Tag Archives: PTSD

Project Me by Hannah Tubb

My name is Hannah I suffered from post natal depression/anxiety and PTSD. My children are three and seven. I still suffer from anxiety. Sometimes I control it sometimes I can’t.
Sometimes I see a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes I don’t.
I’ve had counselling- some has worked, some has not.
Sometimes I accept my life as it is and I’m grateful for what I have – sometimes I feel like I have a neon sign flashing over my head saying ‘crap mum’ ‘crap wife’ crap everything. This happens a lot. I wish it didn’t because I beat myself up for that as well!

Today I woke up with an overwhelming list of projects in my head that I have to complete or get started on.
My daughters birthday party and then a couple of days later her birthday,
A promotion at work and subsequent responsibilities.
A list of tasks that I need to get on top of in my various volunteering roles at PANDAS. And then there’s my ,ten-year-wedding-anniversary -spa-break-must-look-good-in-bikini’ stress!
The counselling course I’m planning for,
the yoga course I’d like to take,
the perfect organised housewife and baking, crafty, happy, stress-free mum I aspire to be.

My husband suggested I strip everything back to the absolute basics – but I want it all – so what are the basics?!
Besides, if I strip everything back won’t I just be failing at all the things I’ve dropped? I feel as though I’d be letting myself down and be seen as flaky – what is this obsession with wanting to be seen as someone who is busy all the time? because I might be busy but I’m spreading my self so thin that I don’t feel like I’m actually succeeding at any one thing!
So, today I’m starting a new project.  Project ME!
I’m going to strip everything back to the basics – my family, me and work (because I have to).
I need to work on my foundations again before I can start building on top of them.
I need to work out what makes ME happy, (and that means ME not what I do because I want to be seen in a certain way by others.)I have lived my life like that for so long I think it will be hard to prize the two apart.
So, that is my first task for project ME – make a list of things I love doing, and make time for those things!
What things would you add to your list?
To be continued . . .

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We Run Because We Like It – by Amy Dear

I suffered post-natal PTSD after my first son was born. It was a fairly rubbish birth, which left me both physically and emotionally scarred. I was very unhealthy afterwards (having gained over 6 stone during the pregnancy) and was left anaemic, exhausted and with an awful lot of stitches!

I hated my appearance – hated feeling so ill. I’d suffered body image problems before pregnancy so I was an emotional wreck at the ‘New Me’. After the usual 6 week check, I decided it was time to try the old ‘get back into shape’ routine … but then when my son was 4 months old, I suffered a Pulmonary Embolism. The embolism (caused by a blood clot that had lodged itself in my lung) had left my body weaker than ever. It left me with breathing difficulties and chronic chest pain, which meant simple things like walking were completely exhausting. I started not eating enough, in order to lose weight, which failed – it just sent my body into panic mode and made me feel lower than ever.

I fell pregnant again soon afterwards, and with hormones taking what little strength I had left, my health and emotional state were at an all time low.

Two months before my youngest was due, I saw an advert online for a local race. A half marathon, at the Eden Project in Cornwall. I have no idea why it appealed to me – I was still overweight, still unhealthy, still struggling. But something in me though ‘That sounds really hard. I bet I could do that.’ So, while 7 months pregnant in March 2014, I signed up for the October race. And when I’d gone through my second labour (also traumatic, thankfully less scarring), I started training.

Training did not go as easily as I’d hoped. I was not good – short legs and bad lungs do not a good runner make. I struggled to run for more than 2 minutes at a time. But at the same time something drove me – a need for something that was ‘mine’. Something that didn’t involve being a Mum, or being anxious. Something to distance myself from the unhealthy, unhappy person who’d suffered two traumatic births. I felt that I’d been weak (not true I now realise!) and I needed something to make me feel strong.

So I ran in circuits around my tiny village, plodding along in maternity joggers and a T-shirt I borrowed (read:stole) from my partner. I ran at night so no-one would see me. I cried more than once.

