Tag Archives: Postnatal depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postnatal Depression ‘isn’t real’ .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the last sentence again.

She felt unheard. Even though she spoke out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great things health care professionals did :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit

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

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

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

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Life through the low rent lens of a dressing gown fanatic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trigger warning – mention of intrusive thoughts and suicide X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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