To say I had no idea how my post regarding my experience with Post Natal Anxiety and Depression would be received, is probably the understatement of the year. I had considered writing it for a little while, weighing up the pro’s and the cons, not a lot of people knew I had been unwell, aside from my very close friends and my family. Anyone can paint a picture on social media, you can dress your life up how you want it to be seen when online. I think most are guilty of this to a certain degree, myself included. To many people who weren’t really close to me, I probably seemed fine. I’m quite good at putting a front on, and like I said, social media is often a smoke screen. It isn’t really ‘real life’, we can choose what we want to share, we can also choose how we want to be perceived. I think I’m confident in saying that until early August 2015, not many people on my Facebook or Twitter would have had an idea that I had struggled the way I had.
This was something to consider when my finger hovered over the publish button on August 4th 2015, once the post was out there, that’s it. No more secrets, no more pretending, no more hiding. This is me, warts and all. I then thought, so what, what have I got to be ashamed of? If someone judges me, or chooses to ignore me then bollocks to them, do I really need them in my life? No. I’ve got some great people around me, who know me, who know what I’ve been through and have stuck by me throughout everything.
Writing it out was cathartic. Especially regarding my son’s birth. It felt like although I had already put it in a box and put the box on a shelf (through therapy), I’d now put that box in the loft. Even further away from my day to day thoughts. I’d always felt I needed closure on it, to come to terms properly with what happened, my fears, the pain, the anxiety and the worry.
Once I’d finished writing the post, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. If I’m honest, I didn’t really think about it much once I’d hit publish and posted it on my Facebook and Twitter as I usually do with my posts. It wasn’t until I realised how many ‘likes’ it had received and how I’d had a few messages within the space of an hour or so, I started to realise it was having an effect. I had received messages from friends saying how proud of me they were, I had messages from other women deciding to open up to me about how they too had suffered from post natal mental health issues. I felt touched that these ladies had felt they were able to tell me their stories. I hoped that by them writing it out like I had, they felt better or maybe had become confident to perhaps seek counselling or professional support, because like I’ve said; it’s out there.
The post was gaining a lot of hits on my then blog site, it was being shared by a lot of people (people I didn’t even know) and I was overwhelmed by the amount of messages I had received. I felt proud, proud that something I had written had attracted this amount of attention. I set about promoting it on Twitter through RT’s from celebrities or charities that are focussed on post natal issues. This was really successful and the charity PANDAS got in touch to discuss using it on their site to help other women who may be suffering.
An online magazine for Bristol got in touch and said they would like to put it on their site too, I was really happy with this, I wanted it to have a larger reach and hopefully help others while raising mental health awareness. This is so important, I really feel we can do more to reduce the stigma that is often attached to mental health and show people that it is more common than they may think.
I then decided to send the link to The Bristol Post newspaper, to see if they would consider publishing it. I heard back from the Deputy Editor that morning and he said he would be happy to publish it. This was amazing, my post was being published on a website I browse daily and so do thousands of other people! I couldn’t believe they would be interested in using something written by little old me!
The response to The Bristol Post publishing my blog was fantastic. I transferred my blog to another site and set up my own website at the beginning of September and before I did so I checked how many times the post had been viewed. Combined with The Bristol Post views, it had been read over 10,000 times, incredible. Thank you to each and everyone one of you who has read it and shared it and commented on it.
After it had been published on The Bristol Post I again heard from other women who had been through a similar experience and were glad to read something that made them feel they aren’t alone. Of course they’re not alone, this is more common than a lot of people know, however, when you are in the depths of depression and anxiety you feel like you’re the only person who could ever be suffering from this. It is the most isolating and lonely time I’ve ever known. To think my writing could be helping someone was such an amazing feeling.
