Tag Archives: postpartum depression

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

Exercise makes me happy.As does Gin.As does bouncing around on my hubbys balls.But anti-depressants kept me alive……All hail meds and all who sail in them.

I saw a post on twitter the other day and it struck me. It didn’t make me want to throw chocolate profiteroles at the iPad screen, which would actually be a terrible waste but it didn’t make me want to lick it either. It actually got me quite irritated because it insinuated that I , as well as millions of others had failed in some way,when actually we haven’t . We’ve done what we have for the good of ourselves and those around us.

It didn’t say ‘Jamie Dornan doesn’t love you’ which would have made me throw all my mummy porn into a Sainsbury’s carrier bag and given it to the charity shop down the road. Don’t know about you but I’d happily buy ‘Housewives in Hounslow’ for 5p. My mind is wandering . What it actually said that was ‘you never need anti depressants to get cope with mental illness’ and the article suggested that to take them indicated some sort of weakness, that all they do is blur your mind from the reality of the real torture you are enduring and that if you take them, you aren’t ever actually better and you should feel like a failure as you haven’t managed to ying and yang yourself out of the depressive limbo you have got yourself tangled into.

I have played the game twister and got myself into all sorts of gymnastic poses and managed to fall out of them easily and hysterically. In my younger , wilder days,I thought I was some sort of karma sutra connoisseur and was able to twist my body into all sorts of shapes while swinging from the lampshade. I held back on wearing crotchless pants but you get my drift. However, untangling the wires in my mind that had been jumbled up was not half as pleasant , not at all easy, took two and a half years and it was not something that I could do with simply me,myself and I. I couldn’t just go to sleep in spring and emerge in summer , with my brain in good working order. I needed something to start my recovery,

My recovery and/or management of the mental illness that hit me happened as a result of numerous things. I wasn’t able to just ‘get over it’ or pull myself together. A nice brisk walk and a hot chocolate didn’t sweeten the blow and I wasn’t able to mediate my mind into a state of hypnotic happiness – if I could have , believe me, I would have swung many watches in front of my face.

First of , it took medication. Lots of medication. I’m not ashamed to say that. At one point , I was taking antidepressants three times a day and they were as essential as my three meals. I also took anti psychotics at other points throughout the day, so these were like my snacks, to calm me when I was becoming manic. My friend Rachel reminds of the text messages I would send her while I was in the midst of my psychosis “they were pages long with no punctuation and made no sense. You also kept repeating yourself over and over”. I sense my blog posts may be slightly similar with my keyboard warrior ramblings but you catch my drift. My mind was like a collapsed angel delight. Pink and quivering.

For those of you who don’t know, five years ago, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis ,anxiety connected to the birth of a child and generalised anxiety disorder. For the first six weeks after my sons birth,I was literally wandering around in another reality. When he was six weeks old, I was hospitalised in a psychiatric mother and baby unit to begin my long road to recovery.

Before I made my not so merry way into the unit, my husband and I spent a fair while attempting to convince people I needed medication. Relatives said I didn’t need it- I mean, imagine , the shame of taking medication to make you feel better, how embarrassing. Then as some of you know from another of my blog posts, certain esteemed members of the medical profession thought that Betty Crockers Brownie mix contained the healing powers of a sunshine happy wizard and encouraged me to whip up a Victoria sandwich. Apparently, devouring it would make me happy, which would stop me feeling sad. Problem is , I felt more than sad . I felt like I wanted to die. As much as I like a moist chocolate sponge , I failed to understand how cracking some eggs would stop me cracking up.

I was, when my son was maybe two weeks old, grudgingly (by the doctor, not me) prescribed an anti-depressant. Yippee. ‘It kicks in in two weeks and you will be right as rain again. No more wanting to flush the baby down the toilet feelings for you young lady” and off we went. I waited two torturous weeks. Torturous for me and my husband who had to endure several of my mini meltdowns along the way. Bar the constant terror I felt as I attempted to live minute by minute , hour by hour, I was having really awful panic attacks. My eyes would develop tunnel vision, my ears would feel muffled. I felt like a great cloud of world ending doom was filling my body and start to shake. I would try to scream and would scratch at my mouth shouting I’m trapped take me away. I developed an unfortunate need to run into the street shoeless,bra-less,pant less and what was becoming painfully clear, mindless, in what I think was an attempt to inhale air into my body to get rid of the dark cloud that was taking over it. John had to carry my naked , wild arm swinging self from the middle of the road much to the curtain twitching amusement of the lady over the road. All this was going on while a small 8lb baby was in his Moses basket gurgling away,oblivious to the fact that his mummy wanted something to take the pain away and was willing to go to any lengths to get it and his daddy was looking after her and him all the way through it.

