Tag Archives: anxiety

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

Trigger warning – mention of intrusive thoughts and suicide X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Over the last year, 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.

And now we have a male MP who says he disagrees with abortion even in the circumstance of rape. A male MP who has never changed one of his 5 kids nappies as that’s the nannies job. A male MP who will never have to carry a pregnancy for 9 months. A male MP who will never experience vaginal rape and the trauma it leaves you with. A male MP who will never experience suicidal thoughts brought on by postpartum psychosis and cant understand the terror felt.

He can have his opinion. But he can’t take away the rights of women to terminate pregnancies they don’t wish to continue. Thank goodness. He cant take away the rights we hold over our own body.

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.

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

Well melt me in butter and roll me in nuts, this illness will release its clutch.

One of the best quotes I have heard about recovery I read while I was ill and in hospital. It said that recovery is like a game of snakes and ladders. Sometimes you slide down the snake or fall off the ladder but you never go back to the start . And it’s right . This week , I have been reminded that as well as I am , I still suffer from anxiety when things get too much. I’ve been attempting to be superwoman in a pair of pyjamas and stilettos and have been so busy in work, I may have to wear ear muffs to catch the steam coming out of my ears . I have been saying yes to every interview that health professionals and journalist who wants to talk about mental health have asked me for and while this is wonderful, it’s exhausted me. I’ve decided that this is obviously also the time to become a school governor as well and read 678 pages of guidance on the optimum temperature in class rooms and attempting to work my 33 hours a week in work. Which I have done 42 of this week so far. It’s also the anniversary of my last pregnancy which didn’t work out a couple of years ago. It’s no surprise I’ve had a little wobble really is it ?

I’ve cried this week. I cried last night. I’ve had two panic attacks. But I’m ok. A few yrs ago I would have thought , oh god, John can’t go to work and leave me because I might have an overwhelming urge to cook 6 battered fish fillets in the oven for three hours before throwing them in the garden alongside ordering 8 juicers from the shopping channel again. What if I decide to throw myself in the middle of the road holding onto his ankles not letting him go to work because my head felt like it was being used as a drum by the mental illness drumstick. Again.

Last night , I said to John , it’s too much. I’m doing too much. My little head is telling me it’s time to slow down.and then I said, are you worried about me? And he said no, I’m not at all. Instead of staying on the train and waiting for it to crash into the wall and breaking into little pieces that will take a hell of a long time to cobble back together again , this time, you jumped off the train on to a soft landing. You have realised something isn’t right before loco kicks in. Yes, you are crying and yes , it’s not nice feeling like this but we are going to write a list of what is overwhelming you, what you can cut out and how we can make things better.

And tonight I feel more in control. My list is complete and there is a fair amount on it I need to tell to jog on . And that’s ok. The world isn’t going to stop turning because I might slip some deadlines. And that’s ok. Tonight , I’ve had a night on the sofa with my little boy and I’ve drank some Buck’s Fizz and eaten a chocolate croissant. I may have also eaten a Hershey’s chocolate bar and some skittles but that isn’t important . I’ve been on a spinach juice diet for four weeks and have lost the grand total of half a bloody stone.i should be a bleedin supermodel by now with all this green shit I’ve been drinking and literally shitting but no, I’m still folding my stomach up like a parcel. I’ve had a blocked milk duct and dug out an old electric toothbrush and have been on all fours in the doggy style position on the living room floor massaging said milk duct with my buzzing friend , resulting in my child’s train set being sprayed all over. Slightly different to last Saturday night where I think I was drinking a piña colada out of a coconut shell balanced on my bustville.

I feel a little more like eve. The last few days has made me understand that I need to keep a slightly open eye on my anxiety but in a strange way it’s also made me realise that I am ok. I have always feared feeling anxiety again as I have feared getting really ill again like I did after I had Joe. But what the last few days has made me realise is that I am ok and if I’m not , well , that can be helped and sorted like it was before. I need to do my best to ensure I stay as healthy as I can but also remember that if and when things do feel like they are a bit like a tangled up hair brush, that I seek help the unravel those hairs as soon as I can.

So tonight I feel,happy and healthy. I’m going to take some self care days off work and if I feel things creeping up on me again , I’ll take some time away to sleep and preserve my marbles.

And all this shows me how recovery is possible. I’ve said on a blog post before, I’ve totally recovered from psychosis and the catastrophic anxiety I had when I was unwell but I’ll always have a level of anxiety. But I have recovered to a point where I can lead a normal life. I am sometimes medicated but I am always mighty. I have no shame in taking meds to get me through my bad times and still being on meds doesn’t mean I’m not recovered. Meds gave me my life back and they helped me find myself again . The crazy,loud,wild girl is back and is better than ever in some ways as I truly do know my strength. I am a bloody warrior. I was incredibly ill and now I’m eve , with a light sprinkle of once yearly anxiety. I can cope with that if I deal with it right and recovery feels legit. I feel like I have combat force!