Eventually, slowly, I could run for 5 minutes. Then 10. Then suddenly something changed – I was running in the daytime, jogging though the woods behind our old house, or along the coast beside the sea. I was breathing in deep lungfuls of fresh air. I was smiling at people as they passed, enjoying being outside, alone, unencumbered. Once another runner high-fived me as I ran uphill, and the indescribable feeling of acceptance made me feel like I was flying.

I was still slow, I was still above my target weight. But I felt strong. I felt unstoppable.

With a few weeks to go to the big race, I was searching for inspiration when I found a poem online. It was written by Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915), a Scottish soldier in the First World War. He wrote a lot about how running gave him freedom – something away from reason or purpose. He, like me, enjoyed running in the rain. But it was this one that gave me chills.

The Song of the Ungirt Runners

We swing ungirded hips
And lighten’d are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
’Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.

It didn’t matter why I was running. I ran because I liked it. And sometimes, when you’ve been through dark times, finding something you like is the thing that saves you.

I ran my first Half Marathon when my youngest was 5 months old. I’d gained a new life. And yes, I’ve lost several stone – (in total I’ve now lost 100lb). But it wasn’t about the weight, not after a while. It was about being strong. It was about being determined. It was about kicking some backside, about telling the world that I wasn’t going anywhere, that I wasn’t going to be ignored.

I still run. I’m involved in a huge online running community, I have made friends through running. I’ve been privileged to run for charity, to be invited on a run for peace, to be part of a team of people hoping to run for PANDAS in the London Marathon next April. I’ve set myself goals I’d never dreamed of, and it’s even gotten me into new hobbies – if you told me two years ago I’d be doing yoga, I’d have laughed you out of the room. But I do it.

It’s not too late in life to carve out a little piece of happiness for yourself. Whatever that turns out to be – fitness, cooking, meditation, singing, dancing, crafts – there is something that exists just for you. A million other people might do it too, but it’s still just for you. I will never win any races, I’ll never get any prizes. But what I get is the feeling of sunlight on my skin as I race through a cornfield, trainers on, music blaring. What I get is watching my two-and-a-half year old son race around the living room, shouting ‘We running Mummy! We running very fast!’. What I get is knowing that, by looking after myself, I’m being the best Mummy I can.

I run because I like it.

Interview with Alex, author of Life After NICU: PTSD

Hi Alex, thanks for sharing such an honest and open account of your experience of pregnancy and childbirth.  It must have been so difficult to keep going when so much was happening to you and your family, what gave you the strength to carry on?
I found the strength to carry on because of the love I felt for both my partner and for my son. I could see that my struggles were having an impact on my partner, and he was unsure of what to do or say to help me. I knew that after all that my son had been through he needed his Mummy more than ever, and I needed to be as healthy as possible. And to be honest…I missed the old me. 
Aside from CBT and your thought diary, was there anything else you did for therapy? (I.e. art, online education courses, meditation)
Aside from CBT and my thought diary, my own personal form of therapy was writing poetry. I regularly sat down and just let my thoughts turn into scribbles on a paper about all sorts of topics involving my son, I.e little milestones be had reached in NICU. I also found that keeping his baby book as up to date as possible was a lovely way of cementing that bond if I was ever questioning it. 
What advice do you have for any of our PANDAs who are in the midst of PTSD?
The advice I would give to any PANDA member suffering with PTSD, would be to not punish yourself. It doesn’t make you weak. PTSD is usually as a result of an event that nobody should ever have to experience in their lifetime. It is a natural response. Don’t hate yourself, and believe that you will get past this. Set mini goals everyday….even if it is as simple as putting the bin out on your own or walking to the shops. Don’t try and run before you can walk. 
What advice would you give to someone who suspects they might be experiencing abnormal levels of anxiety?
If anyone suspects they are suffering from extreme anxiety, I advice them to make a note of when and where these episodes happen…in an attempt to find a pattern. Don’t think you are going crazy. Seek help, as its a lot more common than you might realise. Talk to your GP, that first step is a huge one but it will put you on the track to recovery. 
How did PANDAS help you?
The PANDAS online support group was of massive help to me. I had nowhere to turn, and like many others I didn’t want to burden my family and friends. I wanted to maintain that strong front I had mastered. I could speak to others going through the same ordeal as myself, without fear of judgement . The volunteers even took time out of their busy lives to message me privately if I was ever having a bad day. 
And finally, what positives, if any, have you and your partner taken from your experience?
The main positive that we have got from my experience is that we will never take for granted a single moment with our son, as we know how hard we all fought for this family unit. 
Many thanks Alex for sharing your story with us.  Your courage, strength and bravery truly is astounding.
If anyone would like any support or advice from the PANDAS Foundation, please take a look at the PANDAS website for the best way to get in touch: http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/how-we-can-help.html
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Life After NICU: PTSD by Alex

