Please use the link below to donate to PANDAS. We rely on fundraising and donations to keep doing the important work we do, so anything you can give is very much appreciated.
Please use the link below to donate to PANDAS. We rely on fundraising and donations to keep doing the important work we do, so anything you can give is very much appreciated.
On the 8th September 2018, in just under a month we shall be taking on the challenge of trekking parts of the Great Wall of China. This challenge will entail a seven day hike, walking up and down steep steps and parts of the wall for around eight hours a day. We will be doing this trek with a group called ‘Charity Challenge’ who will ensure that we are safe and probably laughing at out misfortune throughout the trip. They offer complete logistical coordination for us and onset support during the trek.
We were motivated to do this challenge in order to raise money for charity due to my mother taking her own life in November 2017 after battling so bravely and beautifully with a very intense period of depression. To anyone that had known her, they would have never guessed that these dark and relentless demons were inside of her. Mummy was without a doubt the most loving, kind, generous and above all fun person that I knew. She loved Papa, my sisters, and myself more than anything and she gave us a wonderful life, and the hole that she has left in our lives is immeasurable – but the support we have had from family, friends and most importantly the mental health professionals has been unbelievable and it is so vital to us that these organisations get the funding they so desperately need.
For the past months we had thought about how we could help other people that are suffering from Pre and Post Natal Depression and we wanted to do something a bit wacky and challenging to generate widespread support, so we decided on walking the Great Wall. We are doing this in aid of PANDAS Foundation, who work with new mothers to help and support them with pre and post natal mental illnesses. We want to use this trip to raise as much money as possible to help with the research and support that new mothers desperately need, to help others in a similar situation. This charity are able to influence and change many mothers and families lives and we would appreciate any support and donations to this charity.
If any of you wish to donate I would be unbelievably grateful, even the smallest of donations can make a difference. Our virgin money giving page link is here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=PollyStuartMills&pageUrl=1
My wife Simran, or Simmy, as she is known, had a profound experience of PND four months after our first child was born in 2016. Eventually, we managed to get Simmy admitted to a mother and baby unit at a well-known psychiatric hospital. As a doctor herself she felt indescribably lost and humiliated by this, and despite all our reassurances she felt she had failed both professionally and as a mother. Ultimately she realised she needed help so she agreed to recover at the unit with our daughter.
Eventually she was given the right medication and psychiatric support to quell her anxiety. She was there for three months and I visited every evening after work to spend time with her, and help bathe and play with my beautiful daughter. Having to leave there at 8pm each night seemed to break my heart again and again.
On many occasions I sat in the car outside the security gates and wept. I hated feeling like this, so helpless and alone. She was eventually discharged before that Christmas and we were able to start being normal parents at last.
Lack of sleep as new parents is something you get used to, but it can take a big toll physically and mentally. My memory, which had always been good before, was now slipping. I would grasp for the right words in conversations, lose all concentration in meetings, and forget to take care of everyday things. PND was very insidious, the cycle of life gradually slipping in to a robotic pattern: work – home – take care of Simmy and baby – repeat. Without knowing it I had discontinued previous activities that would help lift my mood and alleviate stress.
The things that would make me laugh or took my mind off worries just wouldn’t work anymore. I felt I was struggling, but that I should hide any sign of stress from Simmy and our daughter. Lethargy was difficult to shake off. I wouldn’t call or contact my family or friends, until slowly I became a stranger to myself.
It was now over a year after our daughter was born and I knew that I was in trouble. I had experienced reactive depression before in my late-teens when my estranged, alcoholic father was sent to prison and I had struggled with this loss. On the surface I had so much to live for in my beautiful wife and our incredible daughter, so why couldn’t I be happy about this? I went to see my GP who confirmed that I was most likely experiencing a form of PND that 10% or so of new fathers can suffer from.
In talking to the GP for the first time I felt I could communicate how I was feeling to someone else and the burden felt a bit lighter. I had given up pretending that everything was alright, momentarily. As well as being prescribed medication to treat the depression, I was pointed in the direction of psychologists and services who could help. I am immensely grateful that I was able to find the support when I needed it and learn much more about PND in men.