I went back to the doctor, the start of many many many GP visits to say I didn’t feel right. Nothing was questioned, nothing was changed. I was starting to spiral out of control.

I had been experiencing deep psychotic feelings. They were terrifying and I remember the terror very well. But they also seemed logical. I would say to John ‘I’m trapped in motherhood. He has trapped me forever” and John, after a million attempts at trying to soothe me eventually would say ok , he is here forever but we can work with this. He can go to nursery you can go back to work early, you don’t have to spend all your time with him. And then I’d say ” but I’m trapped in the world John. And the clouds,they are getting closer everyday . I need to climb the tree and cut them with scissors and then I’ll get to space. But what will I do when I’m there?”. I would claw at my mouth with my hands as I felt like cling film was over it, stopping me breathing. I got some rather attractive looking cuts at the side of my mouth and developed a need to try and pop the little white heads at the top of my arm. I was living the dream everybody. Living the dream.

My first meds were not the ones for me but thank god my bad experience didn’t put me off trying another anti depressant. I won’t say the name of the med and for good reason. I know many people it was the right med for and has been life changing and life saving. But when I went into hospital and was given some of the magic blue calming pills, I realised how good life can look when the pains in your brain can be soothed by the right concoction of pills. I was like a pharmacists personal bank roll I was on so many meds at one point. Anyone need a rattle to soothe the baby ? Give me a shake. Maracas over there sir? I’m on my way. But who cares- I was starting to feel better. I was starting to feel like Eve again.

I admit that I would read glossy magazines when there was story about a celebrity who had suffered from mental health issues. I read a fair few about those who had suffered postnatal depression or other perinatal mental health problems and I would become enraged when they would say ‘no, I didn’t take anti depressants. I think that they just mask your feelings and I’m proud to have got through it with out turning to meds”. I realise now that my anger was unfair in one way but also I think justified in another. Unfair in the sense that if people don’t want to take meds, of course that’s fine and of course there are instances where you can do get yourself through without the need for medication but I think saying its bad for mums to ‘turn to meds’ is wrong. They aren’t turning to crack. They aren’t weak. They want to be better so they can lead a happy life with their baby. If this means taking some tablets to sort out the bits in the brain that have gone awry then so be it. Nobody has a go at someone with a physical illness taking meds to get better do they?

That well known beacon of medical advice Katie Hopkins came out with quite the corker a few months ago. She sent out a tweet that read ‘Once I was given a sick note and a prescription for anti-depressants. I threw the note in the bin, ripped up the script & went back to work.’ Good for you Hopkins. I’m glad that for your experience , you didn’t need to take meds. Katie could have looked at this in a different way. Going to the doctor and admitting you feel shit is a big step and it’s actually pretty disgusting for someone to suggest its a weakness. And ripping up the prescription ? Fine , your choice. But don’t mock those who don’t turn it into confetti but instead take it to Boots, take the tablets and attempt to start their road to feeling better.

It doesn’t matter how we get better , it just matters that we do. And this may mean you are not ever totally ‘recovered’ .Getting yourself to a manageable point ,where you can live life without the symptoms that stop you being able to enjoy it, I think, is ok. I don’t have postpartum psychosis anymore and for me , the psychotic part of my illness cleared fairly quickly once I started on anti-psychotics. Hurrah. Gold medal for magic pills. They gave me my mind back. But I probably will always suffer with some kind of anxiety.

For those anti meds, I can’t explain the feelings of having to live in terror everyday. I got to such a point that I thought the sky was the ceiling of a film set . I thought the clouds were suffocating me. I would claw at my mouth as I felt trapped by ‘something’. I at one point woke up and thought I was in a coffin , being buried alive. Let me tell you, at that point, there is no way ‘ thinking positively’ would have gotten rid of these feelings and thoughts. I thank the medicine gods everyday for inventing anti psychotics as they helped save my life. I was then able to think positively once the fog had cleared a little.

