Lindsay, mum to Reuben and wife to Gavin, shares her story on Postnatal Depression (PND).
I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression (PND) 4 months ago. In reality, I have discovered what I have is Antenatal Depression - in that my problems and issues began during pregnancy - and, being undiagnosed, continued after my son Reuben (now 2 years old) was born. In facing the illness and learning what it's really all about, I started to share my struggle with it and journey through it on my blog.
I realised I couldn't be the only mum struggling, considering that at least 1 in 10 women suffer, but no one had ever talked about it before either to me or with me, so I guessed we needed to raise awareness about it. Speaking out on my blog is the best thing I could have done! So many women have contacted me privately to share their experience and story of PND. I have been overwhelmed - I've discovered that some women who I know have also been struggling and I had no idea! It's been such a privilege and a responsibility to hear the pain and heartache of others.
Sharing our journeys with PND together, and with the community, is vital - to raise awareness of the illness; to remove the stigma that surrounds it; and to break the cycle of loneliness that it leaves sufferers stuck in. PND has lied to me and made me believe that no one else would ever understand how I was feeling. It caused me to fear that, if they ever did find out, they'd be ashamed of me. It has left me feeling alone, disconnected and very vulnerable, afraid to share my heartache, and desperately isolated from my baby, family, friends and the world around me. But through sharing my story and hearing others tell theirs, the loneliness is broken. The truth is, there are others who understand how I feel and where I am at; my world has not judged me harshly; and feeling connected again to those around me is a major part of recovering from PND.
Without being overly or unfairly critical, the help I received in the first few months, post giving birth, was woeful. I approached two health professionals who both dismissed me. This is a theme I hear repeated again and again, leading me to wonder if we need re-education about what actually PND is and how it presents itself. Being undiagnosed in the early months led to another 2 years of pain and distress, where I finally ended up very physical ill, riddled with extreme anxiety and considering seriously whether life was worth living.
We need more support for women struggling with this illness. I had no idea where to turn for help, I was given no information about what PND is or where I could locally look for support - this needs to be changed for all new mums. I also firmly believe all women should be educated about Perinatal Mental Health in antenatal classes. That way we could be on the look out for it, with partners/family members/birth partners also aware of it. I would go as far as to argue it's of more importance than how the baby travels through the birth canal!!
In writing my blog and campaigning to raise awareness, I have been contacted by people and organisations who are working hard at supporting those with the illness - but I had no idea of them during the worst of my problems. We need to bring all of the support currently available to public awareness, so everyone and anyone can find it! In the darkest of days, the worst thing for a mum to have to do is search relentlessly for help and support - she has no time for that, not with the rest of the chores she has to manage.
There is good work being done in Northern Ireland, around the issue of Perinatal Mental Health, but there is more to be done! If all of us are willing to play our part, speak out and work together, I believe we can move this very important issue forward.
Courtesy of Client & Patient Council