and that’s amazing but this isn’t their prime purpose according to dear nature.

I personally don’t give a milkshake what you do with your boobs and this is in no way a breast v formula debate , far from it. This is about people trying to bully and shame mothers for doing something which should be the least offensive thing in the world . Let’s not forget the laws of nature – boobs are designed in such a way so a baby can be fed from them. Not every child is fed via boobs again, that’s not my focus or the focus of this blog. Yes , Luscious Lisa flashes her boobs on page three in The Sun and earns money from them and that’s dandy with me but there isn’t the mass public debate about that that there is about nursing in public. Instead there is , oh look, I don’t like page 3 so I will turn the page . But when it comes to breastfeeding in pubic it is , oh look there is a mum nervously feeding her baby in costa , I am going to go and tell her she is disrespectful and to cover that child up. Makes no sense does ? Don’t like it ? Jog on with your day , your week and your year. And if you think that a child feeding is sexual then the one with the quite terrifying problem is you my friend, not anyone else.

I saw a quote from a woman on Facebook saying ‘ public breastfeeding is fine , attention seeking breastfeeding isn’t’ and she said she didn’t like mums being fully exposed and if they insisted on being then to go somewhere discreet. This boils my blood. What about those poor mums who are so shy , trying to feed and baby pulls of the blanket etc and her boob pops out, is she a little attention seeker? It’s a sad world when a mum is classed as a look at me lady for showing a bit of skin that milk comes out of. I do hope pigs and cows cover themselves up down the farm as well so my poor eyes don’t have to see their udders swinging in the breeze. If you want to cover while feeding , then that’s a different story – that’s your choice and it’s the right choice for you.

And then we have ‘ why do you take brelfies and post them all over social media ‘. I think the same , but about avocado posts on instagram .If  I see one more smashed avocado on a slice of sour dough , I will smash a good old fashioned mushy pea through my phone screen. Bloody avocados, showing off. Breastfeeding is eating , people post plenty of pics in Nandos with a chicken wing hanging out of their mouth or their baby squishing banana all over their face and so what is the difference?

Boobs are beautiful. They can be life-giving . They can be nurture and nutrition. They can also be useful during sex. Like hands can. Hands help us write and type and can also be used during conjugal relations . Should we all be wearing gloves all day so not to offend someone ?

Feeding in public isn’t the ballache. Those who moan about it are the ballache.

Life through the low rent lens of a dressing gown fanatic

When I had postpartum psychosis , alongside thinking I could cut through the clouds with scissors, spending the day adorned with blue eyeshadow cleaning the oven while staring into space holding some frozen stewing steak and attempting to climb out of windows to escape the hallucinations of floating in the corner of the room while my hair fell out, I also sprang through the streets naked as the day I was born. C section stomach flap scraping the tar on the road, milk filled boobs spraying in the wind and me yelling I’m trapped in the world take me away.

My lovely hubby would gently guide me back to the house and on another occasion , used his brute force biceps to carry my post birth , classed as medically overweight self back into the house to calm and cuddle me. I also found that the lady over the road considered me her daytime entertainment , so much so , that she permanently hitched her curtain up in her top bedroom so she could peer out of it to see my latest naked escapades.

Running naked in the street means people will look and talk. Usually it’s a hide your eyes yelp to the four year old next to you saying mummy that mans willy is out , or you may be lucky and find you are only seen by someone who just thinks you are expressing yourself and displaying your body in its natural form to be at one with the nature, mowed lawn blowing into your bare naked breeze.

Lady over the road liked staring at me as I was a disheveled wildcat to her. The girl over the road who collected a parcel from her once and usually fell into her garden at 2am after rolling out a cab after too many gins had now decided to take all her clothes off and yell. Very loudly about cutting through the clouds with scissors.

Once recovering , the Amazon delivery man always saw my boobs. While being attached to the sofa with a baby latched on to its milk canteen , if the doorbell goes, you can’t spend time getting dressed , so you fling the door open to sign for your QVC juice extractor with one boob out of your maternity bra and half a vagina peeking out of your pants. I just didn’t care eventually and just assumed they would think oh , we have to deliver to her, the naked one in the old gaping dressing gown with a baby hanging off the boob and chocolate smeared around her face.

Not once though, did one of these take a photograph of me and plaster it all over a newspaper like what happened with pictures of Gazza a few weeks ago and declare that my ‘ final whistle had been blown’ in a disapproving tone that I had dared to succumb to the shame of mental illness. A gaping dressing gown isn’t news and when the point of printing pictures like this is to make a snappy headline at the expense of someone who is likely going through a low point in their life, then the gutter really has hit the shit.

Printing photos of someone purely so you can write a punchy headline does nothing to help that person. It’s attempting to humiliate them and I don’t care how it is masqueraded. The paper that printed them didn’t have a paragraph advising what too do if you are an alcoholic to get help or what to do if you have a family member who may be deteriorating and whose personal care may not be what it once was. It did have a paragraph from its doctor who offered no advice and instead said a few lines about how he was now a fallen superstar and had hit a new low and then the frankly stupid and distasteful word play on his football career and struggle now about whistles being blown. Nothing about how someone could access help and why help is a positive step. No info on how to approach a family member to ask for help if you are suffering . No advice about how health care professionals can offer support and guidance . Nope, just a few lines reinforcing the humiliation and let me tell you , I hope to absolute god that that doctor treats any patients who come to them to them about alcohol dependency or a mental illness doesn’t spout out a few sentences about how disappointed they are and then send them on their way.

Garza flashed his family jewels accidentally – regardless of where his mind currently is. But taking those photos was no accident nor was printing them . The aim of doing so wasn’t to get him help, it was to sell papers. Can you imagine if a celebrity came out of a clinic which treats a physical illness and you saw their arse crack as they got into their car ? I can’t imagine a headline about the shame of bending over and your jeans slipping down while suffering from an illness that’s hard to cure being splashed all over the papers. As it shouldn’t be . But for some ridiculous reason , if the illness affects the mind, mocking and humiliation seems to be fair game . And it isn’t fair game . It’s disgusting and shameful and totally shit journalism.

