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.

How do I get up from the sack of potatoes that has knocked me down? How and where to get help and support for Perinatal mental illness.

Whether you are at the start of what you believe to be or have been diagnosed as having a perinatal mental illness, mid-way through ,where the horror of the start may be being chipped away by a sprinkling of golden good days here and there , or nearing the end where the fog has almost cleared, you can see the brightness of life before you with your baby and a smile allows itself to come through and the relief is feeling you want to bottle up forever, you need help and support.

And there is help and support available, provided by people who know what they are talking about and who know what may help you. Everyone’s experiences are different – whether its depression , anxiety, psychosis, OCD, feeling full of sadness , feeling full of fear , feeling alone – but what makes help great is it can be adjusted to help you in your situation.

It may feel like it but you aren’t alone. And it may not feel like it, but you will get better. The whizzy medical bods who like looking at graphs and number porn say that ‘1 in 7 women in the UK will be affected by problems with their mood during pregnancy and afterwards’. All these feelings tend to be termed under the Postnatal Depression in the media etc but they shouldn’t be – not all the feelings are related to depression. So, the medical bods put these feelings under one banner and call it the perinatal period.

I am not a doctor. I have no letters after my name that signifies I’m a medical brainbox and I can’t diagnose you. I am a mum who had postpartum psychosis and anxiety and thought my only way away from my feelings of utter despair was to not be here anymore. But I am. I’m here and I am well and you will be too.

So I may not have a medicalology but what I can do is point you in the direction of good, accredited, proper, real, and decent, un Del-Boy type sources of support that can help you.

I feel like a sack of potatoes have been thrown at me and I can’t get up. Does it have to be a big sack of potatoes or can it be just a little one? What do I do?

Whether your symptoms are classed as mild, moderate or severe, if they are making you feel bad then its bad and you need help. From one end of the spectrum, you don’t need to be psychotic to deserve help. I see lots of women say ‘but I didn’t think I was ill enough’. You’re ill enough if it’s affecting your life. Whether it’s made you feel teary at the exhaustion of being woken up 27 times a night or hallucinate that your baby is God, (or like me, make you take your clothes off and run into the road while clinging to your hubbys ankles), you are woman and you need to roar. Roar that you need and deserve help.

Perinatal mental health support in medical terms is a bit of a postcode lottery. In one place you might have an amazing dedicated team who fall asleep with the NICE guidelines on mental illness after a baby on their pillow and have a Mary Poppins handbag of amazing treatments to help you. In another place, you might find yourself in front of GP who doesn’t look at you when you pluck up the courage to go and see them and thinks Postnatal Depression is a modern day concoction of middle class mummies who want to have it all but cant. And then you may find an online doctor who has bought their degree via the University of Con-ville , will only give you treatment options if you buy their book and who suggest a dab of apple cider vinegar on your temples will ease the anxiety away. Avoid these people, stick with malt vinegar and only use it to make your chips taste nice.

I think I want the baby to live next door and using up three rolls of toilet paper a day because I am crying so much – Symptoms and signs of perinatal mental health problems

For details on mental health in pregnancy and after birth and the symptoms and signs of perinatal mental health problems, please have a look at the links I post. These are proper decent medical pages and will give you good info.

For a good overview of Perinatal Mental Illness, the NHS website below is good :
 http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/mental-health-problems-pregnant.aspx

The Baby Blues

The Association Of Postnatal Illness say that ‘after the birth of a baby about half of all mothers suffer a period of mild depression called the blues’. Most mums I know have experienced weepiness, exhaustion , feelings of being overwhelmed that pass very quickly and need no medical support.

Symptoms of the Blues

– Emotional and upset when they have the blues and they cry for no particular reason.

– Tired and lethargic

– Anxious and Tense 

– Difficulty sleeping

The medical wonders say if you have the blues, these feelings may last for a few hours or, at most, for a few days and then they disappear and dont need to be worried about. If they last longer then this though, seek medical help as it could mean something more serious is happening .

http://apni.org/the-baby-blues/

Antenatal Depression and Anxiety

As the super helpful NCT website says, antenatal depression can rear its ugly head while you are with child. Said baby is still in womb, giving you piles . You can have just found out you are pregnant and instead of feeling like those mums on Facebook who post a pic of their wee stained stick with the words ‘2 weeks pregnant’ while jumping up and down for joy with flowers round their head , you think jeepers, this does not make me feel spritely at all. Or you could sail through said pregnancy, get to 7 month and suddenly get walloped in the head by the depression dodge ball which you haven’t dodged at all. It’s knocked you down and you find it hard and almost impossible to get-up.

This is a real illness. Don’t feel shame because being pregnant is tinged with sadness – antenatal depression is becoming recognized and your GP can help.

https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/antenatal-depression

Birth Trauma and PTSD

Giving birth can be traumatic but our antenatal classes con us into thinking if we master how to give birth on a bed made out of tofu and meditate ourselves into an orgasmic state , then we will simply feel like we are giving birth to a raindrop and we can hum the pain away. But for some , birth isnt that straightforward and can be a terrifying , anxiety inducing experience which leaves a big emotional mark on the mum. The Birth Trauma Association say that ‘when we talk of birth trauma, we mean Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs after childbirth. We also include those women who may not meet the clinical criteria for PTSD but who have some of the symptoms of the disorder’.

The BTA outline characteristic features of PTSD as including :

-An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby).

-A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.

-The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.

-Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.

-Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma, will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on their guard all the time).

Birth Trauma / PTSD is very real. Giving birth isnt a bed of roses and can be an upsetting and difficult experience and you shouldn’t feel any shame if you are experiencing it . The BTA have a really helpful link on how and why you should access support here http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/help.htm

For more information see http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/default.asp

Perinatal OCD

Sometimes people call this Maternal OCD. You don’t hear much about this but you should – it’s not as rare as people think and can be distressing. The RCpsych page has piles of very good info so please take a look but as a quick view, RCpsych say the main three symptoms are as follows:

1) Thoughts or images that keep coming into your mind. These are called obsessions. Sometimes people call these intrusive thoughts. They can be very upsetting and you can visualize things you don’t want to see. These are more common than people realize and when I spoke of mine, I found others had had them also. Remember, however distressing the thoughts or visions, please don’t hold back from telling medical professionals about them. To treat you properly, they need to know your thoughts and feelings. And I guarantee, you won’t be the first to talk about these kind of symptoms to them.

The charity Maternal OCD says ‘obsessions can be focused on anything from germs to symmetry. When OCD presents itself during motherhood, the responsibilities for the life and well-being of a helpless infant may be experienced as a chronic stress’ and lists com

– Fear of contamination to the mother, child or anyone in contact with the child e.g. perceived risk of HIV, food poisoning

– Intrusive thoughts, images, doubts of harm e.g. risk of abuse/aggression if not careful

– Doubts that harm could come to child e.g. bottle steriliser not working

– Perfectionism e.g. everything around the house has to be a certain way.

