How do I help support someone with Post Natal Depression?

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Over and over again my husband and I have argued over his degree of supportiveness since I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. On a physical support level he has been great; taking care of our daughter when I need extra sleep or time to get ready, helping out around the house and doing the food shopping; also, he has always been a very hands on dad when it comes to the baby duties, happily volunteering for nappy changes, bath and bedtime routines, feeding and even taking her to baby groups. He works shifts, so this has worked well with our family dynamics and I really can’t fault the fact that he is an amazing dad! However, on an emotional support level, he has been a big pile of stinky baby pooh!!!!!

Four months after our beautiful daughter’s arrival, I received my PND badge, returning from the doctors with a confirmed diagnosis, an on-going prescription and a box full of pills – not quite the new mummy trophy’s I would have liked to have received! One of the first things I said to my husband after my appointment, was that he needed to research Post Natal Depression. It was immensely important to me that he should prepare himself for inevitable shit storm that was coming our way; the path ahead was going to difficult and he would have to put up with lot from me, picking up the slack along the way!…..I explained I was aware that I was a raging and unpredictable ball of emotional carnage, but I literally had no control over how I was feeling.  I urged him to find someone to talk to as I knew he would need support too and even suggested that he talked to my mum, who also experienced PND after she had me. I asked him to find out as much as he could about the symptoms of my illness so that he could support me and get a better understanding of what I was going through (in all honesty I was uneducated on PND too, so it was going to be a learning curb for both of us)……And the result of all this pleading, urging and explaining……diddly squat!!!!!!!

The months went by and I kept asking if he’d researched PND or spoken to anyone else for advice and support, the answer was always ‘no’. This really hurt me, especially as his reasons were down to things like: not enough time, he didn’t feel he needed to or he’d just forgot! The one person who I thought would be my absolute rock had left me consumed by the crashing waves in a sea of depression; it was a devastating blow, which left me feeling even more emotionally isolated and alone. I think that in his mind the pills would help, I would then get better and everything would go back to ‘normal’. The sad fact is, that anti-depressants are only part of the solution to recovering from PND; without real support and understanding, sufferers are highly unlikely to get better on their own.

It can be a very long and difficult road recovering from PND; on your journey you need someone to hold your hand to keep you steady, on the right track and to help pick you up if you stumble. Travelling the path alone is treacherous; it is so easy to trip up, fall down and just stay down. If you travel the PND path without the full support of those closest to you, it can prolong the journey and the scars from the falls will cut so much deeper. Sometimes there will be friends or family who will offer you a hand and help you up if you fall, but before you know it they have toddled off to continue along their life paths. Alone again we stand, afraid to take another step, dreading another crippling fall, weak from the scars we already bare. This is no way to travel….

I can not stress enough that those supporting a loved one with PND must fully commit to every part of their journey, they will need to be strong for the sufferer……so make sure if you are that guide, you are fully equipped with the correct attire, allowing you to remain strong and hold your footing!

Mwah

Natalie xxxxxx

 

Ps The attached picture is of one of the vitally important information leaflets provided by APNI (The Association for Post Natal Illness) – an amazing organisation – please check out their website! – http://apni.org/

Association for Post Natal Illness

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Feeling Happy……Paint me a picture of what that looks like!

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Lately I have been thinking about what makes me happy; and when I say ‘happy’ I mean real soul fulfilling happiness….. Something that is just for me, something I can completely immerse myself into, something that gives me the feeling of being productive and content (not to mention giving me a hold on my sanity lol!). Now for me, two things that undeniably tick all the boxes are singing (fear not my readers, I will expand further on my love of singing another time) and painting! I can not remember the last time I picked up a paintbrush and was let loose on a blank canvas to create pieces of art unique to me.

Way back (I am getting on a bit now with my 30th birthday looming!!) I studied Art A-level; my grand master plan was to continue along the arty-farty road, splurging out my splats of creativity into bigger and better splodges! However, Glandular Fever, recurrent Tonsillitis and my parents divorce (…cue tiny sad violins) resulted in much of my second year of study being drastically affected; it erased any confidence, motivation or strength I had, leaving me indecisive about my future and I felt I just couldn’t face University at that time. I have carried a lot of pain and bitterness around with me since then, feeling cheated of what my life could have been. However, I have since dabbled in the creative, making homemade birthday cards, the odd scrapbook and painting the walls in my house…not quite the artistic career I had hoped for though.

