Balls to You PND by Amy Radmall

Hi, I’m Amy Radmall. I’m 32, I’m married & I have a 2 year old, Charlie, and I am a post natal depression survivor.
I first got involved with the PANDAS foundation when I was on the tail end of my PND journey. Whilst on maternity leave, Jeremy Kyle was a staple part of my day followed by This Morning.
One day they were talking about pre and post natal illnesses, depression, psychosis, and talking about the PANDAS foundation, and what people could do to help. Recognising a lot of my symptoms in the TV interview, I had an overwhelming urge to help others going through this experience.
But lets go back to the start….
I had an amazing pregnancy, no sickness, no illness, couldn’t have gone better. So I planned the ‘perfect birth’, waterbirth, nice music, relaxing lights… so you can imagine my horror when, at 38 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with severe pre eclampsia. My blood pressure the night I was admitted to hospital was 220/190. If it hadn’t been picked up when it was, there could have been severe consequences for myself, and my baby.
Long story short, I was rushed in for an emergency C Section, not the relaxing birth I had hoped for. Pumped full of drugs, my only memory of the experience is feeling incredibly itchy as the spinal wore off.
Following a number of other issues post birth, my mood went further & further downwards, prompting emergency calls to the health visitor, doctor & family. I couldn’t trust myself around Charlie & didn’t feel any bond with the child that had grown inside me.
Going onto medication was to be my saviour. Still medicated now, same doseage, almost 2 years on. Still have down days, but not as regularly. The bond I now have with Charlie is great, he lights up my life (even when he is naughty…) and it’s a pleasure being with him.
The tagline for PANDAS is ‘its ok not to be ok’. It was when I started to research the charity that I started to talk about it. I hold awareness days on my facebook page, I’m now an ambassador co-ordinator for PANDAS, I interview the men & women that support us, the helpline volunteers and I’m also a speaker myself. Not a week goes by when I don’t get an email, text, or facebook message off someone who wants to talk, or who didn’t realise they were poorly.
I want to help raise awareness. One in four women are sufferers. The same for men. One in four. That’s how common it is. I want to make depression in any form as normal as fish & chips, as normal as a free bar at the conference, and as normal as eating chocolate at Easter. Its ok to have depression. Its ok not to be ok
www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
With support groups on facebook, helplines, local support & local speakers. Get involved! Could you help 1 in 4?
PS as a footnote, I’m now expecting my second child on Christmas Day. Presents don’t get any better than that !

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From Birth to Breakdown in A Matter of Days – by Gem Step

So this post has been 18 months in the making and I’ve realised it will never be quite right. How can I ever put into words what me and me family went through? How can I ever describe the sheer torture of mental illness combined with being a new Mummy? How can I ever be brave enough to write down those dark, insomnia fueled thoughts?

Long story short – I had a baby, went loopy, was admitted to a Mother & Baby Unit psychiatric ward, accidentally discharged myself, went loopier, was rescued and fixed in the community, learned to function, got better, became a pretty good Mummy actually.

Did all this happen for a reason? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Totally. Would I change what happened if I could (like if I had a porthole/tardis)? Surprisingly  – no.

My pregnancy went well after those 10 weeks spanning the 1st and 2nd trimester where I felt sick unless I was eating.  There were comedic moments where the seat of the loo had a wobbly hinge and would clonk me on the head while barfing – retch – ouch – retch.

From week 16 onwards I suppose I bloomed and my midwife appointments would be over in 5 minutes. We went to local antenatal classes and met 8 other couples with whom we would become firm friends.

MG decided she was quiet cosy in my tummy and so at 2 weeks overdue I was induced. Option 1 fell out and option 2 kicked things off. Gas and air was fun and I found myself even funnier than normal. My midwife was called Berlin and I renamed her Bingo. Midwife 2 had been on the induction ward and so I told everyone that me and her went way back.  Midwife 2 – Sara, was beautiful and stuck to my birthplan as much as was possible. Her calm smiles throughout the interventions and lack of MG crying upon appearance kept me calm.