My lack of knowledge and understanding of male PND has been changed through the PANDAS network. However, every PND dad seems to have had a common experience: no one – from the time we were there in the maternity wards, in healthcare visits, or in our workplaces – had ever asked us how we were coping as new dads.
The reality is that fathers in many cases will be there with their partners during the birth, commonly for two weeks of statutory paternity leave, and then back to work where they are expected to perform at the same high level prior to becoming new dads. A typical day can include: getting up several times throughout the night with baby; assisting partners with baby before leaving for work; performing consistently at work for the next 8+ hours as the main breadwinner whilst partners are on maternity leave; maintaining the home and looking after baby whilst their partners catch up on vital sleep, and then repeat the whole process again. Yet the mental and emotional wellbeing of fathers is not addressed anywhere near adequately enough in the crucial months following birth. No father and partner wants to feel they can’t cope, so we often mask it, refusing to communicate about it almost as if it would be an admission of failure. This is where organisations like PANDAS perform vital work and need much more highlighting for all new parents, especially those who lack a robust support network. It’s time we talked a lot more about PND – both for women and men – and that there is a way out of it with the right support.
(Names of people have been changed to protect their identity)
You never really know how life is going to play out. When I found out my wife was pregnant, I cried tears of joy. All I ever wanted was to become a dad. But little did I know, that less than a year from that moment, that I’d be crying again.
A Sudden Traumatic Birth
Much like most of my wife’s pregnancy, the birth was rather textbook. That was until the very end. We found ourselves in a cord prolapse situation which could have potentially been a dangerous scenario.
Within minutes we were rushed down to theatre. Surrounded by medical staff all holding a concerned look. I was clueless as to what was happening, but I was thinking the worst. Unconsciously I found myself being taken back to one of the worst moments of my life.
This scenario reminded me and took me back to a night out with my friend on a walk home where tragically my friend was involved in a road accident and sadly lost his life. The sadness and guilt has never left me but teamed with this, I have carried through that trauma. Anytime I find myself in a traumatic situation I’m instantly taken back to what happened.
Whilst my daughter was being born I was living what’s supposed to be one of life’s best moments, but mentally, I was reliving one of my worst.
Quickly Falling into the Grasps of Postnatal Depression
When our daughter was born I was expecting and waiting for the feeling everyone talks about of unconditional love. But instead, I felt nothing.
Initially I blamed my lack of feelings on the chaos of theatre, and later to the draining nature of having a new-born. But as the days progressed my feelings worsened. My daughter had a strong bond with my wife, but I didn’t feel the same was occurring with me. It felt mutual.
I had no bond. Just resentment. Jealousy and at times feelings of hate. At times I regretted the mere fact that she had been born. As far as I was concerned, my life was now worse because she was a part of it. Those awful feelings quickly brought on a dreaded sense of guilt and that made the matters worse.
Getting on the Road to Recovery
Fortunately, in a way, I’ve suffered with depression previously. So, I knew that those feelings could be temporary and would pass. They were fixable. I knew I needed time and hope.
I did everything that I could. I spoke to my Dr and asked for medications. I absorbed the role of being dad to help bond with my daughter. All I could do was hope. Hope that one day things would change. Hope that one day I could love my daughter like other people loved their children. Fortunately, that hope finally turned up.
Finding Hope in a Smile
When you’re in the deepest grasps of depression, it’s hard to see hope through the bleakness of the world. But it’s there. For me it came in a smile. Propped up on my arm and feeding, down to a nappy in our minimal British heat wave, in that moment I saw that she liked me. Something I hadn’t felt for the 8 weeks prior. It was the thin string of hope I needed to be able to cling to.
It gives you something to look to when a bad moment comes. Something to show to yourself that things can be good. One single smile sparked a hope that I could love my daughter. That a feeling could grow. I clung to that hope. At times it was the only thing that kept me going. I knew if I could feel it once, then I could feel it again. And that’s what I needed to keep going.
Find your piece of hope to get you through the dark days
Darkness can befall us at any time in our life, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be there forever. Hope is a powerful thing. It’s the speck of light in the abyss that gives you something to focus on. It’s the lowering hand reaching out to pick us up. And for me, it was a single smile that told me everything would eventually be ok.
