Sarah has sent me her story and wants to share it with others, also to offer hope….
~ The Arrival ~
My husband and I had been married for two years when we decided that we would like to have a baby. I must say that I instigated the conversation whilst we were away in December of 2005 for my birthday. I remember we were sat in a restaurant when I broached the subject. My husband smiled at me and asked me to explain my reasons for wanting a child. I told him that that question was like asking me why I loved him. I couldn’t really answer it, but I just had a deep yearning and knew that the time was right.
By early February of 2006 I was pregnant! We were delighted, if not a little apprehensive as to what we had let ourselves in for. I had the text book pregnancy and after the first 12 weeks of feeling sick all day every day had passed, I felt great and loved every minute. I embraced my changing shape and during the middle to late phases I felt glorious.
I had lots of images in my head of how perfect life would be, that my husband and I would find it tough but rewarding and that we would unconditionally love our new baby. We decided not to find out the sex as we wanted a surprise.
A week before my actual due date my waters broke at 8.00 o’clock in the morning. I telephoned my midwife who had been brilliant during my pregnancy to tell her the news. She informed me that ‘it had started’ and that I should phone the hospital to let them know. The nurse on the other end of the phone was not convinced that it was my waters and told me that the baby had probably moved putting pressure on my bladder. I put the telephone down and went about my morning. I had gone over to a local bakers, when my waters went again. I managed to get myself out of the shop without anyone noticing, got back home to ring the hospital again and call my husband who I had sent off to work. This time the nurse was a little more convinced and asked me to go in to be checked over.
We arrived at the hospital and went to the delivery suite as directed. The nurse who I had spoken to on the telephone greeted us. After being put on a bed and strapped to a heart monitor, she said that she would do the necessary to see if my waters had broken as a precaution, as she still didn’t think that they had. After waiting for a few minutes, the nurse declared that ‘oh, yes, it most definitely is your waters’. We were told that I would be left to see if my labour would progress naturally, if it hadn’t by the Friday, I was to go back in to be induced at 16:30 in the afternoon.
After a few days of waiting and not a thing happening, not even a twinge, we arrived back at the hospital. This was the first of my idealistic dreams shattered. I had planned that I would go in to labour naturally and that I would have a water birth with as little intervention as possible. Fat chance now….
After arriving on the delivery suite, I was given a health check and a peccary that would hopefully bring labour on. After lying around in the delivery suite for hours with my husband at my side cracking up at the cricket book he was reading, it was suggested that we go for a walk around to see if it would bring labour on. The time was 9:45pm. After walking up and down the main hospital corridor for half an hour, we returned to inform the midwife in charge (who I must day was excellent) that I could feel a few twinges, but nothing more. At 10:30pm, the Midwife decided that my husband may as well go home and get some sleep and that they would try me with a tablet again in the morning. Just as he was about to leave, the Doctor who was doing the wards arrived, checked me over and decided to override the Midwife stating ‘lets get this show on the road!’ With that I was moved to my own room, strapped to another heart monitor and in came another Midwife with a calendula drip to put in the back of my hand. I had an experience with one of these before and it was most unpleasant. So as I was not informed that this would be happening, you can imagine my panic. I got very upset and my husband asked for the midwife to leave us for a little while whilst he talked to me. After calming me down, the midwife was called back in and the drip was to be inserted. She made the same error that the previous Doctor had done and blood spilled everywhere and my hand throbbed. Eventually the drip was sorted out and I was hooked up to the hormone drug that would induce labour.
After a short while the contractions started. Unfortunately, there was no gradual build up, like I had imagined, it was just wham and they started. The pain just ripped through my body like nothing I had experienced. This went on for a good couple of hours. During this time I tried gas and air and had an injection of Pethadine, neither of which really helped. With each contraction, I had been slamming my foot on the stirrup at the end of the bed. It wasn’t until after the birth that I realised I had actually numbed my foot!
The midwife checked me over to see how far dilated I was, and unfortunately for me, things were not moving on as quick as they needed to be. It was decided that they would up the anti on the hormone drug that they were giving me. I panicked again as the pain was already unbearable and my poor husband looked very upset to see me in such a state. I must admit, at this point I faked needing the toilet just to get out of the room. My husband helped me down the corridor with my drip in tow on a trolley. In the toilet I cried and began begging him to make things be over – irrational I know, but I was exhausted. Again he calmed me down, made me focus on the end result and managed to get me to go back in to the delivery room.
