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PND. The Dark Days – When Mum was anything but Back

1
I’m still not sure if I did officially have Post Natal Depression. I mean, what a thing to try and measure and define! I do know that having that term and definition was a comfort to me during some really dark times. It was really hard to know what was PND and what was sheer exhaustion mixed with huge hormonal imbalances, surges and changes. I’d been through some fairly life changing events in a short space of time, and I was grappling with a real confusion over who I now was, and if I was cut out to be that mother or not.

My first baby was born 4

SelfishMother.com
2
weeks early in July 2014. She was tiny and helpless and motherhood was a big shock to me. I was really keen to breastfeed and tried so very hard, but it wasn’t meant to be due to an undiagnosed medical condition. That hit me quite hard, but that is probably a tale for a whole other blog! We got by and yes, it was tiring, but we were coping and I felt relatively OK. By October I found myself pregnant again. It was a big shock. Before anyone asks, yes I do know how babies are made. Without going into too much detail you would have been shocked if you
SelfishMother.com
3
were me too. The chances were incredibly slim and on paper I should not have been. But it happened and we were going to deal with it. So we were to have 2 babies pretty much under 1. Baby 2 was due around baby 1’s 1st birthday. I was scared! I could barely cope with 1, how could I cope with 2? I found the pregnancy pretty exhausting, especially the final months while I was looking after a nearly 1 year old as well. We got through it and Ruby was born 12 days after Daisy’s 1st birthday. At least it wasn’t 2 under 1, right?!

So with my 2 small

SelfishMother.com
4
daughters on we plodded. The first 3 months went by in a blur of sleepless nights and all the usual business that goes along with newborns and babies. I kept telling myself it gets easier and we are over the worst of it. Then at around 4 months old our youngest, Ruby, seemed to suddenly develop terrible colic and digestive issues. To this day we are still not sure what the problem was. The problems all seemed to manifest at night. She would scream blue murder, sometimes for hours at a time. It as like she was in terrible agony but we couldn’t work out
SelfishMother.com
5
why. We investigated all avenues. Silent reflux, the dreaded and unhelpful term “colic”, intolerances, allergies. Could it be lactose? Could it be cows milk protein? Soy? Gluten? Wheat? Was it fruit before bed? The list went on and on and on. She had test after test. I researched night after night. She saw specialist after paediatrician, after doctor, each suggesting something else, and not with a great amount of urgency. She was prescribed drug after drug. Night after night she would SCREAM. Every. Hour. Nothing helped. We rocked, we jiggled, we
SelfishMother.com
6
paced. My husband would pound the streets in the middle of the night with her in a sling. It went on and on. I lost track of the number of times we ended up at the out of hours emergency clinic after endless conversations with 111, convinced it was something serious. We’d get there and be told the same thing. Nothing apparently wrong and that technically she was “thriving”.

How could any baby scream for that long?! As time went on I slowly started to feel like I was going mad. I was exhausted. I don’t just mean I was really tired. I mean, I

SelfishMother.com
7
was actually physically EXHAUSTED. I swear I hallucinated back there. Trying to operate that tired was hard. Really really hard. My mood was really low. I cried often. I wasn’t just depressed, I was really really angry. I was angry with the whole situation, but mainly I was angry with myself. I was so frustrated and cross that I did not have the power to resolve the situation. Having to listen to my daughter scream and cry in apparent agony every night was really getting to me, and I was losing my coping mechanisms, or rather I was gaining some rather
SelfishMother.com
8
damaging ones. Why couldn’t I comfort her? I was not enough. Something was wrong and me, her mother, couldn’t put it right. I lashed out at my husband. I lashed out at my family. No one understood how I felt. No one could say the right thing. I was useless and exhausted. I slowly started to do more crazy things like scream into cushions, punch cushions, punch walls, and eventually I began self-harming. Not in a way that would do me serious harm, but just enough to get that feeling of release that I was dying for. I would drag my nails down my arms
SelfishMother.com
9
really hard and make them bleed. It was part release of anger and frustration and part punishment to myself for being what I thought was a terrible mother. It was after one of these punching walls and hurting my arms sessions that my husband sat me down and told me enough was enough. I needed to get help.

I made an appointment with the GP. I went there and sobbed. I was past caring. Just saying the words out loud about what I’d been doing almost felt like an out of body experience. It was like I was numb. He diagnosed me with “PND brought on my

SelfishMother.com
10
exhaustion” which actually summed it up pretty well.

I had an assessment from a counsellor and was put in the system, but there would be a wait for counselling treatment. Funnily enough I never got that letter telling me when my first session would be. I still don’t know why. An admin error I suppose. But luckily for me, things started to get a little better.