Now my daughter is 15 months old. And how I feel now is vastly different to how I felt in those early days. To anyone out there that is struggling, just try to find a piece of hope to cling to. Use it to get you through the dark days when the whole world feels like it’s collapsing. Things can get better. You just need something to help show you the light.
You can follow Ross on his journey as a father via his parenting blog, Isablog
Hold on pain ends.
I hope one day I will wake and feel alive.
I hope one day I will feel like I do want to thrive.
Hope is wishing for the best.
Hoping to be rid of this mess.
I hope one day I will feel like a good mum.
A Mum my daughter deserves.
Finally overcome my nerves.
I hope one day I will look back and think… I have overcome the dark times.
Sing a nursery rhyme without wanting to cry all the time.
I hope I wake from this nightmare.
I hope these thoughts will disappear.
I hope with support I won’t feel like I want to run away
Hope is a word so strong.
We face struggles, being strong is all we have, for you don’t know strength until you have struggled.
You don’t have to do it alone.
Hope is something we wish for, for so long.
Hoping to be better.
Hold onto hope it’s sometimes all we have.
This does not have to be your end.
Hold on pain ends.
To follow Kerry and her blog please go to Twitter @KTmummy
My hope is to live in a world where maternal mental health issues are understood and not stigmatised.
Where all mums and dads are valued for the work they do looking after their kids, and where parenting isn’t judged. We are all just muddling through, doing the best we can, and some days that means a TV day and fishfingers for tea.
When I became a mum three and a half years ago my world changed. But to start with, not for the better. I was thrown into a world of sleep deprivation, crying and survival. Not my son’s lack of sleep, crying, or survival. But mine.
I had lost all hope. I was surviving on 1 hours sleep a night due to insomnia. Eating tons of rubbish or nothing at all. I never wanted to be left alone with my son, or to leave the house due to anxiety.
I felt depressed because I didn’t have choices anymore. Anxiety made even the simplest tasks impossible. I got to the point where I wanted to run away or end it all, but with the right support from family, friends and my local mental health service I started to see the hope again. I lost sight of the hope many times, but it would always come back, and stronger than before.
When I look back on those days now it makes me sad. I feel like I lost two years of my son’s life to anxiety and depression. Some days or weeks my brain has completely forgotten. But it also makes me proud. Proud to see how far I have come. Those days do not define me.
I now love my son to bits and we have a great bond. I took him to a local theme park a few months ago, something that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do as crowds, queues and motion had been too much for me for so many years. Crowds and queues felt unbearable.
I posted about that day on my social media, because it came a week or so after I launched a free app called “Mummy Links” to help mums, and soon after, fathers. I beat loneliness through safe and local playdates. But I wanted to tell the world how I was infinitely prouder of taking my son to that theme park, than I was of launching an app.
I wanted to share my story to give hope to all those mums and dads struggling now. Whether it’s physically, mentally or emotionally. You have got this. Yes it is tough. And yes, you do need help (go get it if you haven’t already – we weren’t meant to do this life on our own like we so often believe.) You will come out the other side.
My work focus helped me concentrate on functional aspects of myself and my life. I believe my experience can and will help other mums struggling. This gave me a sense of purpose that I had lost.
If you are struggling, don’t focus on what you aren’t doing. Truly accept who you are now, get the help you need, and take one day at a time. It wasn’t until I accepted that I wasn’t going to be the supermum I wanted to be, that my anxiety lifted, my depression reduced, and I finally started to recover.
I got my hope back piece by piece by working on MummyLinks to help others. And my hope today is that I can help give hope to the many mums and dads struggling out there right now by helping them create their local support community; to know that it will be ok, but that for now, it is ok not to be ok.
I am your PND sister, take my hand, walk with me and listen when I say: “You are enough, you are an amazing mother and you will find happiness again.”
