I recently read an amazing post by Rachel Hawkins, the creative mind behind the blog ourrachblogs. The post covered her experiences of birth and the aftermath and is entitled “my story” it started out as a way of expressing how Rachel felt but she had great feedback (I’m not surprised it’s a great piece)
I contacted Rachel in the hopes that she would agree to guest post on her experience here for abeautifulabode and to my delight she said yes!
Our aim is to reach a wider audience with both blogs hitting the subject matter at hand.
Here are Rachel’s experiences:
Recently I wrote about my experience with Post Natal Depression & Anxiety. I wrote it for two reasons, firstly for cathartic reasons, I love to write so thought if I wrote about what I went through it might offer some closure. I also wrote it to help others who may be going through a similar experience, I’m passionate about raising awareness of pre and post-natal mental health.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the subsequent response and have heard from many women telling me about their experience and explaining how much my post had helped them. This is amazing.
I’ve been thinking about ways to alleviate the perils of depression and anxiety and methods that can go some way to help the symptoms and improve a sufferer’s life. I’ve thought back to all that I have done to get to the place I am now, which if I’m honest, is really quite a good place. I’m on a much more even keel.
I’ll be honest, I had to reach rock bottom before I found myself getting better. I didn’t want to take tablets, I thought that I could do it without and just rely on therapy and time being a healer. When I realised at the start of 2015 this was no longer an option, I started taking Citalopram. Now, I am in no way a huge advocate of pills, choosing to take the tablets was a huge decision. I’d had some therapy (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) in 2014, looking back I don’t think I was in the right place for it, I didn’t have the right amount of energy for something that can be quite consuming and demanding. I guess it helped in some way but this was quite a temporary measure. Once my sessions finished in June 2014, it wasn’t long before I realised I was heading for a downfall again.
My issues began in 2013 when I gave birth to my son in early December. I had a very traumatic birth experience which caused me to suffer from severe anxiety which I believe lead to the depression. I was exhausted both mentally and physically, as so many women often are after giving birth.
I felt like I was a danger to myself and was scared of my racing thoughts. I became obsessed with the thought I was suffering from psychosis and would google the symptoms regularly, convincing myself that I needed to be sectioned. It was an incredibly frightening time. I had tried to take some tablets a couple of weeks after giving birth but suffered from some rather extreme side effects which made me stop taking them straight away. As I was already very fragile emotionally and mentally, I felt I didn’t need to be feeling any worse while I waited for the side effects to wear off.
I was very up and down throughout 2014, sometimes I wouldn’t feel too bad (despite the free floating feeling of anxiety always being there in some form), getting out of bed wasn’t quite the chore it may have been the day or week before. But towards the end of 2014, in the run up to my son’s 1st Birthday and Christmas, I was becoming increasingly anxious, depressed and rather manic. Sometimes I’d cry for long periods of time, desperate for myself to gain control of my thoughts. I pushed myself to get through the Birthday and Christmas but once all of the celebrations were over, I hit my lowest point.
I had a breakdown. I needed more help, I needed therapy and I found the courage to start taking tablets again. I was given a different type of medication and started to take it. OK, the side effects weren’t great but they weren’t as bad as previously and I had nothing to lose now. I had to get better for myself and for my son.
The start of 2015 was tough, we lost our beloved cat and we had several stressful situations to deal with, that required a huge deal of strength. Gradually, with the help of the tablets I began to feel like the fog began to disappear. I had the energy to start therapy again and be more pro-active with it. I began counselling which helped me a lot, I would talk to my therapist about the birth and why is was so traumatic, this gave me an element of closure. I no longer felt afraid and sad when I thought about it.
Becoming a mum is hard. Yes, it’s incredible and yes it’s rewarding and all those things we hope it will be. But it’s also tough, it’s tough on a woman’s body, relationships and our emotional well being. I felt as though I had lost my identity and was no longer Rachel, I felt like this was how I was always going to feel.
I now realise this isn’t the case, I’m still me, I’m still the person I was before, but with the best gift of all my son.
With the help of therapy, being kind to myself and the tablets (I’ve subsequently been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder so will probably be on medication for a long time – I’m fine with that now), I feel so much better.
Life no longer feels like a chore. I enjoy motherhood, I’ve found a passion for writing and enjoy being me again.
In my opinion, I feel more needs to be done to prepare women mentally for how hard the first few days, weeks and months can be when they become a mum. There needs to be more support and perhaps midwives should receive an element of mental health training so they can recognise any symptoms their ladies may be presenting.
The breast is best mantra needs to be carefully promoted. I know that it is important but sometimes women can’t breastfeed for whatever reason, mums shouldn’t be made to feel like they’re a failure if this happens. It can make an already traumatic situation a million times worse.
I tried to breastfeed but just couldn’t, I felt scared to tell my midwife and was almost grateful for her curt response of “I know you’ve had a tough time, so I won’t give you a hard time” when I informed her I’d turned to formula. This shouldn’t be happening, women need support and up to date information – formula is more than fine, my son thrived on it!
I really hope that any women who can relate to this post get the help they need. Feeling like this is horrible, I know more than anyone. You feel isolated, scared, lonely, fretful and anxious for the future. I promise you, help is out there. You won’t always feel like this, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I felt like the walls were closing in on me, I didn’t think I would ever feel better. But I did and I do.
Here are some links that may help you find the support you need.
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
please get in touch if you want someone to talk to, I am not qualified but I have been through the experience and know exactly what it is like, sometimes just talking to someone and writing your feelings down can help.