The second article in my guest posts series is a brilliant one by Emily on Postnatal Depression. It’s so brilliantly written and has really opened my eyes to a condition and increasing my understanding. Emily is the creator of MummyLinks as she explains in the article, it’s a community that allows mothers to meet up and create ad-hoc playdates securely.
Postnatal Depression – My Story
By Emily from MummyLinks
Do you know 5 mums? Chances are that 1 of them struggles with Post-Natal-Depression (PND). I bet you know more like 50 mums. So that’s 10 struggling with PND or another mental health issue. Do you know who they are?
I bet you don’t. Not because you’re a bad friend. But because PND isn’t something we generally talk about. It’s still a taboo topic. And even worse – when you are in the midst of it you think that there is something wrong with you and that you should hide your feelings from those around you, in case they think you’re an awful mother.
I was that 1. That 1 who suffered with PND (and also anxiety). I wasn’t expecting it, and it took me a while to work out what it was. I thought I was just an awful mum. Who didn’t say things like “gosh little Charlie was up all night…but I just look into those darling eyes and I don’t care anymore!” I cared. Or more worryingly…I didn’t.
I’d been a “success” until this point – top grades, top university, top career. Surely I could handle being a mum right? So when I found I couldn’t – and that I was struggling – it knocked me off balance. I was strong. I could just think myself out of this right? Plough on?
Triggers and Symptoms
What seemed to be the trigger for me was chronic insomnia. I remember reading an article where they had two groups of students. One group had disrupted sleep one night, and the other didn’t. They were shown various images, and those with disrupted sleep reacted much more emotionally and anxiously. ONE NIGHT. Try 9 months of “disrupted” sleep with 4-5 months of only 1 hour a night. It’s not surprising I wasn’t feeling myself. But all mums are tired right? And they cope so why can’t I?
I started to panic in the most mundane situations. In a cafe with mummy-friends. Standing in a queue at the supermarket. At the thought of being on my own. In my living room, with my son and nobody else to talk to. And I got to the point where my world was getting smaller and smaller.
Now I was lucky. I had a great support network around me to help. My family lives close by. I have amazing friends. A supportive church. And a husband who superlatives can’t do justice to. They helped with childcare, provided meals, and encouraged me to get out and about (understanding if I cancelled last minute or just had to leave suddenly if it got too much).
I remember I arranged a birthday meal as a treat night out with some mummy friends. Having ordered my drink I started to panic and burst in to tears. I just couldn’t do it. And I didn’t understand why. My friends were lovely. One walked me home and the others didn’t ask questions. That’s exactly what I needed them to do right then.
Finding the Right Help
Eventually I got help. But it took a while to get the help I was after. I wasn’t keen on medication. Maybe I should have taken it. But to me it was going to make me feel even more out of control. So I sat on a waitlist for months to talk to somebody. And try to work out why I wasn’t like all the mums around me.
It took trying various things. From CBT to talking therapy to doing more exercise and eating better, to eventually finding a great book called “Dare” and coming off the pill (try it ladies!). I started being more open with my friends. And I was astounded. The number who had struggled was ridiculous. I thought I was the only person to feel like I did. But no – when I started talking about it, they did too. They were currently struggling, or had in the past. Or if they didn’t, they knew a number of friends and family who had.
So when I started getting better I got thinking. What would have made those awful months better for me?
One of the things would have been to know that what I was feeling was not uncommon. And it didn’t make me a bad person. I needed help, but that wasn’t my fault and I hadn’t failed. I didn’t need to pretend I was ok, to hide that I didn’t feel like “adorable charlie’s mum” sitting next to me. It was just the hand I’d been dealt. I was so thankful for the support I’d received and couldn’t fathom how tough it must be for mums without this.
And this got me thinking. I started working on two projects.
Firstly, to speak out and make PND less of a taboo. This ranged from talking openly to friends – in some cases those who were pregnant to let them know that if they were unfortunate enough not to feel life was all sunshine and pink lemonade, that that was ok and I was here to chat. Whatever they said to me wouldn’t shock me anymore.
To now – talking out to those beyond my friendship network. I was interviewed on Channel 4 News, talked on local radio, and now I’m writing this (I wonder how long it will take me to press upload…). I’ve also made an awareness video (link below) with more in the pipeline. This has been scary at times – particularly pressing send to many old colleagues to ask for help with the second project mentioned below, giving them my background story – and hoping that it wouldn’t cut off all chance of working with them in the future should our paths cross.
Secondly, I have created a website (soon to be app!) called MummyLinks. It is the safe place to meet mums for local, ad-hoc playdates. Not another site to sit on the sofa chatting/arguing about how best to raise our kids. Or to collect more online friends because they fit our preferred profile. But to get us mums, off our backsides, out of the house, and out meeting local mums. Not just those who are struggling, but perhaps especially them. I hated picturing a mum like I was, stuck at home feeling like she just wants to get out and have some adult conversation – but with nobody local to meet. Let’s face it, when you aren’t feeling confident some of those baby classes just make it worse! But meeting a fellow mum for a coffee, or soft play, or at the park. That might just be manageable.
The MummyLinks App
MummyLinks will be a free app that encourages mum to meet locally, last-minute if desired (this was key for me – if somebody cancelled last minute, or I hadn’t booked a playdate in as I wasn’t sure I’d feel up to it – I could feel really lonely and down if I couldn’t find someone to meet). And crucially for so many mums – it’s secure. It’s invite only, which is a nightmare for marketing, but means that mums can rest assured that those they are meeting have been invited by a mum invited by a mum…
I’m really excited about where MummyLinks is going. We have mums all around the UK signing up. If you’d like to sign up (you need someone you know to already be using it to activate your account) please ask to join our facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/MummyLinks. With everyone now being just 3 degrees of separation if you encourage your trusted mum friends around the UK to join too it shouldn’t take long for you all to be approved!
I am passionate about turning the darkest months of my life into a positive. I’d love you to help me along this journey.
Sign up to await activation: www.facebook.com/groups/MummyLinks.
Awareness video: www.bit.ly/IDIDNTLOVEHIM
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support.
This post is based on a blog I originally wrote for Huffington Post