Tag Archives: postpartum depression

Evaluation – UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week 2017

The first ever UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week took place during 1-7th May 2017 and was organised by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership.

The Partnership is a small group of individuals including those with lived experience , from charities and health care professionals , who came together in 2014 with the dream of creating an awareness campaign for maternal mental health.  Three years later, falling within the week that World Maternal Mental Health Day ran, we launched the campaign.

The Falling Through The Gaps report in 2015 advised that more than one in ten women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year of having a baby and if left untreated, this can have a significant emotional impact on the women suffering and their families.

With this in mind, the week focused on how and where people can seek help in the perinatal period. Its vital for women, their family and friends and health care professionals to know where they can access support for perinatal mental health conditions, so to encourage this, PMHP ran themed days on its social media channels. Analysis shows that during the week, the PMHP facebook page alone achieved a reach of 116,000 and engaged with 7,000 people.

Across the UK, charities, organisations and individuals ran exciting and interesting events to celebrate the week and provide information for mothers and their families, the Maternal Mental Health Alliance encouraged its members to support these and the hashtag for the duration was #maternalmhmatters

Themed Days

01st May – #Map my support 

Across our social media channels, PMHP provided information about the different maternal mental illnesses that can affect women and shared details of charities, organizations and support groups services across the whole of the UK, using the hashtag #mapmysupport . There were 80 tweets directly referring to the hashtag, outlining services across the UK and 338 retweets of these.

02nd – May How to access support from health care professionals

PMHP ran two Facebook Live sessions from its Facebook page for people to watch and contribute to both live and on playback:

1 A session with Dr Stephanie DeGiorgio, a GP and member of the PMHP, on how to approach GPs for help and support

2. A session with pharmacist Dr Wendy Jones regarding the antidepressants that are safe to take while breastfeeding and with a maternal mental illness

In her session, GP Dr Stephanie discussed about how to approach healthcare professionals for help as it can be really daunting to pluck up the courage to open up to a doctor or health visitor and so discouraging when you do so and don’t get the help you need and deserve. Dr Stephanie also provided an insight into how health care professionals can support unwell mums. This took place via the PMHP Facebook Page at 11.30am on 2nd May.

You can watch the session here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=614322175425689&id=587696788088228 .

Analysis shows that Dr Stephanie’s live chat has been viewed 5,000 times with 105 shares . PHMP have received messages from mums to advise they have played the video to their GP and it has received very positive feedback.

“ This is wonderful Dr Stephanie”
“Great advice “
“You are amazing for talking about this. Smashing stigma”
“So brave to talk about personal experience. No judgement , purely support”.
“Thank you for sharing our experience , exposing intrusive thoughts is so important and so much more common than people think”
“ So good to hear these thoughts happen to lots of people”
“Thank you for being so honest Dr Stephanie. Hearing someone who has experienced it and is also a GP is so reassuring for mum”
“This is amazing . Thank you for sharing your advice and such honesty”
“Thank you so much for discussing intrusive thoughts”
“I am a health visitor and will be definitely be taking this to my team. Thank you for such a practical , honest and relevant video for mums”
“Really brilliant , thank you”
” You were calm headed and emphathetic and honest. I with you were my gp’

Alongside this session, PMHP members Smile Group compiled a blog on overcoming obstacles to seeking help. PMHP also promoted Smile’s positively received GP Checklist ( http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/ )  which mums can complete with their symptoms and pass to their health care professional if they are finding it difficult to verbalise their symptoms and Dr Stephanie referred to this during the live session.

Also supporting this session, Dr Carrie Ladd also wrote a blog to share a link to the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit with a wider audience. The Royal College of Gps, in partnership with NHS England, produced this toolkit to assist health care professionals to deliver the highest quality care to women with mental health problems in the perinatal period. As well as offering a diverse collection of resources, the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit gives details of additional learning for individual practitioners. It also provides resources for those concerned about their own mental health issues.

In the blog, Carrie she advised on the usefulness of the toolkit – “for professionals, there are many useful links to help with prescribing issues and to give advice to women to help them make an informed choice about the safest choice of medication in pregnancy and breastfeeding. There are several Top Tip style documents about communication, red flag signs to identify more serious illness as well as links to further learning. For patients, there are links to many information leaflets, third sector organisations, online peer support groups, digital media sources of help amongst many others”.

A link to Carrie’s blog is here https://drcarrieladd.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/uk-maternal-mental-health-matters-awareness-week/ and the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit, which is accessible to all, is here http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/toolkits/perinatal-mental-health-toolkit.aspx .

Dr Wendy Jones is a widely recognised Pharmacist who runs the the Breastfeeding and Medication website . Her Facebook Live session provided information on safe antidepressants to take while nursing. This seems to be such an uncertain area for both mums and health care professionals , with many people, believing or being advised to stop breastfeeding in order to take anti depressants. In fact , there are a variety of safe medications and Wendy provided information on these during the session.

This took place via the PMHP Facebook page at 7pm on 2nd May. The session has been viewed 11,000 times with 247 shares and the feedback on the session is below.

You can watch the session here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=614488795409027&id=587696788088228 .