All was good, MG was here safe and well, I had no pain, we got moved up to the post labour ward. The next 24 hours were horrible to say the least. Little MG wouldn’t feed by breast or bottle. Mr B had to go home and I had no idea what to do with a brand new baby. A “feeding specialist” midwife came round every 2-3 hours to shove MG’s head onto my breasts to no avail. To me, MG didn’t look well and her eyes looked really sad. Eventually a new midwife listened to me and called a pediatrician. This lovely man became my hero. He took MG down to SCBU (neo natal) and ran tests including a lumbar-puncture to rule out meningitis.

MG had a high infection score and was cleared of the dreaded M word. She was fed through a tube and was given anti-biotics every 12 hours. I suppose I went into auto-pilot and having a room in SCBU (having been rudely booted off post-labour ward as I no longer had my baby with me) so we could stay with MG allowed us to get into a routine which included me sitting in a brown room hooked up to a breast pump. We felt likes frauds with our well-looking baby in SCBU among a lot of premmie babbas.

MG was feeding on formula while I still attempted to feed her myself and we took her home on day 7. Again, a certain amount of auto-pilot and receiving lots of post got me though the next week or so. Once Mr B went back to work and MG still wasn’t breast feeding as I basically had no milk, that’s when I began to unravel.

The following 2-4 weeks are pretty hazy for me and this is a possible saving grace. I developed total and utter insomnia. MG did sleep. I didn’t. I obsessed over the fact I couldn’t breastfeed and thought I was literally killing my baby by her not getting breast milk. I was so anxious that I couldn’t settle MG and she would cry for what felt like hours. The anxiety over took my body and mind. Stress coursed through my limbs and I felt I just had to run (which I did more than once with MG in her pram). It didn’t make me feel better.

I would pace the bedroom floor at night and moan, while Mr B did all MG’s care. During the day I would leave all the curtains drawn and count the minutes till Mr B came home.

I spent a lot of time on the phone to Mr B, my Mam, friends, GPs, the Samaritans, and eventually the local mental health crisis team. What saddens me about this time is that I called a PND charity (knowing full well I had PND) and was told they could only help me if I had a diagnosis. I had been so brave as to call them and they fobbed me off the phone. More sadness when the first GP I saw simply asked if I was being to hard on myself and told me to take away the questionnaire and bring it back completed in a week.

The next GP who I saw at MG’s 6 week check only quickly looked over my clean, content and well dressed baby and then spent a good half hour or so with me. She gave me drugs and a routine to help me cope with being a full time Mum.

Anti-depressants typically take weeks to kick in. My mental health plummeted before they could work and in crept suicidal thoughts of jumping off the road onto the A road below. Suicidal thoughts come from nowhere and infest your mind. For me there was no logic among these thoughts. I was in mental and physical torture which no matter what I did or who I spoke to things weren’t getting any better. Death truly seemed the only option. The point at which these torturous intrusive thoughts turned to MG, I literally shut down.

I couldn’t look at or hold MG and there was now no point in my existence. I called the crisis team and begged the man who visited to send me to hospital. He wouldn’t. I am grateful he decided that for me. Had I been in hospital without MG I’m not sure I would have ever recovered. I was visited by different crisis team pairs a few times a day, checking I was still breathing if not living.

I was given drugs which Mr B was told to hide. I stopped eating, drinking, showering, going to the toilet. I lay in bed. Still.

Then came my CPN. She was a firm but nice Irish woman my age. She had me assessed by a psychiatrist within days. The point at which he, my CPN and her trainee came back down our path 20 minutes after leaving I knew I was busted. I had lied about my dark thoughts and he had sussed me out. As much as I didn’t care about what happened to me or MG, I hadn’t dared tell him of my visions of how I could die and take MG with me. There. I said it.