After another hour of contractions and still no appearance of our baby, the nurses suggested that I have an epidural to ease the pain. My immediate reaction was no, as this was the one thing that I didn’t want, and the second of my ideals was shattered – I wanted very little intervention, least of all an epidural! After consideration, we agreed that it would be for the best. The Anaesthetist was paged and I began to prepare myself mentally for what was to follow. On his arrival my husband asked him if he would talk us through what the epidural would entail and what the dangers where. The very rude and sarcastic response that we were met with was ‘ did you not cover this in your birthing class?’ I could see that my husband was absolutely seething, but kept his cool and repeated the question. This time the Anaesthetist gave us an answer and seemed to change his tone. Given the tense situation that we were in, his initial attitude was very unprofessional. Also, given the fact that we were only had one birthing class that lasted two hours, there was only so much that the midwife could cover!
Once the epidural had successfully been inserted, I eventually fell asleep for a couple of hours. My husband was really relived by this as he could tell I was shattered. At 5.30 in the morning the midwifes did another check on me and they informed us that the epidural seemed to have slowed my labour down – great! This meant that they would need to increase the hormone drip again. By this time the pain in my back was excruciating. I told the midwives and they said that it could be that I needed to pass urine. A bed pan was produced and I was expected to lift my back up, which was already causing me a lot of pain to get the pan in place. After making me go through this, they decided that they would use a catheter. Why they didn’t do this first is beyond me!
Just as we were on the verge of asking the Anaesthetist to come back and top my epidural up, the midwife checked me over again as I said that I could feel some pressure. Upon checking me she declared that she could see our baby’s head and that I was ready to go. However, the Midwives were due to change shifts, so I had to wait until this had been done. I have to say at this point, the two main midwives that looked after me until this point were fantastic and supported us brilliantly.
The two new midwives arrived in the room, and gave me a check over. I was told that I could start to push. I tried, but the pain in my back was too much. They suggested that I moved to lie on my side, which upon doing, the pain stopped. Again, why the previous midwives didn’t suggest this is a mystery. After 10 minutes and two big pushes, our baby entered the world at 8.03am on Saturday 14th October 2006 with a little cough and splutter. He was immediately handed to me to hold and to find out for ourselves the sex – a boy! He was just beautiful. He smelt lovely and was still covered in vernix. He had a shock of spiky ginger hair that looked as though it had been styled with gel. I remember his little hands and his amazing blue eyes. My husband was beside me with tearful eyes and the biggest look of relief on his face. Our baby starred back at us with curios eyes almost as though he was weighing us up to see if we fit the bill or not. He made lovely snuffle noises and seemed to be enjoying a cuddle. He didn’t scream at all like you see the babies doing on the television!
After the necessary post delivery actions were completed we were cleaned up and moved to the Maternity ward, were my husband had sorted me out a private room which we paid for. I must say that I found this to be a god send as I wanted peace and quite for us to get to know our new son. It also meant that I could buzz for a Midwife any time I wanted and get the support that I needed with establishing breastfeeding etc. After a couple of days, we decided that I was ready to come home.
All though the first week home was tiring as our son didn’t settle very well at night, we were glowing with pride and were trying very hard to establish a bit of a routine and a tiny bit of normality. We had visits from friends and some of my family and I was doing well with getting myself established in my new role as mother and wife. Part of my personality is that I am very organised person and I always have to have a plan. This was probably my first mistake.
~ The Downward Slope ~
By the second week things were going very wrong. We had already asked my mother-in-law to come and stay with me as I was struggling with things. My own Mum was still working and couldn’t take the time off to be with me.
We had been having very bad nights as our son was not settling. We had him in the cot by our bed and we heard his every snuffle as he was a very noisy sleeper – not at all his fault, we were just not used to it. Also, he was always hungry. I would feed him and he would fall asleep on me. Thinking that he was full, we would put him back down and within minutes he would be crying again. This went on all night every night, to the point that I would be lying awake anticipating him waking up. In the end we moved him in to his own room with the mosses basket inside his cot. It didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.
After the first week intrusive and disturbing thoughts began to come in to my head at night time. I remember one night lying awake wondering if anyone would miss me if I was gone. Other nights I would have harmful thoughts towards our son, which obviously scared me. I was also suffering with terrible anxiety attacks. I would lie awake with all my senses standing on end, covered in sweat.
One morning, I decided that the way I was feeling was not right and that I needed to do something about it. I broke down in tears to my mother-in-law and told her all about the thoughts that I had been having and how low I had been feeling. My husband had gone off to work by this point and was oblivious to what was unravelling at home. My mother-in-law and I decided that we should call my midwife to see what action we should take. She was just brilliant. Within an hour she was sat with me at my house, listening to me as I broke my heart over how I had been feeling. She decided that I should go straight to see my Doctor and got me an emergency appointment. With no makeup on, my hair in a mess and my husbands baggy jumper on I went to the see my Doctor. I left my mother-in-law in the car with my son and went to sit in the waiting room. It was the longest wait of my life!
