Interview Archives - PANDAS Foundation UK

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Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: VICTORIA

“I have supported probably over 100 people now via the helpline and this makes me feel great that I can listen to and support others going through a tricky time.”

Victoria is our brilliant and talented phone line support volunteer.

1) Please tell us about yourself?
I am Victoria from south Manchester with partner Rob and twin daughters Emily and Grace. I am Re-training as a person centred counsellor at the moment and due to qualify in September 2018. I love being with my family, friends, eating out, cinema, theatre, travelling abroad.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?
I am not quite sure now how I heard about PANDAS but as a I was re-training as a counsellor I wanted to gain some experience volunteering for a mental health charity and PANDAS seemed the perfect choice as I had struggled with PND myself after having my twin girls so it was an area that interested me massively and I wanted to support others going through similar experiences.

3) What is your role and what do you do?
I am a telephone support worker and take calls from all kinds of people mums, dads, grandparents, friends, work colleagues etc – all people needed either support or advice about Postnatal depression (PND.) I volunteer one day per week and have been doing so for the last three years. It fits in perfectly for me as I can work from home taking the calls and usually use the time to crack on with college work while waiting for calls to come through.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?
I have supported probably over 100 people now via the helpline and this makes me feel great that I can listen to and support others going through a tricky time. I often find when a caller first comes on they are usually quite upset and distressed. It is clear the person is having a difficult time and making the call has been a big step for them. It is not long into the call that it is evident that having someone to listen to them, talk to them and let them know they are not on their own going through PND that the caller tends to become much calmer, more in control and more able to cope with their situation going forward. I offer a listening ear but I also signpost people to relevant organisations such as Pandas support groups, their GP for counselling or other support. I often find that people who seem to be struggling the most have had traumatic births, have little support around them such as family and friends and have had issues with depression before. We talk about how small changes can be made to their lifestyle so they can cope better with having a baby or small children, such as exercise, joining baby groups, having time out from the baby, talking to others or calling the helpline for support. I also like to encourage callers by telling them they are doing a fab job as being a mum or dad is one of the hardest jobs in the world but it does get easier!

5) And finally…
I love being a volunteer. I feel valued and I find supporting others rewarding and fulfilling. To hear on the helpline that you helping people to feel listened to and resolve an issue is great. I feel volunteering for PANDAS has enhanced my counselling skills considerably and given me a greater understanding of PND and how vital it is that it is taken seriously and people are given the right support.

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Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: JESS

“There is a group of 6 mums who have all met within the group and have become firm friends. They have taken their babies for their first swims together and have also gone on a night out together.”

Jess is our wonderful volunteer who tells us about her, the progression within PANDAS and the mums she has met.

1) Please tell us about yourself?

I am Jess from Bristol with personal experience of Post-Natal Depression (PND) and Anxiety. I have two young boys and live with my husband on a Dairy Farm. I am an Occupational Therapist by background and a keen crafter and cake maker.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?

I initially wanted to volunteer with a PND support service in my local town, but found that although there were services in the city, there was nothing available for local families. I contacted a locally based organisation to offer to run a group for them and this offer was declined due to funding issues, so I then found PANDAS through online searches. PANDAS was great, because they supported me to set up my service with insurance, DBS check and training, but also colleagues within the network gave me ideas for free venues, group structure and promotion. The organisation has no head office so money raised is direct delivery to the service users and despite this I have felt part of a team from the start. I love the autonomy PANDAS gives to its Peer Support Group Leaders.

3) What is your role and what do you do?

I began as a Peer Support Group Leader which required around 4 hours per week of my time. This is because I run my group weekly, but other groups are fortnightly and monthly so plenty of flexibility. I have now progressed within the organisation to become South West Regional Coordinator which will require an additional 6 hours per week as the role develops. I am fortunate enough to work part time, allowing me to run my groups on a week day while my children are in school and pre school.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?

The aim of our Peer Support Groups is to facilitate friendship so that families will go on to support each other within their communities and outside of group hours. This is to ensure that our families do not feel alone in their journey through Maternal Mental Health.

There is a group of 6 mums who have all met within the group and have become firm friends. They have taken their babies for their first swims together and have also gone on a night out together. What I am most proud of is that they are reducing their isolation and supporting their recoveries through friendships with peers who truly understand. One mum told me that even on the weeks she can’t get out for anything else, she will always push herself to get to PANDAS as this is where she feels safe and relaxed with people who understand and do not judge.

5) Please tell us how donations, support and fundraising help the foundation?