I am back at work, I go out with my mates, I bleach my hair, I shave my legs, I have no shame, I do ridiculous things and find myself in situations that no one else thinks are real until they spend some time with me. Two weeks ago I spent some time with my #pndfamily girlfriends at elaine hanzaks book launch. I hadn’t even got to the venue and I was almost knocked out cold by the taxi door. I couldn’t work out how to open it , launched myself forward and banged my enormous forehead towards it. I feel sorry for the taxi really – I have quite the forehead and it was quite the bang. I fell backwards careering towards my friend Pauline and then fell out of the cab. Not ten minutes later , I walked out of the loo with my cardigan tucked into my frilly knickers and Pauline the fairy godmother came to my rescue again and retrieved and saved my cardigan from being eaten by my arse and my dignity from being ruined in front of 200 other people. Off I toddled without a care in the world, diet coke in one hand,lipgloss in the other with Pauline laughing behind me.

It’s mental health awareness week. And from a personal point, I kind of feel like I have a duty to raise awareness of the mental health condition I suffered from, which was postpartum psychosis but also all perinatal mental health illnesses. And then all mental health conditions. I was incredibly lucky to eventually get help- I say eventually as it took two months of me being completely off the planet in my mind and us having to move 200 miles to get me into a specialised psychiatric mother and baby unit. I had been ignored by health visitors , midwives and doctors for those first eight weeks of my sons life and had spiralled into a midst of such horrific psychosis that I thought I was locked in a coffin alive . I had hallucinations that I was trapped in the world and felt terrified of being alive . The only logical way out , or so I thought, was to die. To end my life. I felt an uncontrollable fear all day every day and night for two months of living . I was afraid of being alive and being near my son and could think of no other way out.

While in this hell, a doctor asked me if I had planned my own suicide to which I said no. She then told me , after hearing how I had been dreaming of death , thinking I was in a coffin , scared of my own baby and felt like I was trapped in the world , said I was therefore low risk and sent us home. Nil points for that Dr of the year as the next day, John took me to psychiatric outpatients in Nottingham , 200 miles from where we live and refused to leave until I was assessed . One hour later I was in the mother and baby unit.

And my recovery started there. It was a psychiatric ward but I had my own room,there was a kitchen with chocolate biscuit filled cupboards, a TV room and curry menus to order dinner from. My own room sounds like a hotel away from home but for me this was terrifying. I couldn’t be on my own with my son as I was scared of him so the very idea of sharing a room on my own with him was beyond scary. So the nurses let me keep my door open . Throughout the night , a nurse would sit on a chair that held my door open and cuddled me when the panic and fear took over or when I felt my mind going into another world. This level of care ,support and love that was shown to me ,alongside a wonderful concoction of medication meant that just a week later, I felt brave enough to to close my bedroom door with Joe in there with me . Yes I shook, yes I sat on the bed terrified but I was in there on my own with him and it felt amazing. A little while later , the nurse knocked on my door and came in . She gave me an enormous tight cuddle and said well done eve , that’s bloody brilliant . I cried into her shoulder and let out a wail. I had done it. I had been on my own with Joe and it was the biggest turning point in my illness.

My recovery went on from there. I went up and down the game of snakes and ladders in my brain and have to say , I felt a little like i was constantly laddering some expensive pairs of tights. I’d carefully broach things like I was putting on a pair of thigh fat sucking tights and then when they were on , they were bloody ladder all down my leg. I would feel devastated if I had a bad day but my therapist worked very hard to show me that a bad day in recovery doesn’t mean you won’t get better. I think bad days have that weird silver lining of making you stronger. It doesn’t feel like it at the time but when i emerge from bad days, I feel that little bit more hopeful that I’ve beaten it again .

Of course I would have preferred to never have got ill but I do feel like I have gained a massive understanding of my own feelings and thoughts and this week has certainly made me realise that when the chips are down , it’s sad and a little scary at times but that it does pass and it passes pretty quickly with the right care and management. I feel blessed that I have come out of the worst time in my life but that that time has now had a profound impact on the life I lead now. I know my own capabilities but what I think I have gained is a compassion for others and understanding of people’s thoughts and feelings that I didn’t ever consider before. I want others to read my story and to think, well melt me in butter and roll me in nuts, if she managed to get better after attempting to climb out of her window, dress up as Mary poppins, bark on her in laws bed and consider ending it all for good, then maybe I can get better.

I stand up and yell my story from any roof top I can . I jump on health professionals at mental health conferences and harp on about how people in the midst of mental illness need help, compassion, a hug, someone’s shoulder to cry on , a listening ear , a lets get better plan from a doctor because I hear so many stories of them and their feelings being brushed off. I was told the most ridiculous things from doctors who clearly didn’t give a flying caboodle what was wrong with me and wanted to get me out of their room so they could go back to buying a zigzag sleeping bag of eBay and that isn’t good enough.

If you are suffering , have hope and remember it can and will get better. You may recover completely or you may recover to a manageable level and either of these are ok, I promise you. Dont feel bad about feeling bad – it’s not your fault and with the help of meds, therapy,kindness, love and support from family, friends and health professionals , you will get there.