This list is just an example but it should hopefully show the range of the differing obsessions mums could experience.

2) Anxiety – usually as a result of the thoughts. Then , thoughts or actions you keep repeating to try to reduce your anxiety. These are called compulsions.

The charity Maternal OCD says that ‘to try and eradicate the anxiety attached to the obsessions, mothers with OCD will act out rituals to ensure their child is safe and no harm will come to them. In fact, this makes the OCD worsen. Although the anxiety attached to the obsession reduces short-term it returns stronger and stronger. This means that potentially the mother is acting out rituals for a significant amount of her day’.

They list some examples of these below :

– Hyper vigilance when meeting new people or going to public toilets, this will include avoidance of touching other people, planning a day out around toilet breaks and using excessive wet wipes and hand sanitisers

– Hiding anything sharp around the house

– Constantly checking the gas is turned off, the petrol pump is working correctly

– Waking earlier than necessary and going to bed later than necessary to ensure the house is ‘just so’

– Constant reassurance seeking from friends, family members and maybe health professionals that the child is unharmed.

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/perinatalocd.aspx

http://www.maternalocd.org/index.php

Postnatal Depression and Anxiety

Everyone knows the term Postnatal Depression or PND as its more commonly referred to but even though the term is known about, mums (and dads) feel a real sense of shame when admitting they think they are suffering. You don’t need to feel shame – mother/fatherhood is no picnic in those early days.

As a mum ,you have just pushed a melon sized person out of your nether regions , you can’t wee for fear of bursting your stitches , you can’t sit down because your stitches appear to have been too thoroughly done by what appears to be the local seamstress, if you have had a c section, it feel like you are going to break in half at any point, a river of blood is gushing out of you for 6 weeks, your boobs look like they have won the golden ticket to the playboy mansion , great auntie Vera wants to come and stay and help out for the first 3 weeks which is worse than the devil coming over to play with fire in the garden and your baby appears to have laughed in the face of evolution and doesn’t ever sleep. People say oh it’s the best thing ever isn’t it and you’re standing there with sick down your top and someone else’s poo under your fingernails and you think what the dickens , I feel awful. I feel like crying.

Symptoms and feelings like those listed below may go quickly like the baby blues, which is where you are tears etc for a few days following birth. These go away fairly quickly. But if they carry on, they could be leading to postnatal depression or anxiety.

What you must remember though throughout all of this is – you are a good mum, a lovely person, a god damn warrior. Social Services won’t swoop your baby away and thinking distressing things doesn’t mean you will act on them. You are going through a hard time and you can’t just snap out of it. At the moment you are in a hole but you will get out of it.

You aren’t awful. Don’t feel ashamed. You are a good mum.

As the RCpsych pages say, PND or anxiety symptoms can look like these :

-Depressed
-Irritable
-Tired
-Sleepless
-Appetite changes
-Unable to enjoy anything Loss of interest in sex
-Negative and guilty thoughts
-You might think that you are not a good mother or that your baby doesn’t love you
-You may feel guilty for feeling like this or that this is your fault
-You may lose your confidence
-You might think you can’t cope with things.

Anxiety

Anxiety can be awful. For me, I had Postpartum Psychosis but once those symptoms cleared, I was left with a deep fear of my baby. The thought that he was now here forever filled me with such fear, that I felt like I was in a constant panic attack.

My doctor asked me if I felt like I wanted to flush the baby down the toilet – she could have phrased it a tad better but I didnt want rid of him forever. I was just very scared of him. I couldn’t dump him like a boyfriend I suddenly stopped liking and I couldn’t sell him like a flat that I had got bored with – he was here forever now and the fear of that consumed me . But my symptoms are only one experience.
Some anxiety symptoms are below – these again are taken from the RCpsych website.

-You may feel like:
-your baby is very ill
-your baby is not putting on enough weight
-your baby is crying too much and you can’t settle him/her
-your baby is too quiet and might have stopped breathing
-you might harm your baby
-you have a physical illness
-You will never get better.
-You may feel like you won’t ever not feel like this
-You may be so worried that you are afraid to be left alone with your baby.

When you feel anxious, you may have some of the following:
-racing pulse
-thumping heart
-breathless
-sweating
-fear that you may have a heart attack or collapse.

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/postnataldepression.aspx

Postpartum Psychosis

Action on Postpartum Psychosis says that ‘Postpartum Psychosis (PP) is a severe, but treatable, form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby. It can happen ‘out of the blue’ to women without previous experience of mental illness. There are some groups of women, women with a history of bipolar disorder for example, who are at much higher risk. PP normally begins in the first few days to weeks after childbirth. It can get worse very quickly and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Most women need to be treated with medication and admitted to hospital’.

I was one of those women .You may have heard of this illness for the first time since the soap Eastenders are currently featuring it as a major storyline. The charity Mind have been working with the BBC to get the portrayal of the illness right , as have APP and myself and another mum , Kathryn Grant , have been acting as consultants to the storyline and met with the researchers and actors to discuss our experience .

It is a scary illness – lots of varying symptoms as shown below – for me, I felt very scared of ‘something’. I hallucinated that I was floating and thought the sky was able to be ripped apart. I was terrified of being in the same room as my son and had bright flashes in front of my eyes. Again though, these are my symptoms. My friend spent a day thinking she was the President of North Korea which was terrifying enough in itself.

As they are the very best source of info on PP, here is APP’s list of symptoms:

There are a large variety of symptoms that women with PP can experience. Women may be:

Excited, elated, or ‘high’.
-Depressed, anxious, or confused / excessively irritable or changeable in mood.

Postpartum Psychosis includes one or more of the following:

-Strange beliefs that could not be true (delusions).
 -Hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling things that are not there (hallucinations).
 -High mood with loss of touch with reality (mania).
 -Severe confusion.

These are also common symptoms:

 -Being more talkative, sociable, on the phone an excessive amount.
 -Having a very busy mind or racing thoughts.
 -Feeling very energetic and like ‘super-mum’ or agitated and restless.
 -Having trouble sleeping, or not feeling the need to sleep.
 -Behaving in a way that is out of character or out of control.
 -Feeling paranoid or suspicious of people’s motives.
 -Feeling that things are connected in special ways or that stories on the TV or radio have special personal meaning.
 -Feeling that the baby is connected to God or the Devil in some way.

Treatment for PP

PP is classed as a medical emergency and if you suspect your wife, partner , daughter, sister or friend may have it , you need to take her to a GP or hospital. Mums and littles are often treated together in specialist psychiatric mother and baby units so to avoid the separation of mother and baby, wherever possible, by joint admission. I went into a mother and baby unit. It was fab.My bed wasnt chained to the wall and I wasn’t made to wear a straitjacket while watching the TV. It was safe , calm , warm and purposeful and it started my recovery.

I’ve written about my experience in the unit here which I hope you will take some comfort in https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/i-need-a-bed-of-strawberry-creams-in-a-place-of-recovery-dreams/ .