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So years have gone by and I am now at a place of war in my life (more tiny sad violins please) where I battle with confusion, frustration, a whole heap of negative emotions and a ton of all the other crap that comes with PND!…. Seriously there should be a limit on the amount of baggage that one must carry when one boards the PND plane (destination unknown)!!!!…. Looking back I was always truly happiest when I was in the art room at school, totally absorbed in what I was doing, spending hours painting and mixing colours, it just all flowed and I felt connected. No one judged me; it was an uninterrupted, timeless, beautiful calm. I was secure in a creative bubble where I could be purely and unquestioningly just be ‘me’.

BOOM!!!!!!!!….don’t panic…..it was just a ‘words of wisdom bomb’ exploding a cloud load of glittering realisation into my world!!!!!…..Find something that once made me ‘happy’…..check…..start doing it again…..erm easier said than done but yeah, carry on….no more excuses, make it happen – you are ‘sad’ you want to be ‘happy’ so do something that makes you ‘happy’ so you can be ‘happy’ instead of ‘sad’…..oooo words of wisdom…be amazed!!!

Now I know that when you have PND it is not quite that simple; whether for you it’s the exhaustion (are you a PND Zombie!? – check out my post on this!) or if it’s the lack of time that is creating barriers, all the reasons for you not doing the things that make you happy can just add to your frustration and stress, especially when you want to take these positive steps. As a result, the whole concept can be so daunting and it all seems too much of a chore to do, so we brush (painting pun hehe!) off our ideas and add it to our ever growing list of things that we have failed at. But this is where your support network comes in….whether it be your partner or an organisation like APNI (see my last blog!) do not be afraid to ask for help.

At the weekend I went into town for a wander and eventually found myself in a shop that sells acrylics (my art medium of choice!) and I found the same make that I used to use, it bizarrely brought back a whole host of both good and sad memories. As I have mentioned, I was happiest when I was painting, but it was also something I threw myself into at a bad bump in my life. I do think that my art helped me a lot back then, just as I feel that this blog that I have started is helping me deal with my PND now.

I desperately want to be happier and I am choosing to take up painting again as this makes me feel positive. The more positive things I can hold onto in my world the more positive my world will become. I know that I will struggle to find the time, it will be a hassle and expense to buy all the paints and equipment, but I am hoping that my hubby will help me get things set up so anytime the urge takes me I can just go for it (got a feeling the first few paintings will be a bit of a messy explosion, but if it’s a way of getting all the negativity out then bring it on!).

I hope that this post might inspire some of you to really think about something that makes you feel true happiness, and crucially something that is just for you – I know we love our little minikin’s but we all need an activity that separates us from being a mummy and is just about us, it is ok to be selfish. If you can’t think of anything, ask your friends/family and see if they can come up with something for you to try. Everyone has certain interests or hobbies so that is a good place to start. Or as I did, look back to your younger years and what made you laugh or smile!…..Good luck! 🙂

Mwah
Natalie xxxxxxx

Ps. the photos in this post are paintings that I have previously done 🙂

PND Support…..APNI – Association for Post-Natal Illness

I want to help make other mummy’s aware of an AMAZING and invaluable charity who have had a massive impact on me and my life as a PND sufferer. 

They offer extensive support, education and information and I can not recommend them enough!  

The Association for Post-Natal Illness is the leading organisation in its field and a Registered Charity (No. 280510), which was established in 1979 to:

  • Provide support to mothers suffering from Post-Natal Illness
  • Increase public awareness of the illness
  • To encourage research into its cause and nature

They provide a telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of volunteers, who themselves have experienced Post Natal Illness. Additionally, they run a support service for husbands and families supporting depressed mothers too. You can contact them in confidence, knowing that you will never be judged and that they are always there to help, listen and support you on your journey to recovery……You Are NOT Alone!

NEED HELP NOW?……

Call them between 10am – 2pm on: 0207 386 0868

Office hours are: Monday to Friday – 10am – 2pm

Email them on: info@apni.org

If you are outside of the UK – you can contact Postpartum Support International (PSI) on the following website: www.postpartum.net

My experience with APNI:

When I was first diagnosed with PND, 4 months after the birth of my daughter, I asked for additional help and support from the doctors, but the best they could do was to offer me more anti-depressants and told me to contact Relate for counselling (at the time money was, and still is, in very short supply, so I felt that this was not an option). Then when I spoke to my local Health Visitors, they suggested a couple of websites I could take a look at, but nothing that was really helpful to me. Unfortunately, they too were unable to recommend any support groups. This left me very despondent, feeling isolated and alone in my battle with PND; especially as my husband was being less than helpful and exacerbating the whole situation, through his lack of understanding and lack of desire to even try to understand my illness.

