Interview Archives - PANDAS Foundation 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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INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL – AUTHOR OF POST NATAL DEPRESSION AND ME

Hi Rachel! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at PANDAS Guest Blog!

Can you remember when you first thought that something wasn’t quite right with how you were feeling?

I think I started feeling a little down during my pregnancy but I had a very complicated one so I just assumed I was worried and stressed about that. I suppose it really hit with me with how hard I found everything in the early days. I knew I was suppose to be happy and in this bubble but somehow I just wasn’t quite there. It got progressively worse and late last year I went to the doctors to ask why I felt so bad, even though I really knew I was struggling deep down.

Why do you think that so many of us have this unrealistic image of “The Perfect Mother”?

I think there is a lot to do with the media, perfect bodies after babies perfect relationships the pictures of perfect family life. Then there’s tv and films, there is a lot to influence how we see normal life. The reality is no one is perfect we just try to be. I wish I knew why I had to be perfect all the time, the perfect mother and wife, but it’s just something you feel the need to do.

What do you think stops both men and women talking about how they’re feeling, or even just admitting that they’re struggling?

I think people are scared of being judged that you are not a fit mother. Or just war people think in general about you. My worst fear was being gossiped about, or disappointing my family.

How did your husband feel when you were diagnosed with PND?

He just said that we shouldn’t label at that, that he knew I was going through a hard phase, that we would get through it together. He is a hugely positive person and really believes in mindset having a lot to do with how we feel, act and what we do. Just talking to him made me realise that really it was just something I had to overcome.

Your piece is very positive and full of hope, can you remember a particular moment when you began to feel more optimistic?

It was the moment I went to the doctors. Even though she said I had symptoms of PND I always in my own my mind and on my blog just describe it as the baby blues. A phase in my life where I was feeling a little sad and lost. The moment someone told me was the moment I thought to myself “what am I doing, life is too short”. I also believe from my husbands influence a lot is about your mindset. I decided to be positive. I faked it a lot of the time and before I knew it it became a natural practise. This year has been my best year so far as a mum.

Finally, what makes you life perfect for you?

Life for me is perfect when I’m just with my family. We could be doing the food shop, a walk in the park or having an awesome day out. Family is what got me through this, family is what made me realise what I had. I’m a very lucky person to have a supportive husband, a cheeky step son and my adorable little boy. It’s just life right now, in the moment, and enjoying it.

Thank you so much for speaking to us here at the PANDAS Guest Blog, it’s so great to hear from someone with such a positive outlook on their PND experience and I know a lot of our readers will benefit from your hopeful piece.

Remember, if you want to read more about Rachel, please take a look at her blog: http://thelsmum.co.uk/

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INTERVIEW WITH EMMA SASARU – AUTHOR OF ‘BEYOND TRAUMA’

Hi Emma! Thank you for sharing your inspirational and hopeful blog with us. We all change after becoming parents, quite drastically, but how do you feel that going through a traumatic birth changed you?

Going through a traumatic birth completely changed me. Physically it took along time to recover but mentally the recovery has taken much longer. I went from being a confident, out-going person to being a shadow of my former self. I was consumed with fear for my baby and myself and suffered very bad flash backs, panic attacks and anxiety. Often doing normal activities was exhausting and going out became scary and difficult. I suffered with guilt and felt that I was no good to my family just a burden. Somedays were very dark.

What kind of breastfeeding support was offered to you in NNU?

While I was in NNU I didn’t receive any breastfeeding support at all, in fact I had to fight to breastfeed my baby and I was told I would never achieve exclusive breastfeeding. But I proved them wrong and breastfed my daughter for 15 months.

How do you think that a breastfeeding peer support worker helps new parents? What kind of things does your work encompass?

I think that a breastfeeding peer support worker helps a family by giving information and support that enables them to make an informed choice regarding feeding their baby thats right for them. A lot of my role involves providing emotional support, giving reassurance and helping women trust in their bodies to nurture their babies. My role encompasses seeing new parents antenatally, on the postnatal wards in hospital and in the community for as long as they need support. I personally work mostly in NNU and then with the families when they are discharged home. I also run a support group where families can drop in for support or just a chat. Ive had the privilege of supporting families from those early stressful days in NNU to being happy healthy families. I really cant begin to say how much joy it brings me, I feel so lucky.

What advice would you give to the partners out there currently caring for a woman who has physically experienced a traumatic birth?

