All in Mental Mutha Health
I have always just about managed my mental health, teetering on the edge but never becoming seriously unwell.
Low self-esteem, self doubt, social anxiety, regular worrying and occasional sadness has always affected my life and career, but no way as badly as it does for anyone else. This is what I would say to myself to avoid addressing it anyway.
There’s a core assumption in this week’s news that money buys happiness, and let’s go along with that for a moment, there’s also a second statement being made here that I find even more aggravating - that happiness and depression can’t co-exist. The happiness that wealth affords, and even the comfort that a supportive family and friend network can give you is not always enough to combat the all encompassing aspects of depression.
I was experiencing fear on an epic scale but had absolutely no explanation for it. There was no danger, no trigger, nothing happening to me at that very moment. It was completely inexplicable and irrational, but very, VERY real. At least it was my life until I started a challenge that was doing the rounds on social media. It was the ‘100 Happy Days’ challenge where you had to take a photo a day of something happy for the full hundred days. I decided to give it a go, and I honestly haven’t looked back since. The endless crappy days became the endless happy days.
My second child was born sixteen months later and I pretended that everything was ok. I was just tired physically and mentally, but that’s normal isn’t it!! I told myself it would get better as time went on. But by then the panic attacks had started. The nightmares kept coming and my anxiety was over whelming. I knew I had to speak to someone.
I believed punishing myself was the answer to any problem. I was on and off medication and counselling never really stuck for me. When I was high I was okay, functional and dare I say it; ‘normal’.
The pain of secondary Infertility is something that’s crept up on me. We had years of trying for Finn & I had a few miscarriages so was in a quite dark place and thought that when I had Finn it was all behind me. Without sounding flippant I was in a newborn bubble so it’s just not something I thought about until he was a few years old.
Unfortunately as antenatal depression isn’t really acknowledged and certainly wasn’t five years ago everybody just thought I was being a pain, people started to distance themselves and make comments like ‘she’s not the first pregnant person’ - one even said to my husband, if I carried on ‘acting up’ they were done with me! I don’t blame anybody for their reactions, I had no idea what was happening so there was no hope for anybody else!
I've been lucky in that my intrusive thoughts are never about harming the children. Instead, I'll be walking along the river and suddenly start imagining a mugging, and they push the buggy in, and I bravely fight them off with my Buffy-esque moves. I consider the angles and space left if the buggy was upside down and if the gap between child and water would be big enough.
I didn't let many people know how I was actually feeling, most people saw that "I was fine". That's what I would tell people so why wouldn't they take me at face value? I would post lovely pictures of the boys so of course everything was 'fine'. I made it look 'fine' because I so wanted to feel 'fine'.
What happens when you are locked inside a house with a newborn? Your life turns into a single day. That day lasted 6 months for me. The longest day of my life I’d say. They say time goes by so quickly, that sounded like a complete lie. And I am so sorry if you are here now in this never ending day.
The combination of hyperemesis and first trimester hormones sent me tumbling down a vortex of sadness like a bloated Alice down a big sad rabbit hole. Constant floods of tears, that lump in my throat sitting on a sob which was just waiting to erupt.
But also, the grip alcohol had on me was tightening. I felt an itch to scratch. I wanted to get pissed, almost needed to, a couple of times a week. When I'd had a few I wanted more. Until I was drunk. I was on a horrible weekly big dipper ride which consisted of getting pissed, feeling awful, getting better, feeling OK, getting pissed and so on. My life was like a drunken Groundhog Day.
Another evening, I collapsed on the kitchen floor. I didn’t faint, my legs just went from beneath me. It was as if I was watching myself curled up in a ball on the floor, unable to move.
I was desperate for someone to help me, but I didn’t know what they could do to help. And I didn’t want them to think I was a bad mum.
Sepsis was undoubtedly one of the most challenging and frightening times of my life, it left scars that are far deeper than the ones that you can see on my body. There isn’t much known about maternal sepsis, in fact I’m willing to bet that you don’t know it is the UK’s biggest cause of death in pregnancy (for mum and bubs) and that it kills more people that prostrate, breast and bowel cancer combined
While it’s not been easy, every step I took along the way was totally worth it. I still deal with OCD daily, but it is far more manageable now and it very rarely stops me doing anything. So, if you are struggling with OCD please have hope. It really does get better and, despite what that troublesome brain tells you, you are not a monster and you, most definitely, are not alone!
All the signs were there. She had been screaming silently for help for months. She had changed. She was no longer the person she used to be. Yet my naïve, inexperienced and success-driven mind, didn’t notice. As someone who had always been in control of her emotions, I genuinely thought that problems could be left at home.
I told you I couldn’t send you my piece, I was too scared. Well, I have faced the fear and here it is. I haven’t really read it over and and refined it at all- I just wrote it and have hoped for the best. I am obviously worried about any backlash because my past issues were physical. This is clearly a sensitive and horrible subject for me and I’m still so ashamed of it, but perhaps there are others? This is for them.
Crying. That’s the first thing I remember about when Gary told me he thought he had Depression. It was August 2015 and he was driving home from work, pulled over and called me, crying from inside the car. When he got home, he told me that he often felt this way, unexplainably sad and angry and didn’t know why. I made him an appointment with the GP and within a few weeks, there it was, the diagnosis of “Severe Depression”.
I didn’t just have therapy, I did meditation, I exercised, I ate better, slept better, stopped drinking, had reiki, tried yoga, read everything I could about the brain, went back to church and reconnected with my faith. I worked harder than I ever had, because this was the most important thing I ever had to do, for my kids. So now I’m here, to tell the tale and to share my story because if it only helps one person, that’ll do for me.
My current job involves helping people to find the right mental health support for them as well as training and providing consultation to other non-mental health professionals (e.g. GPs, social workers, housing officers) about how best to support and work with their own clients. So, when I saw the posts that Natasha (@natashabailie) shared on her Instagram account regarding the awful experiences some people had when asking for help, I felt that I needed to share some of the information I have learnt from my day job, in the hope that it might enable someone to access the support that they need.