Feedback on session is below :

“Thank you for sharing your passion and knowledge Wendy”
“Than you – this is so reassuring “
“Thank you , Excellent. I work as a Health Visitor and facilitate local breastfeeding support groups . This is such valuable advice.
“ A really useful presentation”
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this”
“Brilliant Wendy, you are such a reassuring inspiration, Thank you”

03rd May – World Maternal Mental Health Day 

PMHP worked with Postpartum Support International and member organizations on plans for the day. We encouraged the creation of a virtual positivity pot for people to dip into (encouraging the use of the hashtag #perinatalpostivitypot) and tweeted articles, blogs, recovery stories and quotes from mums on what has helped them during their recovery.

Organisations such as Bluebell Place have a positivity board, Smile Group have a Little Book of Smiles and PNDandMe have their Little Book of Hope all containing quotes of this nature and we encouraged people to use these as inspiration.

People could join the global partners by adding a Twibbon to their Twitter profile, downloading the infographic and registering any events they

04th May – Self Care 

We focused on Self Care during the day – focusing on how it’s okay to focus on yourself and how to do this.

05th May – Tips and Tools to support recovery

We looked at Tips and Tools to support recovery. To end the week on a positive note, we wanted to share some practical strategies for managing symptoms.

PNDHOUR 

There was also a #PNDhour run by Rosey Adams from PNDandme during each night of the week 8pm-9pm.

Follow Rosey on Twitter @pndandme as she runs a #PNDhour every Wednesday throughout the year and its a brilliant support and information sharing portal for mums , families and health care professionals.

Rosey’s main aims of setting up the #PNDHour were :

To provide a safe space to discuss topics surrounding pre and postnatal illness.
To help connect those affected by the illness, and provide support for each other.
To increase awareness and encourage open conversations about the illness.
To discuss where improvements could be made in all areas of the support provided for those affected.

For more information see http://www.pndandme.co.uk/pndhour/

For more info on how to access twitter if you haven’t previously, download the masterclass at the end of this blog by Laura Wood http://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/beyond-peer-support-twitter-and-perinatal-mental-health/

Analysis shows there were 3,578 #pndhour tweets across five days , with the peak being during the session on World Maternal Mental Health Day , when 1,011 tweets were sent. Across the whole week, nearly 700 unique participants took part .

Events

Throughout the week, events were held both on and offline throughout the UK to support mums and families and raise awareness of maternal mental illnesses and support services.

NCT Teeside held a week long series of events and the details can be found via this link https://www.facebook.com/events/866150676881842/?ti=as

2nd May – Walk, Wear , Push Preston Park
3rd – Bumps and Babies and feeding support
4th – Toddlers
5th – Drop in with antenatal practitioner
7th – Walk , Wear, Push , Albert Park

Raindrops To Rainbows held a whole week of events in the North East –http://www.raindropstorainbows.co.uk/events-2 that received extensive media coverage and included creative writing sessions for mums to music gigs.

1st May – Families and Friends Opening Event , which was a closed event specially for families and individuals with an interest in Maternal Mental Health
Networking Event – An event aimed at professionals , including the NHS, Local Authority, Councillors , Universities and other organisations with an interest in Maternal Mental Health.
2nd – Creative Writing Workshop with Dr Natalie Scott
3rd May  Creative Art with Claire Baratt
4th May – Songwriting with Marie Marx
5th May – Closing Event and Artwork Function

The Beeches Family Fun Day was an event held by staff and former patients of the Derby Mother and Baby Unit to raise funds to further enhance the delivery of patient care on the ward , whilst celebrating the recovery of mums that have accessed the service http://www.derbyshirehealthcareft.nhs.uk/about-us/latest-news/maternal-mental-health-focus-of-derby-family-fun-day/

Southern Health Foundation Trust Health visitors ran a series of 13 free events across Hampshire during the week at children and community centres. There was also a fantastic news report on BBC South Today on the health visiting service and it’s support to mums with maternal mental illness.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08nsszp/south-today-evening-news-03052017s

Netmums ran an online ‘Drop in clinic’ for mums to message during the week for support and advice. Information can be found here  https://www.netmums.com/coffeehouse/drop-clinic-984/maternal-mental-health-995/

The Women’s Resource and Development Agency provided information about maternal mental health and general wellbeing in women’s centres across Northern Ireland.
On Tuesday 2nd May they delivered and setup ‘Inspiration Points’ stocked with leaflets on issues such as post-natal depression, anxiety and other mental health problems that can arise for mums throughout the women’s centre network.
They charted their progress online using #roadtowellbeing after kicking off the day with a launch event at Falls Women’s Centre. This event included testimony from ‘Have You Seen That Girl?’ founder and Inspire’s maternal wellbeing ambassador, Lindsay Robinson who shared her story of post-natal depression and recovery, and the work she now does to support and inspire other women

For more information, see https://www.inspirewellbeing.org/disablilityservices/news/2017/may/women-s-centres-inspired-to-go-on-the-road-to-wellbeing-for-maternal-mental-health-week

The Smile Group hosted a special themed family #saturdaysocial and led a creative session where parents and children did handprints to show we are all part of a community that joins people together in times where they can feel lonely. They also hosted craft themed sessions at their group to encourage creative expression http://www.thesmilegroup.org/

The Association of Postnatal Illness ran a series of online chats during the week on their Facebook channel – https://www.facebook.com/events/661291170724487/?ti=cl

Becoming Families in Worcestershire shared recovery stories via their social media channels https://www.becomingfamilies.co.uk/

Mothers for Mothers in Bristol held a series of events including massage and paper flower bouquet sessions https://www.mothersformothers.co.uk. Mums Aid in London held an event at Brookhill Children’s Centre to inform local mums about their support services https://mums-aid.org

The Mums Wellbeing Group in Manchester ran a great series of events including an art and creative writing workshop, a cake club and a showcase.

