I couldn’t find the job in anything – Sarah’s Story – Mental Health Awareness
Hi all, and welcome back to my blog. Today we are on day 12 of my mental health awareness Month. If you missed yesterday’s interview with Nicola, get that here.. Today I am joined by Sarah from Arthurwears. Sarah is kindly sharing her story about her battle with postnatal depression.
I’m Sarah, mummy to Arthur – 3 and Charlotte – 6 months. I am a Primary School Teacher, specialising in the Early Years and live in Yorkshire with my husband…and the children of course!
What type of Post Natal metal health condition did you, or do you have?
I suffered from PTSD after the birth of my first child. I was diagnosed with PND and anxiety after the birth of my second child and I am still having treatment for this.
When did you first realise that you had a mental health condition, what were your first symptoms?
My PTSD was undiagnosed until I was pregnant again with Charlotte and the flashbacks that I suffered for over a year after Arthur’s birth started again. I was offered a debrief by the hospital which helped to lay a lot of fears and memories to rest.
The closer I got to my due date the more I started to struggle, I became very anxious and low and looking back I felt an overwhelming sense of impending doom. I didn’t realise at the time and I wasn’t diagnosed with PND or anxiety until Charlotte was a few weeks old. By this point my symptoms were severe. It was actually the nurse who picked up on it during a check up for my daughter- she sent me straight to the GP and I was given an immediate telephone therapy appointment and was face to face with a therapist 2 weeks later. The journey to getting help moved very quickly and I am really thankful for that as I didn’t realise how bad I was at the time. Looking back I probably had PND with my first child but I just wasn’t aware.
How did this affect your parenting?
To be honest, I don’t know. Having struggled after the birth of both children I have no idea how I would have done things differently if I had been well. I really hid away after Arthur’s birth and didn’t see my friends for weeks. This time I made an effort to put on a brave face and invite friends over from the beginning. I figured that as they were friends, and also mothers themselves they would be understanding and supportive. My toddler was struggling with the changes of a new baby and probably also reacting to my struggles so he was finding it hard to play well with others. I did mention it to people before hand, but unfortunately I was judged very harshly at the time and friends kept a wide birth after that, some even messaged to say that we weren’t welcome around their children. It was a really hard time.
PND made me feel like I was doing a terrible job as a parent, I felt like my family would be better off without me and that I wasn’t really wanted. I couldn’t find the joy in anything, even things that usually made me happy and I was consumed by catastrophic thoughts. Every time my husband left for work I was sure he would never make it home alive and I constantly watched my baby for fear of something happening to her.
When you have those thoughts to battle with every day, it can be hard enough to claw your way to the surface without having people who you thought were your friends sending messages which basically confirm the darker thoughts you are having. I ended up having to distance myself from them just to survive and get well again.
I am sorry you ad to go trough that with your friends, especially when it was a time you needed them the most.
What was your biggest worry about having a mental health condition?
That I would be judged and treated differently for it and also that I would never get better.
I WAS judged and I’ve had to deal with some ignorant and nasty comments directed towards me, but it has sorted the wheat from the chaff for me as I now know who is worth my energy going forward. I have met some new friends who have not only been really supportive, but lots of them have struggled with PND themselves but never told anyone.
As far as getting better goes, I am a million times better than I was 6 months ago, but I have good and bad days. I know what my triggers are and I try to avoid situations that could set me spiralling downwards. I am not naive enough to assume that I will just be ‘cured’ one day. I now accept that I will probably always have anxiety and that there will often be triggers for depression but the key is to how I recognise and deal with the symptoms before they become all consuming.
I’m glad you were able to meet new people, and have a better support system around you.
Did you receive any help? If so, what was it?
Yes, I have been attending therapy sessions which use CBT techniques and I am on a waiting list for a more in depth and focused course of CBT therapy. I also attend a PANDAS support group once a month.
I declined antidepressants. This was a personal choice as the thought of taking them made me feel more anxious and I didn’t think it was the right decision for me. I don’t judge those who do take them.
Has your mental health improved since?
Yes. I have a greater understanding of how PND and anxiety affects my thinking, behaviour, reactions etc and I have some good techniques in place to help me cope better but it is still a struggle daily. I have some really good days days whereas before they were all bad days.
What do you do personally, to help your own mental health?
This is something I struggle with. I know that good quality sleep and also ‘me time’ is really important for anyone suffering with mental health – but as a full time mum to two I don’t find that i really get a break or any time off.
I try to use the headspace app whenever I can which focuses on mindfulness. When Charlotte is a bit older I would like to start a yoga or Pilates class too.
Making sure I get out walking with the pram and getting daylight, exercise and fresh air is really important and I also take a vitamin D spray every day.
I think it depends where you live. I certainly wasn’t asked or given any guidance the first time around, but this time there is a new system in place for my area called ‘my wellbeing college’ which offers therapy and counselling either in groups, over the phone or face to face depending on need and severity.
I think the support that is lacking is the openness and understanding of other people who aren’t suffering with a mental health issue. There is a long way to go to improve the ignorance of some people and also to make sure that mental health isn’t all just put into one big box, or dismissed because it isn’t ‘obvious’. Some suggested that I didn’t really have a mental health issue because I wasn’t sectioned in hospital. It really is a hidden illness and the opinions of some people only serve to keep it that way.
I hope they role out the “my wellbeing college” out across the full of the UK. This sounds like it would be really beneficial to a lot of people.
Thank you so much, and lastly what advice would you give to parents suffering from a postnatal mental health condition?
Just for one day, or one moment, be completely open and honest about how you are really feeling, what your struggles are and the help you need. Tell someone. Go and see your GP, or your nurse or your health visitor. Get on their radar and then accept the help.
It isn’t a failure to admit a mental health condition and you won’t be considered a bad parent or have your children taken away from you.
You are better off admitting a struggle and getting help than you are struggling to cope and being a mum with no help. That is recognised. No one will ever hold it against you that you want to get better.
Thank you so much for taking the time to complete these question, and for your great advice at the end there. If you would like to follow sarah’s story, her details are below. Tomorrow I am talking with a lady who watched her parent suffer from PTSD, and she talks about how it has an impact on her. Post goes live at 9am!
Blog Address – http://www.arthurwears.com