Poynton PANDAS

Poynton PANDAS
"We truly believe that when you talk to others who have been through similar things, you take the first step on the road to recovery"

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

My anxiety started soon after I knew I was pregnant.

It started out with normal worries about making sure I was eating the right things, and most significantly, not eating the wrong things. The anxiety slowly increased and soon worries about what I was eating, or had touched and then put my hand near my mouth turned into catastrophising and at times, overwhelming panic. I even convinced my doctor that I needed to be tested for listeria having touched something that hypothetically could have carried the bacteria – despite washing my hands repeatedly afterwards. 

Strangely, despite bursting into tears at my initial midwife appointment and scoring low and therefore triggering at risk for PND on their questionnaire, it was never discussed again, and I kept it all to myself (and my ever patient, not knowing how to handle me mid-panic husband!) I didn’t necessarily recognise how anxious I was at the time, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. Looking back, the anxiety affected my coping with stress outside of the pregnancy too and I ended up leaving work early and getting a very stress free temp job instead in my final months. 

Unfortunately during my son’s birth, I was failed by my midwife, putting my son at risk, and resulting in me ending up in theatre. I felt real anger at the experience and mainly at myself for not feeling strong enough to trust in my own body over someone else’s opinion on the telephone. However, following the birth, all went ok. I was feeding alright, me and my husband were doing our best. We were abroad and had no family support but I felt very supported by him. 

The nature of my anxiety changed when my son was born. Soon I found myself panicking over germs and the cleanliness of everything he came into contact with. When my in-laws visited I later found out they spoke to my husband as they were concerned about me, but the anxiety was never really openly recognised above that. It was just something I muddled along with, managing ‘risk’ where I saw it and hiding it the best I could. In time, my anxiety reduced and I became self-aware regarding the anxiety, feeling strong enough to challenge it myself when it occurred. 

About 4 months into my second pregnancy, I found the prenatal anxiety returning again, and it was beginning to affect what I would do with my son. I made the decision to self refer to a local charity, and took part in a four session group CBT class. I was educated on the principles of CBT and sent off home to complete the homework and manage my thoughts and feelings. With the self awareness I had gained and the insight of being able to look back at my previous experience, I was able to challenge my thoughts and self manage – although the anxiety was very much still present! I still catastrophised at times, I just felt more in control in general. Thankfully I then had a very positive birth experience where I listened to my own body and trusted in myself. I did not go on to experience any post-natal anxiety or depression second time around.

If you'd like to talk about anxiety during or after pregnancy contact us at Poynton PANDAS by emailing: psppoynton@aol.co.uk or by visiting our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/poyntonPANDAS

Sunday, 11 December 2016

My hopes for parents of the future #hopedec09

As I travel to the Houses of Parliament by train from Stockport to take part in the #HopeDec09 debate on perinatal mental health, I reflect on my own experience of postnatal anxiety and depression and the hopes I have for 2017 and beyond for all families of young children and expectant parents.

After nearly 10 years of on/off mental health issues, I have just turned 40 and I finally feel well. My 30s saw me diagnosed with burnout and signed off sick for 6 months, 4 years of infertility treatment resulting in IVF when my twins were conceived and then pre and postnatal anxiety and later on postnatal depression. I'm quite thankful to see the back of my 30s which were blighted by mental health and the constant struggle of trying to get the support I needed to recover.

Today while listening to many esteemed colleagues and speakers from the world of Perinatal Mental Health, I have reflected on my own experiences of care and think about my hopes for the next few years. I feel the time is now and that perinatal mental health is higher up on the agendas of maternity services, primary care and commissioners than ever before. I hope that the experiences I went through with struggling to access support will improve over the coming years as more money starts to come in to the systems.

Having gone through the pain of infertility and the emotional and physical pain of multiple operations and IVF, I finally conceived my twins. Whilst I was overjoyed at my pregnancy, I was given some scary statistics about the likelihood of my twins making it into the world. I went on to develop pre-natal anxiety and suffered many panic attacks from 28 weeks up until the night before my induction. I was to undergo a birth that was entirely out of my control. Twin pregnancy = consultant-led = no choices. I therefore didn't prepare a birth plan as I really didn't feel that my wishes would have been honoured. Other people were now in charge of my body and babies. 

