A few words on PND, Roald Dahl and not wanting to be a ‘grown-up’

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As it’s Maternal Mental Health Week I thought I’d share some of my own experiences:

As a child, I loved Roald Dahl books. I devoured them, saving my pocket money week upon week to buy the next title on my list.

Having just started re-reading them to my children all those familiar feelings came bursting back.

One thing that always stayed with me ever since my first encounter with Mr Dahl was how he portrayed adults.

There are the Miss Honeys, the Willy Wonkas and the Grampa Joes. They are all fun, warm and sparkling with energy and love.

Then there are The Twits, Mr and Mrs Wormwood and the heinous Miss Truchbull. Dull, grey, mean -The Grown Ups!

Since then I have always said, “It’s inevitable that I will become an adult, but I never want to be a Grown-Up!”

As I sat in that grey windowless room, his diagnosis hung in the air, so heavy I could have choked on it.

It couldn’t be right, I couldn’t have post-natal depression. I’d just had a baby, I was tired, hormonal, still a little emotional. I’d seen things about P.N.D. on T.V,  I wasn’t like that at all, I didn’t have trouble bonding with my baby, I adored this bundle of blue nestled in my chest, occasionally flinching as my tears landed on his tiny fluffy head.

Like so many other mental illness’ Post Natal Depression has so many different faces and can manifest itself in so many hurtful ways.

When he finally said the words out loud I crumbled, I simply broke. But I needed to, now I could start putting myself back together.

Next came the fear, fear that I would be judged as an unfit mother, that they would take my children away. I begged and begged this bemuse councillor not to take my babies. I clutched my boy so close to me, my cheeks stung with tears and couldn’t hear the reassuring things he was telling me.

Finally, plans were put in place, a doctor would call me in the next few days to confirm his diagnosis and refer me to the community health team, everything was going to be O.K. I’d taken the first step, the hardest step, I’d asked for help.

As I left the room my fear turned to anger, it wasn’t fair, this thing, this illness was making me grey and grumpy and boring.

Post Natal Depression was making me into a GROWN – UP.

Days later the phone rang and things started happening, I was assessed by the CMHT and was deemed a priority, so in some respects, I was one of the lucky ones, I was granted that oh so rare help on the NHS.

Now please don’t take my last statement as a condemnation of our health service. I love the NHS, but it is underfunded and overstretched and mental health provisions are severely lacking.

I was granted 6 monthly sessions with different councillors and progress was slow. I looked around for other sources of help, but they too were oversubscribed with lengthy waiting lists.

The Early days were a struggle. I felt so guilty about how I was damaging those closest to me. My heart shattered every time my little girl asked, “Are you happy, Mummy?”

It wasn’t until January 2018 that I finally made a breakthrough. I saw an article on the benefits of exercise had on your mental health. Before children I was a runner, I loved sticking on loud music and just running wherever I wanted to, the feeling of freedom it gave me. Maybe I needed to start reclaiming some of my “Old Self”, maybe I needed to run again. I signed up to do the Run Everyday in January challenge, and I started to feel a change.

As time passed by my grey days became less and less and I began to feel that old familiar sparkle again. The day I taught my daughter to do the ‘Proud Mary’, when we bake together in the Kitchen, my girl balanced on a stool and my boy (now 2) stood in his pod, all covered in flour singing Moana songs at the top of our voices.

So day by day I am being put back together by those I love the most, piece by piece like an old favoured vase. Each “I love you Mummy” mends me, each chubby armed squeeze pulls me back into place.

But unlike that old faithful vase, my cracks and imperfections make me stronger and little by little I no longer feel like a grown-up.

So last year I ran to help myself, this year I run to help others and there are three ways you can support me.

  1. Check on those you love. It’s taken me over 2 years to talk publicly about my struggles with mental health. So take the time to talk to others, to listen to what they are not saying. And just be kind in general, you don’t know what others may be going through.
  2. If you are struggling yourself, tell someone, anyone. I found with each friend I confided in, the burden on my shoulders lifted. Each step is a step towards feeling better, so don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. Take it.
  3. Support groups who are there to help people in need. You can sponsor me and my running antics – JustGiving page here – or just donate directly to the groups. Every single pound can make a difference.

If anyone reading this does feel like they want to speak to someone, I can personally recommend York Mind and also York Women’s Counselling Services – both of which were a huge help.

And take care of yourselves and those around you. X