Once the doctor had diagnosed me with postnatal depression and anxiety, they signed me off work for two weeks with immediate effect, prescribed me anti-depressants and referred me to a local NHS counselling service.
I eventually ended up having five months off sick from work in order to fully aid my ongoing recovery. During this time, I was still taking our son to nursery on the three days I should have been at work. We wanted to keep him in his routine as much as possible during this time, plus he loves nursery. I usually have to chase him round the room at the end of the day to get his shoes and coat on and have to bribe him with all sorts of things in an attempt to get him to cooperate; which usually fails.
This meant I had three days a week to myself for five months. Bliss, I hear you say. Every parent will, I am sure, understand how precious child free time is, so I do fully appreciate that I have been very lucky to be able to have this time. I would love to say that I spent the time doing really exciting things but that would be a lie. The time was a complete mixture of ups and downs, good days and bad days, as you would probably expect. Some days I found it hard to do much more than to get out of bed, sit in front of the TV and sleep for most of the day. Other days I was able to get out and do things.
I feel I could probably write forever about my ongoing recovery as it is such a long process with lots of ups and downs. Plus I am not sure you ever really recover from postnatal depression, you just learn to cope and manage it better and you become a new version of you. So what I am going to focus on in this blog post is some of the things I have done for myself over the last year to remind myself that I am important too; spending time on ‘me’ is not selfish; and neglecting myself only serves to make myself worse.
One of the first things I did for myself was to book myself in to see an osteopath. Something which I had been meaning to do since our son was born. I suffered badly during pregnancy with back ache and pelvic girdle pain and it had not really righted itself since having him. But of course, I just thought that it was normal to feel like this after giving birth so did nothing about it for over a year. Little did I know, my pelvis had been stuck in the birthing position all year! Luckily, this was quite common (although most people get it sorted out sooner) and it only took five sessions with the osteopath until I felt like I had a new back.
Another thing I did was to book myself onto my best friend’s three week beginner’s yoga course. I knew that yoga practice is good for the mind as well as the body and I felt like both needed a treat. My osteopath had also been talking how important stretching is when sorting out back problems and recommended yoga. My low mood and anxiety was still very prevalent at this point, but knowing that it was my best friend teaching me put me more at ease. She is a truly awesome yoga teacher and if you are local to Sussex and are interested in yoga classes, check out her website and blog at www.laynayoga.co.uk. Unfortunately due to it being early days in my ongoing recovery, I had to miss the second week of the course, as the doctor had just upped my medication and I was feeling a little sick and spaced out that day. She understood.
I had not had my hair done since before going back to work after maternity leave six months prior, so it was definitely due some tlc. I decided I needed a new low maintenance cut and colour so that if I neglected myself again, my roots wouldn’t look so bad. My hairdresser suggested ombreé (the gradual blending of one colour hue to another, usually moving tints and shades from light to dark). So ombreé it was. Having my hair done was amazing therapy, but even better were the chats I had with my hairdresser about her postnatal depression, as once she had learnt about me, she opened up to me. This made me feel much less alone.
I had been thinking about starting a blog on and off for a few years but never really thought I had much to write about or anything interesting to say, so always put it off. Once I had started counselling though, which I will write a separate blog post about one day, I realised that I had a huge amount to say and that talking was really helping me. So, I decided to give writing a try. At first, it started off as notes in a note book which helped to clear my mind of any thoughts I was having or anything that I wanted to talk to my counsellor about at our next session. I was so surprised at how much it almost instantly helped, that I decided to give blogging a go, as an additional therapy tool to aid me in my recovery.
So, I set up my blog ‘From Mind to World’, which was very easy to do (I have no prior experience) and I started writing. At first I had so much to write about that I was writing almost daily, sometimes all day. I had draft after draft sitting in folders on my computer, and idea after idea in my notebook. I have no prior writing experience except a B in GCSE English, so I just decided to write from the heart and to not try to be anything. I am pleased to say that my blog has been really well received and some of the comments I have received have been so overwhelming. I have had strangers contacting me to thank me for opening up about my experiences as it has helped them realise they are not alone or to have that conversation they have been meaning to have for a while but haven’t been strong enough. It was amazing to hear that my therapy tool of blogging was not only helping me, but it was also helping others. It has also led to me writing regular blog posts for Mums4MumsUK https://mums4mumsuk.wordpress.com Check it out!
One thing I realised from blogging is how important it is to surround yourself with positivity and things that make you feel good and to get rid of any negativity and things that make you feel bad. One thing so many of us are guilty of (including me) is filling our social media feeds with our ‘perfect’ lives for all to see. I had never really understood the effects of this until my recovery but it is so important to remember that this is not ‘real’ life. It is a snapshot in time of a moment that someone wants you to see. You have no idea what came before or after that photo or even how that person may really be feeling. I took the decision to ‘unfollow’ a lot of people on my social media pages for this exact reason. Not because I didn’t care about them and their lives, but because I needed to look after my mental health as a priority and this is what I needed to do.
I also joined a few different online support groups around postnatal depression and mental health so that I could receive support from others who understood what I was going through (as I think it is so hard to really understand unless you have been there yourself) but also so that I could give my support to others. It has made me feel much less alone, much more ‘normal’ (I know there is no normal) and has made me realise just how prevalent mental health issues are and that, although it is better than it was, we have a got a long way to go before care for mental health is equal with care for physical health.
Notwithstanding what I have just said above about understanding, I cannot finish this blog without mentioning the incredible support I have received from my husband, family and friends. A lot of them haven’t been through what I have been through, but some have. I have never expected anyone to fully understand what it is like living with a mental illness, but this does not mean they haven’t listened to me when I have needed it, tried to understand to the best of their ability or been there for me. Even if they haven’t been able to understand, they have always made it clear that they are there for me. That I am not alone. And that it is ok to need a bit of help from time to time. Life is hard! The support has been truly amazing. You know who you are, and I thank you!
So, these are just a few of the things that I have done to aid my ongoing recovery (I will write about more in other blog posts). The time I have had and the support I have received has been vital to my recovery. I truly believe that without it, I would not be where I am today and I would certainly not be writing this blog for the world to see. It has given me time to really focus on me and remind myself that I can’t look after my family and friends if I am not looking after myself first. I have learnt a lot to say the least!
The journey has been slow and is still ongoing but it’s all about taking small steps and eventually the good days will start to outweigh the bad days.