With the news breaking this week about Adele suffering from PND after the birth of her child, it has made me think a lot about when I suffered from it after Tilly was born over 6 years ago. As soon as I had Tilly, I knew something was wrong, her older sister Beth wanted to be the first to hold her, maybe that was my first mistake. My second was not breastfeeding when I changed my mind a few days after she was born and I wanted to do it. Then as I got home, the realisation of having a brand-new baby in the house with three hormonal teenagers was just too much. Within a few weeks I was drinking heavily to forget that I had a baby. I resented her for being born and would palm her off with anyone that would have her. I don’t remember much about this time as I was going out all day drinking with friends, and then I would come home for a few hours before going out again to drink in the local pub. Probably the lowest moment of that awful time was when I took Tilly to the pub and got absolutely trashed, then reality hit because she had colic and wouldn’t stop crying. So, I did something that still shocks me to the core – I stood on a stool and asked if anyone wanted my baby, yes I was trying to give my baby away in the local pub. Things deteriorated from then and it wasn’t until tilly was 5 months old and I tried to kill myself that I knew I had to start to work my way out of this, I had to bond with my baby and I had to learn to fight it – otherwise it was going to destroy me. I had to see a psychiatrist at the hospital to be discharged and I lied through my teeth to get home. I was so lucky that Social services didn’t get involved because by this time Kim was 18 and she was classed as an adult living with us. But I knew that I had hit rock bottom and now I had to fight my way out of it. Little did I know, I still had another 2 years to go. I started co-sleeping with Tilly to almost force a bond with her and it did work, she was the first thing I saw every morning and I knew I had to fight for her.
Going back to work did me the world of good, it gave me some of my independence back. I didn’t feel suffocated as much and I hid my PND so well. I Had a fab childminder and I was so happy to leave Tilly there, but as time went on, my PND was getting worse and psychosis set in. I would think people were talking about me, I would read the newspaper to see what people were saying about me. I even accused members of staff at work of talking about me if I walked past them. Then Tilly was ill and she ended up in hospital with secondary Pneumonia, but all I could see was that my childminder had somehow poisoned her. Looking back now, I am not sure how I came to that conclusion but nothing is logical when you have mental health problems. I knew that it was time to stop lying to everyone and get the help I needed. By this time, I wouldn’t even leave the house on my own, when I would go to work Kim would walk me there and someone would meet me from work. Admitting there was still a problem was a big thing to do because you feel like you have failed as a parent, but you haven’t you have won as a parent because you have admitted that you need help. You have admitted that you are still fighting. I started weekly sessions with a psychiatrist at the local mental health unit and went to quit my job. But my manager wouldn’t accept my resignation, instead she offered to drop my hours to 4 a week. This meant I still had a job to give me independence and meant that I could get more hours as I felt better. This compromise was such the best thing for me because I am still with the company 6 years later. It took me a further year of weekly psychiatry appointments to start to understand what I was going through, and a session with CBT, which I hated and I fought with the psych the whole way. But now I understand what he was doing and it did work, even though I blocked it at the time.
The thing that made me feel like I was failing as a parent was that I thought Tilly was going to die in my care. Many people think that if you suffer from mental health, you are going to harm your child, but that may be true of a small minority of cases but when a mum is suffering from PND, she is not going to harm her child. The illness makes you want to protect your child more – to the extent that I was seeing accidents happening to her that couldn’t possibly happen. We live by the sea, so my worst one was that we would be killed by a tsunami. I thought that we would be walking along the sea front with Tilly and the pram and a wave would simply wash her away. I was told that this was impossible, but to me it made perfect sense. So I would go out of my way to protect her even more. I thought that her pram would get knocked on to the road and she would go under a bus (it was never any other vehicle). I would grip my pram so hard that it hurt my hands.
PND is not ‘’the baby blues’’ it is not someone being a drama queen and it is not something to be laughed about. When I told a friend that I was hearing voices, she just laughed in my face as she found it funny, I will never forgive her for that!
PND ripped me apart and when I recovered, it put me back together as a different person. I am now more understanding of mental health and having experienced something as devastating as PND, I know I can cope with anything that is thrown in my face. Tilly was 2 years and 2 months before I turned the corner and started feeling like a mum to her, but it was another couple of years before I could start feeling the effects of recovery. Tilly is now 6 and half and we have an amazing bond, she has no memory of how I was – she just thinks I am mad, but she likes me like that. Having PND has bought Bipolar to the surface and sometimes I have a tough time with it, but I am unmedicated because I believe that to learn to live with mental illness, you need to understand it and I don’t want to be medicated because it doesn’t help you learn to cope with it.
I am quite open about my PND and my psychosis because it is still a taboo subject and whenever a celeb comes out and says they have it – suddenly it’s made almost fashionable and the newspapers want to find women with it, because it sells their paper. All too soon though it dies down and is forgotten until the next figure comes out with it.