They, and my awesome GP got the funding for me and MG to be admitted to Winchester MBU. Although a trek down the M3, I would be treated in this specialist psychiatric ward where Mums take their babies with them.

On arrival (late as JLS had a gig in town – random thing Mr B reminds me of) the child care practitioner took MG while I was settled in my on-suite room with cheese and crackers the nurse had kept back from dinner for me.   I was admitted 2 days before Fathers Day and for ruining Mr B’s first Fathers Day I will never forgive myself. At 6 weeks old, MG was living on a psych ward while her Mummy was given a concoction of pills to help her sleep and calm her poorly brain. I hope MG understands when she is older that we spent her early days there because I rescued myself for her. We stuck together because there is a plan for us and we will change the world.

A Letter To The Ghost of PND – by Leigh Watters (PND Nerves)

I still feel you.  You’re like the Elephant in the room.  The black dog in the corner. A cloud hanging over me.  Quite frankly a bad smell.

Leigh Blog

I gave you almost of 2 years of my life. You stole the early days of my eldest son’s life from me. You made me question my ability as a mother, made me push my husband away at what should have been one of the happiest times our lives.  You pushed me to the limits of my sanity and had the potential to cost me my marriage and my baby.

We’d struggled you know, TTC for a number of years, had the tests, sought the help and finally after months of fighting for hospital referrals, weeks of tests (some of them invasive),  and after what felt like forever we got our BFP!  We were overjoyed! I wasn’t great at being pregnant.  The sickness lasted much longer than I’d anticipated and I lost 2 stone in the first trimester.  By the middle of the 2nd trimester I had developed SPD and come DD I was finding it difficult to walk.

Eventually after 40 weeks and 3 days I delivered a healthy, beautiful little boy and almost immediately there you were.  It was like you were the Grim Reaper lurking in the corner of the delivery room just waiting to kill off our joy before we’d ever really had time to feel it.  Granted it is well documented that I chose not to admit you were there until 6 months later, but nonetheless there you were.

Minute by minute, hour after hour, every day, week after long week.  Sucking the life out of me.  Making it impossible for me to love my boy, crushing the soul out of me, stopping me from taking any pleasure in anything.  You did those things, not me.  You turned me into a monster I never dreamed it was possible could exist.

But I beat you.  It took medication and a lot of talking.  Talking to family, friends, my work colleagues and a counsellor; but bit by bit I banished you. I drove you further and further back until one day I couldn’t feel you any more.

I found me again, I loved my boy, I loved my husband and we talked about the possibility of making my beautiful little boy a big brother.  I was nervous.  I still am.  What if you came charging back into our lives and stole me away from another baby?  It was a difficult decision.  It took us months to weigh up the pros of having another baby to complete our family against the cons of you and the possibility of me not being able to beat you a second time.

You know what though?  I have. I think I will always be a bit nervous about you lurking.  I spent a few months of my youngest’s life worrying that every bad mood was a sign of you taking over.  Every cross word an indication that I was slipping down the rabbit hole again. Then I realised that if I worried about it too much I could worry you back to life in a horror story like self-fulfilling prophecy.

So I refuse! I refuse to let you come any further into our lives.  Lurk there in the corner if you like but the corner is as far as you’ll get. My happiness is not yours to take.  My enjoyment of motherhood is not yours to spoil.  My marriage is not yours to chip away at the foundation of.

It’s my life.  You made me a ghost once but it won’t happen again.  I don’t believe in ghost stories anymore.

Signed PND Nerves..

The Fear – by Rhiannon Adams (Poynton PANDAS)

fear fɪə/

noun: fear; plural noun: fears

    1.an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.

    synonyms: terror, fright, fearfulness, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress.

 Poynton Blog

When I got poorly the first and the second time, the thing that drove my illness and fed my illness was fear. My fear would come in the evening and build up to a crescendo of distress by the time it was bed time. Bed time was the thing I dreaded the most. The next morning was my second biggest fear.

