Medication Archives - PANDAS Foundation UK

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A Not-so Traditional Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day, historically, is a day for children to appreciate their mothers and all that they do for them. Slowly, like many of these seasonal events over the years, this has become commercialised and now for many the pressure of ‘fulfilling’ the glossy-magazine, smiley, happy, room dressed in walls of flowers – just never quite happens.

Many mothers have children who don’t even know the meaning of Mother’s Day. And there are also children who do not have mothers. Many mothers are single and don’t have that one person who can rush out to Clintons and bring back a ‘I LOVE YOU’ teddy bear. And many Mums, like the mums that are supported through PANDAS, are mums with perinatal mental health illness. Depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, to name a few. The energy consumed with this means that we are tired. Exhausted and drained by our thoughts, let alone once the day starts (if we haven’t been up all night already!) So, Mother’s Day for some can just be another huge burden that we can’t perform to on that day.

“JUST ONE PICTURE for Instagram!” I screamed at my equally exhausted husband, 3-year-old and wailing 6-month-old baby. With a full stream row over the top of the babies crying I sat in a heap on the floor and wept. I didn’t know why I was crying? Was it because we wouldn’t make it to our harvester Mother’s Day lunch, was it that my kids weren’t hanging off my ankles telling me how much they appreciate my efforts. Or was it that I couldn’t put a selfie on Instagram displaying my proud mother hen moment in my nest? On that day I hated Mother’s Day. And then, my 3-year-old wiped my cheeks and said, ‘Love you mummy’ and that was my moment to feel proud, it made my day. – Sarah

Social media and commercialisation are two of the biggest contributors to mental health in parents when considering things such as Mothers or Father’s Day. Constant marketing and promotion of what we ‘should’ be doing in an idealised world cannot be helpful to the many parents out there suffering with PND. One women kindly spoke to us about her traumatic experience over Mother’s Day two years ago.

Clair and her husband were visiting family with their newborn baby. Whilst the family cooed over the baby, Clair felt disconnected and isolated from her baby. On top of her stress she started to feel physically unwell and assumed a cold was on its way. Clair started to deteriorate and soon went downhill. Being rushed to hospital by her husband, it was confirmed that Clair had an acute case of Mastitis (Swelling of the breasts). Sore and in pain, Clair felt relieved to be away from everyone for the night whilst hooked up to a drip. She felt safe and looked after. She didn’t have to join in with happy families and she didn’t have to smile.

The next day was the morning of Mothers Day. Clair was discharged and went home into the arms of her husband. There he gave her her baby, and a small gift. And inside two little foot prints of her baby boy. Whilst she wanted to feel tears of joy, she felt nothing. Cold and numb. Clair bravely smiled at her husband and baby and got through Mother’s Day wishing it was over. All she wanted was her baby to display something. To give his mummy some real visual live feedback, but it wouldn’t happen.

Since then, Clair’s experience of Mother’s Day has improved year by year. Now approaching her third Mother’s Day Clair wants to have a day of no expectations, and just embrace the day.

For some, its our first ever Mother’s Day and we want to have our flowers and breakfast in bed moment. But for others, this can be a cruel reminder of not being a parent. wanting to be a parent or for some like Annie wanting to be a better parent and ticking the boxes.

We must remember that children don’t remember presents, they remember presence and even if you are having the worst day you could be, a child’s love is unconditional. It is ok to feel sad, it shows children how to accept emotions.

Every mother out there is doing their best. And that includes you, reading this.

Words – Annie Belasco
Contributor – Clair Priestley

PANDAS are here to support you. If you need a listening empathetic ear we are open 24-7 with our email services info@pandasfoundation.org.uk

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A RECOVERY STORY – BY THE BUTTERFLY MOTHER

“Postnatal Depression recovery stories.” These were the only words I typed into my browser for weeks. My anxiety was incredibly high, I genuinely thought I was losing my mind. Instead of cuddling my son or enjoying his first smiles, I was scouring the internet for undeniable proof that I wouldn’t feel this way forever.  
 
Despite what my damaged mind was telling me, things did get better. I don’t feel that way anymore. So I’m posting my own story for any other mums who might be searching for answers now. 
 
My son was born at 1am on 27 Apr 2013 after 12 hours labour, an epidural and finally an emergency section. They had given me so much anesthetic at the last moment I became “blocked,” meaning I couldn’t move or feel anything besides my head and neck. I couldn’t hold my son for several hours, and I couldn’t feel when he was feeding.  
 
Looking back, things weren’t right from that very first day. I wasn’t feeling anywhere near the post-birth euphoria I had been expecting. But it wasn’t until 8 weeks later the cracks finally began to show. 
 
My son had just begun sleeping better, only waking for one feed during the night, but while he slept soundly at last I lay wide awake. The less I was able to sleep, the more I panicked during the day. How can I take care of him when I haven’t slept? What if I drop him down the stairs because I’m so exhausted? What if I fall asleep on the sofa and suffocate him? Of course, with these anxieties running around my mind all day I was nowhere near relaxed enough to sleep when night came around, and so the vicious cycle continued. I was lying in bed for around six hours each night, my heart racing and my thoughts spinning, until my body eventually gave in and I slept fitfully for between 1-2 hours before I awoke with a jolt, feeling sick and panicked once more.  
 