The very act of going to the doctor and getting an official diagnosis seemed to help no end. It was official! I wasn’t mad, I had an actual proper condition! Thank god for my husband for

SelfishMother.com
11
being the most supportive man on the planet. He helped me through the next few months like no one else could have. I also had some support from the charity “Home Start” who sent round the loveliest lady ever to help me do things like batch cook a meal, or go for a walk on my own.

Gradually, things started to look up a little. Ruby was still an AWFUL sleeper, but she showed signs of improvement. The crying became less and less. That was all I wanted at that point. Less crying. I could cope with being woken up night after night (just). What was

SelfishMother.com
12
literally driving me mad was the relentless crying. I’m not sure exactly when the anger and dark thoughts died down. But I do know that she is now 20 months old and regularly sleeps through the night. My goodness I never thought we’d make it!

So, like I said, I have no idea if I did officially have PND, or if I just went through a tough time. But either way, it felt dark back there and it gave me such huge empathy for anyone going through any kind of mental health issues, especially parents. This is what inspired me to want to begin Mum’s Back,

SelfishMother.com
13
which (as well as selling hampers for new mums) raises money and awareness for PANDAS Foundation, who do such amazing work helping women suffering from perinatal mental health issues. If you are a mum and any of this resonates with you, or if you think you may have Post Natal Depression, my (non professional) advice would be

 

Do not hesitate to make an appointment with your GP to talk it through. I was so nervous about going, but they treated it very seriously and kindly. And it’s true what they say, admitting there is an issue really is

SelfishMother.com
14
half the battle. I found that first step of explaining the issue to the GP incredibly cathartic.
Do not be afraid to contact a helpline and talk through your issues. PANDAS Foundation, The Samaritans, and Cry-Sis all have numbers you can ring and talk through your issues with in confidence.
Talk to those close to you. It is amazing how supportive those that love you will be, but I did find I had to be completely candid and tell them how I was feeling. For a long time I expected them to pick up on it and offer support or suggestions. This is an
SelfishMother.com
15
unfair expectation. Once I told close family exactly what I was experiencing they were incredibly supportive.
Reach out for help. Coping with any kind of depression or mental health issue while trying to also look after a child is so overwhelmingly hard. Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you have friends or family that can watch your children while you take a little much needed time out, do it. It’s amazing how beneficial just 15 minutes a day doing something solely for you can be. If it’s hard for you to do that there are charities that can
SelfishMother.com
16
help. I found Home Start amazing and you can self refer.
Find your tribe online! I found seeking solace from strangers (who became friends) in similar boats my god-send during the dark days. It’s really important, however, to ensure they really are your tribe, because this CAN be a dangerous game. For example, getting involved in some kind of horrible judgey facebook “debate” about your chosen parenting technique is NOT good for your mental health. But, if you find a nice loving, supportive, group online they can be amazing. I loved following
SelfishMother.com
17
Emily-Jane Clark’s “Sleep is for the Weak” facebook posts and blogs and joined a splinter support group she started called “Sleep Thief Victim Support”. Members of that group supported me through some very tough times. The Motherload is also a great non judgey facebook group. Choose wisely and they can be a lifeline. I also found solace from humour by following “The UnMumsy Mum” and “Hurrah for Gin”, all about every day parenting highs and lows. It’s nice when you don’t feel alone.
If you can, get out the house. When you are
SelfishMother.com
18
exhausted and feeling wretched it can feel like the last thing in the world you want to do. But I found getting out with the kids and getting some air really helped with my state of mind. As if I didn’t have enough reason not to sleep, during those really awful times I even got what I like to call “mumsomnia”. I was so sure the monitor would be off any minute with screaming that I couldn’t sleep, even though I was utterly about to drop with exhaustion. Being cooped up in the house all day didn’t help with this. If I’d got a bit of fresh air
SelfishMother.com
19
it did help me sleep during those rare periods I was officially allowed.
Aim low. And know it won’t last forever. I chastised myself regularly during that terrible year. I wasn’t doing this baby group. I hadn’t made that meal. I needed to think about working again. I was doing no exercise. I had weight to lose. The thoughts of everything I WASN’T doing consumed me. What I should have been doing was focussing on all the things I WAS doing. Like keeping 2 tiny children alive under fairly tricky and exhausting circumstances.

I am in no way

SelfishMother.com
20
saying that parenting is easy these days. Far from it. But the black cloud has now lifted and I am able to see beyond the fog. Sleep is a major factor in this. Now when the children are tantrumming or one of them spills a whole packet of cornflakes EVERYWHERE my first response is one of annoyance and frustration and not utter despair. If any of this resonates with you, my heart reaches out to you. I know from experience that there is no magical solution, but I do know that it will end. While you’re in that dark tunnel just keep on marching, and don’t
SelfishMother.com
21
forget that there is help out there if you need it.