In both cases there wasn’t really any perceivable threat. There was no bear to fight off during the night and my house wasn’t under attack. It just felt scary. Well perhaps not scary but there was a definite overwhelming feeling of dread and foreboding.

The first time round I was poorly and stressed from work. This had led to a feeling of being caught on a hamster wheel where the only possible solution I could find at the time was to go faster. Surely my distress with the constant deadlines and demands of meeting multiple clients’ needs would be to multitask more? To do more. Doing more and going faster would get me to that end goal and the world would be a better place. Right? Wrong….

The second time I was poorly the symptoms were identical. The way I reacted to my symptoms was the same too. This time though the clients – a dynamic duo born on a hot sweaty day, were even more demanding than the last lot! These guys didn’t know the meaning of clocking off and played me like a fiddle! With each feed taking an hour plus and winding and burping another 20 mins, by the time I had put one down the clock was ticking. I had an hour and a half before twin 1 needed more milk and I hadn’t even started on twin 2 yet.  The demands of a busy advertising agency had nothing on these. These clients were the toughest yet and their little cries had a hotline to my heart.

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm

This fear or THE FEAR as I now call it is remarkably clever. It sneaks in when you’re at your most vulnerable. For me it never escalated above agitation, insomnia and the odd panic attack. I’m well aware that for some dealing with anxiety, THE FEAR is terrifying. THE FEAR for some is constant, unwielding and very very frightening. Intrusive thoughts, psychosis, paranoia coupled with a foreceful desire for it to end. I know in some ways I got off lightly but it didn’t feel like that to me at the time.

THE FEAR unfortunately still lives on in me. It’s not always there but can tiptoe up to me and touch tackle me from time to time. It’s made a return for a couple of weeks again . It’s decided to take up residence in my mind for a short while. I know why it’s come back. It’s because I took my eye of the ball a bit. I forgot that in order to fight THE FEAR I needed to be fully armed and in cohoots with its arch-enemy Calmness and Confidence. Hey where did you guys go? Oh yes…. you ebbed away when I started doing too much again. I got cocky didn’t I and started to juggle too many balls again. Let me slap my wrists.

I need to ensure that I prioritise me as much as I can in a busy household where others’ needs seem far more pressing than my own. Cancel those unnecessary engagements, throw away that to-do list, baton down the hatches and let’s concentrate on me and my needs for a bit. It’s a matter of survival you see. THE FEAR according to a very clever counsellor can be combatted, in my case, by not going into battle with it. By sitting with it and acknowledging it and by being very very kind to myself. Wish me luck. See you on the other side.

……………

If you need help with dealing with anxiety. please contact:
Poynton PANDAS (pre and postnatal depression and support)

email: psppoynton@aol.co.uk

www.facebook.com/PoyntonPANDAS

Free drop-in group every Monday during term-time
St George’s Church Hall, Poynton
10.45-12.15

Imagine Getting Sick – Amy Dear

It’s been a super long time since my last post – life got in the way a bit, and we are moving 260-ish miles next week so prepare for even more sporadic posts! But here is one for you, about PANDAS Foundation. I guest-blogged for them a little while ago, but I had some thoughts to share so you’re going to have to suffer them. But here’s an adorable picture to get you through it.

Amy Dear Blog

Imagine that you’ve just had a baby.

You’ve suffered through pregnancy, through labour, and now they’re here – you’ve done it. You’re a parent.