Pregnancy. Labour. Motherhood. Every word fills you with hopes, dreams and expectations of what your experience is going to be like. When plans go off the rails in a spectacular fashion, it will be a challenge ensuring that you don’t too.

November 13th 2013, the day that changed mine and my partners lives forever when we found out that we were expecting our first child. Like every Mummy and Daddy we were a mixture of excitement and terror all rolled into one! We stocked up on pregnancy books, vitamins and started thinking about baby names. But that all changed at 8 weeks pregnant…

I began bleeding heavily. Suddenly the questions of “would we have a boy or a girl/who would they look like”, were replaced with “was I miscarrying/was our baby going to survive?”. The hospital thought I had a uterine abnormality, which would subsequently significantly raise the chance of miscarriage, late miscarriage, still birth and premature birth. From that moment on, the fun and excitement of pregnancy was snatched away and would never come back…and was replaced with anxiety and fear. I will forever be bitter about that.

The pregnancy progressed slowly but surely, and it seemed that every appointment threw up another problem and worry to contend with. At 20 weeks I was diagnosed with hydroenpherosis , swelling of the kidneys. And at 26 weeks we were told that our baby was significantly smaller than he should be, and wasn’t even reading on the chart. Growth scans were arranged and we just hoped and prayed that our little one would grow bigger and stronger as time went on.

15th May 2014. At 29+6 weeks pregnant, our little man went quiet. I didn’t feel a single kick or movement for over 12 hours. I found myself in denial…he would be fine in another hour. The hours ticked by and by 11pm my partner was urging me to get checked out. So off to the hospital we went.

We can’t have been there any more than an hour and it soon became apparent that this was an emergency. Our little man’s heart rate was ominous, slowing down to virtually nothing, he had reduced liquor and was diagnosed as having IUGR. He was dying inside of me. We were rushed to theatre, where I was to have an emergency caesarean.

May 16th, at 1.49am our gorgeous little boy entered the world. I felt numb. This wasn’t how we had dreamt it. Daddy didn’t cut the cord, Mummy didn’t get first cuddles and first nurse. Instead we had the haunting silence. Our son was being rescuscitated. In those moments I prayed harder than I ever had in my life, to Jesus, Allah, Buddha…anyone who would listen to me. Our boy just couldn’t die.

After what felt like an eternity, we were able to have a glimpse of our little boy before he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I was a broken woman. One moment I was pregnant and the next I had my baby ripped away from me, along with all of our hopes and dreams of our perfect delivery. I couldn’t keep him safe anymore, like his Mummy should be able to do.

I was taken to a ward full of mothers and their babies. All around me I watched as mothers nursed their little ones, when all I had was a breast pump- which I would chain myself to for the next four months. I felt as though others were looking at me, and judging…”what has she done wrong”. My arms were physically aching to hold our son, knowing that instead he was curled up in a little box all frightened and alone without his Mummy. I cried until I had no tears left.

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12 hours later we were able to see and hold our son properly for the first time in his life. My reaction shocked me to the core. All the bleeps and whistles, the heat from the incubators, the blue lights from the UV machines…it was overwhelming. I looked at our tiny 2lb 15oz son, tracking all the wires and tubes coming in and out of his fragile little body. His chest heaving for breath, his little face wincing in pain.