After many desperate and dark days, I randomly stumbled across APNI…thank god for Google…let me here a Woop Woop!!!!!!! However, it still took me a very long time before I actually contacted them. I wanted to work through my problems myself, as I have done so many times in the past, but I was also ashamed and felt I didn’t deserve the help. I had a lot of people close to me saying ‘it’s just the hormones’ and ‘you don’t need all that rubbish like anti-depressants and counselling’ and ‘you just need a bit more rest, you’re just tired’…..etc etc…… It all added up to me believing I was going crazy and convinced that I was making something out of nothing. As a new mother and with very few of my close friends having children, how was I to know that this wasn’t how every first time mum felt???…..I didn’t want to be seen as a hypochondriac or drama queen, so I tried my best to just get on with it. I became an expert in hiding my true feelings, wearing a glittering PND mask! Looking back, this just caused me to withdraw and isolate myself further.

When me and my hubby first decided to pursue the next logical step in our relationship, neither of us expected me to get pregnant as soon as I came off the pill; there was no real period of ‘trying for a baby’, no time to get excited about the idea of being parents, and no time for mental preparation. This meant that for me the whole pregnancy and birth of my daughter was very surreal and overwhelming. I began to tell myself that perhaps I just needed to adjust to motherhood and then I would be fine, even though I was very far from feeling ‘fine’!

Eventually, after a self harm incident I had, it scared me enough to realise I needed some serious help and couldn’t continue as I was. I rang the APNI helpline; the most lovely lady answered the phone and was nothing but kind, reassuring, helpful….for the first time I felt I had been accepted for who I now was and that it was ok to be not ok. She sent out loads of informative information, including leaflets for my hubby to read to try and help him understand how he could support me. I wish I had known about APNI and had contacted them sooner, as I believe I would be much further up my path to recovery and my marriage may have not taken so many devastating blows. This is why I am desperate to share this amazing organisation with others, and I implore that anyone suffering from any low moods after pregnancy…..please get in touch with APNI!

The most invaluable service that they provided me with, was the volunteer service. They listened to my situation at home and matched me up to a volunteer who had experienced PND herself and under similar circumstances. She initially contacted me via email, which is great for those sufferers who do not feel able to give voice and openly talk about there feelings (you can also request to speak to them on the phone or communicate by post). Finally, I had someone who listened, advised, understood exactly what I was going through (that is the best bit about the matching process) and there was no pressure to conform or hide how I was feeling……the relief to finally ditch the PND mask that I had been wearing for so long was intense. It gave me a new strength and drive to get better, that I had not felt before. It finally seemed possible that I could recover from PND, this dark isolated hell I had been living no longer seemed like my forever home!

Looking back to when I was first diagnosed with PND, I wish I had had someone there to say to me:
‘Natalie, you have Post Natal Depression; you are not going crazy, this is very real and very serious; do NOT let anyone make you feel like you are lying, unworthy or be ashamed of what you are going through. Here are the information leaflets, here is a support network that will not judge you, make sure your husband understands that it’s not just up to you to sort things out alone, as he will have a massive part in aiding (or hindering) your recovery. Friends and family should not expect too much from you, and if they do put pressure on you, then tell them. If they still do not listen, then it is ok to remove them from your life for a time, or at least until they are prepared to sympathise with your needs. You will not get better on pills alone, you will need help and support from those around you; if they can not step up to the mark then they will only make things worse. They should love you enough to be prepared to research as much as they can about PND, it is NOT up to you to do this for them. Only surround yourself with positive people, you do not need other peoples negative energy keeping you down. You are not alone, there are hundreds of people out there who have felt how you do. Do not be afraid to tell your friends and family how you feel, do not worry what they will think of you. True friends are not just there for when you are happy and want to have fun, true friends should want to be there for the bad times too! Say exactly how you feel, even if it may offend or hurt others, nothing can compare to the damage it will do to you if you hold it all in. You have limited control over what is happening to you mentally; remember it will get better, but it will also take time. Be patient, others supporting you should be prepared to be patient too. Take one day at a time, there is no need to look at the bigger picture. Do not be afraid to say you need help. When the good days start to outnumber the bad ones, then you can take comfort in knowing that you are getting better, however slowly this may be…………After every dark night, there will always be a sunrise.’