I don't recall ever been asked about my emotional/mental health during pregnancy, birth or afterwards. The first time I was asked how I was feeling was 9 months after the twins were born by a HV. I filled in the required Edinburgh Postnatal Depression questionnaire and scored high for anxiety and moderate for depression. By this point, I knew I  had it before the questionnaire confirmed it but was hopeful I could fight the demons myself. But I  couldn't. .... No questions or support  we're offered until I went to the GP when the twins were nearly one. By this point I had lost my job due to PND and was really struggling with anxiety and depression. My illness was  now having an impact at home and my husband was struggling to hold down a very demanding full time job and look after the 3 of us. We were lost and scared and had no idea what to do. I was on medication now and was hoping that would be the answer but with very little sleep and no support, our lives were starting to fall apart. I knew nobody with this illness. I was socially isolated and alone.

It was shortly before the twins turned one when I  opened an email from the local  children's centre. They are asking for parent volunteers to come forward to begin a peer support group for parents with low mood and depression.  GPs in the area were seeing an increase in diagnoses and felt more support was needed. I went for  it and started up a peer support group called  Parents Supporting Parents over 4 years ago. This was the beginning of my recovery. It gave me a purpose outside of being a mum and I  began to meet like-minded people who were going through similar things. 

4.5 years on, the mothers we see are still struggling with the same things and with a healthcare system which doesn't  see the importance of a mother's mental and physical health. Today we heard from Dr Alain Gregoire and many others who painted a grimm picture of the importance maternity services place on mental health. Midwives are focused mainly on the physical health of mums and babies. Continuity of care is still not in place for many mums and this was my experience. I saw multiple midwives and consultants and didn't form a relationship with any of them. I was never asked how I was feeling.  I would have readily opened up had that question been asked. We have mums that come to our support group (now Poynton PANDAS) who struggle to get a booking in appointment with their midwife and don't have a Health Visitor. 

My hopes for #HopeDec09 are to put the basics in place.

#1 During booking in appointments ask questions to establish if baby was conceived through fertility treatment. IVF and infertility treatment should be a warning sign that parents have been through the mill and will need extra emotional support

#2 Ask about history of mental health of both partners at the booking in appointment

#3 Find out if the parent/s have social support networks.  Social isolation is a major contributor to perinatal mental health 

#4 Ask how the parents are feeling at EVERY pre and postnatal appointment 

#5 Allow a woman to be in control of her body and her birth. Give choice.

#6 Pathways need to be developed to incorporate the 3rd sector. The benefits of peer support are significant and should be offered as part of a recovery plan.

#7 Allow midwives and health visitors to build a relationship with their patients. Continuity of care is critical to parents opening up about their mental health

#8 Every parent to be able to access a GP, Health Visitor and the same Midwife.

Thank you Raja for organising such an interesting day and stimulating debate.

Rhiannon  - Poynton PANDAS Support Group

Thursday, 10 November 2016

"The Roller Coaster ride of Life". My experience with PND (A dad's perspective)

I’ve been married to my wife since 2009. The marriage was solid and we were financially sound with a nice house in a lovely area. We decided to start a family and after a year of trying Noah was conceived and born in August 2011. My wife had a good pregnancy with no issues or problems throughout.

My wife gave birth naturally and Noah was finally with us, Noah was always active and getting into things, never satisfied in doing one thing - after 5 minutes it was onto the next thing. Noah was very hard work for a first baby and, being first time parents, we were quickly affected by sleep deprivation. My wife was affected more due to trying to breastfeed and Noah never seemed to be full. This had a massive impact on our sleeping patterns.

Over a period of 2 months my wife became affected by constantly being told by the Health Visitor that breast was best and different techniques to try and get Noah to sleep. On a night Noah would be screaming for anything up to 2 hours or more. At that time we had no idea what was wrong or what to do for the best - completely disorientated and having little or no support. Looking back now Noah was just hungry.  After 2 months my wife was worn out and completely demoralised by how Noah was, quite often breaking down in tears or having the whole array of emotions from anger to anxiety through to making sure I did everything the way she wanted, even down to the last details of how to put a nappy on to pushing the push chair (I was very micromanaged).

As a first time dad and having no idea what was going on with my wife, or how best to look after Noah, it was very difficult for me to support my wife with her varying mood swings or erratic interpretations of what people meant when she was spoken to. Sometimes I would be reduced to sitting in a room on my own or going out, even breaking down in tears myself. It’s fair to say it was far from perfect and having to deal with this on a daily basis for almost three years was hard, frustrating and made me feel very low due to my wife's constant fluctuation of moods and arguments, which sometimes, now thinking about it, was not aimed at me.

