Recovery: Recovery or recover can refer to: Health; Healing; Cure; The Recovery model of mental distress/disorder; Recovery International, a self-help mental health program based on the work of the late Abraham A. Low, M.D.; Hair of the dog or “Recovery drinking”, the practice of drinking off a hangover, mainly amongst students; Addiction recovery groups.
Now I’ve not blogged about PND for a while. I took the last tablet and apparently was ‘recovered,’ if you ever can recover fully from the hideousness of the illness, it has certainly changed me forever. This time last year was hell, and I think about it daily. Just now, when tidying out a cupboard, I found my youngest’s first ever babygro. And I’m not ashamed to say it reduced me to tears. I remember him dressed in it, so small and helpless. It’s not the first time I’ve cried over that babygro, nor I imagine will it be the last as the memory of it all is very painful, but looking at where I am now, and remembering where I was last year has got me thinking about how far I’ve come, and how much better and more like my old self I really am. It has got me reflecting on what I’ve done and what has got me here and able to function without panic attacks and tears. I thought a post about the techniques and therapies I’ve had might help others in the same situation, or at least comfort them that they are not alone, and that they can get better.
Once I had finally admitted I had post natal depression (which took a few stubborn weeks I can tell you) the first thing I did was visit my doctor and start on a course of antidepressants. For me I viewed it very much as an illness, and if there was a medicine that could make me better then I would take it. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and I was beyond the stage where exercise could help. As far as I was concerned nothing could help, and I didn’t even want it to. Permanent sleep seemed like a good option. So those tablets were a start, even though the doctor told me I would feel worse on them before I felt better (I did) and that it would take several weeks for the effects to fully kick in (it did.) I remember when they did start to work, I woke up and actually wanted to get out of bed. I got excited about putting my son in a gorgeous outfit for the first time. I smiled and looked forward to seeing my family. However I was still plagued by anxiety and panic attacks and cried most days. The tablets weren’t enough, I needed something more.
CBT was suggested and I thought it sounded perfect. I’ve always been a very anxious person, mainly centred around my mortality, at just five I had a screaming episode where I apparently told my parents I thought I was having a heart attack. So the thought that this talking therapy could help me re-train my brain to function in the correct part sounded easy. It wasn’t. I referred myself and luckily was seen relatively quickly in a face to face, one to one meeting. I was given booklets to work through, exercises to do and techniques to try out. I met with the CBT lady once a week for 6 weeks. She was lovely and always asked how I was, but it was very clear that these weren’t counselling sessions. I had to be focused and do all the hard work myself. By now the tablets had well and truly kicked in and so panic attacks during the daytime had reduced and I wasn’t able to practise ‘thought challenging’ them. I was still having terrible nightmares and problems with my sleep and had no idea how I could ‘thought challenge’ something that was happening when I was asleep! The CBT lady gave me suggestions, and they did slowly start to work. But it was hard work, and I had to muster up every ounce of energy to practise everything I’d be told and had read. I would recommend CBT, but only if you are prepared to work at it and commit fully to it. The techniques need to be practised continuously before it all becomes second nature.
I was also lucky enough to be referred through the health vision to an art therapy group which lasted for 12 weeks which I blogged about briefly in the post linked above. The other ladies on the course were by far more private than me and I promised to them that I would never blog in detail about the sessions, so all I will say is that if you ever get an opportunity to be a part of a ‘My Time My Space’ group then do, it was amazing.
Now, whilst everything I have mentioned above was helping, my main fear was that as soon as I stopped taking the tablets I would be back at square one. I was terrified that my brain would once again neglect to make the vital mix of things it needs to function without depression, so I knew I needed something else. One day whilst on Twitter I spotted a tweet from a lady called Viv Kenchington. She was a reflexologist near me who was looking for people to have free solution-focused hypnotherapy sessions whilst she was re-training. I tweeted her and asked if it worked for PND and the response ‘Yes!’ was immediate. We arranged a date for the following week to meet. As soon as I met Viv I felt relaxed, she has a wonderful calm and friendly manner. Keen to find out why I was interested in hypnotherapy I briefly explained my situation. I was reassured that this type of hypnotherapy wasn’t anything like the kind you see on the television and that I wouldn’t suddenly start milking cows when I heard a bell ring. Viv was wonderfully clear in her detailed explanation of how the brain works, and how it functions when a person has anxiety and depression. The penny dropped there and then for me and it all made perfect sense. I couldn’t wait to get started, our sessions were to be an hour long so not least the thought of lying down with my eyes closed and no small people demanding things from me was incentive enough! For the next 8 weeks I visited Viv for regular hypnotherapy sessions. They were amazing. Peaceful. Relaxing. And yet strangely exhausting, I always slept extremely well after a session. Viv’s voice was soothing and even now if I have trouble sleeping I ‘hear’ her in my head and am instantly more at peace. She’d ask me what had been good about my week, and then asked questions so that I would come up with solutions on how to make it better. Her enthusiasm and passion for helping people is infectious, she would listen to me intently and work so hard to help. My sessions have stopped now, but I know I can always go back if ever I need to. I credit Viv as being a huge part of my recovery. Whilst seeing her I stopped taking the tablets, and miraculously so far have not needed them again. She saved me. She helped me clear my brain of thoughts it didn’t need, creating space to be more creative (I started my blog whilst seeing her!) Hypnotherapy is amazing when you find someone who is passionate about it and and who you can trust and feel comfortable with, and I felt that with Viv. If you would like to know more about solution-focused hypnotherapy and look at her website you can do so here.
And then finally onto my current therapy! (Yes I filled in that delightful form recently which we all know and love, and it showed that I’m still not quite there apparently) Dance therapy. Feeling that I’d worked enough on my brain and not enough on my body, when I was referred for this by my health visitor I agreed. I’d always said I’d do anything I could to get better and stay well. I have issues with personal space, touch and dancing in public all of which the course entails, so needless to say I am finding it challenging. I have written a poem about those challenges here. The thought behind this therapy is that the body and the brain are closely linked and that we hold areas of pain and anxiety in parts of our bodies that needs to be released. It definitely seems to be helping so far, but only time will tell so I shall blog about it in more detail when the course is finished, watch this space!
I know that some people reading this may have not been as lucky as I am in everything I have been offered and I know how privileged I have been. I have had wonderful health visitors and doctors and am blessed to have been able to take part in so many wonderful things. I’m also aware that many of you reading this may feel like you will never get better, that there is no hope, and have been struggling with the illness for many years, I hope with all of my heart that you feel better soon. Recovery is possible, I promise.