Part of My Story
In 1991, after the beginning of my life plan, my husband and I felt we were in the right place in our life to start a family. Met, fell in love, bought a house, married, you know the story.
We were so excited, so were our families. No pregnancy problems, no delivery problems, a perfect baby girl, born in the bath. Breast-feeding no problem; we were so proud of our beautiful child.
After a few months, the Health Visitor asked if I was okay, as I seemed a bit flat. No, I was fine. The second time she asked, we talked and I realised I probably was feeling low, I just hadn’t noticed myself. A visit to the doctor, a prescription and I slowly started to feel better.
The trouble was I hadn’t got any friends my own age with babies or young children at the time. The friends I had were either past that stage or not there yet. I had my Mum, who helped a lot, my husband and his family too. But I had no-one my own age to go through the same things with. This wasn’t healthy or advisable – you need others to talk to, to confide in and share stories with. I didn’t find it easy making friends, which didn’t help.
We moved, we settled into our new home happily and made new friends. There was a really good circle of families around us, at a similar stage in their lives. I made good friends here, and one special friend in particular. My husband and I planned for our second child, again a healthy pregnancy. The doctor and I thought we were prepared for potential post-natal depression this time.
I wrote a poem that sums up the next stage in my life whilst attending Speaking Out training with Time to Change recently:
An Alternative Ending
Janet and John met and fell in love
They bought a house together, married and started a family.
They had a girl and then a boy
Their life was complete.
They lived happily ever after,
Janet had postnatal depression, twice
The second time life stood still
No-one saw it, perhaps they didn’t want to
Life wasn’t rosy, it wasn’t cosy
It was hell, for them both.
Janet was scrutinised, cross examined and found guilty.
The accusers hindered, supporters soothed
But, the helpers did help.
Janet wasn’t a bad person, she was a wounded person
Struggling in the survival of the fittest.
She started with hands clenched and head hung low, in shame.
With time, she released her hands and lifted her head
She saw the light at the end of the tunnel;
She wanted to walk into the sunlight.
It was her Time to Talk, her Time to Change.
To say this time in my life was a nightmare would be an understatement. Unless you have traveled to such a dark place you cannot begin to understand the horror. Nobody could have made me feel worse about myself than I already did. The shame, the fear...why me?
There were reasons, I wasn’t a bad or mad person. Thankfully I asked for help before it was too late. That wasn’t easy though. To ask for help when it’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life, is to feel a complete failure. Everyone else around you is happy and coping...aren’t they?
There were some who made life worse:
- a psychiatrist at St Clements hospital: I said I didn’t want to go in and was told “then you can’t be depressed then!”
- A couple of the social workers made it worse and so much harder; one reporting inaccurately; another bullied me in my own home, but thankfully others were there.
- I had to attend meetings with a member of the police there too.
I understand why different organisations have to be kept in the loop, but how can anyone possibly think that any of this is in any way helpful when you are so ill?! I was shocked to see that professionals could act in such a stigmatising way.
Despite the discrimination I experienced, I can’t thank enough those who helped me, carried me through those difficult following weeks. That one special friend, my husband, my doctor and the Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) team. After many months of being listened to; being able to talk without being judged; learning to stop listening to those negative voices that grind us down; learning how to think in a more healthy way; how to make a change for the future; I eventually felt better than I ever had. It obviously showed, as family commented on how much happier I seemed. They were right, I hadn’t known I was ill before the final collapse. I can see it now. Hindsight of course is 20/20 vision.
When I hear sad stories that don’t end so well, I remind myself, here but for the grace of God go I! One of my Mother’s sayings.