Having no real constant family support and no one for me to talk to, I had to deal with it myself.
During this time I was back at work and hated going home due to the on-going situation. One night we had a conversation about how to get Noah to sleep and we should try a bottle now as we were coming up to 2 months and nothing was working. The Midwives never really sold the bottle idea to my wife. My advice to anyone is breastfeed for the first 2 weeks and if you're having problems, get the little one on the bottle and give yourself a break.

The first night of trying the bottle, my wife tried to breastfeed first and was falling asleep with Noah in her arms as she was that tired and exhausted. Noah had a good feed of the bottle which he took to really well thankfully. He slept from midnight all the way though to 05:30hrs (Bliss). So this sorted out the sleeping but not the separation issues or how active Noah was - he was tiring to say the least.

After about 3 years it was getting to the point where I was considering leaving my wife but I knew I had to stick with her and Noah. Nothing would be gained from leaving. This is a decision I had to make which meant just weathering the storm however I could. Sometimes it would be to do lots of things around the house, keeping busy and trying to do as much as I could to help my wife without being asked so she felt she did not have to worry so much.

Around the time Noah was aged 1, my wife’s mother was diagnosed with grade 4 tongue and throat cancer, so along with everything else, my wife needed to be supportive of her mum. However once the majority of the chemotherapy had been completed and she had been clear for a good few months, my wife wanted to keep her mum in the loop with the kids and her mum wanted to help her as much as possible. Every so often she offered to look after Noah, at this point 2 years later my wife fell pregnant with our second little boy Daniel (this was planned). For some reason this caused further tension with my wife’s mum and her ability to look after Noah revolving around child care.
This caused a family upset for whatever reason and my wife felt left out and outcast with family members saying she should not have been allowing her mum to look after Noah for a few hours, being calling selfish and thoughtless considering what her mother had just been through.

This sent my wife deeper into very low self-esteem and belief in her ability to be a good mother; feeling she could not turn to anyone for help other than her Aunty who has been a life saver though the young years of both of our little boys. At the time I felt I had to step up and address the situation speaking to her brother and mum to get a feel for what was going on which I think was very unfair and very one sided. I had to be my wife’s rock, offering her stability and control when required and sometimes reason. I tried to give her alternate ways to look at things, basically just being there for her and acting as a sounding board.

On a daily basis my wife would be very sensitive regarding how she was doing and what people thought of her at being a mother. After speaking with the family who offered little support, I contacted the doctor explaining what had been going on repeating to the doctor things my wife was saying e.g. “I’ve survived another day keeping my s*** together”.

My wife visited the doctor after being pregnant for 2 months with Daniel who said she needed to come in and speak to her regarding everything and thought her behaviour and demeanour was not normal and needed to be addressed and nipped in the bud. Luckily I found a doctor I had used before who took a real interest in the person and not just at prescribing medication to get a quick fix to the situation. At the same time my wife said she thought she was suffering from depression. It felt like we had reached a turning point and my wife attended the doctors and was prescribed Citalopram 20mg which was used to level her off. It stated it would take a minimum of 2 weeks to get in her system however I saw a change as soon as she began taking the medication. She was more relaxed, able to process and deal with situations and just take a backseat with things and was able to deal with Noah.

Things were good for a time and Daniel came along and I was better equipped this time around - it was a completely different ball game. Noah was still very hard work but my wife was feeling better. Home life was better however she was still very upset with her family and circumstances, which she still dwells on today and causes her down days.

From then until the current day things have got better but unfortunately my wife had to find her own support due to Doctors even today not being well up on outside agencies who offer support in Mental Health, and me not knowing where to start with the whole support.

My wife managed to speak with a mental health doctor who confirmed that the Citalopram was not doing anything for her and she should seek alternatives like CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
My wife felt very unsupported by the local GP which had now changed to locums who just wanted to increase the medication even though the doctor stated it would not help with her sleep or worries.
She was now living in over-drive, thinking she had to do everything and just feeling she was not coping. Again my wife would have bouts of low mood and anxiety. It almost felt like we were back at square one, with me being criticised as to what I was not doing to help out. Again I felt lost!!