Acacia in Birmingham launched their new website and a brand new film that profiled four mothers and their journey to recovery with support from Acacia http://www.acacia.org.uk

The Global Women’s Mental Health Seminar held a conference on 4th May http://www.mcrglobal.org/events-updates/global-womens-mental-health-seminar/

Health Improvement with Glasgow Life, Clyde Gateway and Quarriers held an event on 3rd May at Parkhead Library in Glasgow to celebrate the week. Information was available on Quarriers’ new service in Glasgow; Café Stork (a drop-in café for new and expectant parents café run by Health Improvement and Thriving Places).

Bluebell Care in Bristol held a fantastic series of events during the week http://www.bluebellcare.org/

Mon 1st – Local support awareness raising
Tues 2nd – Health & Wellbeing group for parents & babies – a time to talk about feeding, sleep & play
Tues 2nd – Antenatal Yoga for Wellbeing class
Weds 3rd – Woolly Weds – come and knit, crochet and natter, play-workers to mind little ones
Thurs 4th – Drop-in Coffee Morning – the team will be there to listen, play-workers for little ones
Fri 5th – Feel Good Friday – book for a treatment session & paint nails, play-workers for little ones
Sat 6th – Clothes Swap – an evening fundraiser for developing services in South Gloucestershire

Cocoon in London offered a week long program of activities promoting emotional wellbeing and raising awareness of perinatal mental health issues. They teaming up with a number of professionals who volunteered their time in aid of the awareness week, including gentle sleep consultant, Mindfulness instructor and baby yoga instructor! https://www.facebook.com/PNDSupportNW6/photos/a.1477512595803870.1073741830.1477435262478270/1903623106526148/?type=3

Action on Postpartum Psychosis initiated Music 4 Mums inviting everyone to ‘Sing, Play and Perform’ to raise awareness of the need for adequate maternal mental health care services in the UK. Details of the events held are here https://www.app-network.org/m4mums/music-4-mums-events/.

The Birth Trauma Trust supported the week with a range of activities http://www.birthtraumatrust.org/maternal-mental-health-week-2017/

Maternal Mental Health Western Isles held a display in the Western Isles Hospital May 1 – May 4 to coincide with this week and World Maternal Mental Health Day on 3 May. This included some stats from the survey that they undertook at the end of last year.

Aware NI put together some information on perinatal mental health to support the awareness week https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1486072521445654&id=117685461617707

Kate at Hurrah For Gin posted this lovely and honest post during the week https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1725740377441024&substory_index=0&id=726296134052125 . Closer magazine also covered this story https://closeronline.co.uk/real-life/news/mum-blogger-hurrah-gin-dark-side-parent-mental-health-anxiety-depression.

Juno PNMH Edinburgh ran a series of video blogs throughout the week on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/junopmhsedinburgh/videos/1102619323216444/

Sling Swing Lincoln asked people to support the week by changing their profile picture on social media to help raise awareness.

The Every Mum Movement launched its new website during the week https://www.facebook.com/everymummovement/posts/1789659268028678

Maternal Mental Health Scotland Change Agents shared information about services and support networks that an help you https://www.facebook.com/maternalmentalhealthscotlandchangeagents/posts/1784042411622730

Denise Welch spoke to ITV News as part of the week to help to spread awareness and get people talking about depression. More details are here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1305033456260945&id=185016708262631 and you can watch the news report here http://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2017-05-03/denise-welch-urges-others-to-open-up-about-mental-health/

Sketchy Mama produced some artwork for the week https://m.facebook.com/sketchymuma/photos/a.388673807983931.1073741828.386901668161145/680442588807050/?type=3