Once discharged , the local specialized Perinatal Outreach and Community Psychiatric Team visited me every day at home.

Don’t be scared if you need to go into a mother and baby unit or see a perinatal team at home. They are Brillo-pads and will help you get better x

http://www.app-network.org/

Suicidal thoughts

When you are feeling in such a way as described, suicidal thoughts may come into your head. It is very important here that if you feel like you are going to hurt or harm yourself and or attempt to take your life, you need to see a doctor right that very instant.

– Its ok to call the GP urgently and say you need to see a doctor and tell them why
– It’s ok to go to casualty and tell them you are having these kinds of thoughts. You aren’t wasting their time.
– It’s ok to call your local mental health crisis team.

All these things are more than ok – they are essential. You need and deserve help. You can and will get better. You deserve to be alive. People want and need you to be alive . You are a good person and you aren’t well. I reached the depths where I thought suicide was the only way out as I couldnt see beyond my illness but there are services, medications , support networks that can help you recover and find your happy again.

If you are feeling like death is the only way out , you need urgent help. GP, Casualty,999. Contact them xx

The NHS has a very helpful page specifically for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts . Take a look if you need to :

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Getting-help.aspx

I want to get better from my perinatal mental illness – what should I do ?

For all of the things listed above, it’s super important to seek help. There are lots of ways of doing this.

– Contact your midwife, doctor or health visitor and tell them you are worried that you may have a problem with your feelings during your pregnancy or after the baby is born. Perinatal means up to 12 months after your baby is born so even if your child isn’t a gurgling little baba anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t be suffering!
– Doctors are used to seeing mums with these symptoms. Most docs are fab, some, as is life, not so much so. Ask the receptionist who is nice, who has a kind ear and who won’t stare at a computer screen while you are with them. If it’s too much to say in person, write it down and pass it to the receptionist if you can.
– If you see a doctor as they are as useful as a chocolate condom, then book an appointment to see another doctor. You can see 7865 doctors if need be. You deserve to be listened to.
– If you are a friend or relative of the person who is unwell, you may have to encourage them to make the appointment and go with them as they may not be aware of, or believe that there is a problem.

Medicated and Mighty – what will get me better ?

There are many effective treatments for perinatal mental health problems such as medication, therapy and support from charities. The vast majority of women make a good recovery. This is an illness like any other and it is vital that you receive help if you need it, so do not be afraid to ask for it.

Medication – sometimes you won’t need this , sometimes you will.

I thank the medication gods – I took so much at one point I was a human maraca but I got better. I’m still on a low dose now – I see meds like that song ‘Tequila , it makes me happy’. There is no shame in needing meds – they can help the awful fog in your head clear so you can focus on recovery. If you broke your leg you would wear a cast. wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t roll down the street attempting to not land in a pile of dog poo because you thought you could pull yourself together , think happy thoughts and leg would magically be unbroken.

The charity Mind have a fab page on medication here which you may find useful to read http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/medication/#.Vsbx1ErfWrU .

Breastfeeding and Medication

If you are breastfeeding but need meds, that’s ok. There are lots of medications you can take while nursing. I was on anti psychotics and anti anxiety meds that were compatable with feeding and if you are wondering what meds are ok , or your GP isn’t sure , then the person to contact is Wendy Jones. Wendy is fab , amazing and lovely. And super helpful . Her webpage is below and there is a tab with her contact details. If you are feeling too anxious to talk to Wendy, she is happy for you to send an email.

http://www.breastfeeding-and-medication.co.uk

Let’s talk – therapy !

You don’t have to be a millionaire to go therapy and you don’t have to lay back on a sofa while someone with a clipboard nods while you are in a puddle of tears . Therapy is amaze balls. It can get to the root of why you are feeling the way you are and then help you develop coping strategies . I had EMDR therapy which sounds ridiculous. – I had to follow a flashing light around the room to get over my trauma but it god damn worked. There are loads of different types of therapy so if offered to you , give it a whirl.

Again , the charity Mind have a great website on therapy http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/talking-treatments/types-of-talking-treatments/#.Vsbz20rfWrU

I wrote a blog on treatment options last year. Take a look https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/tear-up-those-anti-depressant-prescriptions-all-you-need-to-do-is-climb-into-a-magicians-hatnudge-the-rabbit-out-of-the-way-and-abracadabra-youre-cured-in-a-puff-of-pull-yourself-together-smo/

Sources of further help

Maternal OCD http://www.maternalocd.org/ : A charity set up by mothers recovered from perinatal OCD, who can provide support via email, twitter and Skype. For further details please contact: info@maternalocd.org

OCD Action  http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/ : A charity providing a dedicated OCD helpline, email support and advocacy service. Contact details: 0845 3906232; email: support@ocdaction.org.uk

Association for Postnatal Illness http://apni.org/ The UK’s leading PND charity provides telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of trained volunteers who have themselves experienced PND.
Helpline: 020 7386 0868.

APP http://www.app-network.org Association of Postpartum Psychosis offers support to those suffering Postpartum Psychosis and their families. APP are the specialists in this illness and for correct advice , please contact them.

Depression Alliance http://www.depressionalliance.org/
Tel: 020 7407 7584; email: info@depressionalliance.org
Information, support and understanding for people who suffer with depression, and for relatives who want to help. Self-help groups, information, and raising awareness for depression.

Cry-sis http://www.cry-sis.org.uk
Helpline: 08451 228669. Provides self-help and support for families with excessively crying and sleepless and demanding babies.

Family Action https://www.family-action.org.uk/
Tel: 020 7254 6251. Support and practical help for families affected by mental illness, including ‘Newpin’ services – offering support to parents of children under-5 whose mental health is affecting their ability to provide safe parenting.

Home Start http://www.home-start.org.uk/
Tel: 0800 068 6368. Support and practical help for families with at least one child under-5. Help offered to parents finding it hard to cope for many reasons. These include PND or other mental illness, isolation, bereavement, illness of parent or child.

National Childbirth Trust http://www.nct.org.uk
Helpline: 0300 330 0700. Support and information on all aspects of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. Local groups and telephone helplines.

MAMA – The “Meet A Mum Association” http://www.mama.co.uk   Created to try and help thousands of mothers who feel out of their depth, depressed or a little isolated when their babies are born
Helpline 0845 120 3746

The Samaritans http://www.samaritans.org/
24-hour helpline 08457 90 90 90 (UK) or 116 123 (Ireland); Email: jo@samaritans.org.
Confidential emotional support for those in distress who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including suicidal thoughts.

Mind – Mental Health Charity
http://www.mind.org.uk

Sane – Mental Health Charity
http://www.sane.org.uk

Rethink – Mental Health Charity
https://www.rethink.org

Bipolar UK – Mental Health Charity
https://www.bipolaruk.org

Tommys http://www.tommys.org Tommy’s pregnancy information service provides information and resources about mental health in pregnancy

Tommys Midwifery-led pregnancy line http://www.tommys.org/mentalhealth is available for anyone worried about their mental health in pregnancy, or that of another (0800 0147 800).