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mums’ Back! Yummy hamper gifts for new mums full of the delicious stuff they’ve not been allowed whilst pregnant. For your chance to win a Mum’s Back hamper, click here.

 

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Sally Bunkham

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- 3 May 17

I’m still not sure if I did officially have Post Natal Depression. I mean, what a thing to try and measure and define! I do know that having that term and definition was a comfort to me during some really dark times. It was really hard to know what was PND and what was sheer exhaustion mixed with huge hormonal imbalances, surges and changes. I’d been through some fairly life changing events in a short space of time, and I was grappling with a real confusion over who I now was, and if I was cut out to be that mother or not.

My first baby was born 4 weeks early in July 2014. She was tiny and helpless and motherhood was a big shock to me. I was really keen to breastfeed and tried so very hard, but it wasn’t meant to be due to an undiagnosed medical condition. That hit me quite hard, but that is probably a tale for a whole other blog! We got by and yes, it was tiring, but we were coping and I felt relatively OK. By October I found myself pregnant again. It was a big shock. Before anyone asks, yes I do know how babies are made. Without going into too much detail you would have been shocked if you were me too. The chances were incredibly slim and on paper I should not have been. But it happened and we were going to deal with it. So we were to have 2 babies pretty much under 1. Baby 2 was due around baby 1’s 1st birthday. I was scared! I could barely cope with 1, how could I cope with 2? I found the pregnancy pretty exhausting, especially the final months while I was looking after a nearly 1 year old as well. We got through it and Ruby was born 12 days after Daisy’s 1st birthday. At least it wasn’t 2 under 1, right?!

So with my 2 small daughters on we plodded. The first 3 months went by in a blur of sleepless nights and all the usual business that goes along with newborns and babies. I kept telling myself it gets easier and we are over the worst of it. Then at around 4 months old our youngest, Ruby, seemed to suddenly develop terrible colic and digestive issues. To this day we are still not sure what the problem was. The problems all seemed to manifest at night. She would scream blue murder, sometimes for hours at a time. It as like she was in terrible agony but we couldn’t work out why. We investigated all avenues. Silent reflux, the dreaded and unhelpful term “colic”, intolerances, allergies. Could it be lactose? Could it be cows milk protein? Soy? Gluten? Wheat? Was it fruit before bed? The list went on and on and on. She had test after test. I researched night after night. She saw specialist after paediatrician, after doctor, each suggesting something else, and not with a great amount of urgency. She was prescribed drug after drug. Night after night she would SCREAM. Every. Hour. Nothing helped. We rocked, we jiggled, we paced. My husband would pound the streets in the middle of the night with her in a sling. It went on and on. I lost track of the number of times we ended up at the out of hours emergency clinic after endless conversations with 111, convinced it was something serious. We’d get there and be told the same thing. Nothing apparently wrong and that technically she was “thriving”.

How could any baby scream for that long?! As time went on I slowly started to feel like I was going mad. I was exhausted. I don’t just mean I was really tired. I mean, I was actually physically EXHAUSTED. I swear I hallucinated back there. Trying to operate that tired was hard. Really really hard. My mood was really low. I cried often. I wasn’t just depressed, I was really really angry. I was angry with the whole situation, but mainly I was angry with myself. I was so frustrated and cross that I did not have the power to resolve the situation. Having to listen to my daughter scream and cry in apparent agony every night was really getting to me, and I was losing my coping mechanisms, or rather I was gaining some rather damaging ones. Why couldn’t I comfort her? I was not enough. Something was wrong and me, her mother, couldn’t put it right. I lashed out at my husband. I lashed out at my family. No one understood how I felt. No one could say the right thing. I was useless and exhausted. I slowly started to do more crazy things like scream into cushions, punch cushions, punch walls, and eventually I began self-harming. Not in a way that would do me serious harm, but just enough to get that feeling of release that I was dying for. I would drag my nails down my arms really hard and make them bleed. It was part release of anger and frustration and part punishment to myself for being what I thought was a terrible mother. It was after one of these punching walls and hurting my arms sessions that my husband sat me down and told me enough was enough. I needed to get help.

I made an appointment with the GP. I went there and sobbed. I was past caring. Just saying the words out loud about what I’d been doing almost felt like an out of body experience. It was like I was numb. He diagnosed me with “PND brought on my exhaustion” which actually summed it up pretty well.

I had an assessment from a counsellor and was put in the system, but there would be a wait for counselling treatment. Funnily enough I never got that letter telling me when my first session would be. I still don’t know why. An admin error I suppose. But luckily for me, things started to get a little better.

The very act of going to the doctor and getting an official diagnosis seemed to help no end. It was official! I wasn’t mad, I had an actual proper condition! Thank god for my husband for being the most supportive man on the planet. He helped me through the next few months like no one else could have. I also had some support from the charity “Home Start” who sent round the loveliest lady ever to help me do things like batch cook a meal, or go for a walk on my own.

