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/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/recoveryandbaby
Love and Smiles
If you, or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression, please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306