Mwah

Natalie xxxxx

Is Post Natal Depression making me fat? – Part 2 – Letter from My Body to The Scales!

Dear Scales,

Lately we haven’t been very good friends, you keep hurting my feelings and making me feel ugly, fat and ashamed of myself. I think that both you and the mirror have been ganging up on me, not to mention the clothes taking your side too.

Well, I think it’s time we made up, so let’s make a deal….you and me are going to make amends; it’s going to be a long and hard journey, but maybe tape measure and the running trainers can help us to come to an understanding. I know that I have had my part to play in our disagreements, but I am willing to work at it and I want to commit to our friendship. I don’t want to feel that sinking fear every time we encounter each other.

Certain members of the food family, and of course that cheeky pink wine, will want us to fail, but if we take each day as it comes and have respect for each other, then I think we can get to a happy place. What do you think?

Yours Sincerely,
Natalie’s Body

Ps. I have also spoken with brain and he knows that he has some serious issues he needs to resolve in order to support our friendship, but his hormones are still causing utter chaos, so we might have to prepare ourselves for a few hiccups along the way. On those days, we must try to be forgiving and not hold a grudge. I look forward to your reply.

***

Dear Natalie’s Body,

Well this is a shock! You keep giving me mixed signals….You come and visit me everyday, sometimes three or more times in one day. You put so much pressure on me, constantly wanting answers and I always give you an honest reply; so why are you so cross at me for telling you the truth? I remember the days you used to greet me in the morning, excited to see me and even more excited when I showed you the magic numbers that you constantly demand from me. How can I give you any more? I never lie, I am always there for you (with the exception of the batteries having an occasional nap) and I have supported you through all of your ups and downs in the past.

As for my friendships with the mirror and the clothes, it’s purely innocent and to me it sounds like you’re jealous that we all still get along. We haven’t changed, you are the one who has changed; I think that you need to take responsibility for our fall out. In my opinion it’s your friendships with certain individuals (chocolate, sugar and pink wine to mention just a few) that has hindered our friendship; and I have seen you popping those little white pills that you insist keeps brain happy (I am convinced that they have their role to play in it all too). Don’t get me started about brain, he’s so messed up it’s unreal, apparently something to do with his Post Natal Depression. I don’t really understand it so maybe you should speak with him about this. You seem to have got in with the wrong crowd and I am really concerned about you.

I think we need a break, so tape measure has said he will give us this space to give you a new perspective on things, that way you can concentrate on measurements rather than weight and won’t be so reliant on me. The clothes have said that some of them will give you some breathing room to take the pressure off your waist, they don’t want to let the muffin tops make you feel bad about yourself. Unfortunately, the mirror won’t budge, she said she’s just a reflection of you and can’t change this, so I guess that you will need to focus on the parts of you that you like; but she will help you with your makeup application and when you’re doing your hair. Maybe try smiling at her once in a while, I am sure that she will smile back at you which in turn will create a much more positive atmosphere.

So where do we go from here? I think we should have a brief encounter today to mark the start of our transformation from foes to friends. It will give us a figure to work from and then it should be all down hill from there, no more upward struggles just a nice easy ride to the bottom. However, I feel too that brain may be an issue and if he keeps getting in our way more negotiations will probably be required.

I look forward to our journey to becoming friends again and I think that it will take a lot of pressure and stress off both of us, leaving us in a much happier and more positive place.

Yours Sincerely,
Scales

Ps. Can you please ask the small bodied human to stop coming at me like a crazed animal and then pressing all my buttons and bashing me with random hard objects….it’s pretty damn scary!!!!! Thanks.

Is Post Natal Depression making me fat? – Part 1 – Caterpillar vs Butterfly

So after pregnancy our bodies are never really quite the same, which is a given considering the emotional and physical metamorphosis that has to take place for us woman to grow, and then squeeze out, our little bundles of joy. It’s only after the arrival of our minikins, that we begin to comprehend the bitter sweet realisation that whatever was ‘normal’ before, is now obsolete. Things will never be ‘normal’ again! However, these physical changes are more noticeable for some of us than others.

When I think of the term metamorphosis, I conjure an image of this spectacular transformation from a squidgy, fat, lethargic blog (aka caterpillar); to a glorious, stunning and vibrant creature, that flutters off light and bright into the sunny skies (aka butterfly). Now to me, the notion of the transformation from non-mummy to mummy is too often perceived to be a progression into the marvelous world of motherhood, with each woman glowing with life and excitement, proud to wear her tiger stripes (stretch marks). Sorry ladies, I have to disagree……I feel that I have gone from a confident and glorious butterfly to a fat caterpillar blob!!!!! I wasn’t lucky enough to resume a svelte unmarked figure (not that I am jealous or anything lol!).

