My experience of Post Natal Depression

26 - Rosanna HuntMy experience of Post Natal Depression (PND) does not define me, but for some reason, admitting that I had it makes me feel as though I now have permanently assigned a negative label to myself. That’s the problem with stigma. It’s a 'mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person'. My perception of myself was worsened by the response of a GP locum. When I went to her with mastitis and broke down in front of her, she physically stepped back away from me and asked: “Do you think you are at risk of harming your baby?” I said “No, of course not” – took the prescription for antibiotics, sucked up the tears and left.

I’d had some experience of mild depression before and had read that celery was a great natural remedy. Actually, it is the simplicity of this remedy that works for me. When I had no motivation or confidence, felt utterly confused about what was happening to me and therefore had no way of expressing how I was feeling to anyone else, this six-step process was about the only positive action I could take to help myself:
  1. put on a pair of shoes and a coat
  2. leave the house
  3. walk to the shop
  4. buy some celery
  5. come home and wash it
  6. chop it up and eat 2 sticks.
So, once I had recovered from the mastitis, I followed these magical six steps like a robot – several times – over the course of about nine months. Three years later, during my pregnancy and after the birth of my second child, I started buying celery again. It lasted another nine months.

Post natal depression impacted my life in two major ways.
  1. It affected my relationship with my husband: I was frequently angry, but couldn’t explain why. He wanted to help me to fix this thing, but I felt alone because I couldn’t even express how I was feeling and it was all I could do to ask for a hug. No other words could get through the fog in my brain.
  2. I developed a stress/anxiety-related disorder called Globus, where the throat feels as though it is swelling up and it becomes painful to swallow even the smallest amount of saliva. Often I had to vomit to relieve it.
I can consider myself lucky. Postnatal depression is the commonest postpartum psychiatric disorder. Suicide is these women’s biggest killer above any other cause of death.

If we can end the stigma by making it ok to break our silence and tell our stories, we can change this. When we feel able to do so, its also important to share our daily coping strategies with others who need help. I did this through #dayinthelifeMH. You can too.

I will also be sharing my story with a group of first-time pregnant mums face-to-face. I will be telling them about my new coping strategies for this time around. I’m now six months pregnant with my third child, and over the next three months I will be looking for more opportunities to join existing campaigns and share my story.

If you have postnatal depression, what can you do about it (apart from eating celery!)?: If you suspect someone you know is suffering with postnatal depression, how can you help them?
  • Offer them a hug.
  • Invite them to share their experiences with others who will be helped by hearing their story (e.g. at local antenatal groups or via the Mental Health Foundation). Ask them to describe what its like, whether they know what triggers it and what they have tried to do to cope with it or even overcome it.
  • Help them to build their community support - take them to a local group or find groups for them to connect with on Twitter (e.g. follow @sectioned_), Facebook or via Post Natal Depression blogging sites.
26 - Rosanna Hunt 2




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