Guest Post – Lex Gully on her experience through PND & PTSD

A huge thanks to our Guest Blogger –  Lex Gully, a London mum of one who bravely shares her experience of PND and PTSD below.  

Hey there, I’m Lex, I have a 16 month old boy, myself, my baby and partner are on a journey of my mental health recovery. Here is how it started…

My birth was traumatic in a nutshell no pain relief worked at all, it meant that when I had my emergency c section I felt every single thing. As soon as my son was taken out of my belly I was put to sleep. In that split second all I saw was his little bum and then nothing for nearly 48 hours. The traumatic birth resulted in my milk not coming through (this is what I was told, not what I believed at the time), despite spending nearly a week glued to a double electric breast pump in neonatal. Already just a few days after my son was born the nightmares started so I feared sleeping, I felt too exhausted and nauseous to eat, and I cried all the time, every time my baby cried I took it as a personal rejection from my son. I thought he hated me because I couldn’t breast feed. I told the midwives on the ward how I felt but I was continuously told this was normal after the birth I went through and I just needed rest. I’m not being funny, but rest with a new-born? Even if my partner took over I still worried about my baby and was up all night.

That is how it started for me, my symptoms got progressively worse, I had psychology throughout my pregnancy and at my follow up appointment after birth she told me I had post-traumatic stress disorder and postnatal depression and that I needed to see a psychiatrist asap. I had a mental health assessment done at my home where it was agreed I would get daily visits from a mental health nurse and started on medication and intense psychological therapy. I got worse and worse and worse. Nothing was helping, no drugs, no therapy, the nightmares, the flashbacks the colicky baby, my partner working such long shifts, I have no family and was scared to speak to friends. It was horrendous. No one wanted to admit me to an acute psychiatric unit because I would severely kick off when apart from my son, I battled with the feelings that he hated me and put intense pressure on myself for him to accept me as his Mum so never ever let myself be apart from him. I was so unwell and confused, didn’t know whether to die or force myself to be the perfect mother. The guilt was crippling.

Enough was enough, I was admitted to an acute psychiatric unit, put on new medication, forced to sleep with a load of sleeping tablets, encouraged to eat and in a week there was a huge dramatic change. Then my saving grace happened where my whole world changed forever. I was referred to a mother and baby unit (MBU), a psychiatric hospital catered for Mums and their babies. My son was six months old by this point, I had attempted to kill myself three times, was covered in scars and underweight. This place saved my life, there were other Mums there like me, and I wasn’t alone! I finally learnt that it wasn’t my fault! My baby didn’t hate me! I was supported in looking after my son, they built my confidence up so much, I am forever grateful to the nurses and doctors that worked there.

Now I am six months out of the mother and baby unit, it has been very rocky, it was a hard transition leaving the MBU (I was there for 5 months), but I am getting there. I am taking one day at a time. Mental illness affects different people differently, in so many ways. There are different contributing factors, different symptoms. For me I have a mental health history, traumatic childhood, traumatic birth which all contributing to me becoming unwell. I was lucky, I didn’t have to speak up too much for healthcare professionals to notice at the beginning, however I have always been honest about my feelings, no matter how dark because I learnt quickly that no one can read your mind. If you speak up, you will get help, things can be changed, adjusted, support can be put in place. There is always scope for things to improve. To anyone reading this who feels they are suffering with increased anxiety or depression after having their child, speak to someone and let it out, that is the first biggest step. Don’t be scared, it’s hard I know, the fear of being judged is so intense but I never have been. You are not alone.

Lex has her own blog – https://borderlineandbaby.wordpress.com/

Vlogg – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8tQKpnXYH72jxLYacXHcew

Twitter – https://twitter.com/recoveryandbaby

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

If you, or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression, please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306

 

 

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On The Circle of Security….

When I became unwell with postnatal depression, I would often have reoccurring thoughts that something bad would happen to my baby.  These scary and intrusive thoughts stopped me from leaving the house, stopped my son exploring his new world, which I came to realise is a need, and, had a negative impact on our early bonding. Looking back, I now realise these thoughts and my behaviour was very limiting for both my son and I. 

