I recently wrote about my own maternal mental health views as part of Maternal Mental Health awareness week. For this blog, I want to share just a brief summary of other mothers experiences in response to three specific questions that I asked them.
1) What were the signs that you were struggling with your mental health after the birth of your child?
2) Why did or didn’t you ask for help?
3) What helped you in the end?
I am grateful to have lots of accounts to share with you so will make a start but it’s important to note that if you feel triggered by anything you read below, it’s very important that you contact your GP, a helpline such as Mind or at least talk to someone. The idea of this blog is that mothers know it’s ok to not be ok and that you are never alone.
Aby – 1) I was crying all the time, feeling alone even in a room full of people. Panicked by things I used to be able to cope with.
2) I knew I needed help to cope with how I was feeling.
3) I was prescribed PND (postnatal depression) meds and I’m still on them now 6 years later.
Nadia 1) It set in at about 6 months when my son started feeding less. I felt lost and hormones were all over the place. You hear about the baby blues in the early days but it really can hit at any time.
2) I should have asked for help but didn’t. Felt like I just needed to get over it.
3) Previous learned methods (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) but it would have been a quicker process had I asked for help and being pregnant again now I know to do that should I experience this again.
Rebecca 1) My anxiety became unbearable and I starting having mood swings.
2) I have a history of anxiety and depression and I knew I needed support to prevent a full relapse.
3) Support from my family and friends and medication. Accepting I couldn’t do it on my own.
Rachel 1) I started having anxiety attacks and intrusive thoughts. I lost all motivation.
2) I’ve been there before. I know it doesn’t get better without support. I wanted to feel like me again as it felt like a stranger was raising my children.
3) I was prescribed medication but I believe talking has been the biggest help. Not just talking about my feelings but talking about mental health in general. It’s surprising how many people are struggling. Sharing my own stories and holding space for others to share, has made me feel less isolated, less odd, less broken
Alex 1) I cried A LOT.
2) I’d experienced feeling depressed before and managed to come through the other side so didn’t get help this time either.
3) Once my son was walking he became a much happier baby (he couldn’t crawl and sufferers with colic etc so we had a rough start) I really started to enjoy him more and the dark cloud lifted.
Louise 1) I was sad all the time and snappy and so irritable.
2) I was scared they would take my kids away.
3) Antidepressants and counselling.
Laura 1) I became very tearful, crying constantly each day, feeling negative and hopeless for no reason. I lost all interest in my appearance, refused to see family and friends, and lost my appetite completely.
2) I didn’t want to admit that despite everything we had gone through to have a baby (fertility treatment), now that he was here, I still wasn’t happy. I felt like a terrible person for feeling so depressed when, on paper, I had everything I ever wanted.
3) In the end, my health visitor told me that she could see I wasn’t coping. I had lost 4 stone very quickly and looked horrendous. She encouraged me to go to the GP, I started on antidepressants and was referred to the mental health support service where I started therapy.
Jennifer 1) I was overwhelmed and feeling inadequate. I couldn’t seem to get a grip on my emotions.
2) I was a young mum and felt I already was being judged by some. I didn’t want to admit I was struggling.
3) Admitting I was struggling and talking to fellow mums who were feeling the same way I was. I found strength through solidarity.
Jenny 1) What were the signs that you were struggling with your mental health after the birth of your child
– crying all the time over little things, feeling inadequate, wanting to escape.
2) I felt desperate and went to the doctors
3) What helped me, in the end, were antidepressants and counselling, plus my baby growing up.
Riz Riz 1) I was constantly emotional, be it crying, sad, angry, overwhelmed. The anxiety was crippling, I wouldn’t want to be with my baby for long periods. Loss of appetite. A strong feeling of wanting to be alone but then equally felt isolated by everyone.
2) I didn’t know who to turn to aside from my partner, I thought everyone else could see I’m struggling but no one would help. A lot of people around me kept saying how easy it is and how mums just have to ‘get on with it’ so I was scared of failing as a mum.
3) My partner went to the GP and told him that this has been going on for almost a year, he then made me make an appointment with a GP. Although the GP messed up my referral to PND support and I didn’t get seen. I started private therapy and also did day to day small changes to aid me. But this was a good 18 months or so after birth. I couldn’t go through all of that again so maybe I’ll never be fully healed.
Sarah 1) I was scared that every time I or someone I cared about left the house something fatal would happen to them. I also felt my children would be better off without me
2) the nurse asked how I was at a checkup for my daughter and I burst into tears and started shaking uncontrollably
3) I had regular CBT therapy and attended a PANDAS support group
Jo 1) I had physical symptoms of anxiety – panic attacks, palpitations. IBS and bowel issues, which my doctor said could be down to PND. I was crying a lot, withdrawn and snappy/nasty.
2) I asked for help over my physical symptoms, but nothing seemed to help. By the time the doctors diagnosed PND my daughter was 8 months old.
3) Leaving work and Antidepressants helped. I tried to wean myself off but the palpitations returned, so now still on them.
Kirsty 1) It wasn’t until I returned to work that I had changed completely for the worse. I became paranoid & doubting myself, my abilities.
2) I asked for help but not until after suffering with stress related tonsillitis for 5 years and after my second child when I changed again. I arrived home and OCD just kind of struck me… I was a bit crazy and wanted to clean and feel the need to keep on top of everything because I now had two children and if I didn’t things would just go to pot. I didn’t and still do struggle to leave the house without someone else (adult) because I think it will be too much hassle with two kids on my own but
3) CBT helped me when I self-referred myself after realising that wasn’t right and I needed to do something about it. I needed someone to say yes you have this that or the other because people around me just thought I was moody or stressed. It turns out I have suffered from anxiety for many many years growing up as a child but it didn’t affect me day to day until I had my kids and I was at my lowest.
