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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.

Masking PND

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.


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My PND Recovery: Talking, Tea and Tambourines

PND, PTSD and Post-Natal Anxiety – This Is Family

Find Your Tribe!

There’s lots of information and advice out there about post natal depression. One of the things that’s harder to find is the honest and brutal truth about what it feels like when you suffer from PND. It’s a difficult thing to talk about. But doing so can make other mums feel less alone. And help us all understand it more.

We have pulled together some candid and honest words from mums about what it’s like to have PND. Many are from interviews and blogs that Emily, our co-founder and a mental health campaigner, put together for Mummy links, which was the app she ran before joining Happity.

Opening Up About The Hard Stuff

Many of the words from mums are confronting and challenging. They tell the honest and brutal truth about how mums feel. The more we open up and really talk about PND, the more we can learn. And the more we can demand better support for new mums.

It’s important to know that, however hard it feels, you CAN and WILL recover.

It’s OK To Not Be OK

PND can happen to anyone and it is NOT your fault. But there’s still a lot of stigma attached to it Here’s what mums had to say:

  • “This is not how it was supposed to be or how I thought it would be and I felt like such a failure because of that”
  • “I wish more people understood that it can so come out in anger or anxiety. I’m not trying to be mean or annoying. I am actually just not feeling okay”
  • “I thought ‘Were social services going to take him away?'”
  • “The overwhelming fear for a mum may be “If someone thinks I can’t cope they’ll take my baby away” which can be more crippling than the shame”
  • “It is something that can happen to any parent – and can often be the one who looks like they’re coping and has it all together”
  • “When I was struggling the most, I made the biggest effort to look like I had it together”
  • “Masking is a very common way that women /mothers manage symptoms….so sad as it means feeling even lonelier and isolated”
  • “I felt like a failure for having it and that there was something wrong with me. Why wasn’t I over the moon at having my little rainbow baby and relishing in every moment spent with her? Instead I was feeling down and miserable all the time. I wish I would’ve known that it’s okay to feel like that, my suppressing it and ignoring it made it 100x times worse”
  • “Let’s normalise not being OK. And let’s normalise getting help. It’s time to stop making mums feel guilty for not coping”.
  • “We definitely need to talk about this more, as too many mothers blame themselves when it isn’t their fault”
speech bubbles on a blue background

The Brutal Truth About PND

The honest truth is that having PND can be very frightening. As a result, you can be taken to some dark places. You can feel desperate and broken. These most confronting brutal truths are the things we talk about least as they’re the very hardest things to say out loud.

In an interview with The Guardian, Emma Jane Unsworth, opened up about the brutal truth of PND, saying:

I am jumpy and twitchy, like a person on high alert. I want to shout and scream and lie down and curl into a ball and have someone – anyone – just take the baby for a few hours and give me time to regroup. I’m feeling like I am on the edge of a psychic fit; some uncontrollable outburst….I feel, for the first time in my life, like it would sometimes be easier to just be dead. (At least then I could sleep.)

The Guardian, Emma Jane Unsworth

Incredibly tough feelings to admit. And incredibly tough feelings to feel too.

It’s important to remember, when you have intrusive thoughts, that it’s the PND talking, not you.

Finding a safe and supportive space to talk about them is one of the most vital things for any new mum suffering. When you get help you will be able to stop feeling this way and start to feel more like you again.

The Brutal Truth: Saying The Unsayable

Here are some of the things mums want to say about how they felt, which feel ‘unsayable’:

  • “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this”
  • “I’ve just wanted someone to take him away because I couldn’t do this”
  • “I’ve not felt how everyone said I would feel. I didn’t love him”
  • “I hate being a mum”
  • “At times, I regretted having him”

They say them so that anyone else feeling this way will feel less alone. And less ashamed. To recognise these feelings as symptoms of PND. And to know that they can get help so that they stop feeling like this and start recovering.

Voices Of Recovery

women holding up speech bubbles

One of the bravest and most important steps anyone suffering with PND can take is to reach out for help. Once you’ve taken that first step you can begin your road to recovery. It might not be a quick journey but you WILL get there in the end. And that’s really important to remember.

Here are what mums want you to know about recovery from PND:

  • “Support is paramount, it’s not a weakness to ask for help. It’s the bravest step”
  • “Having suffered so bad, I wish no one else ever would or is! The worst two years of my life.It’s so important for individuals to speak out and seek help.  There is light at the end of the tunnel”
  • “It takes time. And lots of strength. You can also take one step forward and then two steps back. But keep going because you can do it”
  • “(In recovery) every day/week you begin to feel a bit more like you and more able to enjoy being a mum”
  • “The journey out of it was long and hard but I’m so glad I kept going. YOU can do it too”

To find out how to take that first step and reach out for help head to our PND page

More About PND

16 Things Mums With PND Wish You Knew

How To Tell If It’s PND Or Baby Blues

My PND Recovery: Talking, Tea and Tambourines

Do you know five parents? Chances are that one of them is struggling with a mental health issue. And the likelihood is that most of them struggled with loneliness as some point this week. PND, for example, affects up to 1 in 5 mums and 1 in 10 dads. It’s incredibly common, yet many of us don’t realise.

