Ah, PPD, My Old Nemesis… We Meet Again.

PPD

Well, I said I’d explain what’s been going on recently, so I shall. Here goes. *deep breath*

The dreaded PPD has struck again.

Thankfully, it’s nowhere near as bad as the last time. And, it feels different in many ways, too – part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to figure out why I’m angry most of the time, and why everything feels wrong.

It’s taken me a while to realise that not everybody feels the same way as me. I feel as though there are two versions of myself – there’s the responsible wife and mother, devoted to her young family. And then there’s the “real” Imogen – the reckless, irresponsible, loud and vivacious life and soul of the party who’s always looking for an opportunity to escape the humdrum of her normal life and plummet head first into whatever crazy situation happens to present itself. I crave my childless past in the same way that a smoker craves nicotine – with an insistence and a ferocity that causes everything else to fall by the wayside. It’s an itch that I have no way of scratching.

PPDThe good news is that I don’t feel as though I need medication this time. Not yet, anyway. I am struggling to cope but I am just about keeping on top of things at present. Instead of heading for the meds, I am going to try to focus on diet, exercise and other constructive ways of lifting my mood.

Don’t get me wrong – I am in no way anti-medication, especially for mental health issues. I have taken depression medication in the past, on two separate occasions, and responded well both times. I had few side effects and they really helped me dig myself out of the hole I had fallen into. This time, however, I feel as though I can kick this myself – my issues are definitely exacerbated by circumstance, so if I can just get myself energised enough to “power through” for a while, I think things will improve vastly. Medication won’t help me now – I need therapy, and when I can afford it, I will have it.

Having said that, I will not shy away from taking medication if things don’t improve soon.  The last thing I want to do is put my children through the hell of living with a mother with untreated PPD.

This whole thing has really shown me how varied the symptoms of postpartum mental illness can be. There are so many different symptoms, and it won’t necessarily feel the same way each time you suffer from it. You might be “textbook”, or you may have just a handful of the symptoms along with some others that you might not have read on the lists. A fantastic resource for postpartum illness and support is Postpartum Progress, and this post in particular explains the symptoms of PPD in “plain mama English”. I read this a few days ago, and with each sentence it felt like I was being hit in the chest, bam bam bam, with the realisation that it isn’t normal to hate your life most of the time. It isn’t normal to lose your temper at the drop of a hat.  It isn’t normal to honestly wonder why on earth you were blessed with these wonderful children that you don’t deserve.  It isn’t normal to adore your children but simultaneously rue the day you chose to have them because you just can’t cope with the responsibility, and it isn’t normal to pine after days gone by with the kind of sadness that brings tears close to escaping. Of course, it IS normal to experience these feelings SOMETIMES – but as the exception, rather than the rule.

I am very grateful that I feel able to tackle this without medicine, at least for now. And I am grateful that I have (and continue to develop) a fantastic bond with my kids.

So, lovely readers, this is why I haven’t really been on top form recently. I hope it goes some way to explaining why I have gone through periods of time where I simply cannot bring myself to check the facebook page or twitter feed, let alone update it, or why I can’t seem to motivate myself to churn out more than two or three blog posts each week. I will try to post about my journey to kicking PPD’s backside into touch for good on a regular basis, so that at least something constructive can come out of this.

I know that many would feel that this is oversharing, attention seeking or otherwise self-serving. I guess it is self-serving in a way – it certainly makes me feel better to share this. However, more than that, I really feel that sharing this will serve a purpose. It pains me that there is still such stigma surrounding mental health issues, so more than anything I have to share this to do my bit in showing the world that mental health issues are not “pretend” illnesses, they’re not just something you can “get over”, and they are most certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

 

image: Leopard Print @ flickr

Comments

  1. says

    Oh hun, I’m so sorry you’ve been going through this. I totally understand how you’re feeling, I’m actually at the stage where I’m ready to get some therapy myself. Does the NHS in your area offer counselling services? The counsellor my hubby is seeing is amazing, though it did take several months for the referral to result in him being assigned to someone.

    Also, have you ever tried Bach flower remedies for depression? My homeopath recommended them to me and they do make a noticeable difference, at least when I remember to take them. The great thing about flower remedies is you can take them as often or as little as you like and they don’t have nasty side effects.