Local fundraising supports us to deliver more community activities within our groups to promote sustainable recoveries. We are also responsible locally for our own service promotion and the championing of the Charity so need funding for this. Nationally PANDAS insure and support our Peer Support Groups, through DBS, training and supervision.

They also offer online and telephone support for those who are unable to access groups.

Fundraising is imperative to ensure no families go through this alone and that we move forward to break the stigma, that we champion “it’s OK not to be OK”

And finally..

I run Yate PANDAS, near Bristol. We meet weekly throughout the year, including during the holidays as we believe continuity is essential. We offer Peer Support to families, a listening ear, craft activities to promote mindfulness and there is always homemade cake.

We are facilitating friendships as we believe peer support is key to a sustainable recovery.

We are looking for committee members to support our aims and objectives and to help with fundraising events and planning.

We are looking for speakers, crafters or activities to offer taster sessions to our groups.

We are looking for sponsorship to develop our wellness packs to be offered to all new group members.

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Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: ANNE MARIE

“That’s the thing about PANDAS, it not only supports women but then empowers them to help others going through the same”

Anne Marie is our fabulous email support and social media volunteer from Edinburgh. Anne Marie tells us about her background and what she brings to PANDAS.

1) Please tell us about yourself?

My name is Anne Marie and live in South Queensferry in Edinburgh, right next to the Forth bridges. I have three children, all girls and grown up with three beautiful grandchildren, who keep me busy. I am happily married to Kevin.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?

My daughter suffered with Postnatal Depression (PND ) and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) last year after a traumatic birth. She took a long time to recover and then suffered with anxiety. She was diagnosed with PND. As her mum, I supported both her and her partner through this. Having suffered with PND with my second child, no support had been available then. After my daughter recovered, it was something I felt I could do, and had a lot to offer. I had followed PANDAS on Facebook and my daughter did the same.

3) What is your role and what do you do?

Currently I am an email volunteer on a Saturday and sometimes a Tuesday to support the group. As I work Monday to Friday it fits in easily with my work. I then took more volunteer work on as a social media agent, totally different to email, but I love engaging with our service users, and it’s so good for them to get an instant reply. I have also hosted the Twitter chat #PANDAShr on a Sunday evening. Although apprehensive about this, I really enjoy the engagement.

The balance with my job/family/career is great, its something I enjoy and I love being able to help people.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?

I have supported both my daughters through post natal depression, my eldest daughter suffered this 5 years ago, she didn’t realise she had it. She came up to visit me and I could see it. She went home and got support both through her GP and through PANDAS. Although she lives a long way away she knows I am always there for her, and when she had her second baby last year, I was mindful of this.

My youngest child suffered with this last year, it was hard being her mother and seeing her go through this. It was hard for me too, as my anxiety kicked in and to a point if I feel she is going through a difficult time it does now. It meant late night visits if she was anxious and her partner being young also didn’t understand what was going on.

I am so proud of her, she is thriving as a Mother and has started a new job.

5) Please tell us how donations, support and fundraising help the foundation?

We can’t help families if we didn’t have donations, they basically help us to help and reach more families.

Fundraising on a local level helps the groups to run and reach more people.

The generosity of wonderful people that help us to support families suffering with perinatal illness.

I would love to see PANDAS reach even more people and see more groups in more areas over the UK. I very often have service users on email say how when they are feeling better they would love to volunteer. That’s the thing about PANDAS, it not only supports women but then empowers them to help others going through the same.

 

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Will’s Marathon

Meet our fundraiser, Will from East Sussex. Following the birth of his first child, Will’s wife Shauna suffered with post traumatic stress and post natal depression. Will has been training non-stop for an almighty marathon in Hastings in tough weather, all in aid of PANDAS. Please read Will’s amazing journey and how to sponsor him below!

Please tell us about yourself?  

I’m Will. I’m 33, and live in Worthing on the Sussex coast with my wife Shauna and two kids, Nova and Nate. Shauna and I have been married for almost 5 years now and Nova is 2 ½ and Nate is almost 5 months.  I love nothing more than hanging out with my family and taking them out to places that excite them. Each weekend we enjoy swimming at our local gym and we also like walks in the South Downs and visiting local farm attractions. 

As I’m originally from Devon I have a love for the sea and enjoy sailing, fishing  and running.  

Please tell us about your marathon? 

I’m running the “Hastings Half Marathon” East Sussex coast this Sunday, the 18th March 2018. Weather forecast has predicted that it’s not going to be warm! Reported that it could feel like -7° with a 30mph north easterly wind gusting up to 50mph with a slight chance of snow! 

