I Worried that I wouldn’t be taken seriously
Hi Everyone, and welcome back to my blog. We are on day 5 of my mental health awareness Month, and today I am joined by Christy from Welsh Mum of one .
Christy has kindly shared her battle with Postnatal anxiety and PTSD to help share awareness. If you missed yesterdays interview with Ross, read that here.
Hi Christy, Thanks for taking part in my Series. Please tell me a bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m Christy and I blog over at Welsh Mum of One. I’m 35 years old, married for 10 years in July (big trip planned!) and I have a 10 month old son who was conceived after 8 years of fertility treatment. I have PCOS and Endometriosis, as well as an autoimmune, so he’s our late “miracle baby” and we won’t be able to have any more children, hence the Blog name! I was born and currently live in South Wales, but my husband is American and so my son is dual nationality British and American, which I think is pretty cool for him.
What type of Post Natal metal health condition did you, or do you have?
I always had anxiety before birth and have suffered on and off from depression. After the birth my anxiety spiraled completely out of control and I was diagnosed with post natal anxiety. I had an extremely traumatic c-section after pre-eclampsyia and a failed induction where we all genuinely thought I – and the baby – might not make it, followed by a stressful extended stay in the hospital due to sepsis. I’m very lucky to be alive, but was later diagnosed with post natal trauma (PTSD)
What an awful time that must have been for you.
When did you first realise that you had a mental health condition, what were your first symptoms?
As I already knew the symptoms of my anxiety I recognized straight away after the birth that I was worrying too much. I was having negative thoughts that I couldn’t control (about the health of my son – I was worried he was going to die at every single sneeze!) which made me extremely overprotective. I thought I could manage it though, so I didn’t go to the doctor until 6 months after the birth at which point my husband had started expressing concern too. I was getting overwhelmed, over emotional, unable to sleep and by this point I was also having recurring nightmares about the birth and hospital. I was starting to suffer panic attacks regularly both in the day and night. It wasn’t really until I stopped going outside on my own and on the urging of my very helpful health visitor, finally went to the GP to ask for help.
Do you find that this had an impact your parenting?
Luckily my son is too young to understand that I was having any problems. My anxiety if anything made me give him more attention than would be normal. I think on the whole he was very well taken care of – although definitely coddled! The biggest people affected were definitely my husband and I. It did mean that I didn’t really relax and enjoy the bond, which is a shame, as it’s not an experience I will get again. Sometimes I do feel upset about the fact that I didn’t have a positive birth and newborn experience, but I think I’ve come to peace with these feelings now and try to move forward as positively as I can.
That mustn’t have been easy for you, but I am glad you are moving forward positively. What was your biggest worry about having a mental health condition?
Before I went to the GP to talk about it I had a lot of worry about what would happen and whether I’d be taken seriously, or if I’d be taken too seriously and they’d say I wasn’t a good enough mum!
I do worry that as my son grows older I won’t be able to get a proper handle on my mental health and then it could affect him. I want him to feel confident and make lots of friends and have an active outside and social life – as any parent does. This means I have to be able to let go! I do worry about the future and how I will cope with it.
I also definitely worry about telling people – people are still quite ignorant and can be judgemental about mental health conditions. But I talk about it to help raise awareness as that’s the main way we can change this perception and make future people worry less about speaking up.
I agree 100%, the only way to stop the taboo around mental health conditions, is to speak up and raise awareness.
Did you receive any help? If so, what was it?
Yes, my health supporter was very supportive when I initially broached it and urged me to go and see the GP. She reassured me that it would be taken seriously and that help was available. The GP immediately referred me to the mental health team. I had a letter a few days later asking me to set up a telephone appointment, and after that appointment I was set up for an 8-10 week course of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and referred for specialist 1 on 1 trauma therapy. Unfortunately, 3 months later, this therapy is still on a waiting list. My mental health supporter is very helpful and always available by phone or through the online system (which is very easy to use and very handy) but has apologized multiple times for the wait for personal therapy. She explained that it does require someone qualified and experienced and that there aren’t many of those in my local area. The NHS definitely seems to be struggling with mental health.
I also have regular appointments with my GP for my physical problems and she always asks about my mood and whether I need any additional help. Medication was put on the table initially, and I know it’s an option, but I’m doing okay without it and have learned some excellent coping techniques with the CBT.
Do you feel that your mental health improved since?
My anxiety has improved loads. I was really surprised at how effective CBT is at changing the way you think – or the way you respond to your thoughts. It’s helped me with my panic attacks. However I do still have nightmares and struggle with insomnia and get overwhelmed. My 9 months maternity leave passed and I’ll be honest, my mental health did play a big part in me deciding to continue on at home for now. I feel like I’m functional now, but definitely not 100%.
What do you do personally on addition to the help you receive, to help your own mental health?
I work through the CBT exercises and try really hard to recognize my own destructive thought patterns. I think you really need to commit to therapy and put a lot into it to get a lot back out. I try to use meditation techniques, and I’ve also started eating better and trying to do simple things like make sure I get exercise and fresh air every day and drink lots of water. The little things do add up and help.
Do you feel there is enough support out there, for parents with a mental health condition?
No. Although I am grateful to my mental health support worker, it’s clear that there is not enough support. This was abundant in the hospital as well, as my pre-existing anxiety and depression was not given any consideration, despite my husband telling them multiple times. I was having panic attacks in the hospital and felt completely unsupported and dismissed – not because they didn’t care, but because the staff didn’t really understand and weren’t trained to help with mental health conditions. I feel like I waited so long after the birth because I honestly didn’t think there was going to be any support available to me, and although the CBT has been very helpful, even after my issues relating to my trauma have been identified, there’s simply not enough help there.
Mental health wasn’t really covered during my pre-natal visits with the midwife, even though I had a pre-existing mental health condition which I talked about several times, so I think both pre and post natal mental health support needs to be improved. It wasn’t until after the birth that in support groups I found that post natal PTSD has a much higher chance for women who have suffered with infertility as well as women that have had emergency treatment, and those who had C-sections. Despite ticking a lot of “high risk” boxes, no one checked up on me or made me aware of these things. Yet my physical health was covered in great detail – I feel like more work needs to go into early detection and awareness as well as support once a mental health condition has been diagnosed.
Thank you Christy, and lastly what advice would you give to parents suffering from a postnatal mental health condition?
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t wait. Ask for help even if you’re not sure if there’s any there. Keep asking. Talk to your family and friends and look for support groups online.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and helping me spread awareness of mental health conditions. Christy’s details are below for anyone wanting to contact her or follow her journey. Tomorrow I will be speaking to Laura from five little doves, who is sharing her battle of having depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. Post goes live at 9am!
Much Love 💕
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