Meds can help your mind clear so you can focus on ‘recovery’. Once out of my psychotic phase, I had deep deep anxiety. I heard a nurse in the unit I was in say it was one of the worst cases of postnatal anxiety she had ever seen and in my diagnosis and subsequent discharge from being an inpatient , my notes talked mostly about the anxiety I was suffering. I was put on an old style anti anxiety drug having been weaned of the med that want working. I think I was on175mg three times a day and it was quite simply, wonderful. I initially found that it numbed my mouth and turned it temporarily blue which was slightly startling. John walked into my room and said ‘what the fuck is up with your lips?’ And looked at me as though I was just about to whip on a Star Trek outfit. And then I looked in the mirror and saw my intergalactic state. It made me retain wee resulting in a lovely bloated like appearance and the husband being let loose on Primark ON HIS OWN to buy me some new pants and trousers, and gave me slightly jittery legs, but it stopped my mind jitteriness.

The meds didn’t turn me into a zombie. I had worried about this. I worried that I may become void of feeling and I wouldn’t know if I was anxious as my brain would be numbed but. They didn’t do that. I definitely still experienced anxiety but not in the world stopping why I had before. Before I was on them, I couldn’t even bear to be in the same room as my own child. I shook at the idea of his very presence and the notion that he was now here forever, completely and utterly terrified me to the point where I was almost catatonic. I became frozen with fear,my hair was coming out in chunks,I forgot how to get dressed,John had to wash me. I vomited all over myself in the shower one day and John rinsed it all off. That’s love for you right there. Your good lady has run around the block naked, said she wants to die, said she wants to give the baby away and is now stood naked in front of you covered in sick. And you’re clearing it up kissing her forehead saying it’s all going to be ok.

I would frantically fold up and mess up and then refold clothes. Having never understood the concept of folding in my life before having my child and having a somewhat natural ability to have the clothes in my bedroom resemble the floor of Primark during a sale , my behaviour was most definitely that of someone who was trying to avoid being near her baby.

I was scared of him. I was scared of opening my eyes in the morning. And when I did , I could only see properly through one eye as the other had blurred so much due to my anxious state. I would start wailing when I woke up as I realised it was another day of terror, another day towards the forever of being a mother, being a life source. So, I will never forget the day I woke up in John’s parents house when I was on home leave from the unit. I opened my eyes and awaited the flutter in my chest.I waited for my hands to calm up.I waited for my breath to do that thing where I would breathe really quickly three times and I waited for me to start shaking. I waited some more. And more. And I realised it wasn’t happening. I got out of bed and still didn’t want to look at Joe in his Moses basket but things felt okish. One step at a time.

I wasn’t instantly cured. My recovery took two and a half years in all. My recovery to a manageable place but that morning ,for the first time in nearly three months, I remembered what it felt like to wake up like I had in my life before Joe. For the next few months, well for the next year really, my emotions were snake and ladderesque . My emotions went up and down but I kept remembering that I didn’t always go back to the start. I would be able to spend time with Joe but it was very hard. Upon my discharge , I had to spend a few minutes on my own with him each day . I would have to walk around the garden on my own with him, walk to the post box with him 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,forever.

We spent nearly four months in Nottingham all together, with John having to take compassionate leave from work, to get me to a point where I could come back to London. If I hadn’t gone into the mother and baby unit and prescribed the medication I took, I would never have been able to return to London. I know that I was going to kill myself, I could see no other way out. I thank the unit for admitting me and I thank medication for starting the rewiring of my brain. If this hadn’t started, I then couldn’t go on to the other things necessary to help me recover.

What I needed next was therapy. Ultimately, the main thing the psychiatric and psychological doctors I saw said was that I continuously using the word ‘trapped’. I felt trapped in everything. I found myself feeling that I was not only trapped in the role of motherhood forever, but that I wouldn’t lock doors in case I got trapped in a room. I wouldn’t be in windowless rooms as there was no escape route. At one point when I was saying we should give the baby away , I said to John , what if I’m arrested ? The area of being trapped in handcuffs scares me. And what if I’m put in a cell? I’m locked in it. I refused to get into cars that didn’t have back seat doors,I refused to sit by the window on buses as I couldn’t get out when I wanted. I wouldn’t have fared too well in fifty shades would I ? Thank goodness the hubby doesn’t have a penchant for pink fluffy handcuffs. I would be screaming but not for the right reasons.