I am terrible at board games. I never understand the rules and always end up back at the start wondering why everyone else is at the top of the board and I’m at the bottom , all sorrowful but that’s not the case in the game of recovery, which is the hardest game I have ever played. It is however , the game I have won the most.

Happy mental health awareness week. If a GP isn’t listening to you, write I don’t feel well across your face with lipstick. They won’t ignore you then. Do it with the doctors lipstick and you really will get their attention. You deserve help , you are entitled to it and you need it. And there is nothing , absolutely nothing to be ashamed about.

Eeny meeny miny mo , where in this postcode lottery shall I go ? Sprig of lavender anyone ?

Around one in four people in the uk will experience a mental health illness each year. Whether mild or severe ,short or long term, these can be scary, upsetting and soul destroying . Especially if you can’t access help to recover from or manage it.

Five yrs ago , I was admitted to a psychiatric mother and baby unit to begin my recovery from a postnatal mental illness. I had such catastrophic anxiety that I couldn’t be near my child, dress myself without help and became partial to running into the street a la a wild animal screaming ‘I am trapped in the world I am trapped by the clouds take me away please’ . One of the worst memories of my illness however was the need to travel 200 miles across the uk to access treatment as no one in my area knew how to treat me and there were no treatment options available.

Thank god we did travel and get me into a specialist psychiatric mother and baby unit because if we hadn’t I would be dead. My son would have no mother. And this is not good enough. Getting treatment shouldn’t be a cruel game of lotto , depending on where you buy your ticket but it unfortunately is in the uk. It’s as though you need to ensure you aren’t hit with a mental illness that can’t be treated where you live . Maybe the government could make treatment scratch cards ? Three matching hospital icons and you’re a winner! The papers could come and take your picture with you dressed up in a hospital gown with your antidepressants in your hand . Ooh lifechanging !

Prior to me getting ill, the 89 year old local legend that was scooter lady, complete with gold lame jumpsuit , blue permed hair and a 50 yr old toy boy balancing on the back of said scooter was the local talking point as she zoomed around and then the lady who lived to the left of us who used to hang out of window between 11-1 everyday throwing frozen fish fingers into her garden for fun was a close second. But they were knocked off their platforms of fame by me , Eve , the girl who had a baby,who regretted it, took all her clothes off,tried to climb out of a window and then eventually was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.

And I’m all singing and dancing recovered now. Which is a good thing as experiencing a mental illness is the single most terrifying thing I have ever and I guarantee will ever face in my little life. And this life is one I hold so precious as it’s one I seriously considered ending. The day I went into the unit is the day I announced to my partner john that I wanted to die and I meant it.i could not face the endless feelings of terror,not wanting to sleep at night because I feared the fear I would feel when I would wake up in the morning and I simply couldn’t cope with the prospect of battling these feelings forever.i couldn’t live for another 60 yrs feeling like this as I couldn’t even get through one day at that point.

I was very very ill.I wasn’t only scared of my son, terrified at the sudden realisation that he was here forever and there was no running away from that except through either adopting him or me ending my life but I was also confused. I thought I was floating , I woke up thinking I was in a coffin, I was convinced at one point that cling film was over my mouth stopping me from breathing. All while my newborn son was lying there needing me . This was the most important time in my life, his life and our families life and I was experiencing the worst possible time, so bad, you couldn’t make it up.

I needed help. Urgent help and so I went to the doctor a couple of days after my son was born to say I was feeling odd.i had flashes in front of my eyes and felt very scared of something. The doctor said, let’s wait and see how you are in a week. I went back this time with john who said I was acting odd, pacing up and down the living constantly and wouldn’t look at the baby. ThIs doctor said I must be tired as motherhood can be draining “sleep when the baby sleeps” was uttered to me and I was told to jog on in a more clinical , fake smile way which I think actually meant , you have just had a baby , deal with it , I have 57 more patients waiting to see me me bye bye.

For the next six weeks, I went to see a gp approx three times a week,joke I do not. I was honest about my feelings and john was continually saying ‘she is saying she has made a terrible mistake in having a child,she tried to climb out of the window to get away for the walls in the house,I had to carry her in the house after she ran into the road with no clothes on and she thinks she is trapped in the world’. Little game of mental health roulette here … Do you think the docs said a) what the dickens, get this woman to the hospital and some specialist mental health help straight away or 67) make a cake and put some mascara on and shown the door? Bingo bango, if you chose a – I appreciate that but it’s a shame as it was wrong. Doctors told me I was fine and to go home .

We hit the realisation that no one could treat me for my illness as it appears if you live where I do, there is no specialist perinatal support. That’s good isn’t it . So we got on the train and travelled the 161 miles to Nottingham, where we had found out there was a unit and where johns family live , complete with our five week old baby, me wandering around muttering ‘I can’t look at the baby,can’t look at the baby,can’t look at the baby’ and the pet hamsters, little elvis and turnip. As we walked into my in laws house I moved their armchair into the middle of the room. As much as I would love to say that I secretly yearn to be interior designer and I moved the seat to get the ultimate feng shui in the room , this is wrong. I wasn’t trying to ying and yang the energy to harmonise the room. I have no clue why I did it but I did and then sat in it and demanded an ambulance be called to take me away from the terror.