I am pretty sure my body hated me for being pregnant, went into rebellion, and is still punishing me now for upsetting it’s reasonably happy equilibrium, prior to getting a bun in my oven! Since giving birth I have gained a large amount of weight, resulting in me being only a few pounds off what I was just before I gave birth! As I was already 21lbs overweight before I embarked on trying for a baby, I am now nearly 4 stone over my ideal weight; and being only 5ft 2″ it doesn’t exactly help the matter…..I
absolutely love karaoke, but no, my body is definitely not ‘bootylicious’ like Beyonce’s…..so instead, I will be singing that I am too ‘blubberlicious’ next time I hit the stage lol!

But seriously, I despise my appearance so much now that I am ashamed to go out in case anyone I know sees me! I have always been a social party girl at heart and never missed an opportunity to glam up, hit the town and bust some serious booty shaking moves. However, busting those same moves now would probably endanger other unsuspecting partygoers – fear not…..in the interest of health and safety I will contain my bubberliciousness to the safety of my own home!

The last time I arranged a night out, I ended up having a panic attack, freaked out and had a full on melt down. None of my clothes fit, mirrors and scales are now considered dangerous hostiles, oh and to add to the self disgrace, at least when I couldn’t see my ‘lady garden’ when I was pregnant I knew it was because I had a beautiful baby in my tummy blocking my view, now I just have two ugly twins hiding in there….’fat’ and ‘food’! I remember at baby group there was a song we sang…..’wibble wobble wibble wobble jelly on a plate’….what’s the first that sprang to my mind…..my belly…..I am convinced that it is no coincidence that jelly rhymes with belly?!?!?!

Going back to the caterpillar metaphor, let’s look at the facts……caterpillars are known as eating machines and voracious feeders, piling on the weight to prep for their transformation!…..could this be me? I do love my food and yes I do eat my fair share of ‘naughty’ treats, but is it just down to my calorie consumption, or does PND and the antidepressants also have a role to play in it too???

Despite me repeatedly returning to ‘caterpillar mode’ and having eating frenzies; I have tried to lose weight…..exercising, running, doing the ‘Insanity’ home workouts, the Cambridge Diet, Lighter Life, general healthy eating, not eating and……now I am going to admit something that I have hidden from everyone, a shameful act of a desperate woman so please do not judge…..binging then making myself sick! 😦 I am so desperate to lose weight, so why can’t I shift it? You would think the fact that none of my clothes fit, along with the utter shame, disgust and embarrassment I feel when I see myself naked, would be enough to motivate me; so I ask……what is stopping me?

Is it the PND, is it the hormones, is it the anti-depressants that I am taking, or my body storing up energy supplies? Or is it as simple as comfort eating, overindulgence and greed?

Perhaps I should consider the possibility that I am looking at it all wrong…..caterpillars gorge on plants to prepare themselves for a monumentous change, their world is turned upside down….quite literally – they hang upside down in their cocoon…..encased in their own world their anatomy is chemically broken down and reconstructed. In isolation they then find the strength to break out and emerge as a butterfly. They cannot fly away straight after freeing themselves, they must allow their wings to strengthen first before taking flight.

So then, should I plan to take a step back, concentrate on myself; understanding that it takes time to build up the strength to carry out simple things: like getting dressed (what’s wrong with rocking the milk and food stained top you’ve already got on?), washing our hair (bandana headbands are awesome at keeping hair slicked back and hides a multitude of hair sins), shaving our legs (thank god for leggings….comfy, stretchy and an excellent concealer of gorilla legs!), applying makeup (I thought the natural look was in….oh and the monobrow and mustache just adds to the natural effect!)…….I must remember that trying to lose weight takes motivation, energy, determination, time, effort, planning…..none of which you really possess when you suffer from PND. Do I need to wait until the PND grips have loosened before even considering trying to lose weight????……it’s Food for thought!!!!!!

The next few of my blog posts are going to investigate further into the concept of weight gain and it’s links to PND…….so stay tuned! 🙂

Mwah
Natalie xxxxxxx

Ps sorry this post is so long, but I had to set the scene so to speak….I have so much to say lol! 🙂