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

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

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

So, the wonderful team in Nottingham arranged for me to have therapy. And this ladies and gentleman was totes amazeballs. I had an amazing thing called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing,commonly known as EMDR. There was a school of thought that my incessant ramblings about cutting up the clouds with scissors to climb into space to get away from my child and the fact that I wouldn’t even go to the loo on my own , meaning John had to stand outside so I didn’t have to lock the door , meant that I may have PTSD from my perinatal mental health experience. So the medication was helping me live life day to day in a way that meant I wasn’t scared to look at my child or running in the street flashing the binmen, but the trauma I had suffered hadn’t been resolved.

So, I met my lovely mental health nurse. She was like a mum. She cuddled me at the start and at the end of the session and kept telling me how well I was doing. EMDR was discovered by a lady called Francine Shapiro, who was a psychologist. My therapist told me a story about Shapiro, who suffered from depression I think. Bear with me I’m not a mental health professional so this may not make much sense ! She went for a walk one day while feeling anxious and realised that when thinking of traumatic memories that upset her ,her eyes moved from side to side. Apparently, side to side eye movements stimulate both sides of the brain like what happens during the REM sleep stage. So, side to side eye movements can reduce the intensity of traumatising thoughts and help you to process and understand them.Sounds weird? Yes, and it’s a strange therapy to have . I had to follow the clicks of my therapists finger back and forth, side to side while talking about my trauma.

When the therapy was discussed with me , I was keen to try it. And it was incredible. It worked in about 8 sessions and it uncovered what I was experiencing – lots of unresolved trauma . I found myself banging the walls with my fists during one session as I discovered how truly affected I was. But now, following EMDR , my memories are no longer painful when I think of them. I can still remember them , but they don’t send me into a spin. I’m not scared of them. Have a look at this if you want to read about its amazingness and also about the different kinds of therapy that can help if you are or have experienced mental illness – http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/talking-treatments/types-of-therapy/#.VO8FYWIgGSM . Therapies that work for some ,might not be the right therapy for you – there are lots of different types. I’ve shared my experience of EMDR to show how wonderful therapy is as a recovery tool.

There are some clever clogs in the utopian world of the internet who think they have the recovery skills of the wise old elf “If you are willing to get over depression then you can without medication”. Bah. If you are willing ? Who wants to not get better ??? There is nothing wrong with taking anti depressants . There is nothing wrong with taking them for six months,six years or until infinity and beyond. Needing to take them forever doesn’t mean you have ‘ failed to address the issues in your mind’. No no no.

There are lots of things that can help the process of getting to a manageable point when having is suffered/suffering mental illness. Exercise is one.I love running. It really clears my mind. I have to strap my E cup wonder boobs down so I don’t knock myself out as I pound the streets, Mo Farah I am not and I have an arse that still moves ever so slightly once I’ve actually stopped running but the feeling of air going into my lungs really does make my head feel clear. I love going to the gym and putting my headphones in and bringing myself back to the days when I was 16 going to raves. I turn the music up up loud , close my eyes and go wild on the cross trainer. I emerge an hour later, the smell of my trainers knocking me out, my reflection in the mirror terrifying as I look like an oil slick has been poured over my head and face but feeling like a worry free teenager, leaving the gym feeling amazing.

I went through a stage of cooking my way through mood foods. I actually did feel like I was doing my body some good here. I read that basil and rosemary were good for anxiety so simmered away pasta sauces and I went through a stage of cooking of roast potatoes in coconut oil as white carbs would ‘fill my soul’. I unearthed the Nigella Lawson in me and made broad bean falafels. I didn’t sashay around the kitchen fawning over a wooden spoon like it was an 85 battery controlled knee trembling dildo from Ann Summers but I was coming to the conclusion that if I threw a pound of butter over my troubles and massaged them into my skin , I might get a crispy surface so I could endure any knocks thrown at me but maintain my fluffy little centre .