Help is available. You are not alone.

We have pulled together this resource page to sign-post to anyone struggling (or supporting anyone struggling) where find help and PND support. 

If You Need Urgent Help:

  • Talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor
  • Head to A&E or call 999
  • Chat to the Samaritans: 116 123 (for free and won’t appear on your phone bill) 
  • Chat to Mind: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm)
  • Contact PANDAS: 0808 196 1776 (11am-10pm, specifically for post-natal mental health)

Why Is Mental Health Support Important To Us?

We know, first hand, what it’s like to struggle as a new parent. And that’s why ensuring every parent gets the support they need is at the heart of all we do here at Happity.

Both our co-founders, Sara and Emily, found early motherhood hard. Sara experienced a traumatic first birth and flashbacks. Emily struggled with post-natal depression and anxiety after the birth of her son.

Their experiences led Sara and Emily to create Happity and to campaign for greater awareness, so that others don’t have to feel alone like they did.

PND support and help is out there. And we want to make it as easy as possible for every parent who needs it to find it.

Find Help And Support For PND And Maternal Mental Health:

In the first instance it is always a good idea to talk to your GP or health visitor. They can listen to how you are feeling and the symptoms you are experiencing and can discuss treatments and support. This might include talking therapy or medication.

We are aware that mental health services are in high demand and are underfunded and that you might need to wait to start any therapy. Which is hard. When you need help for PND or another maternal mental health issue you need it now.

If you have to wait to start counselling or to access therapy then there are loads of great charities and support groups that you can contact. So that you can get the help and PND support you need quickly.

NHS

The NHS has some guidelines on Post Natal Depression including symptoms and how to get help.

PANDAS

The PANDAS Foundation helps, supports advises any parent who is experiencing a perinatal mental illness. They also inform and guide family members, carers, friends and employers as to how they can support someone who is suffering. They have a free helpline, available 7 days a week from 11am to 10pm – 0808 1961 776. You can also access free & anonymous text support. Text the word ‘PANDAS’ to 85258. You can also contact the by email. There are PND support groups too and plenty of further advice on their website.

APNI

The APNI (The Association For Postnatal Illness) helpline is available for anyone affected by Postnatal Illness, new parents finding things tough and in need of advice, support or just some reassurance and a confidential chat about what is going on for you, available Mon-Fri 10am-2pm. Tel : 0207 386 0868. Or Chat live via on www.apni.org

Naytal

Naytal provide provide one-to-one pregnancy & postnatal counselling. They have a selection of dedicated pregnancy and postnatal services to find find the right specialist to support your needs. They provide instant online therapy and counselling to support you through any emotional challenges you are facing.  

House Of Light

House of Light offer support and counselling for antenatal/postnatal depression and anxiety. You can phone their helpline (open Monday – Friday 9am -5pm) 0800 043 2031. Or email them [email protected]

Hub of Hope

The Hub of Hope is the UK’s leading mental health support database. They bring local, national, peer, community, charity, private and NHS mental health support and services together in one place. You can put in your postcode and be directed to mental health support near you.

Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP)

APP offer support for mothers suffering with Postpartum Psychosis, which is a severe mental illness that appears suddenly after childbirth. Symptoms often include hallucinations, confusion, mania, delusions and depression. It affects over 1400 women each year. Experiencing postpartum psychosis can be extremely frightening and distressing. APP offer a peer support service, including online forums, social groups and creative workshops. You can contact them on 020 33229900.

Birth Trauma Association

A charity that supports women who have suffered birth trauma. They have a team of peer supporters as well as a supportive Facebook group. You can contact them by email [email protected]

Have You Seen That girl?

This website, blog and movement is dedicated to raising awareness of Perinatal Mental illness. It provides hope and help for struggling families, and campaigns for better services and support for all.

Further help and support for new mums

It’s not just mental health that parents can struggle with. Many parents struggle to connect with their baby after the birth. Babies1st offers Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) to help parents to bond with their baby. 
By building on positive moments, VIG helps parents become more confident, attentive and attuned. This results in happier parents and happier babies. To find out more head to Www.Babies1st.net

What it feels like to have PND

Mental health struggles can be different for everyone. Emily created this video, with the help of her (as was MummyLinks) community, to help everyone understand what struggling with PND can be like:

PND Support

And this video provides some insight from those working to help parents struggling:

Blogs about PND

Emily has written a number of blogs during her MummyLinks days on mental health, and we’ve had some great contributors too. Find some useful blogs below:

Can loneliness lead to post natal depression?

Five reasons you need mum friends

Is postnatal depression a millenial issue?

If postnatal depression was a male issue would it be higher on the agenda?

Is it just new mums that struggle?

A blog for all the amazing parents fighting for and against PND

A dad’s view on loneliness

1 in 4 Women struggle with mental health during pregnancy

16 things mums with PND wish you knew

How to tell if it’s PND or baby blues

What does a mum with PND look like?