After 6 days of sleeping only an hour or two a night I burst into tears during a group I was attending at my local children’s centre. The staff were incredible, they calmed me as much as possible and called my health visitor. For the next few days she came by to see how I was, she listened to my fears and heard how I still wasn’t sleeping. I took all the usual advice – bath before bed, fresh bedding, read a book etc – but this only made my sleep worse. The pressure to sleep increased my panic and continued the cycle.  
 
I was then referred to my local Perinatal Emotional Wellbeing Service (PEWS). This is a fantastic NHS service which, sadly, isn’t available in all Trusts. Fortunately for me, Essex has it and that small team of individuals probably saved my life. Or at least kept me out of hospital. 
 
After they assessed me I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression. I had been desperately hoping there was another explanation but deep down I knew it wasn’t only insomnia, I wasn’t eating or able to think straight either, all triggered by horrendous anxiety. PEWS liaised with my doctor (who was fairly useless, more on that in a future post) and visited me at home twice a week. Under their guidance, I found the courage to begin taking a combination of medication (a sleeping aid, diazapam for short term anxiety relief and eventually, reluctantly, an antidepressant).  
 
The medication firstly helped to get my sleep back on track. I was terrified that the sleeping tablets wouldn’t work but 15 mins after taking my first one I succumbed to sleep on the sofa and my husband helped me to bed where I slept solidly for four hours – a vast improvement from how I was. Each night I would fear the tablet wouldn’t work and each night I slept, for an increasing length of time until my sleep patterns were fairly normal again.  
 
Despite the improvement in sleep and appetite I was still suffering from anxiety attacks almost constantly. I simply couldn’t function properly. Once the drugs took some effect PEWS sent round their Occupational Therapist who specialised in anxiety management. I still think of this amazing woman as an angel sent to save me. She gave me some basic, CBT-based tools for managing fear which, with lots of hard work and practice, began to improve my mood and functionality.
 
Eventually PEWS were able to discharge me when an appointment with an NHS therapist became available. Again, I was very lucky to see a CBT therapist who had a lot of experience with perinatal mood disorders.  
 
One of the most difficult things about this illness is the slow recovery time. In my opinion, medication goes a long way to take the edge off and kickstart your recovery but it can only do so much – therapy is a vital tool for long term recovery. Through therapy I was able to begin to reroute lots of damaging negative thought patterns. 
 
Recovery was definitely an accumulative process for me. Medication and therapy bore the brunt but there were many other aspects of “self-care” which were vital to me; good, regular sleep; a decent diet; fresh air and a walk every day if possible; supplements; support from family and friends; mindfulness; books and websites like Anxiety No More. And, critically, online support.  Postpartum Progress and other blogs, and Facebook groups such as PPD Chat Support have been so valuable to me. Knowing you aren’t alone can help tremendously. 
 
Unfortunately, even with these tools, recovery takes time and patience, which is the biggest challenge of all. I remember being filled with despair when I read how long recovery can take for some people but the important thing to remember is even if full recovery takes months or longer you won’t be in that acute stage the entire time. The real hell was lessened in a matter of weeks for me. After that it becomes manageable, life becomes more bearable. You feel stronger and safer. You might not be thriving but you’re surviving. 
 
Parenting is hard and I still feel overwhelmed by it sometimes. I still wonder how I’ll cope. But then I remind myself that I’ve come through the last two years so there’s no reason I can’t keep going, keep striving, keep getting stronger. I also remind myself of all the things experiencing PND has taught me. I know how to deal with unhelpful thinking, I worry considerably less, I don’t sweat the small stuff and I have much more empathy for others. In some ways, I’m stronger. I think I’m probably a nicer, less selfish person. I’m not going to ever pretend PND is anything close to a gift, but there are certainly aspects to my personality and my life which have benefited. 
 
PND isn’t fair. It’s a cruel and terrible illness. But recovery is possible.If you’re reading this and thinking you’ll never get better try to remember that everyone who has ever recovered once thought they never would. And then they did. Read More

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.

GOING THROUGH IT ALL OVER AGAIN: POSTNATAL DEPRESSION AND US – BY LOUISE BAKER

Whenever the topic of having a third child comes up, whether it’s during a fleeting, “wouldn’t it be nice if…?” moment, or in response to a well-meaning friend asking if we’re going to be trying for a daughter to ‘complete’ our family, my husband’s response is always the same; “I couldn’t go through that again!” While those in our company will, more often than not, react with nervous laughter and shocked looks, the truth is that I can see behind his cheeky smile, and I know he’s only half joking. You see, my husband is hurting just as much as I have been, and still am; postnatal depression hasn’t just haunted me, but our whole family. When I briefly think how wonderful it would be to add another child to our family, or how much I miss being pregnant, the anxiety and depression that I felt while I was expecting both of our little boys, and the feelings of dread that I still get now, are enough to remind me that I’d only be trying to ‘get it right this time’, and that’s not fair on anyone. Read More

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