And I do believe that filling my body with good clean food has been good for my mind and soul. Yes I love diet coke (caffeine free is very nice in my humble opinion) and my hips are testament that I love food but I do think there is something true in the belief that foods can help alter your mood. The charity MIND have a great page in their website about this which I encourage you to read – http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/food-and-mood/#.VO7y2GIgGSM. I did things like sprinkle pumpkin seeds over salads and I started eating a lot of salmon,tuna and mussels which I read were good for the brain. I bought a great book on healing soups and boiled them up. I have even attempted kale crisps which were an epic failure and got me so stressed out that I attacked them with the fish slice while standing in my pants with a shower cap on (I made them four times in half an hour and they all resembled fire ashes) so instead blitzed them into smoothies.I juiced red peppers and strawberries as I heard vitamin c helps your body’s reaction to stress and anxiety and became slightly obsessed with tofu to get a magnesium hit again having scoured the internet to see what I could fill my mouth with to ease my anxious symptoms. I discovered tofu scramble, like eggs scrambled but a more hippified version. Throw a load of chilli sauce over it and it’s acceptable.

I’ve got a couple of friends who found art and music therapy really helpful in their recovery, as it has helped them explore their senses. How utterly amazing that support can be found in this way- I think it’s incredible the amount of different things that can help you.

And I discovered Mindfulness. And have raved about it ever since. Learning how to live in this very moment was a massive positive feat for me. I was overwhelmed by the idea of forever in my life as a mum. I could not stop myself thinking of next week, next year, when my son was 12, the entire concept of the future was torturous. It took me a while to get my head around and my initial feelings were summed up by a relative on lending her my Mindfulness book when she announced “I am finding it hard to stare at a toothbrush for ten minutes ” but I stuck with it and my mind was opened. I realised that I needed to live in the very moment. What happened a minute ago isn’t what is happening now or what will happen in the future. I embraced the moment I was in and letting go of the worry of ‘what ifs’ really relaxed my brain. The approach has had a profound effect on my everyday life. I used to panic about not getting my work done on time and I have a great pride in what I do but I think , if this isn’t done Eve , what does this mean? Will the world stop turning ? No. Will it fuck everything up? No. Does it need to be done by the end of the week to ensure you hit deadline? Yes. And that the priority.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you better does it? As long as you do. And there are lots of different ways to kick start the process. My point in writing this post was to show that if you do need to take meds, it’s ok. You haven’t failed. I think it’s amazing we live in a world where science has been able to create things that can give you your mind back, help you live a happier life again. And who cares if that means you are on meds now, tomo or forever ?

I love my life with my beautiful joyful child. And I love it because I’m alive to experience it. The day I decided to kill myself was a day I never ever want to have again. I never want to wake up shaking, scared of being alive, ever again. Now, I wake up next to my little boy. The boy I was so scared of and couldn’t be near, sleeps in our room. Around 4am every morning, he climbs into our bed and puts his arm over me and goes to sleep saying mama mama over and over. I love his little squidgy arms and the fact that his cheeks smell of doughnuts. I had halfterm off work with him last week and spent very second with him. We played football and made a carrot cake,went out for lunch everyday and laughed our little heads off. If I hadn’t taken medication five years ago, I wouldn’t be here today to inhale his spirit. I love him so much my heart feels like it could burst. Sometimes, when I’m doing the washing up and John is at the gym , I look over at Joe playing in the carpet and do you know what I think ? I think, I’m here with him on my own and I feel good. I feel more than good, I feel like this is normal. I’m not scared to be near him anymore.

Look at the picture at the top. Joe was 11 months at point. The joy on our faces is real. And it’s beautiful.

I didn’t think that taking medication would mean that I had failed myself and everyone else, but I know lots of people do. But really this was the only thing that helped me when I was initially ill. I am not sure that I will ever be totally ‘cured’ because I have come to accept that ‘anxiety’ is a part of who I am but my psychosis would never have gone away on it’s tod. Meds freed me from the hysteria of hallucinations which almost resulted in me no longer being here and I will forever praise them for giving me the gift of my life back.

Diamonds may be a nice present but for me , the best I ever had was becoming Eve again and learning not to be scared of my baby. Who cares if I had to shake , rattle and roll along the medication yellow brick road to get here?