Whilst at work my wife looked for alternate medication and found a PANDAS support group which offered an outlet to meet like-minded people and talk about things, getting things off her chest and mind. During this process she was also informed by a family member of a charity called “Mood Swings” based in Manchester City Centre who offered CBT. She attended Mood Swings and was able to talk things through, being offered a different way to look and manage things at home. We also enrolled on a parenting course to better our abilities/tactics to cater for Noah’s behaviour which was still very wild and virtually uncontrollable at times. I remember my wife saying she felt after the meeting at mood swings, someone finally understood her and she wasn’t going crazy. She attended a number of meeting at the charity Mood Swings & PANDAS which are specifically designed to help people with all aspects of Mental Health which was a good thing.

After a while my wife came off the Citalopram and I am pleased to say is now completely free of the medication, however we’ve had a few wobbles along the way and a few further doctors' appointments just to make sure nothing was running away with her again.

With the support of PANDAS, Mood Swings and little from me, she has managed to get back on the level again, however it has been a long and winding road to a working progress recovery.

I think what I have witnessed whilst she has been going through Anxiety/ Depression is just to be there and be a listening ear, and to try to remember a lot is not to do with you as a person. There is a lot of anger, upset and high emotions. Remember to use the doctors and review the internet for alternate support for Mental Health. Mental Health has a massive impact on the home and family life and most of the time it's uncontrolled. My wife a lot of the time did not want to feel the way she did but the low feeling just consumed her. Unless you have a good support network for yourself and the person affected, it can be a very lonely place; having no outlet to talk and download your feelings.

It’s very important for you to keep talking to each other and it is a lot easier said than done to support the person, be ready for being judged and shouted at, even over very minor situations. The main thing to remember for me was to look at the bigger picture and think of your children and repercussions of not being there for your partner. Things do get better but it is always a work in progress and it’s just recognising the signs of Mental Health if there is going to be a relapse.

Most important is just be there to listen and give advice. Believe me there have been many days and nights where you just have to listen and take everything, be ready to dive in and offer stability and plenty of hugs and understanding. It’s a bit like the matrix sometimes with depression; once you recognise the pattern you begin to understand and see what reactions and support you need to give.

For the person who is on the receiving end of depression it is very important you keep level and keep whatever routine, hobbies you have going to give you peace of mind. I know my wife kept telling me to go out with my friends and to keep in touch with people and to look after myself.

I know I’ve said it a lot but if I can do it, anyone can work though depression. It’s not nice and it’s not an easy road but if you stick with it you do start to see more blue sky days where we both enjoy the children and have good times again. We still today have a run of low days followed by not so low days and we just have to go with the flow sometimes.

Finally Noah has come of age at 5 yrs. with having consistency and consequences he has calmed down a lot and now showing his true personality due to his speech coming on leaps and bounds. This too has added stability and calmness to my wife.

PND really does affect and impact on everyone close to the person who is suffering from the illness and has a massive effect on everyone, but you can survive and come through it, just remember to KEEP GOING!!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Melanie's Story

I’m Melanie (on the right of pic), mum to 5 fabulous kids, Imogen, Jessica, Hugh, Henry, and Emilia.
All those very many years ago when I first became a mum, life was simple and good. Yes, there were breast feeding problems, anxieties about how I would look after them, sleep deprivation, etc but on the whole I could cope. Post natal groups and support was plenty, I made good friends, in fact I would say the time with my two little preschool girls was amongst the happiest periods in my life.

Then we moved and within a short time I was pregnant for the third time. I wasn’t near family and friends anymore and when he finally arrived there was no post natal group offered to me, and I began to feel increasingly alone. When I filled in a questionnaire which highlighted to the health visitor that I may have PND I got a phone call asking if I was ok. I lied, not wanting to be a failure and not wanting the stigma of mental illness and that was the end of any support. I suppose they presumed I could cope because I already had two children but the reality was different. My self esteem plummeted as I found it difficult to make friends, I became more isolated and just functioned without enjoying life, even though I had three lovely happy children. 

With nowhere to turn and with no one to talk to things got worse.
 When I became pregnant again I was still suffering from PND and after his birth my self-esteem was so low that I just wanted to disappear. I stopped eating and I did begin to disappear the weight fell off me. At first this made me feel good but I couldn’t look after all my children and not eat. I developed bulimia and this continued for years… Low self esteem led to bingeing, bingeing lead to purging, purging led to self loathing and low self esteem. I was trapped.