At the time I decided to do the marathon it didn’t seem that daunting, but as my training has progressed it has become clear that it is actually a big undertaking for someone who had not done a huge amount of running. 

My training has gone well but not as well as I had hoped. Trying to fit in the shear amount of training around work, family and a 4 month old baby has been a challenge but I’m feeling positive about the race.  

Please tell us about your experiences of perinatal mental health and why you are supporting PANDAS with your fundraising? 

Following the birth of Nova, my wife suffered birth trauma, post natal post traumatic stress and depression. It was a very difficult time for us as a new family and it isn’t something that you expect to happen because you very rarely hear anything about it, until you’re in it. 

There are two main reasons I wanted to try to raise some money for PANDAS. One is that there seems to be a lot of misconceptions surrounding perinatal mental illnesses and not many people, such as family and friends really know how to help. The second is that in a way we were in a lucky situation because Shauna is a qualified psychotherapist so she already had knowledge about this area. I can only imagine how scary it must be to not have any clue as to what is happening during a time that is socially regarded as being one of the happiest moments in your life.  

Based on this I think the work PANDAS does is so important to such a large number of families and it needs to be more widely acknowledged. Hopefully my contribution may help in some small way. 

How can supporters follow your marathon and sponsor you? 

You can follow my journey on my Instagram account @willbeare and I also post on Twitter @Echo_Will and Facebook. So far I have managed raise over £600, which is incredible and the support all my family and friends have shown is overwhelming. If you would like to donate,  no matter how big or small, I have a fundraising page on Virgin Money Giving – https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/WillBeare. 


Will has also for the last 10 years been building his video production company, “Echo Video” which is based in Brighton, East Sussex. Producing corporate and promotional videos for a wide range of businesses, from local artisans to multi-national organisations, we offer a full in-house service so we can take a video from conception right through to final delivery even if that involves time-lapse photography and aerial filming from helicopters and drones. Our website is www.echovideo.co.uk if you would like to find out more about us. 


If you would like to fundraise for PANDAS please do not hesitate to get in touch with our fundraising team! www.pandasfoundation.org.uk  

INTERVIEW WITH LOUISE BAKER – AUTHOR OF GOING THROUGH IT ALL OVER AGAIN: POSTNATAL DEPRESSION AND US

Thank you so much for writing such an honest and inspiring piece for us.

Looking back, do you think your husband may also have been suffering from postnatal depression?

While my husband undoubtedly had a hard time of my pregnancies, and the first few weeks of parenthood, I sometimes worry that most of his anxieties were caused by me. He remembers dreading coming home from work because he never knew how he’d find me, and I will always feel a sense of responsibility for those ‘ruined’ few weeks. Even now I think he gets a hard time of it, although we communicate so much more than I was able to in the beginning. That has certainly helped!

Did you ever speak to your midwife about your feelings of anxiety during pregnancy?

I remember having numerous conversations with our midwife during my first pregnancy, and it was her who referred me for help and introduced me to the counselling I went on to have. The second time around I saw two or three different midwives, and that dialogue became harder to open. I felt as though I was having to explain everything over and over again, even though I wasn’t really sure I could put my finger on what I wanted to say. I found the health visitor invaluable the second time round.

Do you feel that there should be more help and support for those suffering from antenatal depression and/or anxiety?

Certainly – even now postnatal anxiety and depression are seen as something of a taboo, and I know that I’ve certainly not been forthcoming in talking about it. You’re never quite sure how people will react. Until I suffered myself, I wasn’t even aware that antenatal depression and anxiety was possible. Surely pregnancy is a joyous time? That myth can lead to women feeling isolated, as they’re sure they’re not supposed to feel like that. Support at these points is absolutely vital to stop anxiety escalating.

I like that you’ve written “You are not postnatal depression”, but how did you learn to disassociate yourself from your illness?

It’s hard, because sometimes it becomes an excuse – I’ve had a bad day, but that’s okay because I have an illness. I think, for me, the most important thing was to not consider postnatal anxiety to be an illness, and also to focus on my children. I was determined that they shouldn’t suffer because I was having a bad day, and just thinking about how they might feel is a great way to pull myself back sometimes. ‘It’ just happens to be something hovering in the background, but it isn’t the heart and soul of who I am. Every day I wake up with a mantra – today will be a good day. Sometimes I’m confident enough to pull that off!

I too have struggled to come off medication, do you still have hope that one day it will be a possibility for you?