It is really any wonder why there is still such a bloody stigma attached to mental illnesses or addictions when media report it in such a way?

These pictures were printed to shock and initially did quite the opposite of what should be happening with regard to support to those with mental illnesses/addictions. At first, they caused people to mock , to send what they assumed to be funny tweets about the person in the picture and then descended into ‘ oh how could he sink so low’ type tweets about how disappointed they were that their old time hero wasn’t how they wanted him to be . Take a memo – it’s not about your feelings and your disappointment people !

When you are unwell, one of the most important things you need is support. No judgement . Judgement doesn’t help anyone and will only serve to make someone feel even worse. If my neighbour had actively taken pics of me as I ran past her rose bushes and they appeared on the front page with a headline plastered across them about the dodgy depths i had sunk to, there is no way I would have thought , right then mind, time to pull yourself together. As that’s not possible when your mind is working against you . I would have thought oh my god, what have I done, I’ve shamed myself , everyone has seen me and my lack of dignity has been exposed and my mind would sink so low that I would feel ashamed and worthless.

Mental illness is not entertainment material which allows you to mock. I write my blog about my individual experience in the way I speak, as its allowed me to raise awareness in an accessible way for certain groups of people. What I haven’t had to do is show any pics of myself with my vulva out to get the message out that I was ‘bonkers’ or had reached a humiliating low. And thankfully no one else has shared any pics of my bits with the words ‘ deranged lady garden alert’ across it.

A persons struggle with their mind isn’t an open invite to humiliate. The media already attempt to perpetuate the myth that anyone who does something bad in the world must be a ‘whack job’ or a ‘crazie’ . When Britney Spears cut all her hair off , a newspaper ran the story with the headline ‘sheer madness’. Britney’s suffering wasn’t allowed to be private- it became fodder for the media to drag her through their pile of chip paper clippings.

The media can be brilliant. Look at how positive awareness raising can be – Eastenders covering postpartum psychosis , celebrities being open about their own struggles and it being reported in a sensitive and tasteful way. I have never seen a picture of Gazza being shared where he goes to Tescos to buy a banana and a lamb chop but the press think it’s ok to splash his meat and two veg all over their pages when he is quite possibly at his lowest. And this is where the media have a responsibility to attempt to show a shrewd of god damn decency. Those pictures were printed to shame , to sell more papers and for a classless journalist to earn a paycheck while reveling in someone else’s apparent shame.

What was brilliant though was the backlash those pictures got after the initial small burst of tweets about how shameful they were. Instead of sharing them, social media came out in support of Gazza and flooded the gates of pictures of him like he most probably wants us to see and should be seen. That celebrate his talent, show how he inspired and still inspires with his football skill and the pictures of his tears that showed his love of the beautiful game.

We all have low points. And they are the points in our lives where we need the most help and support. If you have a choice, should you mock, laugh and attempt to shame or should you say, we can help you, how can we offer support or at least an , I know, let’s not buy and print these photos as it’s actually pretty low and not really news is it ?

One day dear journalists, you may find yourselves dependent on something that you don’t want to be. You may find yourself running down Fleet Street with your tie around your balls . You may feel sad , low , hurt and lost. Would you like your photo on the front page for the world to see ? Or would you like someone to say, let’s be a bit decent and leave this person alone and maybe privately offer them some support?

As my dear dad says , it’s nice to be nice. It’s not nice to be a dick . Be like my dad, don’t be a dick.

Boobs bursting out of your bra? Try mine for size. Why it’s ok to share your mental health story.

Trigger warning – mention of intrusive thoughts and suicide X

Last night at the TV soap awards , Lacey Turner won best actress for her portrayal of a mum with postpartum psychosis. Her acceptance speech was short and moving and reduced even my hubby to tears. And my six year old to say , mummy , did Lacey just say your name ?

And she did. Lacey played a character called Stacey who developed psychosis after having her baby just like I did and just like my friend Kathryn did. Last year, Kathryn and I were asked to help Eastenders develop the storyline to ensure it was realistic and they were adamant that they couldn’t do it without input from families it had happened to. We worked with the charity Mind , particularly Jenni and Ali , who ensured the storyline wasn’t sensationalized and met with the actors to give them details on what it was like when we were ill. Lacey was really keen to know what it’s like to hallucinate , what your mind is thinking , does it feel real to you in that very moment, what did our arms do, what were our facial expressions ? James Bye who plays Martin met our husbands to see how he should play his role as carer and the researchers continually asked us ‘would this happen ? Is this realistic?’. They wanted our real life stories to help them play out this story on screen to show the public a realistic portrayal of a mental illness no one had heard about.

After I watched the awards where Lacey so graciously thanked the charities who helped shape the storyline and Kathryn and I , I wrote a Facebook post that said ‘ this is why we tell our stories’ . During the storyline , Kathryn and I received literally thousands of messages saying Eastenders have done this so well/it’s given us hope our daughter will recover/wow, how did Eastenders get this so right? And they did because we shared our stories. There is no evidence better than lived experience.

It’s not just eastenders that has shown me the power of sharing your own story to help others. I’m friends with brave beautiful people who feel ready and able to share theirs to help others understand what going through a mental illness is like and how to help the person in front of you who appears to be totally different to the person you once knew.

Such as my friend , I call her Dr Amazing Nails and she is probably the best GP in the entire world. You may know her as @DrSdeG on Twitter. She has the best talons I’ve ever seen , has been known to sleep in her gym wear and is vibrant , funny and not afraid to tell people when they are talking so much drivel ,they may as well have marbles in their mouth. She also had PND.