Lianne 1) Crying a lot and overthinking every situation due to anxiety 2) I was too scared to ask for help in case people thought I was a bad or unfit Mum 3) I’m going through psychotherapy to help with my anxiety and I feel so much better just talking to someone
Josie 1) I was on the verge of panic all the time because I felt trapped, I just wanted to run away. I hadn’t bonded with my baby
2) Having had mental health issues in the past I knew I needed help.
3) Antidepressants, time to get used to being a parent and slowly falling in love with my baby.
Sophie 1) I started to hear voices and I believed people were after me.
2) Luckily, I had a mental health team already supporting me with anxiety and depression so they and my family started to pick up on my hallucinations.
3) New medication and a diagnosis of psychosis helped me and my family understand my condition better although I struggled to believe it at first as I genuinely thought the conspiracy against me was true. But my nurse and medication helped me and enabled me to challenge those thoughts.
Rebecca 1) I began to think my newborn twins and family would be better off without me and realised I had stopped looking forward to anything in my life. It all seemed pointless. On my darkest days, I wished to not wake up in the morning.
2) I was scared of being viewed as a failure or as struggling. I had always had problems with speaking up and asking for help at work etc in the past so I guess it was also that a little bit.
3) I opened up to my partner which finally let me feel confident enough to open up to my family and a GP. I don’t believe this will go away as it is triggered by tough days all the time but now I know how to handle it better.
Jen 1) What were the signs that you were struggling with your mental health after the birth of your child
I cried lots and felt like I was doing everything wrong even when the baby was asleep I panicked I had done it all wrong. I felt like he would be better without me
2) I asked for help when I realised that I was doing a great job and that actually it was my head saying otherwise and that I needed help to not want to kill myself
3) Anti depressants helped and leaving the partner who constantly put me down every time baby cried saying I was useless.
Carla-marie 1) I was in denial for so long, it got to the point where I was unable to sleep and the anxiety was taking over my life. I was always so sad and had no idea why as I had everything I could ever wish for. 2) I eventually went to the doctors and he gave me pills, I took them but felt like a zombie. 3) I then turned to self care and started exercising and eating well and that helps me. I know I will never be 100% but I now know the signs and what to do when it creeps up.
Nina 1) I was often angry at my babies that They wouldn’t let me sleep. I didnt feel the elation that people talk about.
2) I didn’t know who to ask or what to tell people. I feared that someone would take my babies away if I told anyone how I felt
3) sure start children’s centre. I joined in courses there. Made friends. Talked to staff and other parents who told me that most of my feelings were normal. That things would get better. In the end though I had Cbt and medication.
Amy 1) I constantly felt not good enough and would get to the end of a day and just want to lay in bed under the duvet.
2) I didn’t think I was ‘bad’ enough to need help.
3) I had a meltdown in public where I stood in the street crying with people walking past – it was like I didn’t even see them.
Tina 1) my 2nd baby had awful colic and didn’t sleep anywhere except on my chest. This meant I didn’t really sleep. I quickly became exhausted and very resentful of everyone else with “normal” babies. I struggled to feel happy for a long time and definitely wasn’t coping.
2) I was begging GP’s for help and getting nowhere fast. They kept saying the colic would pass, and I’d feel better, but it didn’t.
3) After 5 months, we eventually saw a decent GP who diagnosed my daughter with a dairy and soya intolerance. Once she was on the right formula, things began to improve. Unfortunately, by that point, my eldest was being assessed for autism so my own mental health didn’t really improve. It was a year later before I finally asked my GP for antidepressants. A month on from there, I finally began to feel better about everything.
Elena Davies 1) The day 3 blues never left. I felt completely overwhelmed and as though I was failing my daughter. I had intrusive thoughts of harm coming to her; I would see awful things happen to her in my head out of nowhere and it was as though I couldn’t press pause on them. I even started to believe my son who had been stillborn 13 months previous had dodged a bullet by not having to be raised by such a terrible mum.
2) It took me until my daughter was around 20 months old to ask for help. I felt intense guilt for struggling when I knew the devastation of losing our first baby. I thought it meant I wasn’t grateful enough or that I didn’t appreciate what I had. I also kept excusing my feelings as regular new mum struggles, grief, the anxiety of parenting after loss, residual anxiety of pregnancy after loss, sleep deprivation and a previous MH condition.
3) I ended up inadvertently talking to my GP during an appointment for my daughter. She asked how I was managing and it unravelled. I was put back on medication and assessed by the urgent care team. I was diagnosed with PTSD and am currently in treatment. Being open with people and sharing my experiences has helped no end too.
Jennie 1) I couldn’t stop worrying. It was completely taking over.
2) I’m not sure why I didn’t seek help, I guess I didn’t know how to verbalise how it felt.
3) It began to get better when I could recognize particular thought processes that were contributing to feeling the way I did. I had learned to do this from previous CBT.
Huge thank you to everyone for sharing their journeys with us and helping to shine a light on a much needed topic! Struggling does NOT make you a bad Mother, it makes you human!
If you are the mum of a child with a diagnosis and/or additional needs and you would value hearing from another mum who truly ‘gets it’ and often says what you feel too nervous to admit (plus a great community!) then sign up to my newsletter now!
For help and support please check out the following pages:
Find a local perinatal mental health support group through the PANDAS foundation
Mind Charity for postnatal depression and perinatal mental health
Maternal Health Support with the Maternal Mental Health Alliance