Then crisis point came one new year's eve when I wanted to make not existing a reality. I finally realised I needed medical help and set on the long long road to recovery. It was very difficult in truth with good days and black days but I got there, trying many different approaches along the way.

I have since been blessed with Emilia, and as an older, more confident mum it has been much easier.

I have no doubt that with more support in those early days my story would be completely different which is why when approached to help set up Poynton PANDAS I didn’t hesitate. I want other mums to have what I didn’t have, simply someone to talk to, someone who won’t judge and who will understand. It is incredibly important.

If you feel you need support email us at psppoynton@aol.co.uk

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Motherhood: Owls and daffodils and my experience of postpartum psychosis

This is my experience of the first year of motherhood. I want to tell the story as I thought it might help me to write things down but I also hope it helps others who may be going through similar things.
I had a very happy childhood, growing up in Birmingham with my Mum, Dad, and two younger brothers. I went away to university at the age of 18 to study Sport Science and went on to further my studies with a Masters degree and a PhD. I became a lecturer and researcher a few years ago, where I have enjoyed teaching and researching about physical activity and health. My Mum passed away whilst I was at university, which to be honest, I will never get over, but I have adjusted to life without her and try to live life to the full. I met my husband at university and we got married a few years ago. We enjoy travelling together and particularly enjoy climbing, cycling and mountain walking together. The decision to have children took us a while, as we were very much career focused and into our outdoor activities, which we knew would have to go on hold for a while! Nevertheless we embraced our pregnancy and were very excited about the times ahead.

My pregnancy was great! I felt healthy and carried on exercising and worked quite late into it. I was a week overdue when I started to show signs of pre-eclampsia, so I was admitted to hospital to be monitored and it was decided that I should be induced. Although it was not quite how I imagined the birth to be, I took it in my stride and was pleased that the baby would be on its way! I developed a temperature and started showing signs of an infection, so I was put on an IV antibiotic drip as a precaution to stop any infection. I went into labour on the Monday evening and started to have contractions throughout the night. To cut a long story short as I’m sure you don’t need to hear about the labour! after 36 hours, it was decided that the induction had failed and the baby was in distress. I had an emergency c-section under general anaesthetic (I couldn’t have a spinal as there was a risk of infection). 

At 6.23 am on the Wednesday 4th March 2015, our baby daughter was born.
I woke up from the general anaesthetic quite confused. This is probably quite normal, but the confusion got worse and was prolonged. I couldn’t work out what had happened to me. I had no concept of time and I couldn’t really work out where our daughter had come from. The doctors reversed the morphine pump (which I had for the pain from the c-section), incase I was reacting badly to it (this didn’t change anything). They did a CT scan on my brain to see if I had had a stroke from the pre-eclampsia (it came back negative). They continued to monitor me. By 6pm that evening we realised that we hadn’t even told anyone that our daughter had been born, as so much had been going on. I started to breastfeed, but my milk hadn’t come in. I didn’t sleep that night, or for the next few nights as time was taken up trying to comfort our new baby daughter and trying to breastfeed, but also for some reason, I just couldn’t sleep. My brain was on overdrive, I was manic. As I was quite ill and the doctors and midwives couldn’t work out what was wrong with me, I stayed on the labour ward and my husband was allowed to stay too (on a camp bed that the kind midwives had made up for him!).

The next few days are a blur. I was still in hospital, but was moved to the postnatal ward. My parents visited, I tried to breastfeed but failed. Our daughter started formula feeding. The midwives took our daughter in the night to give us a break, but I still couldn’t sleep. My husband left on the Saturday night so that he could get some sleep at home. I was awake during the night, and I became increasingly anxious and started to hear babies crying everywhere. I was convinced the midwives were talking about me outside my room, I heard chains being jangled outside my room as if someone was coming to lock me up. I asked one of the midwives what I had done and why people were coming to get me to take me away (they weren’t).

The next morning (Sunday), my husband came back and the midwives told him they were quite concerned about me, that I was very anxious and had been up all night. That morning, I was walking to the toilet across the way from my room and I collapsed. In my medical notes it says that I collapsed for a few minutes and refused to get up. In my mind it was very different…. My husband was asking me ‘why did you do it?’ and I turned round to see the midwives taking our baby daughter away to be resuscitated. I suddenly had a realisation about what I had done – I had killed our baby daughter and I was going to have to face everyone I knew and tell them.
I was lifted onto the bed and I eventually came round. My whole reality and perception of the world had shifted. I thought I was living in an afterlife and was being punished for what I had done to our daughter. My husband and best friend were there with me, but I had this tormenting feeling within me that I was going to have to admit to them what I had done. In reality, our daughter was fine and was being looked after by the midwives whilst all this was going on. Eventually when she came back into the room I didn’t believe she was mine.