A week later, I woke up in the night and john found me sitting up in the dark,staring into space.I started scratching myself on the face and said I felt like I was in a coffin.i said I wanted to die and didn’t know what else to do. John phoned nhs direct who advised we went to an out of hours clinic to be seen. It was probably about 3am , john couldn’t drive then and the baby was crying. John woke his dad up, joe was bundled into his car seat and I sat slumped in the car in the front seat as I didn’t want to be near the baby.in my pyjamas and a pair of flip flops.

We waited ages and eventually were seen by a lady doctor. She didn’t look at me once during the consultation, spoke to john almost the entire time and just stared at her screen , tapping away on her keyboard. John blurted out everything I had been saying and doing and I was rocking back and forth. Face at the screen she asked if I had planned my own suicide as yet and I said no. Wrong answer, I didn’t win the mystery prize which I had hoped would be admission to hospital. No no no. The million dollar drop question had been answered incorrectly and she delivered her response. “As you haven’t planned your own suicide , you are low risk. Go home get some sleep,things will be better in the morning .” She opened the door and waved us out. Is this the time to take an ,ahem, mental note? Note to self, next time I am too scared to breathe because I’m frightened of living , I will sit down how I plan on ending things. Should I start researching ? What about if I show the doctor the plan and they critique it? What if they say, nice try but not good enough, there is no way doing that will end your life.come back with a better plan and proof you have tried to action it and now were talking! Back to the drawing board for me on that one then.

The next day is when I totally flipped my little lid and john had had enough of it. Not of me , though he probably had at that point , who could blame him, but with the total lack of anyone knowing how to treat me. He took me to psychiatric outpatients and refused to leave until I was seen. Within the hour I was admitted to a mother and baby unit and my recovery began.We stayed in Nottingham for a few more months while I got to the stage where I could be on my own with joe and then made a move back to London. I worked very hard to get better, I did everything that was asked of me . It wasn’t easy it was actually terrifying. I was scared to be near my own child and that’s the biggest thing in the world. But I worked hard- I had to spend thirty seconds a day on my own with him at first,then walk around the garden, then walk down the street with him. I had a few public meltdowns at the postbox ten steps from my in laws house as fear struck me . But, I did it and was so pleased to be going home. And I was proud of me. And rightfully so.

So, when the unit agreed I could go back to London, they wrote lots of very good explanatory letters to my local mental health team, saying they recommended therapy for me. Coming back however was problematic – as soon as the mother and baby unit discharged me from their outpatients and my care was taken over by the local mental health team in London, things turned sour.

I still to this day, over five years after my son was born, haven’t been seen as an outpatient at my local London mental health team.I was seen once after john called them to try and set up outpatient care but it was never set up.I don’t need it now, I’m better, but give me strength. This is ridiculous. This was my life in their hands. The mother and baby unit sent numerous letters asking for me to have outpatient care – but this never happened. I was very lucky that the mother and baby unit agreed to keep me on as an outpatient for a year due to the fact that the team in London basically filed all the letters about me in the bin but this meant I had to travel up there once a week to see the doctors there. This was a massive expense to us as a family , around £200 a week, but one that was essential to ensure I was fully supported while my recovery was on-going.

Before this happened though, on our return to London , I went to the doctors clutching my notes from the mother and baby unit. They had all the info on the doctors needed. “We recovered Evelyn is referred for CBT as soon as possible to build on the good progress she has been making while in the unit and on her discharge”. I saw a GP. I’ll call him Dr Baldy Head. I crept in with Joe and started talking. “I , erm, I haven’t been well. And erm, I felt really low when I gave birth and then started to have all these weird thoughts and feelings and basically cracked up. And I saw lots go doctors here and no one knew how to treat me because it turns out I had postpartum psychosis . So we moved to Nottingham and I registered temporarily with a GP there and went into a mother and baby unit. We were there for four months and we are back now and the psychiatrists there have written this letter to show you the medication that I’m on and to refer me for counselling”. Baldy Head took the letter off me, scanned it flicked it with his finger and scoffed. Actually scoffed and said “and you expect me to do what with this?”. I started crying. I didn’t want it but I felt so embarrassed. I’d just told him something that was really difficult to say and he just made me feel like a child on that god awful Super Nanny programme. I felt like I was sat on the loathesome naughty chair as he said ” who am I supposed to refer you to ? It says you are on tablets so wait for them to kick in”. I said but they have kicked in and how I am now is because of the meds. Four months ago I couldn’t look at Joe without feeling cold all over and cemented to the ground with fear. Now, I’m nervous and scared but I’m getting through the day.I just need to learn some coping techniques. That when he said ” women become mothers, that’s what happens young lady. Perhaps you should have thought of this before you got yourself pregnant”. He handed the letter back to me , laughed and said “refer you for counselling ,is that what I’m here for” and said we are done here. Thanks doc. Next time, I’ll cross my legs and chew on some smarties to ensure i never get myself in this situation again.