Towards the end of August I received a message on Twitter from the producer of BBC Radio Bristol asking if I would be interested in coming on the show to discuss my experience and my blog. I literally couldn’t believe what I was reading, I had absolutely no idea this would or could happen. I rang Wes straight away to sound it out to him and ask him what he thought I should do. I have never been on the radio before, I hate public speaking and hearing the sound of my own voice is akin to hearing fingernails down a chalkboard. Wes was very positive, he said straight away I should grab this opportunity with both hands. It could be great exposure for my blog and best of all, it could help other women who may be suffering from PND and PNA themselves. It’s helping to raise awareness. I contacted the producer and confirmed I’d be happy to come in and discuss my experience on air and was booked to come in a few days later. I didn’t give it much thought for the rest of the week. The anxious me of old would have been worrying about this relentlessly in the run up to the interview itself. But as I’ve said previously, my new mantra is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. This helps me maintain perspective perfectly.
Come Friday (the day of the interview) I was beginning to feel nervous. I’ve been suffering from nightmares recently, really horrible, vivid ones. Nightmares that leave me feeling pretty rubbish the next day. I had a nightmare the night before the radio interview. It was about how badly the interview went, how the presenter was awful to me, how I stormed out half way through feeling distraught. This added to my nerves but I was determined to keep my composure. My nightmare could not have been further from reality. John, the presenter was incredible. He was one of the most friendliest, welcoming and easy to talk to people I have ever met in my life. I felt at total ease. It just felt like we were old friends having a bit of a deep and meaningful. Whilst ensuring I spoke into a microphone throughout.
I’m really Bristolian, and really quite self conscious of my accent. I was desperately trying to put my ‘telephone voice’ on and I was so worried I might ummm and ahhh it too much!
The interview itself went so quickly, before I knew it, it was all over and I was on my way home, feeling proud at what I had just done. It also got me thinking, whenever I talked about my experience, I felt better. When I had written it down I felt better. No, I don’t want to bang on about it but I also don’t want to hide it, I want it to be a part of me like everything else in my past or my present has been or is. This should be the case for anyone else who is feeling depressed, anxious, down or even just not themselves. They should be encouraged to talk because talking really does help. A problem shared IS a problem halved. You don’t have to go through anything on your own, because you’re not on your own.
So, I set about thinking how when you become a mum, there are so many Mother & Baby groups in local areas. You have sensory groups, music groups, story time groups and breastfeeding groups. But I’m not aware of any support groups, a group for Mums (and Dad’s) who might be finding the first few weeks or months of parenthood hard. They might feel anxious, be plagued with horrendous thoughts or feel like getting out of bed every morning is a struggle. They may feel alone, like they have no one to confide in or they have little hope that they’ll ever feel better or like their old self again. They might not want to talk to their close friends or their family but they may consider talking to someone who they don’t know, who won’t judge them and be able to relate to what they’re going through.
With this and the fact there can sometimes be long waiting lists for professional help in mind, I’ve decided I’m going to set up a support group myself. This would be a weekly gathering whereby a number of women or men can come together and discuss how they’re feeling, meet other like minded people and just realise they’re not on their own. They don’t even have to share their stories if they don’t want to, they can just come along for a coffee and a chat and listen to me bang on if they want to. Until they feel it may be possible to open up about how they themselves are feeling. There will be no judging. This is an open forum purely for talking about what people are going through and offering support to each other.
If you are interested in taking part in my support group (or you know someone who might be) then I would love to hear from you, you can contact me via Facebook – here’s my page – you’re able to private message through this. Or you can drop me an e-mail, my address is email@example.com
What you discuss with me, stays with me.
Initially, I’m just putting the feelers out to see if anyone would be up for this. I can appreciate it won’t be for everyone. There won’t be any standing up and introducing yourself to a group of people while saying 1 interesting fact about yourself. I can promise you this, as that would be my idea of hell!
I just want you to know that you’re not on your own. A sad fact of life is just how many people are affected by mental health illness, hundreds of thousands of us in fact, and if there’s one thing I’ve realised over the last couple of years is; it’s good to talk.