Birth Trauma Association http://http//www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/ supports all women who have had a traumatic birth experience. It is estimated that, in the UK alone, this may result in 10,000 women a year developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).They offer emotional and practical support to women and also their families. They can offer email support to mums suffering , for more information please see this link http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/support.htm .

Mums Aid http://mums-aid.org Mums Aid provides inclusive and accessible psychological therapies for mothers experiencing a broad spectrum of emotional and mental health difficulties during pregnancy or postnatally.

Postpartum Progress http://www.postpartumprogress.com/ This may be based in America, but the Postpartum Progress websites offers one of the very best vast range of support resources and helpful tips for dealing with Postnatal Depression, Anxiety, OCD and Psychosis. Founded by warrior mum in chief Katherine Stone , it is a fantastic resource of info and empowering blog posts. Thank you Katherine.

International Help – Postpartum Support International
http://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/international/

Peer support 

Peer support can be incredible – talking to to someone who has been through what you’re going through and got better can give you real hope. However, do check that that if you are going to a peer support group , that they are are properly safeguarded with trained staff and volunteers, who have access to clinical supervision and support for themselves.

Please don’t attend support groups being run by mums who are still unwell or in someone’s front room . It’s not safe.

Association for Postnatal Illness http://apni.org
Helpline: 020 7386 0868. Provides telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of volunteers who have themselves experienced PND.

Cocoon Family Support http://cocoonfamilysupport.org/
The fantabulous Cocoon Family support is a London based charity. It supports those affected by postnatal depression, and mothers who are struggling to deal with difficult emotions before and after birth. They provide a safe and supportive environment where families can get together with others who may be feeling similar to themselves. They also provide a range of services to aid and support recovery. They are based in SE1, NW1, NW3 and NW6 and can be accessed by people across London and its borders.

The Smile Group http://www.thesmilegroup.org/
The SMILE Group was co-founded by Natalie Nuttall and Ruth Eglin in 2011 after they both experienced PND and felt passionate about the need for parents to benefit from sustained peer support at a local level. They run support groups each week for mums in Cheshire East.

Macclesfield – every Friday,10am to 12pm
Congleton – every Wednesday, 10am to 12pm

They also have this brillo-pads checklist you can complete and bring to the doctor should you not know what to say or how to say how you are feeling http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/

Raindrops to Rainbows http://www.raindropstorainbows.co.uk
Run by the lovely Steph who is trained to provide support and advice , R2R provide peer support to mums to be and mums in the North East. They currently have five groups covering Teeside, County Durham and South Tymside areas. The website has full details and there is a facebook page .

Open House Nottingham http://openhouse-notts.org/
Open House (OH) was founded by a group fab Mums in early 2012 with the aim of supporting those who are or have been affected by any psychological and emotional condition which has developed during pregnancy or during the postnatal period. These include antenatal depression, postnatal depression, anxiety & OCD.
They run drop in groups in Nottingham and details are here http://openhouse-notts.org/our-drop-in-groups/ .

Lotus Petal PND https://www.facebook.com/LotusPetalPND/
Support goup run every other Monday 9.30-11am at Little Lions Childresn Centre in Essex. Run by Sarah , who is the nicest lady in the world,she welcomes any mum in Essex needing support. Contact details are on the Facebook page.

Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support http://www.juno.uk.com/
Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support was founded in February 2015 by a group of mums in Edinburgh who all have personal experience of perinatal mental health difficulties.They are kind , lovely women. They support mums through
Weekly peer support groups across the city where we offer advice and information
One-to-one befriending through our outreach program
Access a subsidised counselling service out with our groups with a trained professional.
They run four groups and details are here http://www.juno.uk.com/our-groups/

Bluebell Care http://www.bluebellcare.org/
Bluebell is a charity based in Bristol supporting mums, dads and families who are affected by antenatal or post-natal depression. They run regular, free groups Mums’ Comfort Zone, together with free creche provision, in South, North and Central/East Bristol. They prioritise the support we are able to provide (due to funding constraints) as follows: young parents from the Hartcliffe/Withywood/Bishopsworth area in South Bristol, parents from the Henbury/Brentry area in North Bristol and parents from St Pauls, Easton, Montpelier’ and Stokes Croft area in Central/East Bristol.

They also offer 1:1, informal, support via the Bluebell Buddy who can arrange to visit mums at home and/or in their local area for a cuppa and a chat.Dads can also access support through their Dads’ Zone group.

If you would like more information on their services please contact the lovely Ruth Jackson
Telephone 07738628842 or Email info@bluebellcare.org

House Of Light http://www.pndsupport.co.uk/
Offering hope and support for women affected by Postnatal, Antenatal Depression & Anxiety in Hull. call: 0800 043 2031 or01482 580499
text: 07854 220790
email: help@pndsupport.co.uk

Mother for Mothers http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/links.html
Support Group for mums in Bristol suffering from PND . Helpline details are here http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/contact-us.html .

Homestart Bedfordshire http://www.home-startcentralbeds.org.uk/postnatal-depression-in-bedfordshire/
Home-Start Central Bedfordshire we run numerous pnd support groups throughout Central Bedfordshire, where women with similar experiences can meet and end the isolation of postnatal depression . Contact details – office@home-startcentralbeds.org.uk / 01582 660061

Journeys of Hope http://www.journeysofhope.co.uk/useful-links/
Contact info@journeysofhope.co.uk

Hertforshire Postnatal Illness Support http://www.postnatalillness.co.uk/
Can provide telephone support and Wwe run monthly support group meetings for mums with the severest forms of postnatal illness.

Acacia Family Support http://www.acacia.org.uk
Provide a free wide range of support and therapies to help muks recover from the symptoms associated with pre and postnatal depression. Their services are delivered across Birmingham and they include individual befriending sessions, group work therapy, telephone support, practical support in your own home and massage therapy for parents and your baby.

Cedar House Support http://www.postnataldepression.com/ runs PND support groups in the Surrey, Sussex and South London Areas. The groups are run by trained PND Counsellors.

The Guildford Group
This group runs from 10am to midday every Wednesday, term time only starting on January 13th 2016 at Boxgrove Sure Start Children’s Centre, Boxgrove Lane, Guildford, GU1 2TD. All groups are informal, confidential and a great support for the mothers. A crèche is provided and there is parking. Please contact Liz before attending: lwise@talktalk.net/ 07773283556.
The Balham Group
This group is at St Stephen’s Centre( next to The Weir Link Centre) Weir Road, SW12 0NU, starting on Friday 8th January 2016 .
This group will run every Friday , term time only from 9.30 to 11.30am, a crèche is provided and there is free parking.
It is necessary to book a place for this group , please contact Liz to do so. 07773 283556, lwise@talktalk.net
The Surrey Heath Group (Mytchett)
This group starts on Tuesday 12th January 2016 at Mytchett Children’s Centre, Hamesmoor Road, Mytchett, GU16 6JB and runs every Tuesday term time only from 12.30 to 2.30pm. A crèche is provided and there is free parking. Please contact Liz on 07773 283556 or lwise@talktalk.net for further details.

