Mental health Motherhood

Perinatal Mental Health #PNDAW16: It’s okay not to be okay

A faded photograph of a young woman looking wistful as the sun sets in a tropical setting behind her - Includes the title "Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay" - Mrs H's favourite things

Today marks the end of the first ever Pre & Post Natal Depression Awareness Week #PNDAW16 run by PANDAS (the UK’s leading pre and post natal depression charity).  In light of this, I wanted to share my story of perinatal mental health.

My experience may be slightly unusual as I have suffered from depression for almost 17 years; most of my adult life.

At times, my mental health has been terrible. At other times it has been under control.

During those 17 years I have had many relapses and depressive episodes. My depression is classed as long-term and it is highly likely that I will have to take antidepressants for the rest of my life.

As a result of this, becoming a mother was never going to be easy. And there was a high risk that I would suffer from a perinatal mental health problem at some point.

Both pregnancies were fraught with worry. And both Mr H and I were on the lookout for the signs that my mental health was deteriorating.

With Little Miss H I was lucky.

But with Little Mister H I suffered from bad anxiety which built as the pregnancy progressed. This stress led to my mood being very low for most of the 9 months.

I was fortunate because I am on antidepressants and I was being monitored. Help was available when I needed it. And 4 days after Little Mister H was born I was given a psychiatric assessment.

It was a horrible experience.

My milk was coming in. I was exhausted. I’d just given birth and desperately wanted to be at home with my newborn baby.

But there I was reliving the most traumatic moments of my life. Describing them in great detail and pouring over how I had felt at the time.

Despite the hideousness of that hour and a half, it was worthwhile. Because I have now been seen by the mental health team where I live.

I was discharged but I can go back if I need help. I know that all I have to do is make a phone call and I will be seen the same day.

Perinatal mental health – It’s okay not to be okay

A faded photograph of a young woman looking wistful as the sun sets in a tropical setting behind her - Includes the title "Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay" - Mrs H's favourite things

It may seem counter-intuitive but my mental health problems have actually given me an advantage in this situation.

I am already on antidepressants. I have already had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and can access those tools.

My history means that when I tell a medical professional I don’t feel well they will listen and I will not be put on a 6 month waiting list.

And I know that it is okay not to be okay.

We live in a world of social media. We are bombarded by photographs of our friend’s and families lives. Lives that look perfect.

Everyone smiles. All the children are dressed in Baby GAP and look immaculate. Houses are clean and tidy and look like a cover of Ideal Homes.

And we all know that one woman who seems to have motherhood completely sussed. She is the perfect mother, wife, domestic goddess, blogger, vlogger, photographer and is also able to hold down a full time job as CEO of a global company.

You name it. She does it. And she does it perfectly.

How can we compete?

We can’t  compete and this makes us we feel inadequate.

We feel exhausted. As we’ve been awake all night with a toddler who won’t sleep unless they have their favourite toy … a cup of milk … a cup of water … to pee on the potty … a different pair of PJs on … no PJs on … the night light to show green stars …no, blue stars…no, green stars. All this while you have been nursing your 3 month old who is going through sleep regression hell.

We feel a failure because our house does not look like a showroom. Instead, there are stains from a potty training toddler and a sickly baby all over the sofa and the living room looks like a graveyard for unloved toys and the tat from far too many Kinder Eggs.

We feel fat and ugly because we can’t shift the baby weight. And a balanced diet consists of eating the raisins the toddler dropped on the floor for breakfast and a packet of Oreo biscuits for lunch.

We feel frumpy and unattractive because our yummy mummy wardrobe consists of the same leggings and t-shirts that we wore throughout pregnancy. As they are the only comfortable clothes that we own. And this season’s must have accessory is the milk encrusted muslin that is permanently attached to our shoulder.

But you know what?

It is okay to feel this way.

It is okay not to be okay.

You may be exhausted but you are not a failure or fat or ugly or frumpy or unattractive. You are a parent and that is a bloody hard job.

And so it is okay to not be okay.

It is okay to be imperfect and to have no idea how to look after a baby with colic.

It is okay to wonder why you feel so miserable when the child you have yearned for is in your arms.

And it is okay to look at that child and to not know what you feel.

You are not a terrible person for feeling this way.

But you may need to talk to someone who can help you feel better.

Perinatal mental health problems can take many forms. And they can even affect the men in our lives.

It is important to remember that everyone is different and not everyone with the same condition will feel the same way. However, if any of the symptoms in the graphics below are familiar to you then please do get help. Talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor.

Or you could phone the PANDAS helpline on 0843 28 98 401. It is open everyday from 09.00 to 20.00 and it is run by trained volunteers who will be happy to chat to you and point you to the help you need.

