Sunday, 29 March 2015

Mental Health and Motherhood

I'm Caroline, a mum of two boys, two and three years old. This is my story:

Seeing my mental health in retrospect, the problems are clear to see, but it's funny, when you're bogged down at the time, you just don't see it.

In my late teens, I became quite withdrawn and stopped being as confident around my friends. I cried myself to sleep most nights. I thought nothing of it. Crying every day isn't normal, it isn't ok and it's a big red flag.

I had my first real breakdown when I was 24, my job precipitated a complete drop into depression. After a 9 month wait, i had 2-3 years of talking therapy. I just didn't feel like myself. Luckily, I managed to get a new job during this period of time, despite me disclosing my depression. 9 years on and I'm still progressing in my job. I was lucky.

Took me years to emerge from that depression and so by the time I was about 27 I began to feel more 'normal'. My sickness record improved significantly and, although I had mood swings and anger issues, I had 3 'good years'.

...until I discovered I was pregnant with our first, planned child. We decided to have children because we didn't have any reason not to, I had never been broody because of my mini-mum role as a child. Pregnancy hit me like a house on top of a witch. My anxiety skyrocketed and I Googled EVERYTHING, obsessively.

I hated pregnancy, and my antenatal anxiety and depression was untreated, due to lack of help, consistency and continuity of care, I self referred to the specialist midwife who could see me once. Not good.

I had my first child, E. I developed PTSD after a trauma that I experienced in hospital and I self-diagnosed within 10 days. Saw my GP, got a referral for  NHS CBT (I'd done my research) and ...voilà...7 months later I was accepted for EMDR therapy (which I chose over CBT because it had a shorter waiting list). I was cured in time for the second trimester of my second pregnancy.

Yes, I self sabotaged my mental health by purposefully getting pregnant 7 months after the birth of my first child. I love my children, I love how close they are but my antenatal depression turned me into a different person.

I noticed and self-diagnosed my PND (post natal depression, or PPD, post partum depression) when my second child, N was 5 months old. I was crying, I felt awful, I wasn't good enough and my anxiety was awful. I thought that by being better organised or by having more gadgets/ clothes/ toys, that I would get better. Took me another 7 months to accept that I needed medication to help, ix got significantly worse and i had 3 breakdowns in  2014. I would get home from work, unable to function as a person, let alone a mum. I had 6 months off work altogether. I completed CBT (which was hugely delayed by GP stupidity). During the wait, I paid a private counsellor £40 an hour - for me that was money well spent. I learned about myself more in those 10 sessions than I had in almost 3 years of NHS therapy. I clicked with that counsellor and I will be grateful for her help for many years to come.

I started to tweet about my mental health when I was at my worst. I felt so alone and through the 'safety' of an incognito twitter account, I learned about my illness. I've had to learn to be careful, Facebook made me more upset, I compared my 'crummy life' to everyone else's happy smiling photos or nights out and child's accomplishments. Deactivating Facebook was the best thing I could do to protect myself during my breakdowns. Give it a try, it's strangely liberating.

I now believe that I have an undiagnosed personality disorder and I am starting a new therapy next month as well as seeking a psychiatrist's opinion.

If you suspect you or a family member have a mental health issue or illness, go and see your GP.

My most important lesson is that I need to practise self-compassion. To give myself credit for what I have gone through in my life and to be kind to myself. It really does help.

1 comment:

  1. Great run through post. It's difficult to pin point things at time but looks pretty much like you know where bits changed.
    Nodded a lot throughout (Although obviously not the PND)
    I hope the new therapy helps. If you do feel like you have signs of personality disorder then a psychotherapist/psychiatrist is the only real way to get a diagnosis.
    Either way hope it goes well. Keep us updated. :)


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