    If you ever want to talk to someone who knows what you’re going through, please don’t be afraid to pop me a message. :)

    • says

      Thank you my dear, and the same goes to you of course. I hope you can get someone to talk to soon. I’m so glad you’re feeling ready to seek help.

      I think there are NHS counsellors around here but they’re like hens teeth and hard to get referred to. Last time I attempted it, I got as far as a CMHN assessment (took months) before being given a book recommendation and being sent on my way :/ ah well, if at first you don’t succeed and all that…

  2. chloe says

    Just wanted to say thank you for your intelligence and your honesty (as usual!). So many people are going through this kind of thing by themselves and feel unable to share it even with close friends or family, and yet, it is sooooo helpful to hear someone talk about it honestly, and clearly. Though I don’t have PPD I do get very down on occasion & have to fight not to be angry and tearful and resentful. And when I’m like that I’m convinced everyone else is too normal and happy and busy to want to hear from me and my stupid problems. I did have PND after my first daughter was born, but that was mainly triggered by a horrendous work situation, and was only recognised by the most wonderful health visitor, who helped me enormously.

    Have you looked into CBT at all? Again it’s probably hard to find a cheap practioner, but it was recommended to me as a way of actually changing negative behaviour patterns, which seemed to me to make total sense. Talking therapies can only really help you understand yourself better, in my view. I had quite a traumatic childhood, with my mum dying when I was 2 and being brought up by her just-married sister, which was difficult for everyone. I’ve had to address many negative behaviour traits in myself for years, and it’s that much more difficult with kids, which in itself is the hardest (and most rewarding) job I’ve ever done, for sure!

    Good luck with it this time, and hope you find the positive energy to feed and heal yourself. Try to get some time to yourself if you can, sounds like the most important thing for you! You will get through it. :)

    • says

      Thank you so much for your insight, for sharing your experience and for offering support. You’re absolutely right when you say that so many people go through this alone, which is why I feel it is my duty to share as openly and clearly as possible. We need to come together and support each other :)

      I am very interested in CBT. I actually have a friend who is trained in it, I may have to pick her brains….

      • chloe says

        Definitely worth a try. And handy to know someone who’s trained! At least then you can figure out if it might be right for you or not. I think you can do a lot of it by yourself anyway – properly led. And yes, the worst thing is to try to struggle on alone, which is why I’m so glad I found your blog! I think there are very few people who haven’t suffered from some form of mental illness at some point in their lives, but there are very few who would ever admit that they have.

        I tried Bach remedies with PND & couldn’t honestly tell if they helped or not. Again, worth a try. BTW I found my moods improved enormously once I’d stopped breastfeeding: I had a little oasis of feeling almost normal before I got pregnant again! Hormones are incredibly powerful.

  3. Zoe says

    This makes me sad as I know that right now I’m struggling to admit that this is me!! I too long for the days of being my crazy self, I’m angry at my babies for making a mess, struggling to stay on top of the housework because I have no energy and most of all just being sad. I’m angry at myself for feeling guilty about being angry, and I feel guilty about being angry. I’ve struggled for a long time. I would love to know more about herbal supplements if anyone has any information! Wow I did not mean to blurb on & on but just thought while you were sharing ;) I hope you find your happy place and become the real Imogen that you long to be <3

    • says

      I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling the same way, Zoe. Sucks, doesn’t it :/ well done you, though, for recognising it. And thank you for sharing, it’s always great to know you’re not alone.

      I hear that St John’s Wort can be very effective in treating mild/moderate depression, but I don’t think it’s recommended for nursing mums. Another commenter suggested bach flower remedies, which sounds rather promising – may be good for dealing with anger when the red mist descends!

  4. Ruth says

    Thank you for sharing this so honestly. I do think there is still a lot of stigma related to mental health issues, even though depression and the like are so common. I have been pretty open about my struggles with depression for that same reason – I think that is the best way for people who are struggling to realize they are not alone and for others to see that this affects all kinds of “normal” people. I really hope things get better soon. Remember to have a lot of grace for yourself and not expect so much from yourself.