PSS PND Service http://www.psspeople.com
Offers 121 and group support in the Liverpool area plus Twitter & Facebook plus Professional Perinatal Training. 0151 702 5533

Butterflies PND http://www.claire-murphy.com/blog/womens-voices-pnd based in Watford offers fantastic support for mums affected by Perinatal Mental Illness

Kyra Women’s Project http://www.kyra.org.uk/ is based in York/Selby and offers a range of support services.

Bluebell PND Support http://www.kyra.org.uk/based in Glasgow offer support and counselling. You ca self-refer and referrals are welcome from health, social work and other professional agencies.Referrals can be made by telephoning 0141 221 3003.

PTSD Support Group – Dr Georgina Cliford runs a small therapy group for up to 4 women from Tuesday 8th March 2016 onwards in London. It will be weekly on a Tuesday afternoon (with some flexibility depending on availability, childcare issues etc.) For more info please see http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/news/news.asp?id=96

Pregnancy Sickness Support https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/offer support to mums struggling with pregnancy sickness/ Hyperemesis . They have a national support network for women suffering any degree of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy to access support and comfort at times of isolation and distress https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/help/supporters-network/ .

#PNDHOUR And let’s not forget the amazing #pndhour run by the beautiful Rosey @pndandme. A weekly Twitter chat , it takes place every Wednesday between 8-9pm and a different subject relating to perinatal mental health is discussed .

Mums, currently ill or recovered , health care professionals and family members all take part to discuss experiences , share knowledge and provide hope. Join in if you can , it’s brilliant . Rosey has written a little explanation of it here http://pndandme.co.uk/pndhour-explained/.

I grabbed some of the charity details from Roseys blog , so thank you Rosey.

Am I alone? Can I read other people’s experiences?

You aren’t alone . You most definitely aren’t and there are lots of stories online from people who have written about their experiences. Remember, reading things could trigger thoughts and feelings so take care of you and only read if you feel ok to. If at any point you want to stop, then do. That’s ok.

My blog is here. I talk about being ill with psychosis and anxiety , recovery , medication and eastenders https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com

The lovely Rosey’s blog is here and it’s a fab resource on all things Perinatal http://pndandme.co.uk. Roseys page also has a fab tab which lists lots of brilliant blogs from those who have suffered http://pndandme.co.uk/pndfamily-help-support/ .

You will get better , you arent alone. You may slide up and down the snakes and ladders of the game of recovery but you will get there .

Dont give up xx

Real Life Stacey’s need healthcare Cagney and Laceys

When I was asked by mind to help Eastenders with their postpartum psychosis storyline, I admit I 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, have created a storyline that is so realistic in its portrayal, within a couple of short weeks, postpartum psychosis is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Every mums group I am in on Facebook is talking about it – what’s wrong with Stacey ,why is she turning all the lights off , why is she on the roof of the Vic, who is Arthur’s father, does she ever feed the baby , 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?

But it can happen. It happened to me and it’s changed my life in so many ways. Within a matter of hours I flipped from being a girl full of zest who could sling a drunk reveller out of a pub in my stilettos (I’ve don’t this many times – I am she-ra) and an in your face smile, a 29 year old Peggy Mitchell who could handle anything that was thrown at me, to a shell of my former self. I became so I’ll I feared being alive and wanted the sky to suck me up and take me away from a world I felt I didn’t belong to. Ever since I was unwell six years ago, I have wanted to do something to raise awareness in a big way about postpartum psychosis. I’ve found that through my own blog and working alongside charities that I have helped others in their journey to recovery but I realised that in the mainstream, no one had a clue about the illness was and in order to maximise the help and support available to women who suffer, I wanted a way of getting a message out to people in an easily accessible way. And along came Eastenders and like it or not, soaps can do that 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 it’s had even so far is a brilliant thing.

I think we all realise that mental health is something that resembles a big black hole. People know the words but don’t really know what it means and I think even more so in terms of perinatal mental illness when you become unwell after having a baby, there is such a massive stigma attached because having a baby is supposed to be an amazing time in your life. I thought when I had my baby that I would be walking on rose petals in a haze of milk filled bubbles. No such luck – instead, two days after I had my son Joe, I found myself crawling round the floor in the postnatal ward on my hands and knees, catheter hanging out, inspecting the dirt on the floor. I had never ever done this at home.

I became ill almost as soon as Joe was born. I had a c section due to a pre-existing medical condition and when he was pulled out of me I saw a jet stream of wee fly into the air, my child baptising the surgeon in a sea of urine. They held him up. He was crying and looked as though he was surrounded by light. He looked like Jesus in a flash of gold and it was in that moment that my brain started its journey into meltdown mode. An hour after he was born my mums first words weren’t oh look how lovely he is. Instead she said ‘ Evelyn, what’s wrong with you, you look like a zombie’. She says now she can’t bear to think about the look on my face – glazed over, staring through her, staring at the wall unable to speak.

I’ve been watching Eastenders through a haze of tears of amazement. Lacey and James who play Stacey and Martin are playing the parts so well. My friend Kathryn (who also had pp) and I have met with Lacey and James a number of times and talked to them at length about the reality of having psychosis. And not just a brief overview – details of how we felt when in the midst of a hallucination. I talked about the day I looked at the clouds rough my window and ran outside to the middle of the road trying inhale air. I felt like I was trapped in my house, in my life and in the world and frantically thought about how I could escape. I had visions of floating up to the clouds and being able to cut through them but then panicked about what I would do then. What if I felt trapped above the clouds? Where would I go then? And then came the day when I woke up, put an apron on and caked my face in makeup. And I’m not talking Kim Kardashian contouring – I think I was trying to fashion a modern day Mary Poppins as I frantically cleaned the house. John came into the kitchen to find me on my hands and knees scrubbing the oven – a clean house equals a clear mind I thought. And then I went to the window and tried to climb out of it to get nearer to the outside world, away from the walls of the house I felt trapped in. I would look to the sky as if it would provide me with the answers I was looking for but it didn’t. Which made me more frustrated. I would claw at my mouth trying to remove the imaginary cling film that was on it and then felt like I was floating in the corner of the room looking down on myself.

