I’m a mental health nurse, so you think I would recognise the signs and be able to know when to act? Unfortunately not…
In February 2015 I had my first daughter, Amelia Alyce. I had some symptoms I brushed under the carpet during my pregnancy for quite some time, I now recognise these as panic attacks, dark intrusive thoughts and rumination.
Following the difficult labour and birth of Amelia, I struggled breast feeding – this along with the labour caused me to feel like I was failing. Like most new mums I barely slept – this took a turn around week 5 when I started believing that social services were watching through the windows – this thought became so intense that I asked my husband to move our living room to the back of the house, he didn’t question me as I was a new nesting mum.
I then had ‘the day’, the day when I realised I needed help – the day I almost jumped in front a bus and wanted to push my daughters pram into a nearby crowd for safety – because I believed I wasn’t worthy of her, I couldn’t stop her crying, I couldn’t soothe her. By week 8, I had insisted we moved back to my parents house, I sold this to everyone as a financial gain – so we could save money etc. However it’s because I needed to retreat, escape my thoughts and be protected but most of all, to keep my daughter safe, from me. I then began thinking my close family didn’t trust me with her and could do a better job, these thoughts snowballed and I found myself sat downstairs with Amelia, night after night just watching her sleep – it was then my Dad came down one night, in the late hours to see if I was ok that I broke down and told him I wasn’t right.
I saw the GP that day, told her the basics and was prescribed medication, which I took but it numbed me. So after several months I stopped it myself. I felt fine after all.
Late 2015, we decided to try for our second and in February 2016, we found out we were expecting – I was ecstatic. By week 13, things began creeping in, the thoughts came back and I was suffocating again. I didn’t leave the house or get dressed, I called in sick to work and avoided everyone around me. Before I knew it I was spiralling down again. I went back to work, which was within the crisis team at this point and during a joint assessment with a consultant, I had what I think of as my ‘eureka moment’. I realised I wasn’t ok – I needed help.
I left work after this, rang my husband and we went to the doctor, I told him EVERYTHING and couldn’t stop. I sobbed, I choked up, I couldn’t believe what I was saying. The tough thing was, I worked for the team my GP would need to refer me to, so we agreed he would call my manager and liaise with him. Within a couple of weeks I was seen by a consultant psychiatrist and it came to light that following the birth of Amelia I had an episode of psychotic depression and would have likely being admitted to hospital for my own safety had I told a professional what I was thinking and feeling at the time.
Following this, I reluctantly began taking medication during the pregnancy to help prevent things becoming worse. I noticed a big lift, I felt so much better. I was also assigned a fab community psychiatric nurse and support worker who I saw fortnightly, weekly in the latter stages of pregnancy. I had frequent meetings with the psychiatrist and other professionals including my midwife to ensure I had a positive experience in my pregnancy and to create a robust plan following the birth of my second daughter.
On 11th November 2016, our daughter Edith Gillian arrived after a lovely labour and empowering birth – after using the hypnobirthing principles of breathing and trusting your body.
Now 9 weeks post partum, I’m feeling good. I’m aware of my own mental health and have my family watching over me. I’ve had visits from the psychiatric team and midwives, as standard. I successfully breastfed and the bond I’ve developed with Edith is incredible. Watching Amelia with her is magical and makes me realise I’m a lucky mummy. My message to everyone – is no one is invincible, no one is above mental illness.
Seek help, accept help and keep safe.