To partners that are caring for a woman who has suffered birth trauma my advice would be to acknowledge what has happened to her and her feelings around it. Encourage her to talk about her feelings if she is able to. Reassure her that you are there for her and that you will help in anyway you can. Encourage, commend show compassion and empathy. Emotional support is invaluable, even if it’s just a listening ear or a hug. Realise that there may be things or activities that she may not yet feel ready to do, be patient and show understanding. But most of all listen to her.

What does a postnatal doula do?

A postnatal doula supports families after the birth of their baby with emotional and practical support. We can help with light household duties, running errands and helping care for other children in the house. We can give support with breastfeeding, and build confidence in a woman’s ability to care for her newborn.

Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone out there who cannot yet “see the light”?

One of my favourite sayings is “I wish I could show you when your in darkness or feeling alone, the astonishing light of your own being”. When darkness is all around you and you feel like it will swallow you up believe that the light will return. Inside us is the strength to overcome even the most traumatic things. We often cannot see our own beauty or the light we bring to the lives of those we love. Hang in there and take each day, be kind and gentle to yourself  and don’t expect to much of yourself. Better days will come honestly.

Thanks again Emma, your blog and honest words are sure to help many of our readers. If you would like to read more about Emma’s experiences, please visit her blog: http://www.lovingbaby.co.uk/

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INTERVIEW WITH AMY DEAR – AUTHOR OF ‘WE NEED TO TALK’

Amy, thank you for sharing your story with us. Your aftercare sounds very similar to mine: flippant, basic and uncaring. Looking back, what do you wish the midwife who answered your call had said/done?
It was very uncaring, and it didn’t need to be! When I had my second the aftercare was amazing and it’s crazy what a difference that can make. With my first I was just left alone and scared. I wish the midwife had just been kind – asked if I was okay, or if I needed to talk. Someone to talk to would have helped a lot.
How did it feel to be put on medication for PTSD?
It was a relief because it really did help. I didn’t think it would but it helped keep me calm while I worked through the underlying problems – and helped me sleep!
Did your therapy help?
 
Yes, although I only had a few sessions. It helped more being told why I felt the way I did, and that there was light at the end of the tunnel – that I wouldn’t always feel that way. And also that it wasn’t my fault. I felt very much like I’d done something wrong, or failed in some way at giving birth if that makes sense? Therapy helped me realise that it was the medical professionals who ha failed me, and that I had done nothing wrong. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear that.
As a fellow sufferer, I know how important it is that we work together to remove the stigma, but how do you go about doing that?
Talking about it. We need to be open. I try to be honest with other Mums, especially when I talk about my labour and how I felt – not the gory details of course! But I tell them the truth, and the emotions I had, and why. I think if everyone was honest there would be less pressure to fit into a ‘perfect mum’ stereotype. When I tell people I had Post Natal PTSD they sort of pause, and don’t know what to say. I’ve definitely felt judged. It’s a bit sad, but it’s only by being open about our experiences can we help other sufferers, and stop other people being judged in the future.
 
Finally, how do you feel now?
I feel great now. I mean I have nightmares, I’ll be honest – and I still can’t watch medical shows, or shows about birth or pregnancy. I think those will always make me feel uncomfortable. But I can talk about my own labour, and accept how I felt. I have a wonderful, kind and supportive partner who has been with me throughout. I have two beautiful children. I’m volunteering for PANDAS which gives me a lot of purpose and drive outside of my ‘Mummy’ life. I have hard days, like any Mum, but honestly? I feel great. 
Thanks again Amy for sharing this with us.  If you would like to read more about Amy, please take a look at her blog: http://hgtt.wordpress.com/ or you can email her at: hgttblog@gmail.com
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INTERVIEW WITH LAURA WOOD – AUTHOR OF LOVE AND THE LOSS OF THE EARLY WEEKS

Hi Laura, and thank you so much for your piece on the difficulties of maternal bonding. What would you say to parents who feel that the bonding problems in the early days have caused irreparable damage to the relationship with their child?

  • You’re welcome. I hope it’s helpful to someone. I would say that it is never too late, and I would encourage them to find ways to have lovely moments with their child/children and build relationship now. Some ideas might be “love bombing”, which is essentially taking time out with your child to give them your undivided attention and allowing them to pick the activity, or having a think about the five “love languages” (words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch) as we all give and receive love in different ways. 

You talk about being unable to preserve the non-physical memories of your son; have you come up with any creative ways of keeping memories?

  • I’m a bit of a hoarder by nature so have to be strict with myself but I’ll definitely keep some sentimental objects. I try to remember to video him occasionally. I recorded his laugh and created a waveform-style image which is now a tattoo on my wrist. Ultimately, though, some things are fleeting and irretrievable and we have to come to terms with that. I will lose my baby boy but hopefully I’ll get a nice young man in his place who will bring me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day!