Gradually, things started to look up a little. Ruby was still an AWFUL sleeper, but she showed signs of improvement. The crying became less and less. That was all I wanted at that point. Less crying. I could cope with being woken up night after night (just). What was literally driving me mad was the relentless crying. I’m not sure exactly when the anger and dark thoughts died down. But I do know that she is now 20 months old and regularly sleeps through the night. My goodness I never thought we’d make it!

So, like I said, I have no idea if I did officially have PND, or if I just went through a tough time. But either way, it felt dark back there and it gave me such huge empathy for anyone going through any kind of mental health issues, especially parents. This is what inspired me to want to begin Mum’s Back, which (as well as selling hampers for new mums) raises money and awareness for PANDAS Foundation, who do such amazing work helping women suffering from perinatal mental health issues. If you are a mum and any of this resonates with you, or if you think you may have Post Natal Depression, my (non professional) advice would be

 

  • Do not hesitate to make an appointment with your GP to talk it through. I was so nervous about going, but they treated it very seriously and kindly. And it’s true what they say, admitting there is an issue really is half the battle. I found that first step of explaining the issue to the GP incredibly cathartic.
  • Do not be afraid to contact a helpline and talk through your issues. PANDAS Foundation, The Samaritans, and Cry-Sis all have numbers you can ring and talk through your issues with in confidence.
  • Talk to those close to you. It is amazing how supportive those that love you will be, but I did find I had to be completely candid and tell them how I was feeling. For a long time I expected them to pick up on it and offer support or suggestions. This is an unfair expectation. Once I told close family exactly what I was experiencing they were incredibly supportive.
  • Reach out for help. Coping with any kind of depression or mental health issue while trying to also look after a child is so overwhelmingly hard. Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you have friends or family that can watch your children while you take a little much needed time out, do it. It’s amazing how beneficial just 15 minutes a day doing something solely for you can be. If it’s hard for you to do that there are charities that can help. I found Home Start amazing and you can self refer.
  • Find your tribe online! I found seeking solace from strangers (who became friends) in similar boats my god-send during the dark days. It’s really important, however, to ensure they really are your tribe, because this CAN be a dangerous game. For example, getting involved in some kind of horrible judgey facebook “debate” about your chosen parenting technique is NOT good for your mental health. But, if you find a nice loving, supportive, group online they can be amazing. I loved following Emily-Jane Clark’s “Sleep is for the Weak” facebook posts and blogs and joined a splinter support group she started called “Sleep Thief Victim Support”. Members of that group supported me through some very tough times. The Motherload is also a great non judgey facebook group. Choose wisely and they can be a lifeline. I also found solace from humour by following “The UnMumsy Mum” and “Hurrah for Gin”, all about every day parenting highs and lows. It’s nice when you don’t feel alone.
  • If you can, get out the house. When you are exhausted and feeling wretched it can feel like the last thing in the world you want to do. But I found getting out with the kids and getting some air really helped with my state of mind. As if I didn’t have enough reason not to sleep, during those really awful times I even got what I like to call “mumsomnia”. I was so sure the monitor would be off any minute with screaming that I couldn’t sleep, even though I was utterly about to drop with exhaustion. Being cooped up in the house all day didn’t help with this. If I’d got a bit of fresh air it did help me sleep during those rare periods I was officially allowed.
  • Aim low. And know it won’t last forever. I chastised myself regularly during that terrible year. I wasn’t doing this baby group. I hadn’t made that meal. I needed to think about working again. I was doing no exercise. I had weight to lose. The thoughts of everything I WASN’T doing consumed me. What I should have been doing was focussing on all the things I WAS doing. Like keeping 2 tiny children alive under fairly tricky and exhausting circumstances.

I am in no way saying that parenting is easy these days. Far from it. But the black cloud has now lifted and I am able to see beyond the fog. Sleep is a major factor in this. Now when the children are tantrumming or one of them spills a whole packet of cornflakes EVERYWHERE my first response is one of annoyance and frustration and not utter despair. If any of this resonates with you, my heart reaches out to you. I know from experience that there is no magical solution, but I do know that it will end. While you’re in that dark tunnel just keep on marching, and don’t forget that there is help out there if you need it.

This blog was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mums’ Back! Yummy hamper gifts for new mums full of the delicious stuff they’ve not been allowed whilst pregnant. For your chance to win a Mum’s Back hamper, click here.

 

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Sally Bunkham

Founder of mumsback.com and mum to 2 lovely daughters, born 1 year apart. Daisy is nearly 3 & Ruby is nearly2. Sleep thief survivor! PND warrior. Passionate about raising money to help families with perinatal mental health issues. I also love wine, chocolate and occasionally running. I flit between Stamford, Lincs & good old Sussex by the sea, Brighton.

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