Oh yes. I was prescribed medication when my first son was still very small and decided early on that it wasn’t for me. I stopped taking it altogether and found I was able to control my anxieties on my own. The second time around has been harder – a little more of a roller coaster as I attempted to understand what would work for me. I didn’t want pills to control me, but I’ve learned to accept that they’re not altering who I am, merely how I cope under certain strains. I know that one day I’ll be able to control my own emotions, so I have no doubt that this is just a temporary solution.

What do you do during your dark days to try and lift yourself out of them?

I leave the house. I can usually tell quite quickly what sort of day I’ve woken up to, and so if I start to feel a little low we’ll head out to the park, or I’ll contact friends to try and arrange something. As long as the children are up and active, and enjoying their day, I think it’s okay if I’m having a bad day – their happiness is one of the best feelings in the world, and it’s infectious. Staying at home tends to be a trigger for anxiety, as I’ll feel guilty if I’m not up to doing much.

And finally, do you have a message for anyone who has not yet seen the light?

Just that it is there – honestly! Antenatal and postnatal anxiety and depression are so cruel, bringing you down when you should be on Cloud 9. The tiredness and range of new hormones and emotions never helps, but you need to understand that this isn’t going to be forever, and it’s okay to have dark days. They just make the good days seem all the more brighter. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help either – telling yourself that you’re suffering is one thing, but being able to admit that is a huge step forward.

QUESTIONS FOR RICHARD – BY DONNA SWIFT (PANDAS VOLUNTEER)

I recently read an excellent blog from one of our volunteers. I was inspired to write some questions for my husband about my postnatal depression and recovery. I asked my husband to answer as honestly as possible and I haven’t changed a single word he has typed.

Describe postnatal depression to me in just 5 words.

Frightening insight in mental awareness.

Did you notice a change in me before my diagnosis ? Was I different with Millie?

Yes, you were short tempered with both children and had what I’d say was an ignorance to your surroundings.

How did you feel when I was diagnosed?

Relieved Read More

INTERVIEW WITH SHWETA PANCHAL – AUTHOR OF ‘DITCH YOUR BIRTH PLAN AND HAVE THE BIRTH YOU NEED!’

Hi Shweta!  Thanks so much for sharing your blog post with us!  I feel the birth plan may have had its day by the sounds of it.  Did you write a birth plan? If yes, did anything positive come from it?

No I didn’t but I did have some very strong ideas about how and where I wanted to give birth. When I went into labour with my first son I was well underway to having the homebirth that my husband and I had ‘planned’.  I laboured at home (according to plan) for many hours. When the midwives arrived to assist with the birth they found that my temperature had risen beyond what was considered safe. There was a possibility of infection in my body and I was therefore, much to my dismay, rushed to hospital. When the ambulance arrived, I stood at the top of the stairs in the building of my two bedroom flat, defiant. I refused to be carried down the stairs in a stretcher. I was having a baby not a heart attack! All’s well that ends well and my son was born, in hospital (not my plan!) on my back (definitely not my plan!) healthy and well (definitely my plan). I too was happy. Happy, well and grateful.  Somewhere along the way amongst all the chaos and drama I surrendered. In those moments of labour and birth I believe I started to learn the power of surrender. Not giving up, but learning to let go. I learned the powerful distinction between preparation and planning which I now teach in my pregnancy classes. In planning an event like birth there is an attachment to the process. When one prepares for birth, the actions are aligned with a strong intention but there is no attachment to the process. Only potential and creativity.

Why do you think women feel so guilty when their birth doesn’t go ‘to plan’?

Women feel guilty because they view the failure of the plan as their fault. If the plan fails then they believe they have failed.  I find that the more fixated women are to the way in which they want the birth to be the more chances are that they will feel shame and guilt afterwards if it does not go according to plan.  Preparation is the way forward not planning. Planning can psychologically lock us to a process which may or may not happen.

Through your work as a yoga and meditation teacher, how do you help women prepare for birth?

In the Pregnancy Yoga classes that I teach, we use meditation, breathwork and postures to deepen womens understanding of their bodies, their mind, and their emotions.  Whilst birthing positions and breathing techniques are important parts of the class, women are guided to listen to their bodies and respond to the changing nature of their physical landscape. The classes also emphasize movements which encourage the sense  of opening , letting go and trust with the idea that when it comes to the time of birth women have their breath, mindfulness and use of their instincts to respond to a changing birth situation.  

Finally, is there a quote or saying you live your life by?

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks again Shweta, and thanks also to the Rebelle Society for allowing us to reproduce Shweta’s post on the PANDAS Guest Blog.

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