I know this because last year, I was at a GPs conference on perinatal mental health and Dr Amazing Nails didn’t have her GP hat on that day – no , she was delivering a speech about her experience of mental-heldom after having a baby to a load of other GPs. She was nervous as hell and when I rolled in munching on a celery stick, a Milky Way in one hand and a pair of stilettos in the other with a pile of scrunched up papers looking wholly inappropriate for a super posh balls conference, I ran over to her to give her a ‘you can do it’ cuddle. ‘ Dr Steph’ I exclaimed when I saw her sitting down with her laptop , her presentation in ten minutes. I dropped my celery stick on the floor and then turned round and clobbered what was probably the head of the NHS in the face with my Milky Way and then exclaimed as I emerged from the floor while retrieving my celery ,’ bloody hell, when I bend down , me knickers roll under my pastry flap of a stomach and when I stand up , my bra rides up and I look like I’ve got four boobs’ . I looked at Nailz and she started laughing and we wandered in to the conference room, her looking as professional as a hobnob, me yelling oh look, our friend Beth is here and running to the front to get a good seat next to her so we could keep giving thumbs up to the good doc and grab the microphone and give a good old verbal dressing down to anyone who dared to be negative to her.

Nailz stood up and went to start delivering her presentation. She took the microphone and went to speak and then stopped . She let out a deep breath , shook all her arms and legs and said , right , that’s better and began. Out came her story – a strong woman , an amazing GP telling her comrades about her illness. Beth and I looked around – there were open mouths , people unable to believe what they were hearing . Remember , these people have probably seen hundreds of women come I took their doctors office , some with perfect make up looking like they are made of china they look so slick , some with baby poo in their hair and in a pair of pants they have folded inside out as they have been too scared to go into the kitchen to do the washing as they don’t want to be near knives because of the intrusive thoughts that are flashing through their head, saying , I feel awful, I don’t think I like my baby, I can’t stop crying , what have I done , I can’t sleep, I’m thinking weird things , I can’t leave the house without having a panic attack or some not speaking at all. And some of the doctors were probably great and say right , this isn’t good but there is help and let’s get you on the road to the recovery you deserve. But some wee probably the not so good ones , the oh, women have been having babies since dinosaurs jogged on. Your vagina has recovered from the extraction of said baby as will your mind, think happy thoughts and pull yourself together.

So to see Dr Steph talking about her experience was an amazing thing. To show it happens to anyone , it’s real and that women need help. And they go to their doctors for help. She talked about going to her own GP and it was incredible to see how one women sharing her story had such an impact on a group of people who really needed to hear it.

I tell my story because I feel ready and I feel able. I look at Jonny Benjamin sharing his painful tale and how he has opened up the conversation about suicide. Suicide has been the unspoken rule for many years yet it is something that many of us have experienced – I reached suicidal depths when I was unwell and my husband lost a friend to suicide a few years ago. All of us say the same thing – but why , they had everything to live for ? And until I was unwell I said the same thing . Never thinking bad but a real feeling of not being able to understand how those feelings can ever enter your mind. But when you do experience those feelings, my goodness, it’s terrifying. All the awful words you can think off. Jonny’s documentary about finding mike, the man who talked him down from ending his life ,was so open , so raw , so painful and so touching. Jonny sharing his story has enabled so many to say, you know , I have those feelings and I deserve not to , I deserve help to feel better. And that is the power of sharing.

I was at Elaine Hanzak’s book launch last year where many of my friends spoke including Tracy whose blog is here , https://amummyrecovered.wordpress.com/ and two of my dearest friends, Beth and Jessica. Jessica was unwell and has used her experience to set up Cocoon , a wonderful perinatal mental health charity in London http://cocoonfamilysupport.org/our-story/ and is helping so many women to recover. And Beth then spoke about her experience of being unwell after having her son. Her story is here https://bethbone.wordpress.com and I urge you to read it. It’s a long brave battle and Beth is here to tell the tale. She told this story so movingly at the book launch, healthcare professionals were in tears and Kathryn and I saw two people mouthing to each other how in awe they were of Beth sharing her story.

Millions of women across the world have done , are and will suffer from perinatal mental illnesses and many more will suffer from the vast range of mental illnesses that there are. These can be helped by medications, therapies, understanding and other things that complement recovery but there really is nothing like seeing that others have experienced similar to you and got better/recovered. Everyone’s experience will differ slightly from somebody else’s and their illness and recovery will be different to yours but seeing how someone pulled through to recovery or to live with a mental illness in a positive way is such an incredible tool. It gives hope when all seems lost. When you have reached such depths where you think you can’t leave the house to go to work because visions of jumping in front of train are overwhelming you , when you can’t bear to open your eyes as the fear of another day makes you scared of being alive, when you can’t take a breath as each one is filled with a panic you never knew possible , to know that it is possible to pull through because you have read or heard the story of someone who has , that’s incredible.

Let’s talk about something like intrusive thoughts. Because we simply don’t talk about them , they aren’t even whispered about. And so when you experience them you think , fuck an absolute duck , why am I envisaging these things ? Am I a monster and why are these things flashing through my head scaring me ? Take a mum who may be experiencing these. Looking over Twitter the common fear is that if you tell a doctor you have had intrusive thoughts that involve your baby , that they will swoop in and take the love of your life away from you. Which would be the most catastrophic thing to do ever. But you know what ? Something like a Twitter chat where people talk about these thoughts and then medical professionals advise that you won’t have your child taken off you for revealing them can ease the mind of so many. This happened on the #pndhour run by @pndandme on Twitter on 30/03/16 and 14/10/15.

My friend Laura describes these kind of thoughts like they are a ‘Horror movie in your mind'( http://thebutterflymother.com/2015/05/10/intrusive-thoughts-horror-movies-in-my-mind/ ) and my friends at The Smile Group charity made the brilliant point that they can make you feel very vulnerable . They also then made the ultimate point – in order for people to reveal they have them so they can get the help they need to stop /deal with them , there needs to be a trustful relationship with the health care professionals who they reveal them to.

This Twitter chat also allowed for these healthcare professionals to say we won’t take your baby away , it’s ok to tell us, we will help you. The power of a chat like that has been incredible. People at home have this resource to read where people have shared their stories of not being able to drive over bridges because of certain thoughts flashing through their head and see that they aren’t alone, but it doesn’t end there. They can see there is help, that they won’t be judged and also give them support and advice on how to get help.