  5. Teri says

    The only way we will ensure better treatment for moms is to make sure people know that PPD is real and does real harm. Your point that it looks different from person to person and pregnancy to pregnancy is one that I don’t think gets heard all that often. Yet it’s such a crucial one.

    The people who would think what you said was attention-seeking or self-serving are the ones who MOST need to know that PPD is real and sorely under-treated. What is it about the idea of by helping yourself you can help others that gets peoples’ backs up so much? Especially for moms? The idea of the all-sacrificing mom is not healthy! You cannot pour of your own cup into someone else’s if yours is empty. Do what it takes to fill your cup. Take care of yourself and thanks for being so honest.

    • says

      Thank you, Teri. Totally in agreement with your comment. It’s amazing how many people still think that PPI’s are just a case of fed up mums who are pouting because their precious shopping/manicure/coffee time is being taken up with a baby. It’s sickening, really.

  6. Suzanne Powell says

    Thank you for blogging about a hugely important yet mostly silent and destructive mental illness. I feel very strongly about the lack of services available for mothers suffering with post natal illness. The confidential enquiries into maternal deaths make a sobering read and UK government has blood on its hands. For all the mamas who are currently coping with PNI, please visit http://www.joebingleymemorialfoundation.org.uk/ where there is a wealth of information and others’ stories of PNI and recovery.

    It is good to know we’re not alone in suffering like we do and sharing experiences is an important part of that, but it isn’t enough. Its almost unbearable to think of other mothers living through what I did this time last year. I feel PND has taken away my choice to have more children as I’m terrified of ‘going back’, despite knowing that I would recognise the signs and demand support sooner. I demanded support the last time (my family did on my behalf) but the services just are not there. Apologies for being negative and painting a bleak picture, but I think many of us have struggled with the same issues.

    Imogen, I really feel for you and I completely empathise with you. I don’t ‘know’ you aside from your blog and Twitter, but I did feel your recent sadness through your posts and could see you may have been experiencing PN-like symptoms. Its difficult though, isn’t it, to hear from anyone but yourself that you might be struggling, almost like a judgement on your ability as a mother. I know I feel very hurt when people assume i won’t have more children, or suggest I shouldn’t. I truly hope you find the talking therapy you need as this is what helped me the most in my whole process of recovery (in conjunction with SSRIs). I was lucky as I didn’t have to wait for my useless GP practice to sort out counselling and accessed it through work; my counsellor was wonderful and I would go back to her in a second. Hypnotherapy was also very good in managing my anxiety, could be something to consider. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know – sounds silly given the distance (I’m up North in Newcastle) but the offer remains all the same.

    Remember you are a fabulous mother and you don’t necessarily have to be enjoying every minute of it to give your children the parenting they need. Our society is so geared to making us believe that motherhood is magical and wonderous, that we begin to believe it ourselves (and it is at times), but in reality it is bloody hard work (and worth it) which takes away our identity as ‘me’, with all our individual characteristics, and turns it into ‘supermother’ with all the guilt attached when we ‘fail’. Your blogs are inspirational and you should be proud of getting through each day successfully. Please be kind to yourself, you deserve it x

    • says

      Thank you so much for your kind and insightful comment, Suz. Much appreciated, as always. I hope one day you are able to make a choice about having other children without the fear of PND hanging over your head xxxxx

  7. Zoe says

    Just me again :) I was just wondering how any of you mammas dealt with the inevitable questions from toddlers? I am having a really crappy morning (I’m in Australia) and was having a very emotional meltdown about, well, everything.. My 3 year old walked up and said why are you crying mummy? Did I make you sad? You’re always sad mummy, why? This couldn’t have possibly made me feel any worse and I don’t know how to respond :( I’m just confused and feeling guilty that I’m missing out on so much because of this..

    • says

      Oh Zoe :( Please don’t beat yourself up. You can’t be happy all the time, and furthermore it’s not healthy for your daughter to never see you cry. Human emotion is part of life. When Monkey asks me why I’m crying, I just say something like “I’m feeling sad because I’ve got a lot of things to think about and it makes me feel stressed. Crying helps let all the stress out, and makes me feel better.” and also lots of reassurance that it’s nothing to do with them. Hugs to you mama. Have you been to see the doctor?

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