Post Natal Depression & My Best Friend

A fear installed in many mum’s to be, what if it happens to me. For my best friend Sarah, that was a reality, she went to hell and back but made it through to the other end. Sarah and I have worked together on this blog as we feel it’s important to make other mum’s aware that they aren’t alone and to give an honest account of Sarah’s experience of PND and how she dealt with it.

The gorgeous Master Riley is just over 3 years of age and anyone who knows him will agree, he has the biggest personality and is a little too clever for his age and most definitely a mummy’s boy. This was Sarah’s first child, Sarah suffered PND after having Riley and found it hard to bond with him in the beginning as well as suffering panic attacks but had no idea she was suffering with PND. It is only looking back she has realised.

Sarah and Paul (AKA Daddy) had wanted a brother or sister for Riley for a while, they had suffered a miscarriage in the past and when they finally received the news they were expecting again they were over the moon and the planning and shopping began. The pregnancy was not an easy one with Sarah and Paul pretty much on edge for 9 whole months. But beautiful Scarlett was born healthy and perfect with all ten fingers and all ten toes.

In The Beginning

Sarah was initially fine but after a couple of weeks, started to feel a little down in the dumps and one day received a call from Paul who had been in a car accident, luckily he was fine even though his car had been wrapped around a lamp post. Sarah believes this was the trigger that tipped her over the edge, she was supposed to be in the car with the kids but luckily was not. The very next day Sarah had a serious panic attack, shortness of breath, uncontrollable crying, heart beating out of her chest, she knew something was not right and called her Mam to come and help.

They immediately called the health visitor who came straight to the house and referred Sarah for an emergency appointment with the doctor that day. In the doctors surgery Sarah suffered yet another panic attack and the doctor prescribed her anti depressants, at that time Sarah was willing to try anything as she was desperate for the horrible feelings and thoughts to leave her alone. She had no control over them and they would continue to keep on coming over the next few weeks.

Sarah described the daily feeling of ‘living under a black cloud’ she could try and act normal, do normal things but would always have this horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach that wouldn’t leave. She would argue with her own thoughts and most days she didn’t want to get out of bed or get dressed and missed many meals. Everything was a huge chore and Sarah had to force herself to make all of these small steps that most people do without thinking everyday.

Her health visitor had mentioned to her the Crisis Team, the group of people who decide if your kids are safe to be with you. Sarah had known this was a possibility by contacting them and letting them know how she was, but Sarah had remembered how bad she had been with Riley and how bad she was feeling at that point and the fact that she needed help, she didn’t want to do it on her own. She would be closely monitored with frequent visits from her health visitor but Sarah was surrounded by friends and family that love her very much.

When Things Were Bad

Sarah admitted that she had thought about her Mam taking Scarlett to look after and thinking it would be best if she wasn’t around as everyone was so worried. To make her family and friends feel better and to worry that little bit less she would post photos on social media to show that she was ok, but she wasn’t,far from it. She admitted that in her deepest darkest thoughts she’d question why she had even had another baby because she just couldn’t cope with how she was feeling. But then as soon as she was having a period where she was feeling a little like her normal self, Sarah couldn’t believe she had actually thought those things and absolutely loved the bones off her kids and couldn’t live without them. Anyone that knows Sarah knows that her kids come first every time and everything she does is for them.

Sarah was messaging me a lot and i was doing my best to reassure her everything would be ok, i researched different articles and gave information such as certain foods to avoid and things to try. I knew these weren’t going to do much but i felt helpless and that’s all i could do, how could i possibly know what she was going through or even try to understand. I asked Sarah to bring the kids over one night for a sleep over and we’d have a girls night in where we could either talk about what she was going through or watch chick flicks and eat chocolate and try and be normal.