A black chalk board containing the symptoms to pre/ antenatal depression - prenatalchalk-300x240 - Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay - Mrs H's favourite things

A black chalkboard featuring the symptoms to pre/postnatal anxiety - perinatalanxietychalk-300x240 - Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay - Mrs H's favourite things

A black chalkboard featuring the symptoms of Pre/ Postnatal OCD - perinatalocdchalk-300x240 - Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay - Mrs H's favourite things

A black chalkboard featuring the symptoms to Postnatal Depression - postnatalchalk-300x240 - Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay - Mrs H's favourite things

A black chalkboard featuring the symptoms to Postnatal Psychosis - postnatalpsychosischalk-300x240 - Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay - Mrs H's favourite things

A black chalkboard featuring the symptoms for Postnatal PTSD and Birth Trauma - postnatalptsdchalk-300x240 - Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay - Mrs H's favourite things

I know how terrifying it is to feel this way. You feel alone and out of control. Terrified of your own mind and emotions. Scared that you are a terrible mother.

But you don’t have to go through this alone. There are people who can help.

Be brave, reach out and someone will take your hand.

A faded photograph of a young woman looking wistful as the sun sets in a tropical setting behind her - Includes the title "Perinatal mental health #PNDAW16 - It's okay not to be okay" - Mrs H's favourite things

Hugs

Lucy

xxxx

“If you would like to donate to PANDAS (Pre & Post Natal Depression Advice and Support) to help them support sufferers of perinatal mental illnesses please text PANDAS £3, £5 or £10 to 70660 or visit their website for further information and support. (Texts cost donation amount plus network charge. PANDAS Foundation receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payer’s permission. Customer care 01691 664275 Charity No 1149485.)”  

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Deb;s
    June 22, 2017 at 2:05 am

    The world needs more honest people, hun, it shows others who are suffering that they are not alone. I suffered for many years, for 35 I am now 42, I was a kid in and out of children’s homes. It became worse when I had my first child, I then turned it all around teaching myself personal development from youtube teachers for free. Counselling had never worked for me but everyone has to find their own way of coping and the therapy that is right for them. You have found a passion in writing, so you go girl, beautiful lady. You will go on and do amazing things so believe in YOU.
    Much love. x

  • Reply
    Wenchy
    February 6, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Thank you very much for fighting the outlook on mental health by tackling the issue. Here in South Africa getting help in terms of seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist can take a while if you do not have medical aid and same with getting medication.

    I wish you enough
    Wenchy

  • Reply
    Tea ke
    October 19, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Lucy, thank you so much for sharing your anxiety and discuss about it so openly. Sometimes talking it out will make us feel listened and better.

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    September 29, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Oh gosh. I can’t believe this. I am so proud and in awe of you for being so honest and open about it. Such a difficult topic to cover. I can’t even begin to imagine having children AND feeling like this.

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      October 5, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I really don’t think anyone should be in awe of me. I am open and honest about it because it has been such a large part of my life for a long time. It is part of who I am and I can’t hide it away. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  • Reply
    Nic
    September 20, 2016 at 2:49 am

    A wonderful post about a bloody difficult topic, I definitely needed to hear that it’s okay to feel a bit crappy right now. I also have a long history of mental health problems but after some not so wonderful experiences with treatment it does make me reluctant to want to open up to the health visitor or my GP. I will though. I need to communicate rather than feel guilty over my mood

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      September 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Oh lovely, thank you so much for your comment. You really should not feel guilty about your mood. You have been through do much and you are bound to feel crappy. You have done so well and been really strong and positive. But sometimes everyone needs a little extra help. There is no shame in asking for that. But I understand that if you’ve had bad experiences in the past that you might feel reluctant to do this. Do you like your health visitor or GP? If not, ask to see someone else. Be strong and continue to ask for help until someone gives you the help you need and deserve. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  • Reply
    Sian QuiteFranklySheSaid
    September 17, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    You are so amazing for sharing your experiences so openly. I hope it gives others reassurance, as well as confidence to reach out for help it they need it. Thanks for linking up to #SundayBest x

  • Reply
    Fi Ni Neachtain
    September 16, 2016 at 10:28 am

    I had postnatal depression after I had my first son and it was the worst time in my life. Thankfully all is okay this time but like you said, it’s okay not to be okay. I just wish depression hadn’t robbed me of two years of my life.

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      September 18, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      Oh bless you Fi. I am so sorry that you had post-natal depression but I’m glad you didn’t suffer with your second baby. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  • Reply
    Laura H
    September 16, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I think “It’s ok to not be ok” is a quote I would use to sum up the 2010s. People have become a lot more accepting of mental health issues and I think it’s great that so many people feel like they can share their stories. I’d never heard of PANDAS before but it sounds like they do some great work.

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      September 19, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Thank you for your comment. I believe it is really important to share our stories. Especially if it helps new mums feel less alone and it means that they seek out the help that they need. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  • Reply
    Cliona Kelliher
    September 13, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    This is a lovely post, I so agree that it’s ok not to be ok. My baby days are a long way away but I still remember that awful helplessness and self-doubt. Having support structures and help are essential really and it sounds like you had those at hand although I can’t imagine having a psychiatric assessment so soon after giving birth. My head was a total jumble for ages!