Part of my journey through counselling sessions with my psychologist, was to talk about the scary and intrusive thoughts I was having, and, how I could overcome them.  We also talked about how I could improve the bond between my son and I.  My psychologist suggested to me that I would greatly benefit from attending an eight-week program called The Circle of Security.  I had never heard of The Circle of Security and was keen to do anything that would help me become well again, and, also, reconnect with my son.  I went home after that appointment and did some research on the topic.

I found out that the Circle of Security was based on more than 50 years of research and was founded by friends, Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman and Bert Powell, who worked together in clinical practice for many years.  They essentially, designed a program to enhance the attachment security between parents and children, by looking at the child’s needs.  In essence, when a child’s needs are met, they become secure children who tend to be happier, solve problems on their own, have higher self-esteem and have healthy relationships with others, including their parents.   Upon reading the benefits of The Circle of Security, I immediately signed up to the program. 

I am not going to lie, I was anxious about attending the first day of the program.  I was to attend these classes on my own.  However, those feelings faded as the warm and lovely faces of the program coordinators greeted me at the door. The person running the program was a clinical psychologist so I knew I was in good hands.  I was offered a cup of tea before settling into my seat. The course was run in a group situation and I was glad I was not alone on this journey.  After settling in and going through our introductions, the program coordinators explained the methodology of the program.

In basic terms, The Circle of Security program looks at the relationship between a parent and a child in a circle, with the hands of the parents/caregivers being at one end.  These hands are open with one hand allowing the child the freedom to explore their world and the other hand providing a safe haven for the child to come back to when they need comfort and protection.  Over the course of the 8 weeks, I learnt exactly what the circle meant, in terms of the hands and I learnt a lot about my son’s emotional needs which were not being met due to my illness and about myself.  I also learnt the importance of being wiser, kinder, bigger and stronger.

I know that children don’t come with an instruction manual and knowing how to meet our children’s needs is not always easy. I have a profound amount of guilt knowing that I was not meeting my son’s needs when I was unwell, and, I found that the Circle of Security Program provided me with comfort knowing that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and, that good enough is just that, “good enough”.

There were aspects of The Circle of Security program that I struggled with, in particular, as a parent/caregiver we must be bigger, stronger, wiser, kind and whenever necessary take charge. However, there are times, when I am busy, tired and emotional and I may not be wholly present for my son.  It is then, that I need to remind myself about being “good enough”. I also found that at times during the program, I became emotional.  Thankfully, I was able to debrief with my psychologist at my therapy sessions.  I therefore, encourage those who wish to enrol in the program, that they have a self-care plan, which may include talking to a therapist.

In saying that, the benefits I received from attending the program were not obvious at first but later became huge improvements.  For example,

  • The recurring thoughts of harm coming to my son faded and we began to leave the house more and more.  For example, we started off with the short walks around the block and getting a coffee together at the local coffee shop. As time went on, we joined gymbaroo, the local library story time, swimming lessons and going to the park to play on the equipment.  My son’s need to explore his new world were being met.
  • I also learnt to read his cues to better understand my son and his emotional needs.
  • I learnt to sit with my son’s negative emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness etc.  To be honest, I am still not comfortable with this and I know this is something I need to work on.
  • I learnt the benefits of time in with my son rather than time out.
  • Most importantly, I was able to reconnect with my son, and for that, I am forever grateful.

COS certificate

Overall, I would highly recommend the program, particularly for those parents who have gone through challenges, like I have, such as postnatal depression. I do believe that The Circle of Security program, together with debriefing sessions with my psychologist were another factor on journey to recovery.

If you would like more information on the Circle of Security, please see the link below:

http://circleofsecurity.net/

I have also attached information about Circle of Security Parenting programs around Australia.

http://www.nsw.relationships.com.au/courses/reled/groups_library/circleofsecurity.aspx

http://www.centreforparenteducation.com.au/

https://www.mackillop.org.au/circle-of-security-western-melbourne

http://www.openground.com.au/mindful-parenting-program.html

If you or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306.

Love and Smiles

Josie xx