During mental health awareness week a couple of weeks ago, I was on something of a presentational revolving door . For those who know me well, I am brash and say things most other people wouldn’t even think and am very confident in myself. However , I also suffer from absolutely chronic anxiety of talking in public – I have been known to vomit before team meetings ( the team I sit next to and talk about all manner of things with , with no shame) and to have panic attacks before telephone meetings. I think when I have to deliver things professionally , I fall apart somewhat. Before my radio five interview about eastenders , I sat down and suddenly thought, what the bloody dickens, this is live?????? I can’t do this and then realized I couldn’t leave the room a) because James Bye who plays Martin in eastenders was in the chair by the door and I wouldn’t have been able to get out without climbing over him and there was a web cam on us and it would have turned into a total disaster and I would be on the front pages for having to be surgically removed from a soap star and b) while plotting escape route, the presenter said , now Eve , can you tell us your story and I thought erm , well I have to do it now don’t I ? And I did. And I didn’t embarrass myself or be sick on my dear friend Kathryn or rugby tackle the famous actor to the floor .

So when work said oh Eve , it’s ok if you do three presentations on mental health awareness isn’t it I said oh yes , of course. And then went home and said to John, oh my god, what have I done. But you know, I thought , I’m sharing my story and it’s helped people and I’m just going to be myself. I did a presentation with my lovely friend Lucy ( whose post on our presentation and experience of recurrent miscarriages is here https://whathappenedtotheplan.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/not-just-one-week-my-5-prompts-for-making-mental-health-matter-throughout-the-year/ ) about our MH experiences and I started my piece by saying , I am anxious, I might cry, I might forget my words but I want to try and tell you what I went through, what helped me get better and to inform and empower you. And the session could not have gone better. When it came to question time , one or two hands went up and then all of a sudden ,we were still there 90 mins later, engaged in an open conversation. I had said I would give my sanitized version of my illness which means I leave out the parts about when I wandered around the bathroom with a razor blade and ran around naked but those parts came out. I then talked about intrusive thoughts and how terrifying and debilitating they can be – I got back to my desk to four emails from people saying they had suffered these before and never talked about them. I sent on some support page and charity details to these people and truly saw how sharing a story can open up to help others.

I have read things that say people shouldn’t share their story because of the trigger effect it could have on others and that we have a responsibility for what we write to ensure this doesn’t happen. Yes, things need trigger warnings. Do not read things if you feel vulnerable . It’s ok to stop and come back to it another day. It’s ok to stop and never go back and finish reading. And it’s more than ok and a definite cert that if you read or hear something that triggers you and you need help, you seek it and seek it immediately.

But I ultimately think there is an enormous positive power in a story told. To hear the tale of someone who has been through it is worth a thousand nodding doctors who have treated someone with it. Healthcare professionals are amazing and I owe my life to them – going into a psychiatric unit was truly the best thing I ever did. Taking the medications doctors told me to take saved my life. Having EMDR therapy allowed me to rid myself of the traumatic demons my psychosis had left me with . But all of these didn’t give me the one thing I needed and that was the hope that I would get through it because someone had before me.

I truly don’t think Eastenders would have been as powerful as it was without the team there talking to Kathryn and I and the great team from Mind who also divulged their own mental health experiences to inform the story. A few months before, Eastenders covered a stillbirth storyline with equal care . It was touching and heartbreaking and the actual stillbirth episode was so incredibly raw, it almost seemed real. They worked with people with lived experience for that storyline also and you could tell. And I know someone who experienced stillbirth at 38 weeks pregnant who says watching the episodes has made her realize that she is ready to talk about her child and what happened . And her aim ? To help other mums. To show them that things don’t necessarily get ‘better’ but that with help and support,life can continue in a very different way but it can continue.

That’s real. That’s the power of sharing a story. It’s not for everyone but if you feel ready , able and want to , then please know that your strength in sharing will give someone else strength when they are suffering . It may not be pretty in pink and a glitter bomb of joy but whose story is ? All of experiences are as different as our bra sizes but ultimately , we all need a good bra to support us don’t we ? If your boobs were bursting out of the side of a 32c , cutting into you causing you pain and grief and then caused you to almost gauge your eye out with a rogue underwire, you’d probably ask your mates if it had happened to them and where could you get a good bra that gives you good support and one that’s doesn’t cause your boobs to be dragged down lower. And you’d take their advice and seek out said fancy pants bra that serves its purpose – it lifts up and positions your boobs so they don’t drop or cause you pain anymore.

And that is why we share our stories. Not for fame , fortune, applause or blog hits. But to help those because we were once them. So they can get a sense of hope that things will get better and that they aren’t alone. And that they can then seek support to life them, so their thoughts and feelings don’t drop and cause them pain anymore .

I may not be the same bra size as you but take a look at mine , take a look at others and see if there is something about it that could help you.

You never know. Because everyone needs a good bra in their life.

My story is here https://youtu.be/Kn6pgSUP5YI

I want my son to love me more than all the stars in the sky, not to have to look for me in them.

The past few weeks I have felt a deep sadness at the news reports of not one but two women being prosecuted for terminating their pregnancies. It’s 2016 and women are being demonized for making responsible choices about their futures. There seems to be an idea in the minds of many people that women having terminations have them like having a flutter on the horses but this simply isn’t true.

True story

I know a woman who three years ago found out she was pregnant . This was three years after she had her first child , a child she desperately wanted. She has had two miscarriages prior to the birth of her baby, a result of a rare condition called uterus didelphis meaning she has two wombs . She spent her pregnancy with her little boy on terrifying tenterhooks – she had been told to prepare for a stillbirth, to go into early labour , that the pregnancy might not end in a live baby as like with her previous losses, it may run out of room to grow. She spent endless nights in hospital convinced she couldn’t feel any movements as she entered the third trimester. One afternoon in work she realized she hadn’t felt anything and frantically went to the hospital, her head whizzing in fear that the pregnancy had ended , that her dream of being mother to a child taken from her once again.

