i started to realise something was seriously wrong when i thought i was going to drop my 4 month old baby over the landing banister and down the stairs. accidentally.
let me give you some background…
we had just bought our first house and moved in on my due date. thankfully, Oliver didn’t make an appearance until 5 days later, but it didn’t give us a lot of time to sort things out. we had boxes of ‘stuff’ everywhere and had no real time to work out where our furniture would best fit or where to put our pictures up. i went into labour while the husband was painting our bedroom ceiling…
when Oliver was born, i didn’t feel that “gush of love” that people told me about. i was incredibly relieved that the labour was over, that i was no longer pregnant and pleased that the baby was ok. i didn’t have a hugely complicated birth, but it did leave me very weak and I didn’t recover fully until over 12 months later. i had very little feeling towards my newborn son and didn’t love him when he was born.
Oliver had pretty bad jaundice and a tongue tie which led to endless blocked ducts and developing mastitis on a handful of occasions.
a few weeks after baby Oliver was born, it became apparent that my ‘baby blues’ weren’t going away. after all the hustle and bustle had died down, visitors stopped visiting, cards and gifts stopped arriving, husband had returned to work; and i was left 5 days a week with a newborn baby to care for and no idea how to spend my days.
i would sit in the living room whilst Oliver was in his bouncy chair or on his playmat and just stare at him. if he needed anything, i’d feed or change him, but i found it very difficult to connect with him. i told my health visitor about this and she reassured me that he loved me as you “could see it in his eyes”. she suggested we attend the local mother and baby group that was a short walk away from our house. so every thursday morning, we would walk the 10 minute journey down to the surestart centre and sit with some other mothers and their babies. i didn’t feel very comfortable sat with a group of strangers that were older than me, chose to feed their babies differently, wore make up and nice clothes when i was just pleased i’d managed to get a shower that morning. i stopped going to the group after 3 months of trying to make some mummy friends. this made me feel even more lonely…
following this attempt, we received private baby massage classes in our home. these were great and really helped me to spend some quality time with Oliver. even Dave got to join in on the action! we were awarded completion certificates and given written directions if the techniques.
I underwent treatment for these little growth-things on my scar where my body was doing a rubbish job at recovering.
to add to my woes, we had no money as statutory maternity pay is shocking, all my friends and family worked, and it was now winter. the weather was freezing cold, ice, rain and snow. plus dark nights. i hate winter.
in the late November of 2011, i made a doctors appointment and bit the bullet. i explained i couldn’t cope. that i felt detached from my baby. that i had grown to loathe breastfeeding. that i would just sit and cry for hours at a time for no clear reason. i was also constantly panicking about things i could not control. i thought i would drop the baby down the stairs. i thought that cars would crash into ours and kill us all. i thought someone would break into our house during the night. i thought that i would crash the car into the bridge and we’d drown in the river below. i was going road rage crazy when cars were driving closely behind us, screaming “can’t you see the ‘new baby boy’ sign in the back window?!?!” i had become a recluse, despite my husband’s efforts of getting me out of the house every day. i was double and triple checking that all the lights were off and the windows and doors were locked when Dave went to work/we went to bed/we occasionally left the house. i couldn’t sleep although i was exhausted because of the anxiety and sadness.
the doctor was very kind during my appointment and gave me tissues to wipe my tears and, because i was breastfeeding, prescribed me 75mg of Dosulepin to take daily before going to bed. Dosulepin is a mild sedative, helps with anxiety and is safe to use during breastfeeding. i found after a couple of weeks that i was sleeping better but the anxiety and these awful thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone.
in april 2012, i self-referred myself to the NHS mental health department. it took a simple phone call and an explanation of my circumstances. that i was on antidepressants but they weren’t helping all that much, other than help me sleep. they suggested i attend a one-on-one cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) session to speak with a therapist about my situation. i have always suffered with anxiety for as long as i can remember and particularly since my parents divorced in 2005. i spilled so much out to the therapist. about my thoughts of harm coming to us and Oliver. about my exhaustion and other, completely separate fears.
after 3 sessions, i was feeling much better about myself and my thoughts. she helped me to see that those irrational thoughts were perfectly normal, but to dismiss them as irrational and the probability of something of that nature happening was sooooo slim that i shouldn’t be worried.
i went back to work at the end of april and struggled at first to juggle working, being a mum, hiding my PND and leaving my baby with strangers at a nursery. it was hard going. Oliver went into nursery and settled in with no problems, so I felt I had no reason to be worried. But I worried, a lot.
But we plodded on, through the summer and things got easier. My return to work saw an uplift in wages which made life much less stressful and I started to worry less about the mundane things like paying bills and buying groceries.
In september 2012, Dave & I got married. The relief I felt following the wedding was immense. I hadn’t realised how much stress it had put me under!!
I continued through the winter taking my pills and trying to keep busy. my life before pregnancy had been so full of activities, doing nothing didn’t appeal to me at all. I was so bored! I started dance classes again once a week and doing exercise DVDs with my sister in law. this did help and gave me some body confidence back. Christmas came an went, we had a lovely time. January, February and March are full of family and friends birthdays so we were kept very busy through the rest of the winter and into spring.
I approached the doctors and asked to reduce my dose of Dosulepin. I needed to get back to normal. They gave me capsules of 25mg and I was advised to drop my use from 75mg to 50mg, to 25mg daily, to 25mg every other day.
So April brought my birthday and by June I was taking 25mg daily for our first holiday abroad.
I was so damn pleased with myself for this; a HUGE achievement in my eyes! It made sense to me to wean off completely during the “good” weather whilst I felt good with the sun shining and I could spend lots of time outside.
On 14th September 2013, Dave & I were away celebrating our belated first wedding anniversary. And it was that day I took my final pill.
I don’t believe I’m well. I don’t think I ever really will be. I will always battle with anxiety at least. But I’ve found ways to control it with my mind. I hope and pray I don’t go back to that dark place. But if I do, I now know who to approach and some techniques that work for me.
I truly believe more women, and men, suffer from PND than the stats lead us to believe. They only pick up on the ones that seek help. Please, if you are feeling in any way as I’ve described above, please seek help. Whether you talk to family, friends, twitter, blog readers, your health visitor or your GP. Please get the help and support that’s available to you.
Life can be better again.