Thursday, 6 February 2014

Mental Health and its place in society - a personal story

Yesterday my son told me that someone he knows tried to take her own life and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, It did come as a bit of a shock as I have suffered from cyclothymia for over 2 years and it was bought to the surface after suffering postpartum psychosis, which developed after having Tilly nearly 4 years ago. The fact my children had grown up with knowing what mental health is, has helped my son to understand what his ex girlfriend was going through.

The odd thing was that i had had a conversation at work about my Mild bipolar yesterday afternoon. Although it has been part of my life for a while now, i am still weary of telling new people in my life the extent that i suffer and to be honest i often find it hard to talk about. Post-partum psychosis isn't a nice name because when you mention it to people and say the word 'psychosis' you can feel them instantly stepping back. This is why its easier for me to say i suffered 'severe PND'.

I often sit back and i think about the person i was for a while and the lessons i learned from the illness, it scares me and feels like a dream sometimes that it didn't really happen. I had many friends before i had Tilly, some of these friend backed off from my life when i got ill, and although some are back in my life i find it so hard to forget how they treated me at a time that i needed them. I had 'friends' that played on my illness and tried to make it worse for me. And i had 'friends' that turned on me because i was embarrassing to be with. But the ones that mean the most are the friends and family that stuck by me and are still here today, they are the ones that i would pull from a fire. They are the ones i felt safe with and still do now. 

One thing i found hard with Having my mental health problems is how it affected my children. When i had tilly my children were 18, 16 and 15, such a horrible age to have to go through what we did. Peer pressure plays a big part in your life at that age and i was scared of my problems having a detrimental effect on their lives too. I once asked my son 'do you get the piss taken out of you for my problems?' and his reply? 'no mum because all my mates think your cool' To me that signified how different mental health is seen in society these days. When i was a child mental health was portrayed in  many horror films like Friday 13th or Halloween and it backed up the stigma that everyone with Mental health problems was going to turn into a murderer and you weren't safe to be around these type of people, so i really had to re educate myself whilst trying to understand and live with the PNP.

Quite how i never ended up in a secure unit always still surprises me, but when you have mental health problems your quite good at hiding it and if i had been honest and admitted the true extent of my problems, then i believe i would of had a much quicker recovery time. It wasn't until i accused my child-minder of poisoning my baby that i knew i had to get it sorted for once and for all. Tilly was only 9 months old and caught secondary pneumonia, this was the final straw as Tilly was a sickly baby and always ill. Now i know it was her chest problems but at the time it was simply that my child-minder was poisoning her - completely absurd! I went to my boss and admitted the problems i was having, she dropped my work hours down to one day a week to help me and i sought professional help from a psychiatric team at the local hospital. Admitting the problem was my first step to recovery and it led me to be the person i am today.

The system let me down big time in the height of my PNP, after i took an overdose, my health visitor came to see me and as she left she told me she didnt understand what i was going through and i never saw her again! this was the NHS wallking out of the life of a vulnerable mother and child. i never got a replacement HV or even a phone call. So when we have been called for check ups, i never took Tilly to them - not one person has phoned or checked up on us. I phoned Social Services to tell them i was scared that my baby was in danger from me and they said i was just finding it hard and i would feel brighter soon. Completely let down by 2 agencies that are in place to help parents like me! Next time you read in the paper or see on the news that a mother has killed her children, please look deeper into it and dont judge her untill you know the details.
Some mothers ask for the help and never get it, so to them the only way out is take her children to a safe place where no harm can come to them.

Many people ask me why PND changes you so much, and i say to them that PND rips you apart so you don't know who you are anymore, then puts you back together in a different way. You become a different person, a stronger person , a more understanding person. So the next time someone tells you they have a mental health problem please don't step back or walk out of their lives. Be there to support them, even if you only tell them to ring you if they are having a bad day. it means the world to them!

I now live my life as the new me, I am meds free because i choose to learn about my illness as i go along. I don't want to mask it with Anti-depressants as that isn't helping me to live a life. I need to understand myself in order to have a normal life and if i am having a really bad downer then i will tell people, as there is no use in hiding it out of shame. I am still Vicky and i am just having a rough time.

I am very lucky to have the support i do have, i have a brilliant little family of my own. I have a brilliant job for a company that has been really understanding throughout the whole time. My direct boss at work is amazing and often knows when i am heading for a downer. My close friends are the best friends a girl can have and my relatives are amazing and step in when they know times are tough. And there is one person who has seen me through most of this, he knew me before PND and got to know me better afterwards, he gave me confidence in myself, he helped me believe in myself again and he was there to support me - often from a distance but although we dont keep in touch so much, he is the one that takes the brunt of my bad times and i don't really know if he understands that i don't mean it most of the time. I feel so guilty as soon as i say things to him and then they cant be unsaid!  I wish sometimes that i had a magic wand and i could make everyone understand my mood swings but it isn't going to happen and until then i just have to keep telling people that i am Vicky and i do have a mental health problem, no i am maybe not normal - but who wants to be normal? what is 'normal'?

some useful links for you - just in case ;)

Joe Bingley Memorial Foundation (PND)

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