  • Reply
    Baby Isabella
    September 13, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    A good symptom list. So sorry to hear you suffered and didn’t feel you were good enough 🙁 but you sound stronger now and it’s great that you are raising awareness. You are very brave and an inspiration to others xx

  • Reply
    Ickle Pickle
    September 13, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Such a great post – I am sorry that you have suffered – I realise my mental health is actually quite fragile, thank you for sharing your story and raising awareness. Kaz x

  • Reply
    Clairejustine
    September 13, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Lovely post Lucy. It is great to get your feelings wrote down and it can help others going through this too. When I had my children, we could hardly get the Internet, it is a brilliant place for new mums to read real life posts now days 🙂

  • Reply
    RachelSwirl
    September 12, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    It is indeed ok not to be ok… hope things get better x

  • Reply
    Emma @sophieellaandme
    September 12, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Great post Lucy! Well done for raising awareness on such an important topic. I can definitely relate. Mental health isn’t talked about enough but by sharing your experience, I’m sure your post will reach many people and help those who need it xx
    Emma @sophieellaandme recently posted…A Walk Through Grizedale ForestMy Profile

  • Reply
    Sarah Howe
    September 12, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    I’m so glad you are getting the support and help you need to manage lovely. You do really well! This post will inspire and help so many others too. Hugs and thanks for sharing xx #sundaybest

  • Reply
    Cathy Glynn
    September 12, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Such an important reminder that not everyone feels ecstatic after giving birth. Great post x

  • Reply
    Alana
    September 12, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    What a beautifully written post. It’s so important to talk about mental health so people know they’re not alone in going through difficult times. I admire your honesty and openness.
    Alana x

  • Reply
    yvonne
    September 12, 2016 at 10:29 am

    As you say, with these things no one has the same experiences. I didn’t have post natal depression but I did have PTSD and anxiety after the birth of my boys. Took a long time to get over (and I am not sure I am truly over it still) and it wasn’t something I openly discussed until I started to ‘hide’ behind a blog to get it out there. Thank you so much for sharing your post, it is so important for others to read and understand. Truly great post hun, sending hugs xx

  • Reply
    Mackenzie Glanville
    September 12, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Thank you for writing this, for being so authentic and helping so many women. I have suffered both depression and anxiety most of my life too, but mostly it went undiagnosed and I always felt so alone and confused. After a very difficult time in my late teens and at age 20 and I became worse. Again a couple of years ago it all got too much again, but I fought so hard and seeked help. After loosing my best friend to depression and nearly my dad I was not going to let it win. But it has been hard, blogging is also a big help for me. Thank you for being so inspirational xx

  • Reply
    Jess Helicopter
    September 11, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Absolutely great post. Anyone who talks openly about their mental health journey should be revered in my book. It’s so brave. And you’re 100% right. It’s totally ok not to be ok. Why do you think gin was called Mother’s Ruin?! hehe! Self medication right there! I was on AD’s throughout both pregnancies and i don’t ever want to come off them. They keep me stable and of course it’s a struggle to accept it at the beginning but then as you say so eloquently, it is ok.

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      September 11, 2016 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you for your lovely comment. I really believe that talking more openly about mental health will mean that less people feel alone and that they will ask for help. I came off my anti-depressants briefly in 2012 and I became very ill again. I know now that I am a much better and happier person when I am on them. And whenever I am feeling anxious or low I am so grateful for them. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  • Reply
    Hannah Budding Smiles
    September 11, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Wonderful post darling lady and one that I’m sure will help so many people, giving them the strength to reach out for help. You’re doing great and don’t ever forget it. Loads of love xxx

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      September 11, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      Thank you so much lovely. You are doing great too. The hardest part is asking for help but it is a crucial stage of getting better. I hope that by taking more we are able to help other’s feel less alone and give them the strength they need to get better. Thanks for being there honey. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    September 11, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Social media can be very disheartening. I have to keep reminding myself that they only show the nicer parts of life and I can be guilty of that too. Thank you for writing this post! It is great to know that it’s okay and we are not alone! Hugs! xxx

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      September 11, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      Thank you for your comment. It is so important that women realise that it is ok to feel as they do. It doesn’t mean they are failures or bad mothers. It means that they are struggling and need to ask for help. I often look at social media and feel inadequate as a woman and a mother. Then I realise that I actually know many of those people also suffer from insecurities and their own problems. That always makes me feel better and I realise I don’t have to compete. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  • Reply
    Kellie Kearney
    September 11, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Brilliant post. I’ve never suffered from either buy have felt so overwhelmed at time and like I couldn’t cope. It really is okay not to be okay. Thank you so much for sharing!!!
    Kellie Kearney recently posted…Our Summer Staycation | A Connacht Hotel ReviewMy Profile

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      September 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      Thank you for your lovely comment. I think all mums feel completely overwhelmed from time to time. I hope that new mum’s realise that is a natural part of motherhood. And that they don’t feel despondent or convince themselves they are a bad parent. Hugs Lucy xxxx

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