I talk about perinatal mental health as it’s what I suffered from but issues around treatment aren’t just in this field – it appears people with illnesses that fall into the mental health bracket struggle to get help more than if they were to have a physical illness.

There are currently 17 specialist psychiatric mother and baby units in the uk equalling 125 beds. If you think ,over 1400 women a yr in the uk get postpartum psychosis and this is deemed as a medical emergency and mothers can be treated in the units. Combine that with the amounts that get other perinatal mental illness that requires in depth treatment and you’ll see this isn’t a lot of beds at all. I got an e for gcse maths but even I can work out without the use of a calculator that we are a few beds down. There is no unit in Northern Ireland and over the last few yrs some units have closed. But there are still lots of ill women. Tis does not make sense.

There was a recent report from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance that revealed that “more 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby. If untreated, these perinatal mental illnesses can have a devastating impact on the women affected and their families and that In the UK, mental illness in pregnant and postnatal women often goes unrecognised, undiagnosed and untreated.”

They created a map which showed how ridiculously patchy the current provision of services is. The precise words about this are ‘This means a postcode lottery determines whether women receive the care they need or not’. Have a look. It’s not coloured in red because it’s a fabulous colour. It’s almost all red to show where there are no services – http://everyonesbusiness.org.uk/?page_id=349

This is beyond ridiculous. I have now joined up with charities and others with lived experience of perinatal mental illness to form the perinatal mental health partnership and we are creating an awareness campaign. As a result if my work in this, I now get to go to lots of conferences and see lots of medical bods saying how wonderful things are . Yes, having been to approx 47 mental health conferences this yr where I have met countless nhs chiefs and leads in suits nodding with a fixed smile , I am aware our government are cash strapped. I have a few in tact brain cells that refused to budge with the illness. I’m stubborn like that.i know we have no money as it’s all gone on duck houses and moats and pay rises to people who don’t really deserve it . However , have we really reached that ludicrous point where people actually have to plan their own suicide or fail at the deed working before we can offer them any help??? This isn’t masterchef , it’s not a gameshow,its not winner takes all but it feels like it. And I’m shit at quizzes, I always lose. Surely, in the midst of pathways and processes there could be a fairly simple overall, hello doctors, please don’t chuck a patients mental health symptoms in the dustbin and leave them to rot which will eventually mean they disintegrate into nothing. If someone says I am feeling so low I can’t see anyway out, do something.

If I went to the doctor and said erm, my vagina smells bad and I’m worried about it , I doubt the gp would say, ooh, why don’t you hang a sprig of lavender off it, let it breeze slightly in the wind,spritz it with a bit of air freshener and then say and we can’t help you anymore until you have reached the point where you have ripped said vagina off and flushed it down the toilet. Thankfully, this particular scenario hasn’t afflicted me and I’m not sure how to attach lavender to my lady garden , and how on earth would you do your jeans up but you know what I mean.

I was prodding my boobs one sunny day two years ago. They are massive anyway and have dribs and drabs of milk in them and seem like one big mammory as it is but I felt a lump previous prodding investigations hadn’t found. Hmm, this means I should book a doctors appointment I said to myself. I phoned the docs and was given an appointment that afternoon – “can’t take risks with these things can we darlin’ ” the receptionist told me. On seeing the doctor and her have a prod, she said , ya there seems to be a lump but I’m no expert on these things so we must send you to the breast cancer clinic urgently to get you seen. She wrote out a fax in front of me ( a fax , in 2013) and helpfully put the words “suspected cancer” in big bold black capitals at the top “so no one misses it”.

I was called into an appointment the next day and had all sorts of tests and spoke to lots of experts. I was given the all clear in a fairly short space of time and I left the experience feeling very thankful for our wonderful health service , which it is and the doctors dealing with a possibly awful situation so quickly. Even more startling though as this was six months after I had gone to hospital after having a relapse of really bad anxiety when I found out I was pregnant again. I was treated in such a slap dash appalling way that I had lost all faith and bang my head on the table of all the nhs chiefs who, after people kill themselves because of a mental health problem say “lessons will be learned from this”. Lovely words chief but I’ve heard them oodles of times. When will these lessons be learned? Maybe they should be learnt in school for the chiefs of the futures so it’s embedded in them.

I found out I was cheggars again one boring office afternoon when thought I had a wee infection and the gp wanted me to do a pregnancy test before I was put on antibiotics.i announced to my friend Julie who sits opposite me , I’m going to get a brownie from pret and then I’ve got to piss on a stick to make sure I’m not with child. Oh how we laughed! Pregnant , imagine , lol!!!

But oh how I wept when, brownie in mouth , pants round ankles, stick wet with wee , I saw two blue lines appear. My three years of recovery from anxiety from that very second kicked in again. Another baby , another baby,no no no. I can’t do this. I’m well, I’ve got used to having joe.