Sarah forced herself to leave the house like she did every day, Paul had to come with her, he was going out with friends that evening but was very worried about leaving her. Sarah needed to know that if she panicked she could jump in the car and go home but also needed Paul to help her come over, she didn’t want to be on her own at any time. That’s when i knew how bad it was, she was at her best friends house, the place she usually just kicks of her shoes and gets comfy on the couch, instead she was on edge and wouldn’t sit down and just burst out crying saying ‘i just can’t help it, i don’t know why’.

I had never given thought to mental health and people who suffer from depression as i’d never really had too, if i’m honest i think i just thought it was just people feeling down and never thought of it as a real illness. That is until now.

It took Sarah a little while to settle and we ended up talking all night and Sarah felt , well, as happy as she could with a black cloud over her. The next morning whilst making breakfast she broke down again, i could tell she was just so fed up but had no control over it. She phoned Paul who got ready and came straight over for her.

Paul had been her rock, Paul and Sarah fit together like a glove, they are a little bit crackers, up for a laugh and everyone loves them. One thing they aren’t is overly affectionate in public, it’s just not them. But Paul changed this, cuddles and kisses and texts of reassurance and they made a huge difference. One text he sent while Sarah was sleeping over (sorry Paul) just told her he loved her, he was there for her and they would get through it together. I’m filling up now just reliving it, we were obviously both in tears. Sarah needed Paul to be her rock and although he didn’t understand either he just made sure that she knew he loved her and he wasn’t going anywhere and however long it took, it would get better and they could do it.

What Helped

Sarah was given the contact details for Talking Changes who are a group of trained counsellors who are just at the end of the phone to listen and help. Sarah spoke to these on several occasions. She also received help from her health visitors as they visited on a regular basis.

Sarah said there were a few things that helped her through, she actually stopped the anti depressants after a few days in fear she may start to rely on them and wanted to try alternative methods.

Sarah received private baby massage classes which you can ask your health visitor about, a lady comes to your house and it helps you bond with your baby. She was also told to keep looking into Scarletts eyes. Sarah said it all sounds silly but it did actually help her to bond more and feel better.

Sarah would lie in bed and hearing crying even though Scarlett was asleep. She would panic incase Scarlett would wake up and she couldn’t get her to stop crying. To deal with it Sarah put all of these thoughts into boat and sailed them down the river. I think Sarah has become a firm believer in brain training and it was definitely a factor in her recovery.

She had said that she had been told not to look into the future or in the past and just the day your living in. One small step at a time!

Sarah being Sarah, thinking she is superwoman gave in and asked for help, family and friends would babysit and help with household chores. This eased the pressure from Sarah. I think other mum’s suffer from ‘superwoman syndrome’ too, being a mum is non stop never mind those who work too. The dust will still be there tomorrow, but your babies won’t always be babies tomorrow.

Sarah forced herself to go to baby classes such as Song & Rhyme, visiting friends, doing ‘normal’ things. She was determined not to let this illness beat her and although it took every bit of strength and lots of tears, she pushed through until it eventually started to get a little more bearable.

Everyday i would text ‘So how are you doing today?’ and each day i would receive the same response ‘i’m ok but i had an episode…’ then one day her response had changed ‘i feel OK, i haven’t had any episodes, i feel like i have won the lottery Shell, i feel happy’.  It had been so bad that to have a day where the black cloud was lifted and she felt OK, to Sarah no amount of money could have been better than that feeling. Those texts continued over the next few days, although Sarah wasn’t and still isn’t 100% she has figured out how to control it.

I can’t tell you how proud i am of my best friend, she tackled her illness head on, didn’t hide it from friends and family and now wants to be able to help others if she can. Please don’t sit in silence as you really aren’t alone, if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to professionals then Sarah would be happy just to chat as Sarah understands sometimes it’s better to talk to someone who has been through it too. Email and your details will be passed to Sarah.

Please share this blog with anyone that maybe going through something similar or that has just had a baby. They don’t have to sit silently with this awful illness and they certainly shouldn’t be ashamed, it could happen to anyone.