On entering my Doctors room, I could tell in his eyes that he knew something was seriously wrong with me. After all, he had been the Doctor we approached when we wanted to discuss trying for a baby and knew me to be a well kept, bright and happy young women.
I sat in tears and told him the same things that I told my mother-in-law. He sat and listened to my wailing and didn’t interrupt me once. When I finally finished he smiled gently and said that I was displaying classic symptoms of Post Natal Depression, but that it was quite early for it to be so aggressive. He asked me to complete the Edinburgh Scale to be sure of his convictions. I came out with a high score, which clearly indicated that I had depression. At this point he asked if I had anyone with me. I told him that me mother-in-law was sat outside in the car with my son. We fetched her in so that she too could hear what was being said to me. He said that he would not normally prescribe antidepressants so quickly, but as he could see that I was quite clearly struggling, that he would offer me them if I wanted them. As I was so keen to get away from how I was feeling I accepted them straight away. He gave me a prescription and said that I was to give the tablets at least two weeks before they would have any effect.
We returned home with the tablets and me feeling a little better as I had some answers and wasn’t going mad, which was what I was starting to believe.
Practically as I walked through the door, the phone rang and it was my Aunty who I was very close too. She had phoned me about something insignificant but my nerves were raw. Before I had chance to think I blurted out to her that I had post natal depression and that I had been put on antidepressants. The conversation ended very quickly! Within minutes the phone rang again and it was my mum who was very upset to hear the news through a second party. The upshot of the conversation was that she did not want me to go on the antidepressants so soon and that I should give myself more time. This put me in real quandary. I absolutely love my mum to bits and really did not want to go against her. I ended the conversation with her saying that I hadn’t had chance to speak to my husband yet and that I would talk to her later. We called my husband who came home immediately. I discussed everything with him, again breaking my heart and we agreed between us that we should start the antidepressants. I knew that my Mum would not be pleased.
The next day was very strange. I woke up with renewed energy to fight, got myself and my son dressed and announced to my mother-in-law that we were going out to a Garden Centre for a coffee, a piece of cake and a look around. I think that she knew I was covering how I really felt.
By this point my relationship with my son was deteriorating and I knew that I wasn’t feeling the way that I should about him. To make matters worse, I had decided that I needed to give up breast feeding – another of my ideals out of the window! I knew that something was seriously wrong and that I had to make sure that he could be fed. We switched him to formula and this immediately made a difference to his sleeping patterns. He went from being awake every hour on the hour to sleeping for 3 – 4 hours at a time. Despite this my sleep did not improve and I still lay awake at night. I felt like I couldn’t take any more sleepless nights, so I contacted my midwife again, who agreed that she would get me an appointment with NHS direct to get some sleeping tablets. That evening my husband and I drove to the NHS centre through pouring rain. I practically begged the Doctor to give me something to sleep . I had got to the point that I just wanted to shut my head off for a while. The Doctor consented and gave me a very mild sedative to help me sleep. That night I went to bed and took my tablet. I slept for four hours and felt completely distraught when I woke up at 14:00 in the morning. Against the Doctors advice I took another tablet and managed to go back to sleep for a couple more hours. I was irrationally hoping to sleep through a crying baby (who my husband was now feeding at night so that I could try to catch up some desperately needed sleep) and wake up refreshed at 7.00am!
Since the birth of my son my personality had changed quite dramatically. I had gone from being a fun loving, out going young women, to a withdrawn, very miserable replica of me. My appetite was dwindling and my concentration was very poor. I didn’t want to be alone, but then I didn’t want anyone with me either. I also felt very numb towards people that I normally loved with all my heart. This particularly upset me with regards to my feelings towards my husband. When I first met him it was love at first sight and I couldn’t keep my hands of him. Now I hated him touching me and didn’t feel like being cuddled.
During this time, my Health Visitor had got in touch with me to come and do my sons checks. Fortunately, my midwife had put her in the picture about my health, so she was prepared for what she was greeted with. She too was very supportive and admitted that she too had suffered serious post natal depression so understood what I was going through.
The second week after our son was born my husband was due to attend an important exhibition to do with his work. As my mother-in-law had to go home (I cried myself silly when she left – she cried too) my mum came to stay with me. I reassured my husband that he should go and that as I had been prescribed antidepressants, would soon be feeling fine. He agreed to go and packed his things up and left. The next two days were to be the worst of my life so far.
The first night, I asked my mum to sleep in my bed with me as I was scarred of being alone. She agreed. I spent majority of the night lying awake thinking awful things and listening to my mum asleep at the side of me. Its that night that I first thought that I heard voices speaking to me. It was Jeremy Clarkson saying something totally random. It scarred me to death.
In the morning, I didn’t want to get up. My mum had fed my son in the night and she then had to sort him out in the morning. I eventually got up and told my mum that things were getting worse and that I felt like I was slipping away. My husband phoned to see how I was and as he was so far away, I didn’t want him to be worried, so I lied and said that things were ok considering.
