Hope: Hope is the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or in the world at large.
Post natal depression – when you are living it, or watching someone live it – is hell on earth. It’s dark, isolating, terrifying. Intrusive thoughts are your daily companion and the world can pass by in a blur of tears and panic attacks. It is a part of my life I’ve worked damn hard to come out the other side of (three sodding times) and is something I’m terrified of returning. I didn’t realise, until this week, how good I have become at boxing up those hideous times in my mind, and moving those negative dark thoughts and feelings into a part of my brain that I never want to access. I’ve blocked it out, hidden it away and got on with life.
But ignoring something is never wise is it? Ignoring something never means it’s going to go away, and magically disappear. Generally I find that if I ignore something it can come back twice as hard to bite me firmly and painfully on the ass.
Life keeps me very busy and keeps my mind active and full of a multitude of different things…so it doesn’t have room for the past. It doesn’t like to share space with anything other than the present or the future. My mind likes thoughts about what I need to put in a packed lunch, or what I need to buy at the supermarket, or teach my year 5s that afternoon. I’ve become an expert at living in the moment and ignoring anything that stands in the way of that – even a panic attack. And I honestly didn’t realise how good at this I’d become, even almost convincing myself that I’d never really been that ill. That yes, I’d cried a bit and had been sleep deprived, but other than that I’d been ok. Just a bit down and desperate. A sleep deprived mum. It’s not like I was looking back through rose tinted spectacles…I just wasn’t looking back.
Today I met with some truly inspirational people. People who’ve suffered with pre and post natal depression, post traumatic stress disorder, post natal anxiety and puerperal psychosis, or who’ve supported a loved one through it. People affected by perinatal mental health problems and have lived to tell the tale an are now working hard to support others. And today we talked about the illness, discussed how we can raise awareness and start a national week or month dedicated to perinatal mental health awareness and support. Today I remembered what it was like, revisited a time in my life I’d give anything to be able to forget. It was exciting and draining all at the same time and tonight I am at a loss for words as to how best describe how I am feeling. The thought of others suffering what I did makes me want to cry, but it also puts a fire in my belly that is so strong and powerful it makes me determined to do everything I can to support them, and help them, and let them know that this isn’t the end, that they can get better – that there is hope.
Here is a link to the blog post I wrote in January that got the ball rolling 🙂
You know you’re not welcome here anymore,
Go away, get out, I’ve shown you the door.
Don’t you dare come back and ruin my world,
I won’t let you, I’ll stay strong for my boys and my girl.
Get lost, jog on, go away, just scram,
I’ve worked too hard to get well and to be where I am.
You were beaten, overcome, I was rid of your hold,
You can’t break me, can’t destroy me, I refuse to fold.
My ears are shut to your self loathing attacks,
I shan’t be irrational, I’ll hold on to the facts.
You will not absorb my energy and spirit,
You can say what you like for I’ll choose not to hear it.
I’m stronger than you and I win every time,
There’s no point in fighting, all choices are mine.
Try all you like you’ll never beat me,
So give up, f*** off and jog on PND.
This Christmas and New Year, I am fortunate enough to be well. I am lucky that I can see the joy in Christmas and celebrate it with gusto. But for many, I know this may not be the case at all; just like it wasn’t for me last year when I was recovering from post natal depression. Christmas and New Year can be extremely difficult for people suffering with depression. It is not always a merry and happy time of year. It is often a very lonely and difficult period for everyone who is affected by the illness, and supporting someone through it can be – in its own way – as challenging as it is being the person who is ill.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting a moving post about just this…supporting others with PND. And in particular supporting others when you are suffering or have suffered yourself – for many of us who are recovering or have recovered are determined that no one should suffer like we have, because that thought is simply unbearable; you wouldn’t wish post natal depression on your worst enemy.
The post is from the lovely Pumping Mama who blogs, amongst other things, about her experiences of PND with raw honesty at thepumpingmama.wordpress.com. She’s recently blogged about Christmas, and describes it as a ‘two sided coin,’ one side where you are able to enjoy it, and another where you are suffocated by other’s Christmas cheer and possibly feel at your lowest point ever. The Pumping Mama is passionate about mothers not feeling alone, about us all supporting each other through talking, texting, and tweeting, giving hope and encouragement to each other. This post has verbalised many thoughts I’ve had when talking to others suffering from PND, for even though I’ve suffered my experiences may be very different to those of others. For me in particular, the last line says it all.
Supporting Others With PND
Do I make my reality theirs? The feelings they have, the things they’re suffering, may not be anything like my personal experience.
Do I tell them the gritty truth? Do I tell them that I don’t remember a lot of the first year of Moos life? Do I divulge to them that I still have bad days, even now, more than two years on?
Do I just listen? This isn’t about me now. Do I tell them that I can empathise, that I’ve been there, that it gets better?
No one tells you how to support others in life. Is this why we live in such a fractured society, often lacking in compassion for mental health issues? How do we learn how to love other human beings, to hold each other up, to comfort and nurture one another?
I don’t know the answers. I just know my experience, my reality, my journey, and what works for me. All I can do is hold a hand, make a cup of tea, and listen. I’m no expert on mental health, no degree backs up my support. But in the midst of a vastly lonely head space, someone simply walking alongside you is enough.
You can follow The Pumping Mama on Twitter @ThePumpingMama, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ThePumpingMama and her blog is http://www.thepumpingmama.wordpress.com
A MONSTER ATE MY MUM
Written by Jen Faulkner
A children’s book, written in rhyme, looking at Post Natal Depression from a child’s perspective.
First Edition, published on 18th October 2013
Print version: £7.49
An important subject, and one that can be tricky to talk about, is Post Natal Depression, which affects between 10% and 15% of new mothers. To highlight this important issue and to facilitate its discussion comes the story ‘A Monster Ate my Mum’ by Jen Faulkner.
As a sufferer of Post-Natal depression herself, Jen knows how debilitating this illness can be and just how much it affects the whole family, especially siblings. Watching her older children see her suffer and finding it hard to find the right words to explain to them what was happening to their mum, Jen took to something she knows well, her love of writing.
She wrote a rhyming story talking about PND, as seen through the eyes of a child, to help her children understand what was happening to her. She hopes to help other families affected by the illness with the book. The central character, a young boy, goes on a hunt to look for the monsters that have taken different parts of his mum. He looks for her smile, her laugh, her spark.
“Excuse me but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun.
I want to see her smile, my mum.
Is she in your big round tum?”
The boy learns that they didn’t mean to eat his mum and that in time, all of the things they have taken will be returned.
“No she’s not here I just ate her smile.
I’ll give it back after a while.
I’m sorry I was hungry you see.
I don’t know where your mum could be.”
Aimed at children across the age range from 2 right through to 12, the initial response from the first appearance of the story on her blog instinctivemum.com has been amazing, and included an invitation to read it aloud on BBC Radio Bristol during Dr Phil Hammond’s Saturday Surgery show. More information can be found on the blog: http://amonsteratemymum.wordpress.com
Currently available through this link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/jen-faulkner/a-monster-ate-my-mum/paperback/product-21257893.html
Jen Faulkner is available to discuss her PND journey and the story it helped to create.
For further information please contact Jen Faulkner: firstname.lastname@example.org or @MonsterAteMyMum