Category Archives: recovery

Counselling by Catherine PANDAS

I’m on the train. It’s delayed. The rain falls relentlessly outside coating the windows in wet spidery patterns. I’m listening to a compilation of Klezmer music and feel very pessimistic about this, my first counselling session for eight years.

I’ve been sat on a waiting list with my local IAPT Service for longer than the ‘standard waiting time’ of 6-8 weeks. I took my daughter along with me to my initial session last week, needless to say it wasn’t very productive. I dropped her off with a very good friend this morning in order to attend this session on my own. I don’t really know what to expect from it as counsellors are all so different. From what I saw last week, he seemed like a nice bloke, but I have no idea if he’s capable of scooping the black treacley mess out of my brain and turning it into something I can deal with constructively. We’ll see.
****
Here I am in reception. There are two people with suits on, they look like salesmen. They made me feel really angry actually, I don’t know why. And there’s another lady in the corner. I’ve kept my headphones in because I don’t like the shite local radio. I’ve been to the loo, the Suits stared at me as I walked past them. I want to know why they’re here, what are they selling? One of them looks over-confident, the other looks nervous. I have half an hour to wait so I’m going to read my book for a little while.
****
I’m out.
image

It was good today. It’s mainly driven by myself I think, but he joins in and uses the same language as me, which is oddly comforting. We talked about past betrayals and past relationships. We talked about my current relationship and the problems I have living in Rugby. We talked about how I feel when I feel bad and how I take a lot on, probably to distract myself from my own feelings. We talked about the fact that I never talked about my own experience of postnatal depression with anyone, I never talked it through. We talked about isolation and reaching out, and talking about how I’m feeling. Like how I’m actually feeling, not just generic “sad”, “low”. It was good. I feel like I took something away from it at least.

I know it’s going to be hard, but I think I need to look back at my pregnancy and the first days of Motherhood and try to put them to rest in my head. It’s like they’re there in the background, and can be revived, but I need to soften them a little so that their revival isn’t so destructive to me emotionally.

Session booked in next week. Watch this space.

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Beeping Black Dog – by Catherine PANDAS

I’m sat here working through our final wedding music choices.  WEDDING.  I am GETTING MARRIED to a MAN that I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART, and I KNOW HE LOVES ME TOO.  I’m also currently weaning off my anti-depressants.  Now, here’s a fine example of my bittersweet companion, the old Black Dog.

stupidblackdog

So, here I am, still in pyjamas, listening to beautiful music and having a fun text exchange about the wedding with my lovely kind fiance.  On the laptop.  Where there are photographs of him and his ex-partner.  Suddenly, there I am, swooping through files, my heartbeat quickening, feeling sick, keep going, keep looking, flicking past faces I don’t know, will never know, seeing smiles that aren’t real, don’t exist anymore, keep looking, keep going, looking for proof that…… HOLD ON.  Proof of what?  Proof that he EXISTED BEFORE ME?!?!???  Really?  This is the Beeping Black Dog, and he’s here trying to spoil my positive feeling.

Now, once upon a time, I would have continued in this chaotic spiral for the rest of the day until it culminated into having a great big useless row with lovely fiance over my own anxious thoughts, but since learning about coping strategies and talking, like really learning to talk about how I’m feeling, I have been able to work out other ways of doing things.  So, instead of carrying on, I closed down the folders and made a meme:

*MEME CONTAINS FOUL LANGUAGE, PLEASE DON’T LOOK IF THERE IS A CHANCE IT WILL OFFEND YOU*

BLACKDOGFUCKYOU

I made a meme, and now I feel better.

A Recovery Story – by The Butterfly Mother

sprouting

“Postnatal Depression recovery stories.” These were the only words I typed into my browser for weeks. My anxiety was incredibly high, I genuinely thought I was losing my mind. Instead of cuddling my son or enjoying his first smiles, I was scouring the internet for undeniable proof that I wouldn’t feel this way forever.  
 
Despite what my damaged mind was telling me, things did get better. I don’t feel that way anymore. So I’m posting my own story for any other mums who might be searching for answers now. 
 
My son was born at 1am on 27 Apr 2013 after 12 hours labour, an epidural and finally an emergency section. They had given me so much anesthetic at the last moment I became “blocked,” meaning I couldn’t move or feel anything besides my head and neck. I couldn’t hold my son for several hours, and I couldn’t feel when he was feeding.  
 
Looking back, things weren’t right from that very first day. I wasn’t feeling anywhere near the post-birth euphoria I had been expecting. But it wasn’t until 8 weeks later the cracks finally began to show. 
 