Wendy Reynolds, founder of Nap Time Natter talks beautifully about Hope during and beyond mental health illness
For mothers suffering with postnatal depression, every day is a struggle. As the weight of the dark cloud presses down on you, anxiety bubbles in your stomach and scary thoughts occupy your exhausted mind, enjoying time with your baby can feel impossible and life sometimes feels unbearable. Just like childbirth, postnatal depression is different for every Mum who experiences it; your friend had a c section, you had a waterbirth; your friend feels she hasn’t bonded with her baby, you feel suicidal.
Postnatal depression can vary from Mum to Mum and each woman’s recovery will be different, but there is one thing all mums need to help them transform back into the happy person they were before: hope. I’m not just saying this, I’ve been there. I’ve sat on my bed at 3am, crying because my baby wants milk and I don’t want to feed him, I just want to sleep and that makes me feel guilty. I’ve been the Mum who is so anxious that her baby will pass away in his sleep that she checks his breathing every time she walks past his cot and doesn’t sleep because she fears the worse will happen if she doesn’t remain vigilant. I’ve been the Mum who’s cried for days on end, who has been full to the brim with anxiety and who’s mind has tortured her with terrifying thoughts. On the darkest days, when thoughts of death whizzed around my mind like an annoying fly trapped in my bedroom, I frantically tried to grasp on to something to stop me falling into the black abyss and that lifesaving aid was always hope.
If I wanted to live a life free from postnatal depression, I had to have hope that such a life existed and was waiting for me in the very near future. I had to believe my smiles wouldn’t always be forced, that my default mood would not always be set to sad and I had to have hope that things would get better. I tried not to let my faith in a happier life with my family slip, I held on to it as tightly as I could and desperately searched for it on those extremely hard days when my confidence for a postnatal depression free life had almost extinguished completely. If you are struggling to find hope, if you are listening to the lies your depressed brain is telling you and feel like you are not good enough, there are several places you can find a reassuring hand that will guide you along the path back to happiness. Speaking to your midwife or a health professional can help, as can confiding in your loved ones about how you are feeling. Living your life behind a facade of happiness is exhausting, stop trying to disguise how you are really feeling and set your feelings free. Professional advice, helplines and charities, medical intervention, kind words and support from family and friends can only get you so far, the people who can provide you with the greatest source of hope are the mothers who have lived through this hell too. These courageous women are your PND sisters, they have fought similar battles to you, they have walked this path before you ever knew you would have to place a toe on it. These mums can supply you with endless streams of empathy and understanding of how hard life with postnatal depression can truly be. These women are warriors, they found themselves drowning in the darkness that you are trapped in now but managed to pull themselves up and resurface into the light.
Reach out to your PND sisters, they are in Facebook groups, online forums, stay and play sessions in your local church and charity run support groups, they might even be women you already know. Listen, read, breath in their stories, let their words of life after the storm flood your body with hope. Catch hold of their happiness and believe, really truly believe, you will feel content in your life again soon. One day you won’t rely on your PND sisters so much and, in time, you will be the warrior a struggling mum needs to hear about, your experience of postnatal depression and recovery will be the story they need to hear.
By talking and sharing our stories, we are scattering around hope to all the mums that need it, this is me scattering some to you. I am your PND sister, take my hand, walk with me and listen when I say: “You are enough, you are an amazing mother and you will find happiness again. I did it and so can you, promise.”
You can follow more from Wendy on the below links
Instagram – @wendy_naptimenatterblog
Twitter – @naptimenatter
Facebook – Naptime Natter
“There is hope, its all around you. You just can’t see it yet. Give yourself time and don’t give up”
Sara Shields talks about her experience of PND following the birth of her child over 3 years ago
My darkest days following Arthur’s birth felt hopeless. Days and nights blurred into one and when I wasn’t feeling exhausted, I was numb. Going through the motions of parenthood, putting on the show that was expected of me. Faking it until I made it. Or at least, I hoped.
That was the only hope I had, I hoped no one would notice just how depressed I was and howanxious I had become. I didn’t want to count how many times I couldn’t even look at my beautiful baby. I became robotic, I met his basic, physical needs but emotionally I could not be there for him.
I didn’t want to talk to my family or friends through fear of being judged. My husband saw it, I can’t imagine it was a pleasant watch for him.
I remember thinking that I was always going to feel like this forever, my body broken from child birth and my mind in tatters for reasons I could not identify.