Within a week, I had developed such a terrible fear of being pregnant, John found me slumped next to the radiator talking to myself having called the Samaritans. Who were fantastic. I was back in the fresh hell I was in after Joe.I was in such a state ,I had been signed off work and was finding being near joe too much to deal with. In the midst of all this , we were then told the pregnancy wasn’t forming properly anyway and actually had to be removed . It took three attempts to remove it as it was growing in such an odd place and the three operations took six weeks altogether . By the end of this awful time of finding out I was pregnant,not wanting it, to finding out I couldn’t have it but knowing it was in me , growing to think actually I think I do want to have it ,to then having to have three termination attempts , I had completely lost the plot. And ended up in accident and emergency again.

What a fun day that was . We arrived at midday and I left at 4am the next day- having received no help. Casualty had no idea how to help me , after spending four hours there and sent me to the local inpatient local psychiatric unit. We saw lots of people with clipboards saying in whispers ” what are we supposed to with her” and the fixed smile brigade came out again. “Let’s go home and get some rest shall we Evelyn,will all seem a bit better in the morning , promise”. No no no no no no no no,I wasn’t leaving until someone helped me.

John had to leave at 5pm to get our son. He was in tears leaving me , I was in tears him going but was assured the duty psychiatrist would see me ‘soon’. I then sat on a chair of the foyer of the unit for twelve hours. Twelve hours.i am prone to exaggerate but there is no need to now as it was that bad. I was spoken to three times by staff , where they informed me they were sure I would be seen at some point and also to say “do you think you could stop crying , you are upsetting the staff”. I.do.not.joke. I had a lovely conversation with a young girl who had tried to take her life a week earlier – a beautiful clever girl who simply said ‘I don’t know why I tried to do it , I just don’t want to be here in this life’ and a man who told me he was Jesus. I wish he had been – he could have saved me.

The duty psychiatrist turned up 11 hours after I got there and spent less then five minutes with me. Was told they didn’t have the facilities to help me and they didn’t know who could but they would pay for my cab home. And that was it. I arrived home at 4.45 am and four hours later we were on our way to Nottingham again and went straight to casualty. Within two hours I saw a psychologist who arranged for me to have emdr therapy, I was put back on meds and my journey to full recovery started. Again , I had to travel to Nottingham every week for my emdr and thank god I did.it saved my life and it made me truly recover. Thank The Lord . The Lord who runs Nottinghams mental health services.

I was in the audience for the brilliant Victoria Derbyshire programme a couple of weeks ago about mental health. Check it out on I player if you haven’t seen it – almost two hours of brave people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, varying professions, discussing their mental health. While they were all doing this, I was adjusting my boobs as the photo above shows. I also delivered a gold medal hand up in the air performance. A common theme was the struggle for treatment that doesn’t seem to happen to people with a physical illness. And it genuinely seems to be because people think having a mental illness is literally all in your head . Broke an arm? It gets set in plaster to fix it. Small willy ? You can get it made longer! But problems in your head , oh , well getting help for that depends on the pathway of care your area offer and blah blah blah postcode lottery blah blah.or we could just all pull ourselves together couldn’t we ?

Thee was one amazing girl called Jo who made me and everyone else cry with her brave story . I am in awe of her determination and her openness. She had been diagnosed with anorexia and was around four stone. But wait for the bombshell . She got community care with her local mental health service pretty quickly, but it was not until her BMI had dropped below a certain low point that she was admitted for the care she needed. Might as well dear, sorry , I can see you are a bit on the thin side but not quite thin enough to get help. Can you starve yourself a bit more please? This is ridiculous! Jo says. “Why should I need to get as ill as that to need inpatient treatment?” And she is right.

I know there are all these lines around how mental health services are organised in each local area and how this may differ across places. As the NHS say on their webpage ‘This means some may not cover all mental health conditions, or only deal with people of a certain age’. This .must.change. I know resources are a problem, money is a problem but people have problems that need help. Surely treating things before people get to considering suicide is better than them getting to that point. Because if you have planned it , you might bloody well do it which is devastating . And once someone is gone , they can’t come back.

Simon Stevens , chief executive of the NHS says in the Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020 report that “Mental health problems are the largest single cause of disability, representing a quarter of the national burden of ill-health, and are the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK.This makes it all the more indefensible that there is such a large “treatment gap” with most people with mental health problems receiving no treatment and with severe funding restrictions compared with physical health….That is why, achieving “parity of esteem” between mental and physical health services is so important for the NHS, and for the nation.

This document therefore sets out some of the concrete next steps we are committed to helping lead over the next five years. NHS England looks forward to working with our partners to deliver this critical agenda” and I hope this indeed plays out as planned.

Getting help shouldn’t be a flip of a coin decision. This isn’t like a supermarket saying sorry we have run out of flapjacks but our branch down the road has some , this is people’s lives and they deserve better.