But , at 39 weeks, she gave birth by planned c section. Her two wombs meant she had two tiny birth canals, meaning she couldn’t give birth to her baby vaginally . Amidst the doctors and medical students in the room who had been invited to see a baby being born to a woman with a plethora of gynae wonders, her little boy was held up in a beacon of light by the consultant and her husband kissed her head and held her hand. Their beautiful much longed for baby was here , their new joyous life was about to begin. The baby was placed on her chest while she was put back together and he breastfed from her like the books had said he would . All was wonderful, he was here , she was the mother she always wanted to be.

But an hour later , something changed , very quickly, very dramatically. The girls mum arrived to see the baby and instead of being enthralled with her new grandson, she was drawn to her daughters face. Her daughter, who had an hour before delivered the baby she has always wanted , was sat on the bed staring into space. Her mum said she looked spaced out , like a zombie, and asked what was wrong. Her daughter replied she was fine but it was very clear she wasn’t. In her mind , while everyone else was looking at the new baby in their life, she was looking intensely at the window working out if she could climb out of it . The baby in her mind , the mind that one hour before had fallen in love with it , had suddenly become so terrifying , she couldn’t look at him and all she could think of was a way out.

Over the next three days in hospital, he behaviour became more erratic. She was crawling around the floor of her hospital bed while frantically trying to close the curtains so no one would see her. She started writing long lists of things that were needed and wrote long messages to friends about the baby but she got the words in the wrong order. She made sure she didn’t do these things in front of other people so they thought she was the happy mum she had been for that one hour after her son was born but as her mind was descending into a deep haze of delusion, her considered fascade quickly slipped away.

The day she left hospital, when her face hit the outside air, she collapsed. When in the car , she burst into floods of tears. Her kind and patient husband kissed her in the head while her sister sayidthe tears may be the start of the baby blues as a result of her breastmilk coming in – everything is normal , everything is ok. According to everyone else.

The girl could barely hear anything , it was if her ears had become muffled and the world was whizzing around her head at a million miles an hour. She heard a voice that sounded like it was miles away but was coming from her husband next to her ” baby, shall we put him next to you for the journey home?” . He was stroking her cheek and kissed it . The girl, her eyes blurring , shook her head and said no, no it’s ok, put him next to you, I’ve spent all my time in the hospital with him. But , in her mind, what she actually thought was no , no don’t , I don’t want him anywhere near me .

The days and weeks that passed after the baby came home carried on in this fashion. It became very clear very quickly, that the mum , instead of relishing her new baby and the life it had brought with its birth , was terrified of being near him. She couldn’t be in the same room as him, she was scared of touching him, she couldn’t look at him. His very presence sent her into such a state that she started saying he had trapped her . She would walk around the house chanting ” he is here forever he is here forever he is here forever” and the thoughts of this consumed her. These feelings then descended into feelings of being trapped in the world. She would look to the sky and think about how she could escape from earth , could she cut through the clouds? What if the world was a trick ? What if it was like the Truman show and she was the star? She thought she was floating in the corner of the room , thought the duvet cover was dancing , tried to climb out of the living room window to escape the world she felt trapped in,and thought cling film was over her mouth and would viciously try and tear it away to stop the suffocation she was convinced she could feel . Her hair had started to fall out , she had rubbed her skin raw to rid herself of the feelings that were whizzing through her head and became convinced that the only way away from the baby who was devastatingly afraid of was to not be in the world anymore.

All she wanted to do was die.

The first six weeks of her child’s life , while she was descending into the grips of a serious mental illness, she had become a shell of the vibrant , confident woman she once was. The blond bubbly girl who had been a senior policy adviser in government when she was 8 months pregnant , who had once been described as having a zest for life no one had ever seen before, had turned into a fearful terrified , scared young woman who was so frightened of her own baby she couldn’t be in the same room as him. Her mind was consumed with thoughts of an escape and she would stand in certain spots for hopers on end – one afternoon she stood in the kitchen in one place for an entire afternoon refusing to move because she was convinced something terrible would happen if she did .

For those six weeks, her husband knew something deeply distressing and dramatic was happening to her. The midwife visited the day after she came back hospital and the girl had sat there unable to speak. Her husband asked the midwife about postnatal depression and said he was concerned about his wife and her behaviour but the midwife wasn’t and this opinion was the same from every medical practitioner he took her to for the next six weeks. At some points he was taking her to doctors twice a day begging for help while his wife sat there rocking . Most said she was sleep deprived , maybe a touch of the baby blues , to get her to rest. Turns out they had never seen anyone ill like her .

At five weeks , the health visitor came round after a panicked call from the husband. The girl had screamed hard in fear of being alive and he didn’t know what to do. The health visitor admitted she hadn’t seen anything like this in all her years and suggested they go and stay with family where there was more medical support and so they did – 200 miles away. It was here , a week later that the girl woke up and decided that day was the day she wanted to die. She was banging her head against the wall in the bedroom , had screamed so much her mouth was bleeding and was walking up and down stairs over and over saying she was scared of the baby and her only way out was death. She had been taken to hospital six hours earlier and a doctor has asked if she had planned her own suicide yet. The girl shook her head as the cold harsh reality is she was too confused to plan her own death – before she was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night she had tried to get dressed and realized she couldn’t – she had forgotten how to put her clothes on , her mind in the mist of such deep delusions.

Her husband demanded care and help from psychiatrists and she was assessed that day, her baby now six weeks old. It was clear to the doctors she was ill with a rare mental health condition that affects only a number of mums after they give birth called postpartum psychosis. She was admitted to a psychiatric mother and baby unit where she stayed with her baby to start her recovery – as she walked to the ward she was convinced she could smell burning flesh and when she saw the baby would be in a cot next to her bed in the same room as her , she had a panic attack. To scared to be on her own with her child, a nurse sat outside her room with the door open for the first week she was there.

It took three months for the girl to be able to be on her own with her baby and another month before they could return to their home in London. She had been in a psychiatric unit, had to learn how to be near her child , had exposure therapy and was on medication eight times a day. Her husband had been granted compassionate leave from work and she had clawed back from being devastatingly close to ending her life and leaving her child motherless.