Now imagine you get sick. You don’t know what it is, you don’t know what caused it. You’re worried about bothering a doctor, but this really hurts. You’re tired and miserable and sometimes the pain gets so bad you don’t want to be here any more. You hurt too much to leave the house, or hold your baby. You try and mention it to people, just in passing, and they tell you it’s nothing. That the pain will go away, or that everyone feels like that, or even that you’re overreacting.
Imagine reading up online about what might be wrong with you, and seeing words like ‘dangerous’, or ‘crazy’. Imagine worrying you will make your baby sick, or the people you love. Imagine crying every night because you hurt so badly and you’re too scared to ask for help.
This is the reality of post-natal depression. If it were a disease, then as a nation we would campaign for a cure. But because of the stigma of mental illness, it’s hidden. It’s a secret. And it needs to stop being that way.
PANDAS Foundation works to support everyone dealing with the effects of pre- and post-natal mental illness. It’s not just depression – it’s anxiety, OCD, trauma, PTSD. Everyone deserves help for their illness, and being pregnant, or a new mum, or a new father – that’s difficult enough without being ill as well.
It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK not to be OK.

Is It Possible To Enjoy The “Good” Days When You Have Post Natal Depression? Why We Should Be Grabbing These Days By The Balls! – by Olivia Siegl

BABY BIBLE

You have Post Natal Depression, you are going through hell and despite your chosen methods of treatment the light at the end of this bloody tunnel is nowhere to be seen. Then all of a sudden, you wake up and for reasons unbeknown to your exhausted self, the darkness and panic that have been your alarm call for the last several months is different. It’s still there but not as acute and isn’t draped in all its heart sinking finery.

You tentatively get out of bed and as you take each ritual step into the nursery you realise that your steps are a little lighter and the quick sand you feel yourself walking through most days is now more like a muddy puddle. Your head feels dare you say it “clearer” and the morning routine not as daunting.

With your levels of agitation decreased and the ability to smile without reminding yourself, you nervously announce to yourself that “today IS going to be a good day”.

Having a “good” day and by good I mean a better day compared to the majority of shit ones you have been surviving through of late, can be a double edged sword with your sense of relief for the respite only matched by the fear that it is a cruel trick and could be spitefully snatched away from you with the trigger of a negative emotion. This in itself can result in you only half enjoying the experience as whilst enjoying the first day in what feels like a lifetime you also spend it watching your back for you unwanted visitor to return.

One of the many things I have been forced to learn through my 18 month battle with the Mother f***** that is our unwanted house guest, is to try to re-educate my brain into relaxing into these days and actually let myself enjoy them (yes easier said than done with the bloody panic levels you can suffer during PND and the road runner of thoughts speeding like a lunatic through your overactive brain). Before all this PND shit I was actually a fun person to be around and annoyingly optimistic about things. Therefore, the irony of trying to “let” myself enjoy these days is not lost on me or should I imagine the millions of other fellow sufferers experiencing the same thing.

However, why the hell should we not enjoy these days? After all the heart breaking moments, frustration fuelled rows with our partner and the levels of hatred and unadulterated shame we have felt about ourselves we bloody deserve whatever feelings of joy we can get our hands on(no matter how small or overwhelming they may be). You DESERVE to feel happy, you DESERVE a break from the monotony of sadness, you DESERVE to acknowledge that your old self is still alive and kicking no matter how far buried under the rubble of PND it may be. You are STILL there and you will one day be making your full return to take down PND and take back your life.

Ladies, grab this good day by the balls and hold onto the little sucker like your lie-ins post baby depend on it. We don’t know what has brought this day about, we don’t know the magic formula that has made it arrive or if this good day will turn into a good few days, however it HAS arrived. It is proof that despite previous thoughts, the glimmer of light at the end of this bloody exhausting and downright unfair tunnel does exist. Go ahead and let yourself make the most of the day, say hello to your old self and reassure them that you will be reunited again soon.

Do you want to join the No Bullshit Mum Revolution fighting to make Post Natal Depression a discussion point not to be ashamed of? Want to discuss how you are feeling about being a mum, warts and all, NO JUDGEMENT? Come join the No Bullshit Mum Revolution and pop into The Confessional to chat to other likeminded and straight talking mums, follow us on Twitter @thebabybible and on the closed Facebook Group by sending your email address to Olivia@the-baby-bible.com All mums welcome!

