This is a tough subject to talk about, however, it is a very real situation for many. So, we believe that it needs to be talked about openly, without judgement or fear. Mummy Social Team member Danni recently grabbed a cuppa with mum-of-three Tina who has been to that dark place and now wants to help others by talking about her experience.
Hi Tina, thank you for taking the time to chat with me! I think it’s important to know a little bit about you first as anxiety and depression does not discriminate, it can be experienced by anyone.
I’m 28 and mum to Layla (9), Sidney (7), Theo (3) and one fur baby. I’m a beautician and have a mobile beauty business which acts as a perfect hiding place for me, I can hide my true feelings and play a different role.
I understand that you have battled with post-natal depression. As this can vary from person to person can you describe your experience of it?
My depression really kicked in around 6 months into my third pregnancy due to anxiety about giving birth again. I would say the ‘post-natal’ part started when Theo was 8 – 10 weeks old. I started to feel so suffocated but empty at the same time. I questioned if I had done the right thing having another baby (awful to say I know) but I felt overwhelmed and although I had people all around me, I had never felt so alone.
I hid it quite well from my midwife because I was ashamed, but she noticed that I had rapidly lost a lot of weight, so much so that I even stopped producing enough milk for Theo. I used to starve myself as a way of trying to control my mind, which obviously now I can see wasn’t normal. I was referred straight away to the Perinatal Mental Health team.
I know it is difficult to talk about, but in your own words can you share with me what happened next?
I was prescribed medication and within a month it had been increased from 50mg to 200mg. The Perinatal team were visiting once a week but at this point, I felt totally out of control. I was told to give the medication time to get into my system but before I knew it my head was buzzing constantly. I hate to admit it now, but I started hitting myself in the head to try and stop the thoughts, the suffocating feelings.
This bit is so hard to talk about and actually admit, but I want to speak out to help others. I can remember being sat in my car, revving the engine outside my house, facing a lamppost opposite our home. My partner and I had argued, and I just felt I couldn’t cope anymore. I wanted to end the pain, end the whirlwind in my head. The problem with PND is that no one can see it, no one can feel it but you!! I was crying hysterically and I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I called my mum and she was there with me within 5 minutes, I swear that she saved me that day.
Can you try to begin to explain how you felt at your lowest?
I felt at my lowest after the car incident, the next few days were a blur, I spoke to the Perinatal team every day for the following few weeks. It scared me, I wanted to leave my children behind because I felt unworthy to be their mother, I was a failure, why can other mums hold their shit together, but I can’t, why am I so rubbish? Why can’t I be normal! I had got to such a point that I thought they would be better off without me.
I am 3 and a half years on from the suicidal point, but some days it still gets too much, and I can go back to that point for just a split second, depression and anxiety are real and they are life destroying.
There’s so much pressure put on mothers from all angles, did you fear being judged?
Being judged was the thing I feared most, I thought the midwives would think I was a bad mum if they saw I wasn’t coping. I got dressed, did my hair and cleaned the house even though I had just had a c-section. I wanted to prove I wasn’t going to get depression now Theo was here. I still remember the overwhelming feeling of being a failing mum and them calling in a mental health worker – I wanted to fight it but looking back now fighting made it so much harder in the long run.
What would be your advice to someone in this position?
The best advice I got was to rest, rest your body and your mind, it’s so hard with a young baby or children but if you had injured your body you would rest. Your mind needs rest and time to heal too.
I would say please talk to someone – you’re not alone! I felt so alone I kept it from my friends, my partner and my mum who is my best friend. Even if you send a text and say I’m feeling rubbish today can we chat? Or speak to your midwife they won’t judge you, they are there to help you in your time of need. My GP also recommended the service Steps to Wellbeing (cognitive behavioural therapy). If you are in desperate need of assistance please call the Samaritans on 116 123.
How important do you think it is to have mum friends and what role can they play in situations like this?
Mums seem to sense if another mum is struggling. My friends knew something was wrong but I denied it and I just stopped seeing them to stop the constant questions. This is a sign you could look out for. Depression is such a sad lonely world to be in, you shut yourself off because you don’t want to be judged, but then you feel so alone.
It’s so important as mums we support and try to help each other. Please don’t judge others because the battle in our heads is enough to suffocate sometimes, a little bit of kindness and support can go a long way.
Interview by Danni, Mummy Social Team
Tina has started a viral campaign to try and stop the stigma surrounding mums’ mental health issues. It’s called #standuptostigma and you can find out more on her Instagram page @mumma_to_kings.