Emily Tredget, one of the co-founders of Happity, suffered with severe PND and anxiety following the birth of her son. It made her feel ‘like a failure’ but once she started to recover she wanted to help other mums overcome the illness. Here, she shares her story of recovery from PND. In the hope that no other mum has to feel like she did. And – if they do- they know how and where to get help and that they will get better.
Masking the truth
When you look at the photo above, what do you see?
A happy mum holding her gorgeous baby boy?
Sometimes a picture can tell a thousand lies.
I look so happy in this photo but inside I was suffering. Behind the smile I was in the midst of severe postnatal depression and anxiety.
This photo was taken just before going to my friend’s wedding.The build up to going had been tough. I had been hiding myself at home and had not felt able to face the world without having a panic attack. Before going to this wedding I had spent weeks over-analysing everything and meticulously planning ways to ‘escape’ if my PND overwhelmed me.
From a confident woman to an anxious wreck
Before I gave birth I was a confident, go-getter, yes-type person. An extrovert who loved working as part of a busy team. You could throw anything at me and I’d find a way to make it happen. With enthusiasm and drive.
When PND took hold even the thought of meeting my best friend for coffee flooded me with anxiety.
I was also exhausted. Not just the usual sleep deprivation that all new mums face but a fatigue that completely floored me. When my baby son slept at night I lay awake with crazy adrenalin and intrusive thoughts. I was surviving on about one hour’s sleep a night.
I couldn’t be left alone with my baby boy
It got to the stage where I was feeling so shaky and weak that I couldn’t be left alone with my baby. I was terrified that I would faint or have a panic attack when I was alone with him. It really affected how I bonded with him. I didn’t feel that rush of love that other mums talk about and that made me feel like a failure. And like I had to hide it from the rest of the world.
The first steps to recovery
I suffered for months before finding professional help. I did go to my GP very early on and talked about how I was feeling but because I was so ‘articulate’ (their words not mine!) about how I was feeling and what I was doing to help myself I don’t think they picked up on how bad things really were. I was given sleeping tablets to help with the insomnia but it was a little while before I was able to access specialised help to treat postnatal depression and anxiety.
Recovery from PND – it’s good to talk
When I talked to my GP I was offered medication. I know that this helps for many but I chose to try talking therapy first. I found that relational dynamic therapy was the key to my recovery. It was not a quick ‘fix’ by any means, but slowly I started to feel more like myself and more able to process how PND, anxiety and post traumatic stress had affected me. And to work towards my recovery.
The turning point
One of the big turning points in my recovery was accepting how I was at the time. I was so desperate to try and get better. My husband too wanted to try lots of things to fix everything. And when both he and I started to accept who I was in the moment it helped a lot. My husband told me ‘I love you. I will be with you. If this is what you are like for the rest of your life, that’s fine. I’m with you.’ And that took the pressure off. Instead of constantly trying and willing myself to get better I took things day by day. And it worked.
If you suffer from PND, you’re NOT alone
Having suffered from PND I wanted to help others. And so I set up an app called MummyLinks, which helped mums beat loneliness through meet-ups. A couple of years later MummyLinks and Happity joined forces which has been an amazing journey. Our mission is to combat loneliness by connecting parents through baby and toddler classes. Loneliness can be a real trigger for postnatal depression — it was certainly a big part of it for me. That’s why connecting parents is at the heart of all we do. Because it makes a real difference.
You can and will get better
If you are suffering with PND it is important to know that you will get better. You do have to put in the work and get help through counselling, medication or therapy. It’s a journey. Made better by surrounding yourself with people who understand. But you will get there in the end.
We have loads of information and advice about how and where to get support. Start by checking our PND page.
The first step – admitting and asking for help – is often the hardest. But it’s also your first step towards recovery from PND and so the best step to take.