I was admitted to a general psychiatric ward after telling a nurse everything that had happened whilst I had collapsed. Our daughter went home with my husband. After a week of monitoring and not believing I was still alive, I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. A rare psychiatric emergency that can happen to anyone after childbirth. The reasons for it are still largely unknown, but can be a combination of a traumatic birth, lack of sleep, influx of hormones related to childbirth and underlying psychological issues, although it can happen to anyone with no previous history of mental health issues.

Again the rest of things are a bit of a blur, I was discharged from the psychiatric unit and monitored at home. I still believed that I was living in an afterlife, and my friends and family became stranger like. I was prescribed anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety medication. My husband took time off work to look after our daughter and me. Day to day life was spent going through the motions of feeding and nappy changing, together with appointments with mental health teams, health visitors, GPs and clinical psychologists. I had delusions, I was paranoid, and I still didn’t believe I was ill. I just couldn’t make sense of the world. Certain things were very loud and in my face. The clock in our kitchen was so loud I had to take the batteries out. Birds and animals were so loud they were almost in my head. Owls and daffodils seemed to pop up everywhere! They stood out to me, almost jumped out at me and I found hidden meanings in all of these. In reality however, owls were becoming very fashionable and were on everything from socks to pencil cases and it was St Davids day in Wales where I live, so the daffodils just happened to be out in bloom! I felt as though everything was being controlled by a higher being and that something or someone was tormenting me (I have no idea who, as I am not a religious person).

Eventually I started to come round to the idea that I might be ill. But I started thinking that there was no way I was going to get better and I just couldn’t see a way out. I began to get very depressed. My mood was very low and I couldn’t see how I could get out of the mess I was in. I had intrusive thoughts about our daughter. I didn’t want to harm her, but I was scared I was going to, almost a panic and fear that I was going to do something to her. I guess this was all related to the psychotic episode that I had in hospital, I was scared that I could have another episode and what was to stop me from harming her?  I had no positive feelings towards my daughter or husband, or for anyone else for that matter and I just thought things would be better if I wasn’t here. I had no control over my thoughts. I would constantly flit between needing to get better, but not knowing how, to getting images of how I could end things. I was in a very dark place. I refused to go back into the general psychiatric ward as I was so scared of it, so I was monitored every day at home and was not allowed to be by myself. My diagnosis changed slightly to ‘severe depression with psychotic symptoms’.
Things got so bad that my husband was forced to push for more treatment. In December 2015 I started electro-convulsive therapy. I had 10 sessions. I’m not really sure how it works, but I think it kick starts the brain into working again. It is quite drastic and used as a last resort and something that was under debate a lot between my psychiatrist and my husband for quite a while. It is not something to enter lightly. It was horrible and something I never want to go through again, but it quite literally saved my life. I finished treatment mid-January 2016.

I am not psychotic anymore, but I am still recovering from the shock and realisation about what happened. My memory of the last year is so poor that I have to be constantly reminded of situations by family and friends. I see a clinical psychologist who is helping me with all this and also with my lack of feelings towards my daughter. I am so much better than I was, but it is something that will shadow the first few years of my daughter’s life. It was certainly not the happy time I thought having a child would be. I feel sad and grieve for the lost times with my daughter. However, I sometimes can’t believe how much better I feel and I get excited by the fact that I can feel excited about things! I am beginning to get some special moments with my daughter where I feel love towards her and I hang on to these knowing that there will be more to come. I have learned quite a few things over the last year…. Becoming mentally ill can happen to anyone and it is such a dark and lonely place. It is so hard to describe to someone just what you are going through and without sounding patronising, I don’t think people can really understand unless they have been through it themselves. I have also learned that I have an amazing network of family and friends, my husband is my rock, I am pretty strong, and life’s too short!

Today our baby daughter, who we named Ella Jo, is nearly 16 months old! Not that I am biased or anything, but she really is the cutest thing I have ever seen….!
Thank-you Rhiannon (Poynton PANDAS) for being there when I needed some support and for giving me the opportunity to share my story.