Articles and Blogs

https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/maternal-mental-health-matters-week-1-7-may/
https://www.familiesonline.co.uk/local/south-warwickshire/in-the-know/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week-2017
http://www.citypregnancy.org.uk/announcements/uk-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week
https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/tag/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
https://thedaisyfoundation.com/maternal-mental-health-mothering-place-anger/
https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/pregnancy-news-and-blogs/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week
World Maternal Mental Health Week: Post-natal depression, perinatal anxiety, psychosis, PTSD and others
https://www.keepingmummighty.co.uk/single-post/2017/05/03/mmhawareness-sharing-my-story
http://www.tatterhood.co.uk/stop-the-world-uks-first-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
http://www.lilsmirror.com/2017/05/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week.html
http://www.pmhcymru.com/our-first-true-story-for-maternal-mental-health-matters-awareness-week-trigger-warning/
https://www.the-pool.com/health/health/2017/18/robyn-wilder-on-maternal-mental-health
http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news/free-events-to-help-families-talk-about-maternal-mental-health-problems/
https://www.antoinettesandbach.org.uk/news/local-mp-supports-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week
Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week: PTSD and me.
http://themuddledmother.co.uk/postnatal-depression/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
https://www.talkingmums.com/tag/uk-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
http://www4.shu.ac.uk/mediacentre/new-course-tackle-maternal-mental-health
https://stockport.mumbler.co.uk/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week-1-7-may-2017/
Maternal Mental Health Awareness 
http://hertfordshiretherapy.org/articles/what-maternal-mental-health-week-all-about
http://www.ncmh.info/2017/05/03/maternal-mental-health-matters/
Maternal Health Awareness – Its okay not to be okay
https://spectrumgirls2.com/category/maternal-mental-health-week-2017/
https://dontdropthebaby.co.uk/category/mental-health/
https://www.thebabyjetsetter.com/single-post/2017/05/04/Why-we-should-all-be-talking-about-mental-health-this-week
https://closeronline.co.uk/real-life/news/mum-blogger-hurrah-gin-dark-side-parent-mental-health-anxiety-depression/
Maternal Mental Health Awareness 
https://www.projectaliveandkicking.org/maternal-mental-health/maternal-mental-health-matters/
https://the-motherload.co.uk/can-will-get-better-recovery-maternal-mental-illness/
http://www.thedegree.co.uk/technology/moment-health-maternal-mental-health/
https://beyondthenicu.com/2017/05/02/maternal-mental-health-awareness-
Maternal mental health week
http://itsliketheyknowus.com/post/160248048524/may-1-7-is-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week
https://www.handonheartjewellery.co.uk/press/maternal-mh/
https://iaptus.co.uk/2017/04/maternal-mental-health-matters/
http://mamamei.co.uk/maternal-mental-health-week-my-depression-anxiety-and-psychosis/
http://www.tacticalmummy.co.uk/maternal-mental-health-matters/
Maternal Mental Health
http://www.talkingmums.com/uk-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/sallyann-kelly-new-mums-mental-health-matters-too-1-4436134
http://www.emmasdiary.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/the-baby-blues-and-postnatal-depression/how-postnatal-depression-is-diagnosed

Thank you to everyone who made the campaign such a success. Thank you to the mums and families we wanted to help and we so hope the week provided you with hope that you will get better and signposted you to support . We received a message from a mum a little while ago to say the week was a key part of her coping during the early weeks of motherhood. She says she felt like there was a whole army of people pushing her forward to feeling like herself again. She wrote that she had the deepest gratitude for all the hard work and commitment of everyone who was involved in the week .

It’s this kind of message that shows WE MADE A DIFFERENCE!!!!

The second annual UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week will be taking place 30th April until 6th May 2018. If you would like further information :

Email – perinatalmhpartnership@gmail.com
Facebook – https://m.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/
Twitter – @PMHPUK

Perinatal Mental Health Partnership Membership:

Eve Canavan – @eviecanavan
Beth Bone – @BB576
Rosey Adams – @PNDandMe
Dr Stephanie DeGiorgio – @DrSdeG
Dr Andy Mayers – @DrAndyMayers
Bluebell Care – @BluebellCare
Smile Group – @TheSMILEGroup
Raindrops to Rainbows – @R2R_pnd
Kathryn Grant – @katgrant30

 

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The chronicles of 19865788 Lego blocks while not wearing socks.

In three days, it’s my sons 7th birthday. My baby is no longer that and last night , as I looked at him in bed , with his superman pants sticking out of the bed covers, football socks pulled up to his knees, and handmade reward signs for “bad man wanted , dead or aliv” stuck all over the house, I cried. John came over to me and said he is lovely isnt he ? I said he is, and he wiped a tear from my face. Well , it was more than a tear- a monsoon was gushing out of my tear ducts and I was a blubbering mess. As I felt the salty drops , I said to John “ where has the time gone ?”. So much has happened baby , I never thought we would be here . I never ever thought I could feel such a burst of love for him” and my long suffering pretend hubby said , but here you are Eve , you and your boy , the dream team.

And here we are indeed. Joe’s birthday doesn’t just signify his birth. It signifies me becoming a mummy, John becoming a daddy and also makes me remember that seven years ago, after giving birth , my mind descended into a whirling deep pit of the hell that is Postpartum Psychosis . Seven years on, it reminds me that I am here , I recovered , I survived , I am alive and I am happy. Happy to be Joe’s mummy .

I wanted to write this blog to show my boy I always loved him , even during a time when I could barely remember my own name , I couldn’t remember how to wash myself and when I was lost in a rambling head of confused thoughts. I want him to be able to read it when he is older and know how much he means to me and our family but also to show other mums who may be unwell now , that they will get better and their relationship with their child will be okay . More than okay – it will flourish.

Joe watched when I received a Speaking Out Award from the charity Mind in November . I , alongside my dear friend Kathryn , had worked with the BBC and Mind on a storyline about Postpartum Psychosis on the soap Eastenders and were essentially the experts by experience. Mind and the BBC did a marvellous job of accurately portraying the illness and raising awareness and one of the overriding themes of the storyline was of how much the mum affected , Stacey, loved her baby. It was so important to show this and the charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis stress that as serious as the symptoms of the illness are , they in no way mean the sufferer is evil or doesn’t love her child. In no way at all.

