Tag Archives: Eastenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Baby Blues

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

Symptoms of the Blues

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

– Tired and lethargic

– Anxious and Tense 

– Difficulty sleeping

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

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

Antenatal Depression and Anxiety

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

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

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

Birth Trauma and PTSD

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

The BTA outline characteristic features of PTSD as including :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perinatal OCD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They list some examples of these below :

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

– Hiding anything sharp around the house

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

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

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

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

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

Postnatal Depression and Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

Postpartum Psychosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postpartum Psychosis includes one or more of the following:

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

These are also common symptoms:

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

Treatment for PP

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

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

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

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

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

Suicidal thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medicated and Mighty – what will get me better ?

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

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

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

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

Breastfeeding and Medication

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

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

Let’s talk – therapy !

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

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

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

Sources of further help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peer support 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dont give up xx

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