My son had just begun sleeping better, only waking for one feed during the night, but while he slept soundly at last I lay wide awake. The less I was able to sleep, the more I panicked during the day. How can I take care of him when I haven’t slept? What if I drop him down the stairs because I’m so exhausted? What if I fall asleep on the sofa and suffocate him? Of course, with these anxieties running around my mind all day I was nowhere near relaxed enough to sleep when night came around, and so the vicious cycle continued. I was lying in bed for around six hours each night, my heart racing and my thoughts spinning, until my body eventually gave in and I slept fitfully for between 1-2 hours before I awoke with a jolt, feeling sick and panicked once more.  
 
After 6 days of sleeping only an hour or two a night I burst into tears during a group I was attending at my local children’s centre. The staff were incredible, they calmed me as much as possible and called my health visitor. For the next few days she came by to see how I was, she listened to my fears and heard how I still wasn’t sleeping. I took all the usual advice – bath before bed, fresh bedding, read a book etc – but this only made my sleep worse. The pressure to sleep increased my panic and continued the cycle.  
 
I was then referred to my local Perinatal Emotional Wellbeing Service (PEWS). This is a fantastic NHS service which, sadly, isn’t available in all Trusts. Fortunately for me, Essex has it and that small team of individuals probably saved my life. Or at least kept me out of hospital. 
 
After they assessed me I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression. I had been desperately hoping there was another explanation but deep down I knew it wasn’t only insomnia, I wasn’t eating or able to think straight either, all triggered by horrendous anxiety. PEWS liaised with my doctor (who was fairly useless, more on that in a future post) and visited me at home twice a week. Under their guidance, I found the courage to begin taking a combination of medication (a sleeping aid, diazapam for short term anxiety relief and eventually, reluctantly, an antidepressant).  
 
The medication firstly helped to get my sleep back on track. I was terrified that the sleeping tablets wouldn’t work but 15 mins after taking my first one I succumbed to sleep on the sofa and my husband helped me to bed where I slept solidly for four hours – a vast improvement from how I was. Each night I would fear the tablet wouldn’t work and each night I slept, for an increasing length of time until my sleep patterns were fairly normal again.  
 
Despite the improvement in sleep and appetite I was still suffering from anxiety attacks almost constantly. I simply couldn’t function properly. Once the drugs took some effect PEWS sent round their Occupational Therapist who specialised in anxiety management. I still think of this amazing woman as an angel sent to save me. She gave me some basic, CBT-based tools for managing fear which, with lots of hard work and practice, began to improve my mood and functionality.
 
Eventually PEWS were able to discharge me when an appointment with an NHS therapist became available. Again, I was very lucky to see a CBT therapist who had a lot of experience with perinatal mood disorders.  
 
One of the most difficult things about this illness is the slow recovery time. In my opinion, medication goes a long way to take the edge off and kickstart your recovery but it can only do so much – therapy is a vital tool for long term recovery. Through therapy I was able to begin to reroute lots of damaging negative thought patterns.  
 
Recovery was definitely an accumulative process for me. Medication and therapy bore the brunt but there were many other aspects of “self-care” which were vital to me; good, regular sleep; a decent diet; fresh air and a walk every day if possible; supplements; support from family and friends; mindfulness; books and websites like Anxiety No More. And, critically, online support.Postpartum Progress and other blogs, and Facebook groups such as PPD Chat Support have been so valuable to me. Knowing you aren’t alone can help tremendously. 
 
Unfortunately, even with these tools, recovery takes time and patience, which is the biggest challenge of all. I remember being filled with despair when I read how long recovery can take for some people but the important thing to remember is even if full recovery takes months or longer you won’t be in that acute stage the entire time. The real hell was lessened in a matter of weeks for me. After that it becomes manageable, life becomes more bearable. You feel stronger and safer. You might not be thriving but you’re surviving. 
 
Parenting is hard and I still feel overwhelmed by it sometimes. I still wonder how I’ll cope. But then I remind myself that I’ve come through the last two years so there’s no reason I can’t keep going, keep striving, keep getting stronger. I also remind myself of all the things experiencing PND has taught me. I know how to deal with unhelpful thinking, I worry considerably less, I don’t sweat the small stuff and I have much more empathy for others. In some ways, I’m stronger. I think I’m probably a nicer, less selfish person. I’m not going to ever pretend PND is anything close to a gift, but there are certainly aspects to my personality and my life which have benefited. 
 
PND isn’t fair. It’s a cruel and terrible illness. But recovery is possible. If you’re reading this and thinking you’ll never get better try to remember that everyone who has ever recovered once thought they never would. And then they did.

To read more from The Butterfly Mother, please have a look at her blog here