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

‘You can’t be depressed dear, the forestry commission don’t have to be called to trim your bush’

You can’t be depressed dear, you’re wearing mascara ! Said the wizard to the fairy one summer morning when the sun was shining, the birds were singing , the grandparents were gazing at their new glorious grandchild and the new mother was crying in the corner albeit with a slick of heather shimmer across her lips and a slide of liquid liner across the peepers . Little did people know the made up face hadn’t been done because mummy as she was now forever known was having such a delightful restful time that she had three hours to put her face on .no, the perfectly applied make up was applied as a mask, a mask to cover up how she was really feeling. Give her face a stroke and the layers of foundation will crack and will reveal what’s really underneath – a desperate woman who isn’t revelling in motherhood, but who in fact is so sad she cries until her mascara runs down her face .

Over the last year since writing my blog and talking to women who have been through perinatal mental health illnesses , it has become really apparent to me that there appears to be some bizarre notion that some people dismiss mothers experiencing these illnesses as they ‘ don’t look depressed’.

” But you don’t look depressed”. Hmm, what does someone depressed or with a mental illness look like? Are they walking around with weights in their sleeves dragging them across the ground? Are they wandering around the park with a parrot on their shoulder talking to the trees? Are they a sad jabbering wreck? Have they not shaved their bikini line lately ? Well you, know , maybe. But they also may look like you do when you look in the mirror, leave the house and go to work. Shock horror, they may shower,wear clean pants , shave their tash and wear the entirety of a make up counter on their faces . I know I do. I have a vast knicker collection ( my friend Sophie and I used to buy each other the wildest pants we could find at Christmas. Even though I am ow three sizes bigger and all the ribbons and mini poms poms – I have a pair of Mrs Christmas pants that fall off when you undo the strings at the side that hold a rather beautiful metaphorical unwrapping a present theory behind them- catch in my spanx these days, I refuse to chuck them out) , I wax my tash ( I recommend reading the label clearly if you do this as I have it on good authority , ahem, that if you do this in haste, you may accidentally pick up the bikini line wax. This is somewhat painful on the face and though you may indeed remove all the hairs, you will also remove 7 layers of skin, look as though you have dipped your face in ketchup and come out in welts and ingrown hairs ) and I adorn my face in beige elastic lip gloss and lather myself in fake bake. I also had postpartum psychosis , postnatal anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder . Being able to look the dolled up part therefore doesn’t mean you are exempt from feeling sad.

I often talk about the day I was told that I couldn’t have a perinatal mental health illness because I had mascara on. It’s almost as though make up has some kind of medical attachment to it and people think if you wear it , it means you can’t be feeling low. To be wearing it means you must feel like the hills are alive with the sound of music and though obviously for some this is the case but for so so many others, this isn’t true. Make up has the great power of being able to conceal a pile load of flaws, and not just physical. Concealer might cover up spots , but it also covers up eye bags that are embedded into your face from the pained crying you have been doing. Sometimes mascara helps open up those eyes so people don’t notice they have been worn out with tears.

I know that the day I was caught putting mascara on while in the midst of my psychotic breakdown , I think I was actually trying to find the old me. Before having my child, I loved looking my best. Now, in the fresh hell that I was finding motherhood, I wanted to try and gain back that normality . I had a fear of the future to such an extent that I had started to consider that death was the only way out. I had a realisation that this child was now here forever and I was hit with the hammer of a feeling that I had made a terrible terrible mistake in having him. I would wander round chanting ‘I just want it to go back to me and john,I want things back to how they used to be’ but of course this wasn’t going to happen. A baby isn’t something you put into the recycling when you have finished with it , it’s here forever and my mind found that very concept beyond terrifying. I was too scared to be in the same room as him so when he wasn’t attached to my boob with john sitting next to me to ensure I didn’t drop the baby because of my shaking, I tended to just sit on my own on the end of the bed staring at the floor trembling. I did this a lot. I did this almost all of the time.my teeth would chatter with nerves at his presence and I just wanted the baby to go away and get my old life back.and I think painting my face not only took up time to ensure I could avoid my child, but it also gave me a glimpse of what I would do in my former child free life.

And this mask then can fool people into thinking you are fine. That you are embracing motherhood with gusto, that the baby has come along and you wouldn’t even know it as you are doing all the things you used to do . I found this. I have mentioned this in a few blog posts but I and john most certainly won’t forget get the day that I woke up , manic , and basically in the midst of a pretty bad psychotic episode. John had gone to work as I had insisted I was ok ( this was fairly early on) and on his return , he found me in the kitchen holding a packet of frozen stewing steak mumbling ‘must cook stew’ on repeat. Bar the fact that stew takes quite a long time to make and unless we were planning to eat at 10pm the next day, I don’t think the frozen lump of meat was going to be doing anything useful , I looked very bizarre. I have very muddled memories of that day and john has thankfully filled in the what I can only say I must now say are amusing blank spaces. If I don’t laugh at them , I may cry. Again. I was apparently in an apron ( because obviously I always wore one of them and didn’t just fry the bacon in my pants) , with a bun on the top of my head so solid with hairspray I may have been flammable , and more worryingly, with blue eyeshadow and coral orange lipstick adorning my face. John says I smelt of bleach and then attempted to climb out of the window. As you do when you are completely well obviously. He called the health visitor and said ‘ she is acting , erm , weird. She looks like , erm, Mary poppins’.

