A couple of weeks ago, I read a great and challenging article about how important to is to consider our motives when sharing mental health stories. It definitely made me think. There are times when I have been frustrated with how others have portrayed mental health issues (like my letter to the Spectator here) and I know that I have a responsibility to share my story, and others, carefully and honestly.
The article got me thinking – I know what I’m doing and why…but do you? In case you have joined me recently on my blog, or are just wondering, I thought I’d share with you again, so that you know what I’m about.
I started writing and blogging publicly about my struggle with Postnatal Depression, and journey of recovery, back in October. Here’s why…
It took two long years for me to be diagnosed but that was not for want of trying, especially in the first few months. When my initial cries for help failed, I assumed that my struggle was mine alone. I came to believe I’d just have to accept that this was how motherhood looked for me – miserable, heartbroken, anxious, overwhelmed, afraid, disconnected from my baby and real life, wishing I could give up but knowing I had to push to survive – these where my daily reality. Life was hell and I had no idea what was wrong – I was seriously physically unwell and mentally and emotionally spent.
Then, last summer, I began to read other mum’s stories, online, about their experience of PND. Oh my goodness! It was like a whole new world opened up – my life suddenly made sense. I could relate to what they were sharing and was so relieved that someone was giving voice to all I was feeling. For the first time, in well over 2 years, I felt some hope returning. When Reuben was just about to turn 2 years old, I was diagnosed with PND, by a wonderful GP, given suitable medication and offered mental health team support.
In the first few weeks, after my diagnosis, I knew I had to ‘use’ my experience to help other mums – especially in NI. I had read so much from the UK and USA, but little from home. I was sure I wasn’t the only one who was suffering. So I started this blog.
Initially, I thought I might connect with a few friends on Facebook (I didn’t really bother with Twitter then) and maybe a couple of them would find comfort in reading my journey and knowing they were not alone. I also thought it was be good to try to explain what PND is really like, so that I could help to break the silence and unknown, for others who wonder what it’s about.
I had no idea it would take off as it has! Mums, I had never met, began to get in touch, each week as I shared a different part of my story. It was so encouraging to hear where they were at and know that we were not alone. That has grown unbelievably, with well over 20,000 of you reading in the past 4 months – it just shows how important it is that we speak out on this issue together.
I decided, in January, to ask if anyone would like to share their story, publicly, on my blog and many very brave mums decided to take part – thank you all! As you can see, there is one ‘Guest Post’ a week and I hope this will continue over the next months.
Every story of PND is unique but there are many common themes, struggles and experiences we all seem to go though. Having a variety of stories means that we can connect with more mums and dads, who may find one story easier to identity with than another. On that note, I have also had a few brave dads in touch and hope to feature one of their stories next week.
I also thought it would be great to have some agencies, charities and groups in NI share what they do, in offering support . So I added a ‘Support Post’ each week. Too many mums were telling me they didn’t know where they should turn for help, so I thought it could help if I signposted to lots of different places, in the hope that a mum or dad might find the help they need. On that note – I want to grow this and need more organisations etc to get in touch…please let me know if you can help. I’m looking for counselling groups, CBT, Peer Support, charities etc etc…ANYTHING that currently helps and supports on this issue please.
Along side all this, I am still blogging my own journey of recovery with PND. I am nearly 5 months into treatment and I am definitely feeling better than I was. But it’s not a straightforward recovery and I still need to take it easy and pace myself – that can be hard when there is so much I feel I ‘need’ to do on this issue! I’ve also had a few opportunities with the media to speak-out about the topic, which have been great to highlight maternal mental health, I hope we can do this more. In an open letter I wrote last week, I’m asking our Department of Health to take this issue seriously, and into account, as they work to improve mental health services in Northern Ireland.
If I could sum up my goal in one simple line it would be ‘to increase awareness of PND and work to improve the support available in NI’...or something along those lines! I have no idea where this will take me but I am willing to get my hands dirty and play my part to see better days ahead. I accept there is the need to be honest about where things are not working, but being overly critical or trying to attribute blame is not a path I’m interested in. I want to use my voice positively and be part of the solution. I may not always get it right but I am determined to try!
As well as all that, I’m an ‘ordinary’ mum (is there such a thing?!) to a 2 and a half year old and a wife to Gavin. I have good days and bad days as I find my way in recovery.
Thank you to all of you who have read my blog, shared it or been in touch. Please keep doing so – I love hearing from all of you. Let’s keep this issue moving forward together…who knows where we can take it next!