Interview with Leigh Watters: author of When Dreams Become a Waking Nightmare: Living with PND after Infertility

Hi Leigh!  From my volunteer work with you, it’s quite shocking to read your blog.  To me you’re this strong, inspiring woman, it’s hard to imagine that you have ever struggled with anything, but your piece highlights something which makes many women feel so vulnerable so thank you so much for writing it.

In an ideal world, how do you wish your initial appointment with the GP regarding infertility had gone?

I would’ve appreciated having someone listen to our concerns and offer reassurance as well as an overview of the possible options/typical outcomes. We felt like we weren’t being taken seriously and that our personal feelings didn’t matter at all simply because we didn’t fit nicely into the little checklist of ages when infertility could strike.

Looking back, what makes you think you may have been suffering from AND (Ante-Natal Depression)?

From around the middle of my second trimester nothing made me happy. I felt detached, grumpy and like everything was too much trouble. I despised being pregnant because it wasn’t the beautiful, glowing experience that everyone told me it should/would be and I was frustrated with myself that I was “doing it wrong”. I was convinced that I had this contained internally, but I’ve been told by a few close friends since I started blogging that I was unbearable to be around. One of my best friends once told me that if I ever got pregnant again she was going to buy herself a crash helmet!!

I can’t imagine how you felt to have tried so hard to get pregnant and then suffer from PND, is there much support out there for people who have had fertility problems and postnatal depression?

I’m sure there are areas where the support is great, but I think that like a large facet of peri-natal mental illness support a postcode lottery applies. In our experience there is a lack of joined up thinking (i.e no inter-departmental working). We were offered counselling via Assisted Conception, but it wasn’t flagged to the community midwives or health visiting team that I would be a risk; despite there being evidence to suggest that families where infertility has been a concern are proportionally higher risk of developing subsequent mental health illness. So I was treated in the normal way until I had my breakdown at clinic.

You say that you’ve come to terms with having little control over your birthing process, do you think something could have been done at the time to improve your birthing experience?

I think I had a very traditional (old school) midwife in delivery who took control as I was officially labouring via medical intervention. Rather than discussing options I was given instructions. I felt disconnected from the whole experience and was afraid to challenge what was happening. I was belittled at a crucial point of delivery and made to feel as though I wasn’t coping as well as other women. I think a little more understanding/compassion surrounding me and my situation rather than “this is an induction” would’ve works wonders.

What impact do you think not being able to breastfeed had on you and your relationship with your son?

In the short-term it was massive. I felt like I had failed him. breastfeeding should be the most natural thing in the world but it’s hard work and I think that part gets glossed over at ante-natal appointments. He couldn’t latch, I couldn’t express and he was hungry. He could scream for hours on end and when I asked for help it took more than 24 hours to arrive by which time we’d started formula as we didn’t know what else to do. I was treated with scorn by the midwife who came because I’d “given up”. In the long term it has made no difference, but it has been a long road to having that level of acceptance.

Has your experience changed the way you are with friends and their new babies?

I think so. I tend to focus now on how mum is rather than the baby, looking out for those tell-tale signs that no-one recognised in me. I wouldn’t ever want to scare anyone, but I would find it difficult to forgive myself if someone I knew slipped through the cracks of the system and couldn’t access support if they needed it.

Why do you blog about PND?

When I was receiving talking therapy during my illness, I was encouraged to keep a mood journal so that during low points I could refer to hard evidence that I was capable of good days. The blog became an extension of that shortly after the birth of my second child as I was nervous about the possibility to developing PND again. (Hence being @pndnerves). Over time I realised that my talking about my experiences had the potential to give hope to others in a similar situation and it grew from there.

Lastly, what do you look forward to doing at the end of a rotten day?

TV on the couch in my pjs with a large block of chocolate.

Thanks so much Leigh for taking time out to talk to me and for sharing your story with us!

#ItsOKNotToBeOK