Sunday, 3 January 2016

High achieving super mother syndrome

When I finally "came out" I remember well the looks of shock and disbelief. Surely you haven't got postnatal depression said the looks. I could almost imagine the conversations at the toddler groups - "Rhiannon?" "nah she's fine. Isn't she?" "She seems to juggle those twins like a pro-mother". 

I was wiping tears and snot, cleaning bums and faces and seeing danger in two corners of the room before it's even happened. I was flying round the place and quickly prioritising who to respond to first; a ninja mother with a samurai and a dagger. I knew I looked like I had it all figured out. I quite liked that. I quite liked that I looked at ease, confident and composed. But those 2 hours at the toddler group - that pretence would leave me absolutely exhausted. If you spent any more than 2 hours with me, you would see that mask begin to slip. There would be a raised voice or rather a shrill scream (from me not them). I would suddenly lose my shit if things weren't going to plan at home. I hate the memories of me absolutely screaming at them. Awful awful awful. Sorry babies :-(

So to combat the crazy mother I was beginning to become at home. I wouldn't spend time at home. I was scared what I might do at home. We would be up and out with our bags packed, 4 changes of clothes, 4 bottles with cooled boiled water and carefully measured formula, 8 nappies (just in case), snacks a plenty, an itinerary that had been researched the night before. We knew where we were going and who we would be seeing. We would be seeing mummies and babies for most of the day and if they were having a well earned rest, we would pull over on the side of the road for our naps. No rest for the wicked or rather no rest for the hyped up, anti depressant fuelled, manic mother. Chop chop and off we go....

When I was home and doing the bedtime routine alone (again), my mask would again start to slip. Bathing two babies, giving them milk, trying to settle them. Singing my 20 lullabies on repeat. You may well have heard my voice crack if you were there. It would crack from utter exhaustion and sometimes no sound would come out as I had nothing left to give.

I would go to bed and begin the worry. I would plan the next day down to the minutest detail,  I would analyse every conversation I had had that day. I would not sleep that night but we would be up and out with the changing bag full to bursting the following day. I was a mother fearful of stopping. What would happen if I stopped? If I stopped, I would just give up. I would curl into a ball and give up.

So this was my version of postnatal depression. My version of postnatal depression could easily have been mistaken for high achieving super mother syndrome. Is there such a thing? If not there should be.

It seems I wasn't alone in this state. All over the UK at the same time as me and right this moment mums are powering on and dying inside.

"When visitors came and then as they were leaving I would get upset as I felt for the short time they were there life was fairly 'normal'." TM

"I used to go into the shower to disguise the noise of me sobbing" AB

" I would keep my phone on silent so I could screen calls/texts. With my 2nd I joined the world of Facebook so it could be my "normal" mask to hide behind my posted perfect family life. More often than not the posted photo would be the minutest time that there was a moment of joy in my sadness". CA

"I kept trying to start "projects"; businesses, new hobbies, diets. I was desperate to have something that made me more than "just a Mum". I was obsessive about it, which highlighted my irritation with everything that my baby did (crying, needing attention, food). I felt like she was holding me back. Feels awful to say now, but I felt so angry with her at the time". CJ

"I was stupidly busy; always going to play groups or doing a project at home - never sitting still so that people couldn't see that I couldn't relax and be happy". HS

" I would hide behind 'problems'. I had postnatal anxiety with my second and would obsess over everything. He had colic, silent reflux, tongue tie, problems feeding, prolonged jaundice, etc..and I would hide behind 'his symptoms' but really I felt broken and useless inside. If I focused on the physical symptoms it meant they could be fixed and I didn't have to tell anyone what was really going on inside me head". NH

"I would have anger outbursts and sleep a lot,. I complained of being tired a lot and was short with people and generally agitated". KP

"Other than feeding I'd pass her to anyone who was around, on the guise of them getting a cuddle (only family friends etc but still, hate to think of it now)." SV

"I was always snappy and irritable which I think is so easy to brush off". RB

"I didn't want anyone to hold her as she might cry and I wouldn't be able to deal with it. More often than not she would cry when others held her so I would rather avoid it." CA

"I baked constantly. massive diversion! And was incredibly OCD as a way to control everything." HT

So - mums, friends, family, GPs, Health Visitors and Midwives - next time you're talking to a mum who looks like she has it down. Next time you're wondering how she does it as she's always busy busy and flying about. Look for the subtle signs. Ask how she is. She might just tell you the truth.