I know exactly what you mean when you say that you don’t know where he ends and you begin, but how do you go about distancing yourself when you need a bit of “me time”?

  • I am fortunate to be able to hand him over to my husband or now to a childminder two days a week as I am back at work part-time. I do struggle, though, not to constantly supervise someone supervising my child! It helps to get far enough away that I can’t hear him.

What kind of support was offered to you after your son’s traumatic birth? Did you feel you got the help you needed?

  • Not really. I was offered a birth debrief but it wasn’t very helpful because the notes were out of chronological order, giving a confused picture, because I was not in any mental state to absorb and process so much new information coming at me so quickly, and because it felt like a bit of an exercise in ensuring that I didn’t sue them! I am planning to go through the notes again more slowly and carefully with someone impartial so that I can put the whole thing to rest a bit.

How did your partner cope with bonding with your son?

  • He was also quite shell-shocked initially but they adore one another now. He’s a great dad, very hands-on, but their relationship is very different to my relationship with my son. I think he sees his dad as primarily for making him laugh and rough-and-tumble mucking about, while I’m the main source of comfort. Relationships are probably more simplistic when you’re thirteen months old!

And finally, what is you and your son’s favourite activity?

  • That’s a good question. Is cuddling an activity? We cuddle a lot. We build with Duplo. We go to the library. He grows and changes, and his preferences develop, so quickly that I find myself having to constantly adapt. I also find that our time is sort of dominated by household chores or by my being exhausted, which is far from ideal but I’m sure many PND mums will empathise. Bedtime is a very special time for us, though, as I unashamedly rock, cuddle, sing and feed him to sleep, and we have some beautiful moments then.
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INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL KOWALSKI: AUTHOR OF POSTNATAL ANXIETY – MY EXPERIENCE

Hi Rachel! Thank you for sharing your experience with us! It’s clear that your writing has already helped many women – what kind of feedback have you received regarding your blog about postnatal anxiety?

I have received some really lovely feedback. As we know, post natal anxiety and depression can still be a taboo subject so I think people are grateful to read about other peoples experiences. I know I am. I hope that people in the same position as me can take some comfort knowing they aren’t alone as it can all feel so isolating.

I’m a big advocate of meditation as a way of combating anxiety. Can you recommend any specific guided relaxation recordings to our readers?

I use the meditation recordings that came with the Charles Linden method pack that I used in the first stages of recovery. Those worked really well for me and I would really recommend his programme. I use a lot of relaxing music that is on YouTube too to help me to get to sleep.

You write that you like to log off from social media sites one night a week, how does it make you feel to do this?

As I am a blogger removing yourself from the Internet can be quite daunting, even before I blogged I think I would have found it a bit strange! However, it is really refreshing and helps to clear my mind a lot. I find if I look at social media before sleep that can also hinder a good night’s sleep. As I say, it is a bit strange but I would highly recommend.

What kind of negative impact do you think social media has on those suffering from anxiety, particularly postnatal anxiety?

I think social media can be great for people suffering from post natal anxiety because if you can find other people in the same position it can really help to feel less alone. There is a big ‘but’ though. When you log onto social media and are met with a feed full of perfect family photos, tantrum-less toddlers, blissful sleeping babies and happy smiley made up mums it can really get to you and I know it made me wonder what I was doing wrong and why we didn’t look like that on a daily basis. The important thing to remember is these photos are a tiny snapshot of someone’s day. That toddler could have had a complete melt down straight after the photo, that baby could have only been asleep for 5 minutes and that mum, well it’s probably 2 in the afternoon and she’s only just managed to shower. She’s probably put make up on to help her feel normal. Photos are a great way of catching memories and we all like to put them on our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages but we must never compare ourselves with these photos as they are not an accurate picture of parenthood.

Your “Recipe for Relaxation” sounds very similar to mine. How can our readers go about establishing their own “Rachel Night”?

Do what makes you happy. Forget what you think you should be doing or what other people tell you. If you enjoy reading, pick up a book. If you enjoy a bath, run one. Find that little bit of time for yourself each week and it really will help you relax and dampen the anxious thoughts.

And finally, tell us, what’s your favourite treat?

I think it would have to be, a relaxing night in my bedroom reading a good book with some chocolate. You can’t beat it.

Thank you Rachel for sharing your experience with us,  and also some words of wisdom for our readers.  Now, I’m off to find some choc… 🙂

Check out Rachel’s blog for more advice concerning postnatal anxiety: http://www.mummyintraining.co.uk

And for more information about perinatal illness, please take a look at the PANDAS website:http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk

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