That was 1287 days ago and I am no longer that person, post-natal depression has not defined me. I’ve even had another baby since and I was well post birth.
What I needed was for someone to come to my doctors surgery with me, to help me say the words.
Most importantly I needed time, 3.5 years later and I feel like myself again. A place I never thought I would get to.
If you can’t find hope within your darkness, allow someone to find hope for you, by talking about your feelings or writing them down. I found PANDAS email support service invaluable during my depression. A special shout out to Anne Marie who took time out with her own life to chat with me.
There is hope, its all around you. You just can’t see it yet. Give yourself time and don’t give up.
You can read more of Sara’s writing on her blog below https://sarapops.wixsite.com/notanother_mumumblog
Ten weeks after giving birth to my second child, in 2013, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND).
‘‘The happiest time of your life!” Everyone kept saying to me. But how could I feel happy with feelings of isolation and loneliness?
Happy with my beautiful bundle, I secretly hoped I would feel like ‘me again.’ But it didn’t happen. I tried to breastfeed, but it didn’t work for us. My baby’s weight continued to plummet and we were eventually admitted into hospital for monitoring for my daughter’s weight loss.
Everyone around me painted a picture of success being measured through breast feeding.
I attended a breast feeding group and felt ignored; their happy pictures they portrayed of breast feeding and weight gain just contributed to my low mood. I couldn’t turn to anyone. My GP advice of ‘if you don’t want to go out stay in, you don’t have to go out’ made me feel worse.
3 months in and I couldn’t face the school run. I felt hopeless. The thought of leaving the house filled me with panic and I hid when the doorbell rang. I became fearful of answering the telephone and couldn’t open mail because everything evoked an overwhelming anxiety that controlled me.
My Health Visitor appointment crept up and I was too frightened to go to the door. With my daughter crying in the background the Health Visitor wouldn’t leave until I had opened the door.
This visit teamed with my husband’s support proved to be the most important visit I received. She referred me to the community perinatal team who visited and registered me as a patient.
I was very unwell, looking after a 4-year-old and a new baby whom I thought I was failing. I was prescribed medication and referred to a perinatal psychiatrist to assess me. I was diagnosed with PND and social anxiety disorder. In turn, it helped having this diagnosis as I could read about my conditions and realise that it was real. Although I refused to accept this illness I wanted to know more.
As months went on I rejected Christmas, friends and going out and my health deteriorated. Luckily, my husband’s support got me through and with his help I was then admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU).
I was devastated when I was told I would be going. I had never heard of a MBU let alone been admitted to one. I had to go in voluntarily yet really there was no option for the sake of my health. Leaving my familiar surroundings was my worst nightmare. Panicking with anxiety I packed a bag and left.
3 months in and things became clearer: I found me again. I found HOPE. Gradually I started to feel safe in my surroundings and staff. Baby steps worked well for me, from leaving my bedroom door to strolling down the road with my pram smiling. It all contributed to my happiness and hope. I was delighted when I read my medical notes. Real evidence that I could, and was a ‘good’ mother, I was meeting my baby’s needs which was all I needed to boost my self-esteem.
A couple of months later I was discharged from MBU with a support network around me. Nevertheless, after the initial euphoria my mood plummeted again and that is when I found PANDAS Foundation.
I joined the online closed group and received immense support from volunteers and peers and when I was at my darkest points they virtually saved me. I learned that I was ‘good enough’ and that my illness caused intrusive thoughts which could be managed. The PANDAS Foundation were a real life-line and through the group I then started to work for PANDAS within training. This focus and their belief in me helped in my recovery enormously. I honestly believe without PANDAS I would not have recovered to the stage I am at.
My experience of PND was very closely tied in to feelings of failure as a mother. I felt that admitting I had it was like admitting failure and inadequacy. I now know that breastfeeding is a small percentage of being a mother; there’s love, security and warmth. The list is endless, but it is the whole package that counts.
Despite outward appearances, lots of people are going through struggles that we know nothing about. I do my best everyday to look out for those parents.
Many mums struggle and a kind word or a helping hand can do wonders when someone is desperate. Good Enough is fine.
“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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