Kathryn and I were very lucky to be presented the award , which was a thank for us speaking out about our experiences which informed the storyline . I had told Joe that mummy and daddy were going to an award show ,that mummy would be getting an award and explained to the in laws how to use the modern invention that is the IPad so Joe could watch the live feed. When we got home at 1am, me shoeless but most definitely not wineless , eating a lamb shish with extra garlic chilli sauce and a naan bread hanging out of my mouth, my mother in-law emerged from the lounge and said that they didn’t know I was getting an award but said that Joe sat there for 2 and a half hours staring at the iPad waiting for mummy. As it got to the end , she had said to Joe that she didn’t think he would be seeing mummy and Joe shouted ‘I will. My mummy said she is getting an award and my mummy doesn’t lie to me” and he plonked himself on the floor again and stared at the screen once more. I then did indeed get it , and my mother in law says she looked at Joe, my beautiful little pocket rocket, who has mastered the art of swearing in a non – offensive way ” Mummy – Donald trump is a right ‘ucker isn’t he” and he had tears running down his face. When he woke up in the morning he said ‘Mummy, I so proud of you – you said my name in your speech!’.

He then asked where his award was , when is he going to look around the EastEnders set and why he can’t drink children’s wine to celebrate . Six hours later , after a trip to the trophy shop, I presented him with his own award and he did a thank you speech for us in the living room while dressed up as his self-invented super-hero pants man ( think 18 pairs of pants tucked into another pair of pants , socks on hands , pair of pants on head) .

He then said he needed to talk to me. He kissed my head , asked if I would play shops with him and then said , mummy, when you collected your award last night , why did you say when you gave birth to me , that you were scared of me ? He looked at me and said , I’m not scary mama and my heart stopped a beat. Joe has always known what happened to me and what happened to us when he was born. He knows mummy had a poorly head that made her think things that weren’t really happening , he knows that mummy was a bit muddled up when she thought about things and she needed the doctors to help make her better and he knows that me and him lived in a psychiatric mother and baby unit so I could recover in a safe warm place . We visit the mother and baby unit and go to the bedroom we lived in while we was there. Joe jumps up and down in the cot he was in and helps himself to the biscuits the nurses hand out he knows the mums who are there have poorly heads but that they are there to get better. But what he didn’t know is that I was scared of him.

I have never been one to shy away from telling Joe stuff. I am the parent who explained where babies came from when he was three – ‘What , daddy put his willy into your vangina ???? and the sperm fish raced to the wombs and broke through ? do I have sperm fish? “

We are the family that explained what body parts are which brought about the following encounter one hazy night at 11pm while I was on the sofa in johns tracksuit bottoms , drinking Buck’s Fizz from the bottle. I think it was a Tuesday- totally rock and roll…

‘Mummy , I can’t sleep.

Cue me throwing the bag of chocolate behind the sofa and sympathetically asking why darling ?

“ it’s just that I need to tell you the right word for the vangina . it’s not a vangina or a front bumper. It’s a vulva. Can you say vulva mummy ? you have it so you should be able to.

Vulva darling. I can say it. Thank you for telling me .

No worries mummy, I thought you should know. It’s not a front bumper. We don’t say that”

And off he toddled.

And then there was the epic time we explained how people can love who they want :

“Mummy, why is daddy’s friend kissing that other man on the lips in a movie star kiss like you and daddy ?

Because they love each other like mummy and daddy do. Anyone can love anyone. Boys can love girls, girls can love girls. Girls can love boys , boys can love boys. Anyone can love anyone. And if anyone says they can’t they are idiots okay ?

Are they dicks mummy , the people who think it’s wrong ? Shall we call them the dicks ?

Yes my love, they are the dicks” .

And after allowing him to self-parent and decorate the toilet seat in toothpaste while I spent half an hour attempting to prise my acrylic nails off, he came up to me and said , mummy see that man Bruce on the TV screen ? See him ? He is not Bruce anymore- he is Caitlin. He wanted to be a lady and is now one , so we don’t call her Bruce. She is a her.  She is happy now and isn’t that good mummy?

I was so proud of my boy , so open , so kind to others, so accepting in a world where a man with orange foundation and three mismatched hairpieces has become the leader of the free world. A man who can’t even run his own twitter account is running the most powerful country on earth. But I digress…..

I have always been open with Joe. I want him to know about everything so he grows up being accepting and being aware of himself, his body and be respectful to others who love their differently to us. We have told him what happened to us when he was born so he understands why mummy had to zoom up and down to Nottingham on a train for therapy , so he understands why mummy took 87 pills before bed, so he understands why mummy needs some space sometimes. But I hadn’t prepared myself for him hearing I was scared of him.

I was never scared of you Joe. You with the little sweaty feet, the lovely squishy arms, the cute punky hair. You were and are the most beaut child I had ever seen. I was scared of the thoughts in my head. No one knows quite why but when I gave birth, something happened to my head. It was like someone pulled out bits of my brain , put them in back in with a load of lego blocks and mixed them around like a bowl on Bake Off. I lost the instruction manual to my brain and couldn’t rebuild myself. My head got confused and starting thinking things it didn’t want to – it was like when we were building the Lego millennium falcon- we were putting the pieces together and it got so confusing – so many bags of stuff and we didn’t know where all the bits went and it took 12 hours to build it properly. My brain was a melting pot of mismatched Lego bricks that I kept standing on without socks and hurting myself. I struggled to build my brain back again but I eventually did – and with your help. Hopefull, it won’t break again .Sometimes , some blocks come off and mummy thinks oh ‘ucking hell, why can’t I glue this together forever, but I manage to get the pieces back to where they belong super quick because I know where they should be. Sometimes the doctor, daddy and you help me to put the blocks back in place as well.