One of the things that has been so great about these first few episodes is how it’s showing 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 is going to great lengths to show this. I was devastatingly afraid of being with my son on my own. I was scared of him, terrified of him being here in the unknown hole that is forever and at times felt like I couldn’t look at or hold him. However one thing I did do which I spoke with Lacey about was that I wore him in a sling anytime I was with him if someone else was with me. He terrified me but something in me wanted to keep him safe. My body was physically aching from giving birth to him and my breasts were making milk to feed him and it was almost as if my body was trying to hold on to him in some way . I told Lacey how the sling enabled me to feed Joe when at times I wasn’t sure where or who I was and my boyfriend John who met with James said he explained how I would have Joe with me even though my terror levels were so bad that at time I felt like there were flashes in front of my eyes and my hearing would muffle. When I was eventually hospitalised in a psychiatric mother and baby unit (I say eventually because it took six weeks for
us to find one to get me admitted to resulting in us having to move nearly 200 miles across the UK from London to Nottingham to get into one) one of the big things was that I could go on medication that enabled me to keep nursing.

Reading the storyline before it was screened had me very emotional when I read scripts but now it’s on screen, it’s so powerful that I have cried for many reasons. Crying because it’s so realistic, crying when Stacey looks to the sky as if she is searching for an answer she can’t find anywhere else which I would when at my lowest. As she paces the square, her eyes look sunken with fear as she looks for something or someone she can 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.

Health Care Professionals have come out on Twitter to say they feel 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 ?

And so to the next part of the Eastenders story. Without saying too much , I think it’s clear that this storyline will go on and it will be in real life time . Stacey over the years has already slid up and down the game of snakes and ladder that is the NHS mental health treatment game and this will continue. My psychosis troubled health care professionals and no one knew quite what to do with me . Poor John was taking me to doctors here , there and everywhere. We might as well have bought an NHS loyalty card . He even took me to one in the middle of the night only to be told if I hadn’t planned my own suicide I was low risk and then we only got help the morning I woke up I decided I wanted to die. I had visualised myself being buried alive in a coffin and couldn’t get out. The notion of being trapped had hit me in the most catastrophic of ways. With no help offered, john piled our little family on the train and we went to Nottingham where his parents lived , now desperate as no one with a medical ology knew what to do with me .

I told john I wanted to die and to ensure I was cremated so I didn’t wake up in a coffin again and then began pacing up and down the stairs over and over and over. I then went on his parent’s bed on all fours and screamed. John decided enough was enough. He was going to get me into another and baby unit and didn’t care how we got in there . It took a morning of dramatic phone calls, him having to hold the phone up so the psychiatrists could hear my hysterical screams and then an hour long assessment in hospital where I was convinced I could smell burning . I was then eventually admitted to the mother and baby unit to start my recovery. My recovery in a safe place with my baby.

Stacey’s road to accessing treatment will be a long and winding one. The scripts I’ve seen are spot on in the reality of the treatment lottery so much so that I’ve stood in the living room astounded that the rear hers and writers have managed to get this so right. Like was the case with me , Stacey’s family and friends are key to her accessing treatment . Martins passion to get her help, top get her into a mother and baby unit so she can recover with Arthur, is I’ve a mirror to John’s sheer tenacity to get me the right and support and without giving anything away, there are some scenes in the not so distant future that seem so close to home, it will almost feel like I’m watching myself on screen.

Keep watching. Mind, the Eastenders team, the actors, Kathryn and I and our partners have worked to get this right.

My real life storyline

I’ve been harbouring a secret. No ,I’m not a real queen, but yes I am the queen of my Kingdom and yes I once did accidently go to the loo in a bin in a restaurant and got tossed into the street by a traumatised waiter.

I  digress – my secret is that for about the last eight months, I’ve been working with the mental health charity Mind and the BBC soap Eastenders to help them create a storyline about postpartum psychosis. This is an awareness opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. It’s not about five minutes of fame, it’s about getting a message out to ten million people about the illness .which is phenomenal.

To coincide, I’ve made my first and last ever vlog.I’ve held my dirty tongue and swallowed a sensible stick to talk about my experience of mental illness in the most honest way I can .

**** Trigger warning – I talk about my dark thoughts and feelings when I was unwell which include thoughts about death.please only watch if you feel ok too******

You can and do get better X

 

I need a bed of strawberry creams in a place of recovery dreams

It’s been nearly six years since I had my son and developed postpartum psychosis and anxiety which eventually led to me being hospitalised in a psychiatric mother and baby unit . Life certainly is like a box of chocolates but I definitely wasn’t served up a portion of strawberry creams. Rather, it felt like a load of fruit and nut bars were launched at me during the conga and knocked me down with such force , that i felt like I would never get up again. But, up I got . It took a fair while of fruit and nut bar dodging , hair pulling , climbing out of windows and standing in kitchens for hours on end holding lumps of frozen meat, but up I got, emotionally battered and bruised ,tired and weary, but happy , healthy with hips (thank you anti depressants ) , recovered and most importantly, alive.

My son has his mother , thank god. John has his one day wife , if he ever pulls his sodding finger out and gives me a diamond , and I have my family and I’m so glad I’m alive to do so, for I very nearly wasn’t. I owe my life to the psychiatric mother and baby unit I went into and I will forever do what I can to bang their drum so people know how important they are.

Fact of the week, ding ding ding, is that a woman is 33 times more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric ward after giving birth than at any other time in her life. Thats thousands of women and seems like it’s probably quite important therefore that these women are looked after good and proper with their sproglet .

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence or the less mouthful NICE, says that mums who need in-patient treatment for any perinatal mental health illness should have a place mother and unit with their baby. However , there aren’t many of these units in the UK. It’s a case of find the mother and baby unit needle in the psychiatric haystack I’m afraid and I found myself headfirst in said haystack, legs in the air , frantically trying to find one to go to near where I lived. No such luck I’m afraid. Not even a ‘no room in the inn ‘ instance here , there just wasn’t anywhere for me to go.

Joe was six weeks old when I was eventually hospitalised. We live in London and I spent those first six weeks wandering around in a hallucinating haze , rambling about the duvet cover dancing and finding chunks of my hair falling out at the front. I looked like a patchwork doll who a five year old had taken a pair of scissors to – the fringe that grew out as a result of this was most attractive let me tell you. But as john trekked me around to gps,hospitals and basically anywhere where someone wore a white coat, everyone said , hmm, can’t do much to help you and what the dickens is a mother and baby unit? We were told ‘ there is no such thing as a perinatal psychiatrist dear, don’t always trust the internet’ and one doctor even told me to bake a cake which , as nice as cakes are , I don’t think quite have the medicinal powers that a stint in a specialised psychiatric unit does. Be good if they did though wouldn’t it ? Ah yes dear, you have generalised anxiety disorder, here is your prescription for a red velvet calming cupcake with a fret free fondant topping .

So, after six weeks after head banging on tables for john , he bundled me , the baby,the pet hamsters and a few carrier bags of clothes onto a train to Nottingham where he had found out there was a mother and baby unit in the hope that someone would realise I needed to be in one . His bundling worked – I was admitted , they saw I was seriously ill and they helped me get better with my little baby in tow. Thank goodness , because I really do feel I was only a few days from ending my life.