Three years past . Recovery was an ongoing thing – mental illness after the birth of a baby is extraordinarily hard to recover from and she had been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder as a result of what had happened to her. Her year of maternity leave was taken up with psych appointments and therapy but she was doing it. And most of all, she was not only learning to be near her child , but she was falling in love with him, deep love. Even though there was always a slight pang of oh god I’m on my own with him or the occasional panic attack, she was becoming attached to her beautiful boy. She breastfed him, he co slept with her and her husband and she made friends with other women with babies. Though tough at times, she had a wonderful husband , medical teams and friends helping her. And a baby she loved dearly.

Three years later , one afternoon in work, her doctor called to say they couldn’t send her urine off for analysis for a suspected wee infection until she had done a routine pregnancy test . The girl said yeah sure , I’m on the pill so it will be negative but I’ll do one after my cheese sandwich and diet coke. She waved the pregnancy test in front of her friend Julie and said I just have to go and wee on this , back in a sec and went to the loo.

Three minutes later, she saw two lines on the stick. Two blue line staring back at her so bold they could have been 87 feet tall with flashing lights sound them in Piccadilly Circus. She went and saw Julie with a frozen look on her face –  ” you’re joking ” said her friend. The girl shook her head and sat down and called her husband . He sat there open mouthed while the girl emailed the consultant who had delivered her baby ” you may remember I went slightly nuts after I had my son … I’ve just found out I am pregnant again and even though I am utterly terrified , I am happy”.

And she was . Her husband was wonderful , supporting her and she felt ok. She loved being a mum to her son so much and she thought , I can do this, I did it before.

But a few days later, she was sat in the sofa and felt her eyes squinting . Her brain started to whizz and she found herself shouting oh god out loud. She recognized the feeling-she was having a panic attack and all that could fill her mind was thoughts of what if I’m ill again . What I’m ill again and don’t get better and what if I kill myself ? I’ll have two children with no mother. What if I have to go into a mother and baby unit again ? My son is due to start school soon and what if we have to travel 200 miles away again to get help. And what if I try and kill myself ? I might die . What if I try and kill myself again ? I can never ever go through that again.

And so her mind started to slip into a deep delusion once again. After cuddling her to sleep that night , her husband woke up and found her in the living room sitting on the floor , banging her head in the radiator over and over again. He heard a voice on the phone – it was the Samaritans asking if she was ok. He sat down next to her and said what can I do to help you baby. She was in tears , pulling her hair at its roots. She was shaking and banging her foot on the floor and was saying ” what if it happens again” on repeat. Her little boy ran into the room and wanted to give mummy a cuddle but the girl looked at him and felt a pang of the fear she had had three years before of him. She was right – it was happening again and she hadn’t even had the new baby yet.

Her husband took her to casualty as she had started taking about death. Casualty agreed she needed to see a psychiatrist and so she waited , no exaggeration, 19 hours until 4am to see one in the local psychiatric unit. They saw her for less than 5 minutes and declared they didn’t have facilities to help women like her who were pregnant. So the next day, her husband took her to Nottingham once again to access help – the Mental Health team there couldn’t believe the state she was in and she was diagnosed with ptsd.

During this time, familiar physical issues with the pregnancy had reared their head. The bleeding she had had in the pregnancies that has ended in miscarriage had come back with a vengeance . She had crippling stomach pains and had an emergency scan and was told the pregnancy was in her small womb and wasn’t growing properly. The girl looked at the screen and cried . There was the start of a pregnancy – she loved being a mother and would love another baby but look at what was ahead of her – what if she miscarried late as the doctors had said could happen . What if she had a still birth? She weas bleeding and she was physically unwell . And then there was her mental health – what if the baby was born and she became ill again? Two children , with a mum in the midst of postpartum psychosis in a psychiatric unit with the baby while her three yr old who cuddled his mummy to sleep every night was without her at home. And what if she got so ill again her attempts to end her life were successful this time ?

After much soul searching , the girl and her husband agreed to do something that lots of people may not agree with – after consultation with medical staff looking at the pregnancy and reaching a prognosis that if she continued with it , it was likely she would lose it again and risk serious illness herself and then after talking it through together , the girl and her husband decided to end the pregnancy. To have an abortion . It was a gut wrenching decision especially after seeing the scan but the girl needed to stay alive for the child she already had . To carry on a pregnancy with so many issues wouldn’t have been fair on her , her son or the fetus in her. A fetus that looked as though it may heading for the same ending as  her previous pregnancies.

A week later , she headed to the termination clinic with her husband. Down a small side street, an unassuming building seemed to have a later crowd of people outside it with leaflets and banners and some people had rosaries. As the girl walked through them shielded by her protective partner , their mouths were shifting so close to her she could hear their breath . ” do you want to be a murderer” . They thrust leaflets in her hand and one tried to put a rosary around her neck. All she could, hear were screams from people she had never met telling her she was committing a sin and they could help her as she through the doors of the clinic. She stood there and cried . She had read about protestors outside of these places but didn’t think it really happened . They were like a hound of dogs after a fox , totally unaware of the hell and terror she had been through not only of the previous few weeks , but off the last three years.

The termination attempt didn’t work – the pregnancy was growing in such an odd place, it couldn’t be removed. Two weeks later , she returned to the clinic , still bleeding from what may have been a miscarriage happening within her . Again , the hoard of angry wolves were camped outside with their banners , vocalizing their disgust, trying to block her way in . Her husband again protected her but she wondered if these people head ever considered why some women have to go to these clinics.

The second attempt didn’t work, again the pregnancy too hard to reach. Eventually, a third and final operation was needed and the pregnancy was removed . She was devastated and was signed off work for six months – it was determined that her ptsd was from the unresolved trauma of her psychosis and anxiety three years earlier and she needed to be treated with intense therapy called EMDR and go back on medication. She also needed to rest her body – miscarriages , one live baby from a fraught difficult pregnancy where she had been on hormone treatment for 9 months to strengthen her womb and then a termination of a pregnancy that seemed to be slowly and painfully ending in her , sending her into such a spin at the fear of being mentally ill again , she had started to visualize death as the only answer.