So it’s wasn’t you I was scared of– I was scared of my thoughts. I felt like I wouldn’t be a good mummy and when I realised I was to be a mummy forever, this scared me . You know when mummy says she thinks she wants a new job as the one she is in is doing her head in ? Its like that – but I realised my job as a mummy was forever and I was so confused that I couldn’t change this job if I didn’t like it. But I knew I wanted to like to – I had wanted you for so long . I then realized it wasn’t a job, it was my purpose. I am here to be your mummy.

As you get older , you will see and read things about how unwell I was and you may thing , erm , mother , why did you climb out of the window adorned in blue eye shadow while muttering that the clouds were trapping you and why the dickens did you run past Mr Patel’s house with no clothes on and bite daddy’s ankles so he wouldn’t leave the house ? I am aware that your teenage self in a few years will be embarrassed by me and will ignore everything i say even more than you do now but I promise I will try to not run past Mr Patel without my pants again. I would have preferred to not have done this the first time but I can’t change the past. That’s why the woman across the road has her net curtain permanently hitched up day and night – I think she doesn’t want to miss it , should I ever do a repeat performance.

As mummy’s friend Beth says , motherhood has truly been the making of me , but in a way I never expected. I never thought I would give birth and start crawling around the floor convinced I was being buried alive . I never thought I would be asleep in a bed , filled to my gills with anti psychotics In a mother and baby unit . I never thought I would shake when I saw you .But I did , those things happened , but so did my recovery.

I wanted to recover for you. And we must always remember daddy says – even when I was unwell , so unwell, I loved you. I cared for you, I fed you, I begged for help so I could enjoy you , so I could cuddle you. At times I may not have known who or what I was , but I yearned for you. I remember on my discharge from the unit, holding you in my arms , I knew I was getting better. When we entered the unit , I couldn’t close the door and be in a room on my own with you but just a week later , I did just that. It was the biggest turning point in my illness and gave us the first glimmer of hope I then understood.

A few months later , I would travel to Nottingham twice a week with you in a sling on a train – me and you , together. I would go the therapy and I remember calling granddad builder and crying saying daddy, I am getting there , I am getting better and he said , you are hen , you are and its beautiful , me and your man love you . And we don’t just love you , we adore you.

A year later , I went back to work. I had two days off a week with you and spent those days taking you to clappy sing song baby groups. I never knew I would grow to love singing the wheels on the bus 87 times a week but I did . I would count down until my days off with you so we could hang out . Blobs of play dough with raw spaghetti made by your little hands were spaceships and they still and always will take pride of place on the shelves in the lounge.

Seven years on , I could literally inhale you. You have grown from a beautiful baby to the most wonderful independent , caring child. You won your class school council election with a manifesto saying ‘ I think I should be a school councillor because I am a very nice person’ and my love, you are .You give your sandwiches to the homeless man on the street , you waved a placard around at a breastfeeding in public rally and told a newspaper photographer he was rude , you throw lego at the TV when supernanny is on saying that woman is a bell end mummy , take her away and you stood in front of the TV after brexit and said , mummy, what the uck is going on ? .

I could not be prouder to be your mummy. You may be my first child and my last child but you are most definitely my everything . Being unwell after you were born has shown me how much I love you and how much I always have. I was never scared of you mate , I was scared of what the illness did to me.

Always remember this. On your birthday , when I find you in knee deep in squirty cream and a bowl of jelly on your head , I will remember your birthday as the best day of my life because of the family it has made us. Being your mum is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I quite like your father as well.

I was never scared of you mate – how could I be scared of someone who ,when mummies nail glue explodes in her handbag and solidifies over her house keys , doubling them in size meaning they can’t stick in the key hole and she attempts to chisel them out with and toothbrush and a sanitary towel, decides to do their much needed poo in the front garden and wipes their arse with a receipt. You’re just like your mother mate – resourceful, have no embarrassment levels and a quick thinker.

You will go far my friend and mummy will be with you. Remember what I said at the Mind awards? I said you are truly the best thing to ever happen to me. Even when you decorate the house in four unwound toilet rolls.

If I am ever not with you, I will watch this video. With daddy on the drums and you doing your best Rancid impression and I will think , I make a nice chocolate cake , but Joe is definitely the best homemade thing ever.

Life through the low rent lens of a dressing gown fanatic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trigger warning – mention of intrusive thoughts and suicide X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If there ever was a reason for a harness in between your fandango, then this is it

On Monday 22 June , after work , after collecting my son from school and eating three brownies and a lemon ice tea, I’ll be trekking across London to take in the lovely views across canary wharf and Greenwich. How delightful I hear you say. However , I forgot to throw in that I will be taking in these views from on top of the 02 centre, 52 metres in the sky. Tis quite high.

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This isn’t my normal after work activity. That normally involves wine and crisps but this is no normal Monday. This is because I am part of Team London for Postpartum Progress’s Annual Climb Out Of Darkness http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of-the-darkness/. Take a look at this and also the website for postpartum progress http://www.postpartumprogress.com.