I was so so so ill and had reached such a low that I was terrified of being alive and if john hadn’t been the amazing doll that he is and moved us 200 miles across the country , he would be a single dad to our beautiful son. I’m crying as I type this as its hit me that if we hadn’t moved I wouldn’t have sat on the sofa with Joe until 11pm last night eating curry and dancing in our pants to the X factor . I wouldn’t make brownies with my little lovely boy and stick our heads in the bowls in the end . I wouldn’t smell his little football mad feet again. I wouldn’t wake up with him in between john and I with him saying mummy I love you , you are the best mummy ever. No mum should ever reach the point where it’s a possibility she won’t ever get to see her child grow up because life is too hard to live and this is why there should be enough mother and baby units in the country to house mums who need the specialised help they offer.

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”. The thing is, I know when I do the normal lottery to win £20 million squid, that it’s highly unlikely I will win it and can only dream of rolling around on a 27 foot water bed, size 10 having now been rich enough to afford lipo, naked , throwing fifty pound notes in the diamond encrusted air and catching them in my Brazilian lifted butt cheeks . However , it seems pretty bad that getting the healthcare you need is a lottery that you almost certainly won’t win because of cuts, lack of funding , re- structuring, re butchering.Because your mind doesn’t say, right , I must retain my marbles as there is nowhere for me to go if I get sick does it?

To give you a sense of what postpartum psychosis is like, I’ll give you an overview of those first few months . I was scared of being near my son,afraid of being near my own child, the child I had desperately wanted for so long. The child I had held parties for while I was pregnant as I was so overjoyed that I hadn’t miscarried by certain points. This child. My child. And I was scared of him within an hour of him being born.

On our return home from hospital when Joe was three days old, John went to the shop the get some bread so we could eat something . I was a nursing mother and needed food- hurrah for john going to tesco! However as soon as he left, I felt frantic. I phoned my brother and rambled over the phone to fill the terror that I felt brewing in the air. He asked if I was drunk so I must have sounded slightly odd to for him to say that. I was and am still partial to drinking a pint of Guinness in under ten seconds and would flame a sambuca from my crotch if I could but the hospital ward had failed to serve any of this up to me while they handed me my cold mashed potato. I wasn’t drunk,I was terrified. I was in tears, my teeth were chattering,my eyes flicking from left to right , I felt like the walls in the flat were slowly closing in on me and I had a terrible sense of catastrophic doom hanging over me.

I spent those first six weeks being unable to be on my own with my son. John went back to work when Joe was six weeks old and I spent my first day with Joe on my own and had totally flipped. I had tried to dress him and was shaking so much I couldn’t do it. He lay there on the bed, all squidgy and beautiful with adorable little rolls and squish with stinky little sweaty feet. He was the most beautiful child I had ever seen but I was terrified by his very presence. I am his mother and I couldn’t dress him.I think now how much my hands must have been shaking to not be able to do it and I feel so sad for me . All those other mums having a baby and putting their joy all over Facebook and captions of ‘look at my little man in his lovely baby grow’ and here was me , unable to dress my own baby as I was too scared.

An hour later,after tears,vomiting,pacing the house,a moment where I felt I was looking down on myself from the corner of the room ,I walked to the post office to give me something to do with Joe in the 500 quid designer pram . I thought I would collect a pile of presents I had missed the postman for because I had been too frightened to open the front door. So I looked the part with me snazzy black bugaboo but my mind wasn’t corresponding. Being outside, I realised I felt scared of the trees, the roads, the cars, the baby,the air, the world ,being alive. I vomited on the street a few times ,must have been delightful for the street cleaners to be scooping up my bile , yummy, and developed tunnel vision.I blacked out by the park and just stood next to the pram , my eyesight blurring and my hearing muffled.

Once we were home, I stood in the hallway gasping for air. I felt like I was I a coffin nailed down that I was desperately banging for someone to hear me to help me break out of it. I felt trapped . Trapped in this new life with this baby I was scared of and trapped in a world I couldn’t get away from. I stood in the hallway for ages . Joe was a content gurgling beautiful boy in his bouncer but I stood in that hallway staring at the ceiling screaming for someone to help me ,to take this feeling away. What had I done? My mind was consumed in absolute terror and filled with the , what I thought was the realisation , feeling that I had made a terrible terrible mistake in having a child that was now here forever . I stood in the hallway and thought this is my life now and it’s too much for me to cope with . The feeling of being trapped in this , in the world forever was too much for me to deal with and I just stood there and screamed , desperate to drift away.

The next day, John woke up and I refused to let him go to work. I was screaming that I couldn’t be on my own with Joe. I remember holding on to him crying shouting over and over ‘please don’t leave me’. I begged him to stay at home and was totally hysterical. He didn’t go to work, he couldn’t. I was losing control if my senses. That evening I ran out of the flat in my dressing gown into the street as another massive felling of terror hit me. I was naked underneath and flashed all me nether regions at the old lady across the road who has her net curtain permanently hitched up to nose away . My mum then came over that night to see how I was. She stayed with John and I and she slept in the bed with me while john slept on the sofa with Joe in his Moses basket. I cried the whole night. I had my knees up to my chest and just wanted to bed to swallow me up. She cuddled me in her arms until the morning time and has since said that I spent that night repeatedly sobbing the same phrase ” when will this feeling go away?” and that I was hysterical.

Going into the mother and baby unit not only saved my life but ensured I recovered with my baby. It was imperative that I was with Joe while I recovered and I’m really lucky I got a place in the unit as unfortunately , some women have ended up being admitted to a normal psychiatric unit without their baby (due to a lack of specialised units near them). If I had gone into a normal psychiatric ward , yes , my psychosis would have got under control but what then ? On release from hospital, I go home and see my baby and have to start the process of recovery on my own with him there ? No, I couldn’t have done that. If I had gone to a normal psych ward I would never have recovered like I have. I guarantee it. I needed to be in a specialised unit.

To see if I could get admitted , when I saw the psychiatrist, he was so nice to me, I felt like I knew he was going to help me. He spoke to me gently and for the first time, I felt like I could tell someone how I really felt. He said that perinatal psychiatrists like knew that the dark thoughts women have when they are unwell are just that – thoughts. He said he knew I would never harm Joe or myself – he said he could see I was desperate for help and the reason I wanted help was because I want to be happy with my son – which meant I loved him. The psychiatrist was nodding as I was speaking and made me feel like it was ok to tell him the darkest thoughts that had passed through my head. He did not seem shocked by what I was saying. He said they had seen hundreds of women who had felt like me. I said my main issue was that I thought Joe had ruined my life. I was so anxious that he was here forever. And that my jumbled up thoughts were confusing me. He said it sounded as though I had experienced some symptoms of psychosis and that he would be admitting me to the mother and baby unit.

That day, as soon as my assessment had finished, I 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.