This girl isn’t a murderer. She isn’t evil. She didn’t commit a sin or an act of violence.

And the reason I know this ? I know this because the woman I have talked about in this blog was me.

It’s me . And let me tell you, having a termination is no walk in the park. I’ve read some devastating things over the last few weeks from people who have never had a termination , who have never talked to someone who has had one. They seem to think it’s as easy to get as a fake tan and that people wash it away when they can’t be bothered with it anymore.

It isn’t easy to get one – two doctors have to sign it off. Having an abortion isn’t like picking a sandwich up in sainsburys and thinking hmm , do I want this one ? And if not I can just sling it in the bin and forget about it a second laytr . The case in Belfast say the flat mates of the girl who reported her found a dead fetus in a bin but I doubt it was thrown there with the wild abandon its been claimed. I don’t think anyone who has to resort to buying DIY abortion pills on the Internet tosses the remnants into a bin easily while putting their mascara on – it’s not a pain free process let me tell you. Some have said ‘oh but for some it is an they treat abortion like a fancy contraceptive’ but how does anyone know that ? You only know if you have been through it.

I can remember my second abortion attempt. I wasn’t knocked out as much as the first and can visualize parts of the operation . I was in pain afterwards and fouod it hard to walk . I was bleeding heavily and when John came to recovery I didn’t and couldn’t have said hello sweet cheeks , let’s go and put some dancing shoes on and drink a pile of gin in soho as the little baby problem has jogged on.

If you are anti abortion then that’s your choice. And I don’t want to change your opinion as you are as entitled to it as I am mine. But what I do ask is that just because you wouldn’t have one , it doesn’t mean that should be forcing women around you to give birth , or attempt to give birth to babies. I read one head bangingly awful article which practically compared terminations of pregnancies to terrorism. Think what you like , but to the women who say have had terminations as a result of rape, do you really think that is an acceptable thing to say? Should a woman have to live with a lifetime reminder of the violent act that was committed to her if she doesn’t want to?

I respect your rights to disagree with abortion. But disagree with it for you. If you are content to follow the pattern of have sex, make a pregnancy , have a baby for the rest of your life, go ahead – I’m delighted that your mind embraces this. Having a baby is forever – once its here it doesnt go away. You cant divorce it like a husband , you cant sell it like a flat. So should we really be making women give birth to a child they may not really want ?

If a woman falls pregnant on the Pill should she really be forced to give birth to a child she was actively trying not to conceive ? What about the men whose sperm helps to make these pregnancies ? Are we telling them to hold their wild horses as I see no evidence of this ?  All I see is evidence of women being vilified and bullied into keeping pregnancies they arent ready for or want.

Are we not going back to some awful age where women are being forced into a life they dont want to live ? Will those pro-life protestors be looking after all children born to mums and families when they need them? Should I really have tried to continue my pregnancy which may have resulted in my death and my son to be motherless because they don’t agree with it ? Would they like to explain to my son why mummy is dead?

You may think abortion is violence as I was told on Twitter. I offered to meet the woman who told me it was but I never heard back from her. She said that as women , our bodies have an amazing gift – the gift of life . And she is right – but I look at it in a different way. My gift of life is to my son , the son who is in bed right now , who has taught me what love is . Where would his life be if I had had another baby and killed myself ? Postpartum psychosis and anxiety was the most terrifying thing I and my family have ever had to endure and there is no way on this earth that I will put my child through that . This woman said ” the woman feeling a need for an abortion needs to be addressed and resolved” and she is right but not just in the one way she thinks off. In my case , I needed it as I risked the life of myself and the pregnancy in me if I carried on – I was physically and mentally unwell and my pregnancy wasn’t growing. The resolution was to end if before it got even more out of hand than it already had.

I have a relative who once wrote a message to his friends on Facebook saying to unfriend him if they thought it was ok to have a termination. I love him very much and he doesn’t know I’ve had one. This post I hope explains why some people have to as women’s bodies are more than a vessel to grow a pregnancy in .

Being a mother is truly the best thing I have ever done. My son is the light of my life and I cannot imagine him not being here . And maybe if I had carried on my pregnancy , things would have been ‘ok’ . I could be sitting here now saying my two children are my world and believe me , I would like nothing more than that.

But , we have to be realistic and live in the real world . Sometimes sad , heartbreaking decisions have to be made. If I lived in Belfast and found myself in the same position as those women prosecuted , I dread to think what would have happened . Well I know really – faced with having to go through with a pregnancy like I had would have sent me over the edge and I probably wouldn’t be alive today.

But I am . I’m here to stoke my sons hair , kiss him forever , to clap when he writes his name. I won’t ever forget the day he said mummy for the first time and before he went to sleep tonight he told me he loved me than all this stars in the sky. And thank goodness he can say that to me rather than being a six year old staring at the sky, thinking of the mummy he used to have.

Women deserve to have access to safe medical care that includes terminations. If you don’t agree with them , you don’t have to have one but consider your words and actions as you never know what position you may find yourself in in the future.

I won’t be kicked out of bed for eating biscuits

As I sat on the loo fawning over Kim Kardashians ombre locks and dropping my acrylic nail into the toilet pan, I read the story of Wentworth Miller who has been body shamed for not looking like a rock hard Adonis of yesteryear. His response about the depression he has suffered has thankfully put people in their place and I felt like I had to write something about my own experience of this.

As most of you know – I had postpartum psychosis and generalised anxiety disorder after I had my son Joe six years ago .I was terrified of being alive, feared my son’s very presence and wanted nothing more than to die. I was admitted to a psychiatric mother and baby unit and my recovery started. There were ups and downs but I’m now six years recovered but the whole experience has taught me so many things , not least the reaction to my new body that wasn’t just caused by having a baby but by the recovery process.

I remember when Joe was around six months old and I was on the jolting train that is the recovery express. I was at a friend’s house with Joe feeling terribly anxious, chattering teeth but I was there, living, breathing, being brave, working so hard to live in and enjoy the present that it exhausted me. I was proud of myself for the steps I was taking in an attempt to find Eve again. I had been so lost in my illness but I was pulling myself through it. Baby steps to others were giant leaps for me.