When I was ill, well actually , not when I was properly ill as when that was going on, I was in terror at the thought of every second, minute and hour. The chiming of the clock would not just signify another hour going past, but another chime to what was the life sentence of motherhood that lay before me. The pure terror I felt about being trapped by this child forever filled me with such dread that I genuinely thought the only way out was death. I could see no end to the fear that I felt. I could see no end to waking up in the morning and feeling as though I was in a nailed down coffin , gasping for hour. Gasping for an air that would lift me up out of my bed, into the sky , above the clouds into space. I began to think , only then will I be free. I would run out of the house saying I felt like cling film was pulled across my mouth and was stopping me breathing. I was desperate for a way out. I had spent nine months waiting for my child to arrive which such hope and glee and when he did, within an hour of his birth, I felt a hazy sense of dread. My mum said I looked glazed over and kept shouting ‘Evelyn , Evelyn , why are you staring into space? Evelyn, put your phone down, the baby is here’. I was looking around the room looking for the exit and wondered if the windows were open. I think I have sub consciously started planning my escape then but little did I know the pit I would fall into just a few hours later.

Over the course of the next three days , I slipped slip into a deep deep fear filled state. I was scared of my baby. He had amazing squidgy arms and the smallest cutest little toe in the world, and the little toe nail on that little toe was so tiny yet so perfect. He did lots of yawning and seemed to like me but I found myself not even being able to look at him. I peered his cot a few times and felt my hands clam up. My head would start buzzing , I would start breathing through my nose , my teeth would feel like they had pins and needles and I would start looking for a fire exit. I felt like I needed to get out. Out of the ward, the hospital and what became very obvious, out of the life I had been dealt. How could I have wanted something so much and as soon as it was here decide I not only didn’t want it , but that I was scared of it ?

I realised I felt trapped by being a mother. This gurgling lump of squidge belonged to me ,forever, and the idea of that sent me into such a spin that I eventually couldn’t be in the same room as him. I would shake at the thought of his presence and the idea that he was now here and was staying here. I couldn’t unbirth him now.

When he was six weeks old I woke up one day, smacked my head into the wall, told john I was getting the baby adopted while pacing up and down the room, screamed so much that blood poured from the side of my mouth, began chanting and walking up and down the stairs over and over and over and crawled around the bed on all fours screaming ‘someone has to help me ‘ while John was on the phone to a psychiatrist at the hospital. This day culminated in john finding me in the bathroom holding a razor saying the sun was hitting it in such a way that it glistened really beautifully. For those few minutes holding the razor, in the midst of that morning of meltdown and the previous six weeks of hell, I just sat there , staring at the floor. I don’t know why. I don’t know what I was planning on doing with the razor. I think I went in the bathroom to get away from everyone ( john was on ohone to the hospital trying to get me admitted , his mum was on the phone to the doctors trying to get my pregnancy notes for the hospital ) and the baby just kept crying for me , my boobs ,my smell and my warmth. I can remember being in the bathroom , I remember it was really sunny,I remember I squeezed a little spot at the top of my arm and I remember opening up the cabinet and picking up the razor. Even though my lady locks down below had reached such catastrophic proportions that the forestry commission would need to come along with an industrial lawn mower to fashion a Brazilian on me , I was most definitely not getting the razor out to prune my nether regions. I don’t know why I got it out. I don’t think I wanted the physical pain of ending my life but I had reached the point where I thought death was the only way out. My son was now born. He was here forever and the idea of that I couldn’t cope with.

The previous six weeks had seen me have continuous panic attacks, I’d experienced hallucinations which made me feel like I was floating in the corner of the room looking down on myself. If only I’d have brought the broom up with me I could have attacked the cob webs while doing cartwheels in the corner. I frequently talk about the day I turned myself into a picket fence housewife complete with powder blue eye shadow , coral orange lipstick and a slicked up born that Mary poppins would break a sweat to steal of me. I also put an apron on and then proceeded to stand in the kitchen for the next few hours holding a piece of frozen stewing steak , chanting . When john returned home , joe was asleep in his bouncer, I looked like I had just let the three year old next door pretend I was a girls world and draw all over my face with a crayon and I think I might have tried to climb out of the window. That was a fun day girls. It surely was painfully obvious that I wasn’t well – I was wearing coral orange lipstick that was that seen in 1985 on women with quaffed fringes hairsprayed into place with concrete strength . Who in their right mind wears coral lipstick I ask you ?

I was eventually hospitalised and diagnosed with postpartum psychosis and anxiety. In the uk we have what I will call a ‘light sprinkling’ which translates to , not a lot at all and we need loads more but the government is shutting them all down anyway , of mother and baby units. These are specialist psychiatric wards where mums and their babies can go to manage the mental illness they are suffering since the birth of their child and to kick start their recovery. My lovely pretend hubby – nearly ten yrs together and a bare finger over here but you know , I really have made him stick through the for better and for worse even in the absence of those official vows and he still loves me god bless him – fought tooth and nail to get me into a unit as we had to endure nearly two months of ‘oh , your wife is just tired / she is wearing mascara she can’t be depressed/ get her to make a cake , that will cheer her up/ didn’t she realise having a baby was hard’ type comments while everyone brushed aside the absolute horror I was going through.

When I went into the unit, my recovery started. I was put on lots of happy pills,anti psychotics and anti anxiety medication which I will now forever say saved my life. I don’t care that I chewed them like smarties, I don’t care that I put on approx 67 stone in weight, I don’t care that they seemed to give me , ahem, sulphur burps (yummy, I’ll be winning miss world 2016 won’t i ) and I don’t care if people say , oh just eat some raw paw paw and cut an onion in half and hold them against your ears. They will clear out the toxins and all your sad feelings will be absorbed by said onion and then you can bury it in the garden and have a funeral for all your old sad emotions. I needed medication and I took it. And it helped me get better . Hurrah to scientists and their magic potions to help us feel better. Without them I don’t think my son would have a mother alive today.