And from a personal side of things, I was also still breastfeeding Joe .There were times when I couldn’t look at him, but I still fed him. I realise now that this was me trying to bond with him, and for me, breastfeeding has increased that bond – I have continued to nurse Joe and for us , it’s a beautiful thing. If I had gone into a normal psych ward without Joe,I wouldn’t have been able to nurse him which it turns out was a really important part of my personal recovery . I would sit down and watch question time in the unit with Joe on my chest and when it was finished , go off to bed with him in the room. I couldn’t have done that in a normal ward.

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 recovery took a long time. But I got better. Upon my discharge from the unit, I had to spend a few minutes on my own with Joe each day and then had to build this up to walking to the local shop. A few weeks later, I had to spend the afternoon on my own with him in the house -‘exposure therapy’. I was to then spend all my time with Joe to accept that he was here. We spent a few more months in Nottingham all together, with John having to take compassionate leave from work, to ensure my recovery was on- going.

Within a couple of weeks, I felt a small, but very definite reduction in my feelings of despair . Recovery wasnt easy but it happened and now I don’t think Joe was a mistake. Without knowing it, I developed a natural love for Joe. I totally adore him. He is my world. He and John, my two boys, are my life. John was amazing – it must have been awful for him, but he supported and loved me all the way through. I love him and Joe so very much and I owe the unit so much. It was my hope when all was lost and provided me with a safe haven to recover with my son who needed his mummy.

The majority of new mums with mental health problems need to be near babies. I have friends who had perinatal mental illness who haven’t needed their babies with them to recover and for their circumstances, the unit wasnt the right place. However, I think for the majority, babies should be with them. A normal psychiatric unit isn’t equipped for a baby and mum to stay together and bond. Mother and baby units are designed to help this and research does show that mums with serious perinatal mental illness will have better outcomes and better relationships with their babies if cared for in these units. They ‘offer the ideal environment for a parent with mental health difficulties to be treated whilst maintaining a relationship with the infant, rather then separating a mother from her baby when admitting mothers to adult psychiatric wards’.

We must worker harder to endure women have access to mother and baby units near to where they live and also that they aren’t placed in normal psych wads without their baby. Babies need their mummy and mummies need their babies. When I was in the unit, I used to think the nurses were ridiculous saying I would get better. I thought I would be the only person to never recover. But I did of course. That was just the illness talking.

I have recently been working very hard with the charity Mind and the BBC soap Eastenders who are running a postpartum psychosis storyline and large parts are based on my experience.

I have made a vlog about my experience here http://youtu.be/Kn6pgSUP5YI .

Eve x

I so look forward to that week long period every month when I get to wander around with a luxury item in my pants.

I started my periods when I was nine. It was a joyous experience to be in primary school attempting to sort myself out with toilet paper that we also used as tracing paper while my friends were skipping around the playground. I had woken up one night with hideous tummy ache and got into bed with my mum and dad in an attempt to feel better. The next morning I looked at my pants, saw a red devil staring back at me and went downstairs and showed my mum. She said ” you’re a woman now Evelyn ” and I returned to my bedroom to see a pile of pads so big that they could have stopped the great flood of 1953 on the bed waiting for me.I might as well have stuffed my vagina with a pillow. My life had changed forever.

I am a medical marvel and have a condition called uterus didelphis.I have a twin set of wombs and a tombolas worth of vaginal entrances but this wasn’t discovered until I was 24.I’d spent the previous 15 years dealing with the niagara falls of periods that were so heavy and painful , that I had collapsed one night slumped over the bath. My drunk brother had come in and did a wee in the bidet next to me and asked me why I was hugging the bath and wailing. I now realise that having a period is a luxury and I was slumped over the bath as I was pretending I was on a spa break.

Women get periods. Unless we want to bear 57 fruits of our loom, we realise that once a month, auntie flo will come and move into our nether regions and will make herself comfy . Prior to having a child, she would visit me for two weeks and drain the life out of me . I have got used to the “must not wear white trousers until day five /must bring spare scarf to sit in so I don’t ruin my friends white leather sofa/ must not wear that dress that hugs my bum fairly tightly as you can see the outline of the pad” type thoughts.

Sometimes, she comes for an unexpected visit and catches you off guard. You go to the loo and think , what the dickens, I’ve got no effing tampons and then spend twenty minutes fashioning a makeshift pad out of a pile of loo roll wrapped around your crackerjacks. You then mad a mad dash to the corner shop while praying that said stuffed loo roll doesn’t make a break for freedom and attempt day release and drop out on the road outside your neighbours house.

Now ladies, what we must realise , is that these said tampons, that can cost up to seven quid, are in fact , luxury items according to the government . I want to know where these luxury tampons are . I’ve had a hunt around tesco  and for the life of me I couldn’t find the diamond encrusted tampons anywhere . Is the corner shop playing a terrible trick on me and hiding the gold rimmed sanitary towels behind the pork pies ? All I can find are expensive lumps of chemical cotton wool . Some of them do have wings so maybe I should wear those ones as I fly around in my personal helicopter ?

At this present time in the UK, sanitary items are taxed at five percent. Ok I hear you say but do you realise that they are deemed as non essentials. I wish I had realised when  I was nine, that I was sitting cross legged in assembly with a luxury item half way up my back.

I mean, of course they aren’t essential. We could all just not use sanitary items and go with the flow and bleed out everywhere, leaving our mark in our path. Free bleeding is the new trend on the block ,but even if I fancied just laying on my bed pantless and padless, I’m not sure my job allows for this “hi manager, ya,a week a month I won’t be coming in as I shall be staying at home to decorate my floor with my period so can you cancel my 10.15 meeting and tell them I’ll reschedule when I’ve hit my menopause “. Or I could just go to work sans Dr whites and make everyone think I have had a terrible accident while making a pivot table on my excel spreadsheet.

Do you know that marshmallow tea cakes are deemed as an essential item and therefore have zero VAT attached to them? This has given me a marvellous idea. Next month, sod the sanitary towels – I’m sticking a packet of Tunnoks tea cakes in my under crackers. Why don’t you join me ? We can sip champagne while we do it .

Labour MP Stella Creasy this week  delivered a stonking speech in the House of Commons to a pile of men in suits who have never endured a flaming party in their pants like us women, outlining the ridiculousness of taxing sanitary items at five percent to encourage them to vote to cut this tampon tax.I mean , what’s a kebab without a pitta bread around it indeed- got to keep that sauce under control haven’t we Stella. Give this woman a years supply of platinum dipped tampons for her brilliant effort. It’s just such a shame all the nodding suits failed to see her point and voted against a move to make the government to cut tax on these lumps of luxury.

I had a lovely evening last night. I flew to tesco in my helicopter and picked up some essential items for dinner – Kangaroo steaks with jaffa cakes for dessert. Thank goodness the government has deemed these as essential as what else would I eat alongside my potato waffles. I then thought ,what the hell, I’ll push the boat out ,get myself some tampons and sanitary towels and will have a pamper night at home. I so look forward to that week long period every month where I get to wander around with a luxurious item in my pants .

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