As the nurse placed our son on my chest I was petrified. My hand was the size of his tiny little torso, his eyes were almost fused shut. He should have still been inside of his Mummy, all safe and warm. What if he hated me? Or worse…what if he didn’t even know I was his Mummy anymore? I felt like I had failed before I had even begun, and that our Mother-Son bond was shattered beyond repair.

Looking back now, I know that subconsciously I was scared of becoming too close to our son out of fear of losing him in the early days. But at the time I felt like a monster. I felt like running away, pretending that none of this was happening , starting all over again…and this time I would do it right. I wanted to curl up in bed and shut out the world.

All I could do for our son was express breast milk for him, so I did this up to 10 times a day. It was the only thing that I could do that made me feel like a Mummy. Seeing doctors and nurses changing him, feeding him, looking after him, knocked my confidence as a mother. How was I supposed to be good enough to do all of these things? I had to ask permission to hold my own son.

It quickly became clear that I wasn’t coping at all. I was sad, I was angry, I was in denial…All in the same day most of the time. I looked at other families in envy of what they had. Walking out of the hospital doors with their babies, whilst we were camped out next to his incubator day after day. I dreaded going into that unit, it made me sick to my stomach just being there. I avoided holding my son, doing his cares and spent most of my time crying in the toilets.

Leaving our son every single night in that hospital full of strangers, has broken a piece of my heart to the point where it will never be the same again. Every night without fail I would hysterically break down in the car park, and felt physically ill thinking about him being all alone in pain wanting his Mummy and Daddy.

At home I would hear the sound of the monitors beeping and buzzing, I felt constantly on edge and unable to relax at all. I would lie in bed clutching my phone, petrified whenever the phone rang in case it was bad news.

My emotional heartbreak was also masking some serious physical problems I was experiencing post birth. With a dangerously high temperature and pulse I was rushed back into hospital, where I was diagnosed with a septic womb infection. If it had gone untreated for much longer I was told I would have experienced multiple organ failure. Another kick in the teeth for our family.

I had always suffered with low confidence for all of my life, but having an extremely premature baby rocked me to the core. After 7 long weeks our son was finally able to come home with us, and I thought that things would finally begin to get back to normal. With all of the free time now on my hands as a full time Mum, I began to process the enormity of what we had all been through as a family. How close we had come to losing him.

I knew almost straight away that things weren’t going to be as easy as I had hoped. I was constantly feeling sick with anxiety, having severe headaches, heart palpitations and was constantly sick with worry that our son was ill and that we could still lose him.

I was having horrible flashbacks and nightmares, and was constantly consumed and tortured by all of the what ifs? What if we hadn’t gone into hospital that night? Motherhood wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, all smiles and giggles like I thought it would be. I was hurting.

With the support of my partner, I sought help from my health visitor and GP. It was a massive step. As a new mother, like most, I had the pre conception that asking for help and admitting your struggling was a sign of weakness. That it made me a bad Mum. But now I know that it made me the best Mum I could be. My son, and my partner, deserved the best Mum and Fiancee possible, and at the time that was far from who I was.

I was referred for cognitive behavioural therapy, where I could talk through my thoughts and concerns with someone who wouldn’t judge me, and someone who would sympathise and understand. I kept a thought diary, a no holds barred account of my everyday life. I was diagnosed with post natal anxiety, low confidence and post traumatic stress disorder. It was by no means a quick fix, but was a massive step in the right direction.

Almost 10 months on from the birth of our son, I feel like pieces of the old me are coming back. I am by no means back to the old me, but I am slowly and surely accepting what happened to us all. I am now at peace with the premature arrival of our son, and accept that it was not as a result of a fault on my part. But, a piece of my heart will be broken forever at what we had to witness our son going through.

Worries about our Mother-Son have totally vanished. Our son is my little shadow, and he lights up my life every single day. I am so lucky that I had the inner strength and courage, and the support of my partner to seek help to ensure that I was the Mum that he deserved.

Motherhood is definitely not what I expected it to be. It is a massive rollercoaster, that I don’t think will ever end. If you are struggling, please speak out and seek help. No one will judge or think badly of you. Take time to heal, and regardless of what I once thought, super Mum just doesn’t exist and that’s ok. It is ok not to be ok.