An acquaintance walked into the living room. I didn’t get a kiss hello, a cuddle to say, Eve, well done, you’re here, we are so happy to see you alive and well. No, I got this – “bloody hell Eve, look at the size of you”. Said person then proceeded to look me up and down and shake their head and “you want to get some of that weight off you, John won’t put up with you looking like that”. I could feel my eyes fill with hot tears. I grabbed my hem of my dress and scrunched it up and sat on the sofa and put a cushion over my stomach and said “do I look awful?” The response “awful doesn’t come close” and they let out an exhale of breath and walked out.

I sat there in tears. Five months before I had been on the verge of killing myself. I could see no point in living, I felt worthless, terrified of the world and everyone in it and scared of being alive. When I was unwell I would grab my stomach, the stomach my baby had grown in and wish it would melt away to take away the reminder that it had grown the baby I was so scared off. My stretch marks at that point didn’t represent a tiger mama showing her victorious stripes but served me a frightening permanent reminder that the baby I couldn’t even look at had been kept warm in my tummy and I couldn’t look at my c section scar as it was from there that my baby had been brought into the world . The moment that happened, my spiral into the depths of psychosis began and my mind it seemed had been permanently stolen.

In order to get better, I took so many medications I could have plonked myself on the shelves of WH Smith as a grab bag of skittles or be used as a human maraca. I was on anti-anxiety meds, anti-psychotics and then magic little calming pills which put me into a sedated trance when my thoughts would paralyse me into hysteria. I managed to avoid the rare side effects of black furry tongue and the even more glamorous ‘sudden unexpected death’ (thank you Dr Google for that one) and instead put on three stone in about three days. No need for me to eat 42lbs worth of butter – I may as well have just spread it all over my hips and thighs as that is where it eventually ended up.

To make the living room scenario even better, I dried my tears and went into another room and saw someone else I hadn’t seen since before I was ill. This was their first time seeing me and meeting Joe. I’d made myself look nice and wore a nice dress. I wanted to be funny Eve, bolshie Eve and thought; I’m with people I know, they will be nice to me. So, I went into the room still holding the cushion over my apparently offensive stomach and said oh hello, long time no see. First thing said person said “your hair looks awful. Why does it look like rats tails? You better get that done and sorted quickly”. Within a ten minute period, my feelings of bravery and strength had been destroyed with a few passive aggressive put downs.

My hair had endured the wrath of my illness. At my worst , such as the day I was admitted to the mother and baby psychiatric unit, where I had been on all fours on my in laws bed screaming so much I had cut the sides my mouth and had blood down my face, my hair was falling out. I remember when I began to be more lucid and I saw the patches around my hair line and thinking, nothing has escaped my illness. Not only had my mind been taken but my body was bearing the effects of it also.

My meds had dried my hair out. I hadn’t wanted my hair to be cut or coloured as in my mind , that was me losing something that belonged to me and my whole illness was based on the fact that life had changed and I was grieving the changes. Six months on, my hair had started to grow back. I looked someone had sprinkled some magic seeds on me bonce as little tufts of hair started appearing – it was like when I cut my own fringe when I was seven which instead of being fancy schmansy bangs , it looked like hacksaw Jim Duggan had gone wild with the garden tools.

So there was me, three stone heavier, with jagged ended brittle hair, open season for ill-judged comments from people. It proceeded to make me feel terrible about myself and though it send me to the depths of the despair I was in when I was super unwell, my confidence took an enormous hit. What of course they should have said is , Eve , you’re alive , you’re a great mum , we are so thankful you have recovered, well done on getting through what is one of the most horrific things that can ever happen to somebody.

John taught me I didn’t need their comments though. With the help of him (who does accept me for whatever I look like and doesn’t kick me out of bed for eating biscuits) and meds, I got better. Eve is back again – I’m confident, I feel empowered. I feel like I’ve learnt things about myself I would never have known had I not been ill.

I think I last saw my feet 7 years ago. My stomach has turned into an evolutionary apron that I can sling over my shoulder and it looks as though I’ve stuck three bread rolls along my groin. I can’t tuck it into a pair of size 12 jeans – believe me I’ve tried. I’ve done the whole lying on the bed with said jeans on, pulling the zip up with a deconstructed coat hanger and then standing up to find that a) I have cut off my blood flow b) felt on the verge of fainting and c) that said stomach that had previously been scrapping along the floor had now been pushed up by the adorable skinny jeans and created an elephant type neck. Breathing is totally overrated – being able to walk 1.5 steps in a world obsessed with thin being in is clearly more important.

Just this weekend someone said to me , oh Eve , you don’t seem to mind being overweight do you and I said no , I could give two shits. If it got to the point where Jerry Springer has to remove the side of the house to get me out then I would consider not drinking double cream out of the carton but I’m fine and dandy. I haven’t caused my partner a weight inflicted injury while hanging from the sex swing we have in our house (we don’t have this but one can dream), being a size 16 doesn’t seem to have affected my ability to do my job (it seems that using a keyboard and reading emails can be done regardless of the size of your pants) and people seem to like me. I walked into the pub at the weekend with John and saw his group of mates in front of me in a corner drinking bitter. One of them jokingly shouted ‘Eve, you can’t be here, where’s your dick? “And I said “I’ve tucked it in my pants because it’s bigger than yours and will put you to shame if I flop it out and dip it in your beer”. And I can say that because I’m alive. And I’m alive because I went on meds- meds that made me put on weight. And do I care? Not a curvy jot.

To those who may mock or express disdain at someone’s changed appearance, sew a zip on your mouth and keep it permanently shut. Your misjudged thoughts should remain in your head and do nothing to support the recovery of someone who has been unwell.

And to those like Wentworth and I, regardless of the physical effect of mental illness on your body, you are amazing. You’re a warrior whatever size you are, however your hair looks. You are alive, which is more beautiful than anything.

Blogging about motherhood,the madness it can bring and the muddles I find myself in.