28/04/2019 by Emily
Maternal Mental Health week kicks off on 29th April this year and it’s a week I am passionate about supporting. I am a great believer in sharing my experience to help parents currently struggling, or those looking to support them, understand a bit more. So here is my experience…
When I had my son 4 years ago I struggled with terrible post-natal depression and anxiety.
But I hid away. I went from being a confidence and ambitious woman, to a nervous new mum who tried her best not to be left alone with her baby, and got panicky about the thought of her best friend popping round for a coffee.
Luckily it didn’t take me long to realise what was going on. The difference was so pronounced that it was hard to miss. But this isn’t the case for everyone.
But even though I knew what was going on, I still felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. That I’d let me son down, my husband down, my family and friends down. Most of them were supportive, but let’s be honest a number of them weren’t. And that made it ten times harder. Comments to “pull yourself together”, “everyone is tired”, or “you just can’t be bothered” shattered me. I’d been trying my hardest every waking moment to “pull myself together”. That’s what in hindsight actually made it worse – if I had just known how normal this feeling was and that I could get help I might have stopped beating myself up about it and recovered sooner.
But instead I battled on for a good (or bad!) two years. Pretending to be fine to many. And hiding away in my house when I just couldn’t face the world. Most of the friends and family don’t know the half of it. Because they only saw me when I was ok.
Most of them didn’t know that hardly a day, let alone a week, could pass without me wanting to run away. I truly believe that my baby and my husband would be better off without me. One less person to look after and worry about.
But I’m glad that I didn’t run away – or worse – but there were times when it was close. Luckily that isn’t the end of my story. I started to get better, and started to talk to mum friends about my experience. And unsurprisingly, given the stats of 1 in 4 mums struggling, I found that so many of my friends had experienced similar struggles themselves. Most thankfully not as bad, but a few even worse.
And that in itself made me feel a bit better. Not because they suffered too – I wouldn’t wish a mental health issue on anyone – but because it showed that they understood. They didn’t judge me. And it helped me understand that it wasn’t “just” that I was an awful mother and person.
So since then I have been creating my own silver lining.
I am now on a mission to ensure that no other mum should have to feel like I do.
This started by speaking out about my experience on Channel 4 in 2017, and since then it has grown and grown. I’ve even shared some blogs with the Huffington Post! Each time sharing my story to help mums currently struggling to know that they are not alone. And also, fundamentally, to help those around them who may be giving them a hard time, to know that it is normal – it’s awful and hard work for those supporting them yes – but it’s not their fault.
Launching #ShoutieSelfie to kick off Maternal Mental Health Week in 2017 was a steep learning curve but a great way to get people across the UK (and beyond!) to show their support for mums (and dads!) struggling. You can find out more about this year’s campaign here.
I also found that loneliness can be a cause of PND and other mental health issues, so I started a facebook group to help mums support each other, and finally launched a free app in June 2018 called MummyLinks!
MummyLinks was the safe place to meet mums for local playdate (now it’s incorporated under the Happity brand with our new app!).
If you want to see more updates about #ShoutieSelfie and Happity please follow us on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or you can sign up for updates here.
If you’ve too struggled why not share your story to help others? Or if you are currently struggling please know that you are not alone. There are parents out here who understand you.
Chat to your GP and get help.