The health visitor arrived . And informed john that I was nesting and clearly just wanted the house to be stick and span for my new precious bundle of joy and wasn’t he lucky that I was making him a nice meal , Mmm, yummy stew a la psychosis with a sprinkling of blusher. At this point I will repeat – I had blue eyeshadow on and coral orange lipstick. I looked like a 1980s glamour shot .This was 2010,blue eyeshadow was not en vogue and my mother who is nearly forty years older than me last wore coral lipstick in 1989. This wild makeover should have been evidence enough that I was losing the plot but no, it just showed I liked scrubbing according to the professionals.

And it’s not just make up that covers your feel emotions up. That’s just the imagery I’m using. It’s the fake smiles, the well timed laughter, the omelette over your face to make people laugh when you’re actually feeling awful.

Mental illness can be like the invisible illness. Often , you can’t see it but because you can’t , it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because someone appears to be going on with their life at what looks like to you , in the way they normally would, it doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. And for me, I obviously relate this to mental illness after having a baby. I don’t care what people say, there is a massive stigma attached to this kind of mental illness. Having a baby is supposed to be the most joyous thing in life you can ever endure. It’s supposed to be all rose petals and gurgles, with deep joy at being able to stare at your baby for hours on end thinking , it’s all worth it. And when you say , look , I don’t think I like it,what the fuck have I done , people recoil in horror. Because having a baby is the biggest thing nature does. Women have babies, women make milk to nurse babies, women have the ability to survive on one hours sleep a fortnight , and some women have 13 children and are back cooking a pork shoulder for the other 12 two hours after giving birth .

But for a fairly large amount of women , the experience is not initially this magical fairy tale. I have heard postnatal depression described as the ‘fluffy mental illness’ and one that people think women make up . There are the ‘in my day we were too busy to be depressed’ brigade who shame women into not wanting to reveal they don’t feel like their antenatal class told them they would do. And if you are faced with this stigma , what do you do ? You cover it up in any way you can in the hope that if you paint over the cracks whether it’s with make up , fake smiles, forced laughter, forced love towards the baby you aren’t sure you want, that it will go away. In some cases , these feelings do go quickly, your thoughts sort themselves out and the sad feelings while away on their own. Hurrah. But for some women, this isn’t the case. I hear stories of women who have babies over six months old saying they have been wandering around in a glazed daze of anxiety and depression but have been keeping up appearances as they are too ashamed to tell anyone how they feel . Everyone thinks they are fine as they are going through the motions but they aren’t . It’s like a scab that looks like it is healing but with one tiny pick, all the blood comes pouring out and this needs to change.

Mental illness is not a look. It’s not something you see in the pages of a magazine because if it was visual, it wouldn’t look very nice. So if you see someone who has just had a baby, offer to help,ask how things are, be gentle with them. Please refrain from the ‘HOW ARE YOU’ in slow loud tones like your friend has suddenly regressed to pre-school age though – I don’t believe there is any research to show that people experiencing mental illness need to be spoken.to.like.they.are.stupid. Just make it aware that if they want to talk , you will listen. If they need someone to go to the doctor with them to explain that even though they are smiling and laughing , inside they feel crushed. Upon asking they may of course find they are genuinely loving motherhood and that is wonderful but they may not be . They may be desperate for someone to say, I know you have painted toenails but I just wondered how things are ?

I’ll throw in at this point that there is a wonderful charity in the UK called The Smile Group. They have this fabulous tool on their website which is a GP checklist which can help you if you are don’t know how to tell the doctor how you are feeling. I have spoken to two women recently who have been holding an invisible mask over their emotions and felt like they couldn’t reach out for help from their doctor as they didn’t know what to say. I showed them this checklist which is here http://www.thesmilegroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/GP-Checklist.pdf . You can fill it in and ask the receptionist to get the doctor to read it and call you or make an appointment and hand it to them. They will then see that even though you look ok, that looks can be deceiving . You have been putting on an oscar worthy performance of utter joy but you can’t stay in that role forever.

It’s had to tell people how you feel when you feel betrayed by your mind. That awful feeling that your mind has shifted form you controlling it to it controlling you and not in a good way is terrifying but let me tell you , it does get better. One day, you won’t look in the mirror and think , Christ alive, another day of gritted teeth with a fake smile in public , I promise. One day soon you will look in the mirror and think , I feel a bit better I feel like I can face the world without that metaphorical mask and I feel ok.

Let’s go Greek and take these masks off and smash them on the ground like plates , crash ,bang , wallop. And kick them out of your way as nothing will stand in your way of happiness now. If you actually do this in a restaurant you may have to pay for the damage though so maybe refrain from launching your carbonara at the wall and just be content in the knowledge that you are going to be ok. More than ok, you are going to be happy xx