And when I was in the unit, I was able to take the time to focus on my recovery. It forced me to be in joes presence , something I had not only avoided but feared so much that my vision had blurred. In between my panic attacks , I would read . The was a wonderful book called ‘life after birth’ by kate figes which gave me my first glimmer of hope. Then I would read articles on the internet.

I read one that will always stay with me . It said , recovery from perinatal mental health problems does happen but like it’s a game of snakes and ladders. You will have a pile of good days and then a bad one will pop up. But that like snakes and ladders, you may slip down the ladder but you never go back to the beginning. That gave me hope. I would have days where I would think , I’m doing ok, I can look at joe without vomiting , I can lift him up and nurse him and then it would hit me , bam , like a cold fish had just been smacked around my face. I would shake , my teeth would chatter and I’d say , oh god oh god, it’s happening again john , you don’t understand, I’m going to die , it’s him, I can’t be his mum , I can’t do this , I can’t , how can you do it , why aren’t you terrified and then I would have a massive panic attack and all the nurses would have to come into the room and help me calm down. I would feel like it was never ever going to get better but the snakes and ladders analogy gave me hope. I might feel shit sometimes. I may feel more than shit sometimes, I may feel like I want to be six feet under ( I had hallucinations of being locked in a coffin frequently) but you know, that thirty seconds yesterday where I felt ok meant something . It was more than thirty seconds of oh I feel ok, it was thirty seconds of hope . And that’s what I needed to cling on to.

And then I would read blogs and survivor stories online. I saw that people had felt like me. I’ll be honest that I struggled to find anyone saying what I felt , the whole , I’m trapped in life as a mum and feel so bad about it I think I want to end my life, but these were women, admitting they felt awful after having a baby and even though it took a while, they got better. Some thought they were going to hurt their baby, some thought they had developed OCD but what they all had in common was that they had experienced something really shit but that they had got better. This hope was like a carrot dangling in front of me. Or rather like a bar of chocolate saying look how good I look, but you can’t quite grab me , but one day you will and you will devour me.

And I did. It took about 2.5 years but I eventually grabbed that chocolate bar and didn’t let go. It took a lot of meds, therapy which involved me watching a clicking finger move side to side and a stint in a psychiatric unit but I got better . I’m a bloody warrior . I have clawed back from wanting to end it all to wanting to inhale life with my son so much that I could smother him in kisses and still want to give him more. He is my light, my love, my soul. He is most definitely my child. The afternoon after the uk election he stood up in class to tell all the other five year olds about it and how he is so clever. Apparently all was going well until the path where he announced ” and so that means that the conservatives are still in power and David Cameron is still out prime minister. And that is a fucking ballache. ” I can’t think she he got that from. Similar to when I had my annual check up at the doctors and was asked ‘ and so , just for our records as we ask everyone now, how much alcohol do you consume”. I of course said , oh you know I might go out once a month and have a glass of some nice French red wine with a nice fillet steak and he nodded and said good good. My darling child then pipes up ” mummy, you love getting drunk. You walk like this when you have had too much wine”. I mumbled a few yes yes darling , that’s a nice story for the doctor to chuckle and say , ooh what’s your favourite drink joe ? Water , apple juice ? No , my five year old child’s response – ” I like jaguar bombs ‘. I’ll just point out that he doesn’t have jaguarbombs to the best of my knowledge unless the dinner ladies at school have taken to pulling pints while serving up macaroni cheese.

I did climb out last with my other uk warrior mum girlfriends beth bone and Kathryn grant. They both have blogs you should peruse and they fought similar battles to me . We walked across London last year and spent those hours together laughing , remembering and realising how lucky we are . We remembered those women who have lost their lives to perinatal mental health and vowed we would do what we can to help others who had been in a similar position to us. And we have . Us three , along with some other amazeballs people have formed the perinatal mental health partnership in the uk to create an awareness campaign. We are doing some great work and our experiences are and will help others.

And this is where postpartum progress and climb out comes in. Postpartum Progress and it’s founder, Katherine Stone is the most brilliant resource for mothers and their families. It posts hopeful blog posts, easy to read symptom checkers,lists details where you can access support and shows that you aren’t alone. There are whole communities who can and want to help you if you are feeling like it’s all too much. You can and do get better, I promise.

Climb out signifies something beautiful. It signifies you climbing out of despair back to your peak. No matter how low you get , you can climb out of it. And it may be a hard climb , it may be one where you feel like you have no choice but to give up but dig those nails in and you can do it. Take whatever help you need, you don’t have to do it alone. Your friends and family can help you, people you don’t know can help you and you will get there.

I will be climbing this year with beth who is our team leader , Kathryn and another survivor , Tracy Robinson. We will scale the 02 and reach the top and think , that was as easy as drinking a glass of prosecco bra use have climbed harder mountains than that- we beat perinatal mental health problems. I have no doubt that when I’m clad in my delightful blue jumpsuit with a harness around my fandango staring up at the great height in front of me that I’ve agreed to climb , I will shit my pants. But this is fine really as I should be used to it – I have the bladder control of a newborn since having my little sunshine.

Dust off those walking boots, strap your boobs down and wear some comfy pants. Find somewhere high and gather your family and friends and ask them to take a journey of hope with you. image