Hi my name is Joanne and sadly like so many others, I suffered with ante-natal anxiety and postnatal anxiety and depression when I had my second child. Poynton PANDAS have really made an unbelievable difference to my life and that of my family. If it wasn’t for speaking to Rhiannon who runs the group I certainly wouldn’t have sought help when I did. PANDAS also placed me with a counsellor called Julia Larmer who was amazing.
My daughter was born in September 2011. She was, thankfully, conceived soon after we started trying. I can’t say I enjoyed pregnancy; it wasn’t really what I expected. Her birth was difficult, I was contracting regularly and strongly from the word go but I didn’t dilate past 6cms. Eventually she was born by emergency c-section. When I held her though I was very lucky, I felt immense love and a feeling that I would describe as euphoria. I found being a mum very rewarding and generally loved it. My daughter wasn’t the easiest of babies though and I began to wonder if I could manage with 2 young children, as we had planned.
However fate had other plans and I unexpectedly got pregnant again when my daughter was 9 months old. I was terrified by the prospect of having another baby. I had just returned to work in a stressful job in law and we were in the process of moving house. I started to feel sudden waves of panic without warning, almost like somebody had startled me and made me jump. One weekend I got ill with a flu like illness and fainted twice. I went to see my GP and I ended up getting very upset and telling him about my feelings. He was very understanding and signed me off work with the intention of me getting some space ready for the birth.
My son was born in March 2013 by elective c-section. As soon as I was able, I held him and tried to feed him, as I had with my daughter. He wouldn’t feed but I wasn’t concerned; I just thought he wasn’t ready yet. However the midwife queried whether he was breathing properly and ran some tests. It transpired that he had a lung infection and he was ventilated and cared for in the intensive care unit of the neonatal unit. I didn’t hold him again until 6 days after his birth. He spent 12 days in the neonatal unit in total and I stayed with him.
When we came home, I felt happy to be home and very grateful that he was now well. I thought that if I could cope with what had happened initially then I could cope with anything. I can’t be precise about when I started to experience feelings of anxiety and post-natal depression, I think it was somewhere around the 6 month mark. My symptoms appeared very gradually. I became very irritable, negative, frustrated and angry. My internal voice was so horrible and I used to tell myself I was a bad person and a bad mother. I felt overwhelmed by things and like I just couldn’t cope with anything more. If I was alone with the two children all day I would worry how I would manage; I felt that something would happen that I couldn’t cope with. I felt it would be best if I left but thankfully I didn’t have thoughts of suicide. However I could have periods of feeling fine and when I was in company I was usually quite jovial, I think it took my mind off things.
When almost everybody close to me irritated me and most days were bad, it occurred to me that I might have a problem. Looking back I felt scared and bewildered. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I remember thinking that it couldn’t be post-natal depression as that was something that happened to people soon after birth. I made contact with Rhiannon of PANDAS and we met for a coffee. I thought I was wasting her time and that she would just reassure me I was a stressed mum of two. It became apparent though as we were talking that my feelings were familiar to Rhiannon as somebody who had experienced post-natal depression and had also helped people in similar positions. I decided to see my GP who luckily was very understanding. Counselling made a huge difference almost immediately as Julia gave me strategies to help with feelings of anger and being overwhelmed.
However, I still had symptoms of tearfulness and feeling unable to cope with anything further. My GP advised I start anti-depressants. I was very reluctant initially but my GP explained anti-depressants as having a rebalancing effect on the brain and I decided to give them a go. Quite soon after, I started to feel better. My symptoms started to fade and the old me began to emerge.
I feel well now and I even feel like some good has come from the experience, it made me reconsider who I am and what is important. I now volunteer for PANDAS as I feel passionate about helping families who suffer with post-natal illness and to try and raise the profile of post-natal depression which occurs later down the line. Please, please do get in touch if you are struggling. We really want to help.
A Guest Blog from Joanne, a Maman who made use of the support services provided for those who suffer with post natal depression from the charity PANDAS. To find out more about PANDAS, how you can access support if you think you might be suffering or how you can donate to this fantastic charity take a look at their website and follow them on Instagram or Facebook.