Rhiannon x

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The PND Rat

The PND rat was a baddie
The PND rat was a beast
He took what he wanted and ate what he took
His life was one long feast
His teeth were sharp and yellow
His manners were rough and rude
And the PND rat went riding - riding - riding
Riding into motherhood
And stealing a mother's good mood

A new mum came walking a long the road
Then stopped with her hands in the air,
For blocking her way was the PND Rat,
Who cried out, "Who goes there?"

"Give me your smiles and joy!
Your happiness you'll have to fake
For I am the Rat of PND
and whatever I want I take!"

"I have no joy" the new mum replied
"I just have this motherhood book"
The PND rat gave a scornful look
but he ordered "Hand it over"

"This book is bound to be useless.
This book is dull as can be,
But I am the Rat of PND
and this book belongs to me!"

A dad came bounding along the road
then stopped with a shake and a shiver,
For reining his horse was the PND Rat,
who thundered "Stand and deliver"!

"Give me your hopes and dreams.
Here are some horrid nightmares.
For I am the Rat of PND
and sometimes I like to share"

"I have no dreams" the dad replied
"I was told to hand them over
to another Rat who looks like you.
I feel my life is over"

The robber snatched the last dream and snarled
"I'll have no ifs or buts.
These dreams are probably rubbish.
These dreams are as crap as can be.
But I am the Rat of PND
and these dreams belong to me."

A gang of mummies came down the road
All pushing a gleaming pram
In their way was the PND Rat who gave one a high impact ram
"You! Why are you with people?
You're as shit as can be.
For I am the Rat of PND
and your confidence belongs to me!"

"Leave her alone" one mummy replied.
"Don't give her anymore grief."
"It's ok" said PND mum
"I give in. You happiness thief".

With never a please or a thank you,
The Rat carried on in this way.
Took sleep from one mum!
Gave fear to the next!
Saying "it's not okay
to talk about this to anyone"
"Just put up and shut up you see?"

A GP came waddling down the road
Then stopped with a "How do you do?"
"I see you have nothing" the Rat complained....
"Just a waiting list for CBT"
"By the time that wait is over..
your patient will belong to me"

"Hang on" quacked the doc, "for I have a prescription"...."goodies you might prefer"
"This piece of paper will lead you to light."
"At least I hope it's a cure."
"For I have no time to speak to you.
Ten minutes will have to do.
So please take this paper and cash it in.
I think you'll like them I do".

Off went the vermin
Prescription in hand
to a late night pharmacy
"I'll have as many as you've got
These goodies belong to me!"

The Rat found himself by a lonely cave
And the doctor gave him a shove
"In you go. You PND"
"I hope that you find love"

"What a strange thing to say" said PND
"I'll find no love in there"
"For it's dark and black"
" And nobody knows what's going on for me"

But after a week or maybe two
A light began to flicker
Far away it was at first
And then came into view

Holding the light was a dear friend
With a gentle smile on her face
"I know how you feel" said little mouse
"I've also fallen from grace".

"I had a litter of mouselings."
"All teeny and wonderfully cute".
"But then came a haze. A terrible phase"
"And now I think I'm a brute"

"I'm the worse mummy ever."
"I'm as shit as can be."
"I'm just not worth loving."
"Cos PND happened to me".

PND felt dreadful
"I'm sorry I was such a rat"
"I was just wanted some of that love and then I grew horribly fat"
"Mummy love is so strong. I wanted some you see.
"But I took too much . I ruined them"
"And now I know. I see"

"I'll give it back. That love I took"
"I'll give it back to those
who want to love their little ones and kiss their tiny toes.
"But first they need to love themselves.
"I'll give them back their courage."
"To fight this illness once and for all."
"I want to see them flourish".

One by one the mums and dads
saw it wasn't their fault
For PND rat was a horrible "t**t"
and they put it in a vault

Some days were a battle
PND wanted out you see
But the mums and dads fought on and on
And one day they were free

Free from guilt and loathing
Free from low self-worth
For the thing that was lost
Was love for themselves
But it grew back slowly.

Based on the story The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler.


If you need help with pre or postnatal illness, come along to our weekly drop in group which starts again on Mon 7th Sept 10.45-12.15 at St George's Church, Poynton.

Email: psppoynton@aol.co.uk