Friday, 29 January 2016

First Steps To Feeling Better....

At the beginning of this week, I published a post.

A post about a particularly bad night I'd had, after a few weeks of feeling very low - I never intended to share the post or advertise it anywhere as I usually do with blog posts but it was something I'd written in my mind before I ever came to sit and write it at my computer - because for some reason when times get tough, getting my feelings and emotions down into words is very cathartic for me. It helps to get it out of my head.

That post ended up being viewed more times that any other post on my blog ever has been - how ironic is that, considering I didn't advertise it?!
But what that showed me was that this is something important - this is an issue that isn't only affecting me but something that has affected thousands of women just like me, and will continue to do so - and for that reason, I'm not going to shy away from speaking about it or feel embarrassed by it as I did at first.

Because I know that when I was feeling that low, I spent hours googling various terms..."Pre natal depression"..."Intrusive thoughts"..."Anxiety in pregnancy" and so on...I don't know what it was I was trying to find exactly, but whatever it was...I didn't find it.

Sure I found NHS symptom lists and explanations of what these conditions are, I found a few forums where women were asking people for advice...but I didn't find anything that let me know I wasn't the only one feeling this way. That it happens. That it's ok.

As dark as those moments truly are, life goes on and you have to pick yourself back up - you can't stay down there on that bathroom floor forever - so what do you do? How do you help yourself back up?

Well I'm still figuring out the answer to that, but here's what I've found out so far...

Talking about it helps - it sounds so very cliche, but it really does. I can't begin to express how much it helped me to realise that so many other people have had these same feelings and experiences - that it might not be something you hear about every day, but it's normal - i'm not going mad, I'm not a bad mum or a bad person...I'm having a bad time. That's all. 

Reaching out is important - It's difficult to do. It's SO very difficult. I personally have a lot of anxiety around making phonecalls to people I don't know, and speaking to strangers in general - but I knew that night that it was getting too serious and I needed to do something. So the next morning, I called the peri natal mental health team in my area.

I spoke with a secretary who didn't ask too much, just made an appointment for somebody to call me for a telephone consultation.

I had that telephone consultation a few days later - I found it very hard, I won't lie - the lady asked me questions that I wasn't sure how to answer, and I ended up crying on the phone and barely able to speak - she was patient. She waited. She was gentle and reassuring. 

I answered her questions eventually, and she suggested I come in to see her and a consultant from the team to discuss the best ways to help me.

Today I went along to that appointment.

I didn't know what to expect - but I was pleasantly surprised.

We sat in an informal little room - the lady I'd spoken to on the phone perched up on a hospital bed, the other lady sat opposite me in an armchair -  they asked me how I was feeling. They asked me to explain what had pushed me to call them. And they asked me questions about my lifestyle, about my family, about my pregnancy.

They wanted to try to understand if I'm experiencing pre natal depression or if there are other factors contributing to everything.

I was very honest about everything. A lot more honest than I'd usually choose to be, but I decided there was no point in being there if I wasn't going to tell the whole truth.

So I did...and they listened...and they didn't judge. 

I told them about my working hours and how many nights I'll be up until 5 am just trying to get tasks finished. 

I told them that I'm responsible for organising the finances and making sure bills are paid, and that my head is a constant list of sums and figures. 

I told them that my children are going through phases of not wanting to allow anybody else to look after them, including their Daddy. 

I told them that I'm in so much pain with SPD that I can barely walk, I can't do certain tasks unaided, I can't lift my children, I can't play with them. 

I told them how guilty that makes me feel constantly and how I cry about it everyday.

I told them that I'm so tired of hearing my 2 year old ask me why I'm upset.

 I told them that when I eventually get to bed, my mind is so full of activity that it often takes me 2 hours to fall asleep - and that once I do fall asleep the SPD pain wakes me up every half hour or so.

 I told them I'm surviving on about 3 hours of sleep each day. 

I told them that we don't have any family nearby to help out. It's just us.

I told them that I'm struggling to keep on top of the housework.

I told them that I don't have many friends where I live and that I feel very isolated.

And when I was done explaining my life and my emotions to them, they said "I think I'd lock myself in the bathroom and cry too..." - and it might sound like a simple thing, but just hearing a professional say that made me feel like it wasn't all in my head...that I wasn't going insane, that it was ok to feel overwhelmed. That I wasn't a rubbish Mum for not being able to just paste on a smile and cope with whatever life throws at me.

They offered me various options - medication, therapy, etc - they weren't forceful with any of it. They called in a midwife and immediately got me a prescription for pain relief for the SPD, something which should have been done a long time ago and wasn't. 

They suggested that as I'm only 3 weeks away from giving birth, I might want to wait it out on the medication for now - that they think it may be less about pre natal depression and more a case of physical and mental exhaustion and anxiety - they suggested that seeing if things feel easier with the pain relieved was a good first step, and that I can call them anytime if I feel like medication is the best option.

So I agreed to that. My next steps are to start therapy, and to meet with them again once baby has arrived to see how I'm feeling and if medication is something I'd like to try.

For now, I just feel relieved to have been listened to and to know that I've done something about it.

I really do feel so much more positive now.

If you're struggling pre or post natally and feel that you would benefit from talking to somebody, I highly recommend asking your midwife or health visitor for a referral to your peri natal mental health team or alternatively take a look at the PANDAS website for support options.

Please reach out - take it from me, it truly does help.

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