After speaking with my husband, I made another phone call to my midwife and asked if she would come and see me. I had phoned her a number of times the week previous and she had come to see me each time and been brilliant. On this occasion she took one look at me and informed us that there was a ‘Mother and Baby’ unit at the Derby City Hospital that had been set up for women like me that were struggling with motherhood. She was very caring and compassionate and discussed my options with me. She suggested that it would be a good idea if I went there for a few days to get myself back on my feet. The unit would help me with the care of my son whilst I got the rest that I needed. I discussed things with my mum and we agreed that it would be a good idea. My Midwife made some phone calls and later that day I had my first meeting with a member from the Community Mother and Baby Crisis team. I was assessed by two nurses who concluded that a stay in the unit would be the best thing for me. Naturally, I was a little concerned as to what I was letting myself in for, but knew that I needed help. We agreed initially that I would go over to the unit and have a look around so that I could get a feel for the place.
That afternoon we made the journey over to the unit where I was met by the Psychiatric nurse that would later become my named nurse. She was very warm and welcoming and showed me and mum around the ward. There were four bedrooms, a nursery, a couple of bathrooms, kitchen, living room come dining room and then the office that the nurses on duty sat in. She talked through the aims of the Mother and Baby unit and what they hoped to achieve by having me as an in-patient. It was all very scary, and I can only imagine how my poor mum must have felt. All her dreams of having a new Grandson and seeing her daughter and son-in-law happy were all smashed to pieces too.
We left the unit saying to the nurse that we would be in touch to let her know if I was going to be coming in. By the time that I had arrived home, I had made up my mind that I wanted to go. We contacted my Midwife again and told her my decision, she then put the wheels in motion to ensure that I had a bed and told them that I would be in the following morning. I then had to telephone my husband to tell him the news. It was the hardest conversation that I had ever had to have with him. I asked him if he would leave the conference early as I needed him to be with me on my last night at home. He was in Harrogate, but being brilliant like he is said that he would be home sometime early evening. Mum and I set about packing up the things that I would need for myself and my son whilst in the unit. I have never done anything with such a heavy heart. My mum also had the job of telephoning my dear dad that was at work to tell him the news about my deteriorating health and my decision to go and stay in the Mother and Baby unit. He left work immediately to be with mum, me and their grandson.
I felt so sad, lonely and a complete failure. All images I had in m head of our new baby in the beautiful little clothes I had bought were shattered, all the ideas I had of how new motherhood would be were destroyed. I felt a million miles away from the ‘normal’ me and very detached from those I loved.
My husband arrived home at about 9.30 in the evening and I just flung my arms around him and cried. What had gone wrong?, why had this happened to me? I was convinced that I had made a huge mistake in having a baby and that I was just not meant to be a mother. We had the strangest evening ever and neither of us really slept that night, partly due to our son waking for a feed, which is natural, but also because we were both dreading the next day. I was also worrying what people would think of me when they learnt that I was in a psychiatric unit, surely that would think that I had gone nuts and lost my marbles. I think that even this day in age that there is still stigma attached to people who have had mental illness and I didn’t want to put in that category, but neither did I want to continue as I was.
~ In to the Unit ~
The morning arrived. We got up, got dressed, collect my things and our son and got in the car for the 20 minute drive over to the unit. We didn’t really talk much on the way and our son just sat quietly in his car seat. It was as though he understood something was wrong with mummy. We arrived at the unit, unpacked the car and went to the automatic doors and pressed the buzzer. As I stood waiting, I noticed that the Mother and Baby unit was attached the main psychiatric ward. I could see some of the other ‘nutters’ out in the court yard having a cigarette. They stared back at me. A voice came over the intercom, my husband answered and the doors slid open. I stepped over the door way. Little did I know that on entering the unit in the last week in October that I would not return home properly until after the New Year, and then that wouldn’t be the end of my association with the Mother and Baby unit – far from it!
After being shown to what would become my room, we unpacked all my things and tried to make the room look as homely as possible. My named nurse was on duty and came in the room to have a chat with us and explain how things would work. We had lots of paper work to complete and were given lots of leaflets for me to read in my own time. I also noticed a pin board on the wall that had a noticed pinned on to it stating that whilst you were an inpatient on the ward you were not allowed to drive as it invalidated your insurance. This was another of the things that I enjoyed in life that I had to give up.
It came to the time that my husband had to leave me and our son in the unit. It was so hard. I knew that he would be back the next day to see me, but being away from him in a strange place, with a new baby that I didn’t have any feelings for was too much to bare. I became really upset and began asking him not to leave me. The nurse had to step in and help me calm down by giving me a sedative. My husband kissed me and told me that he would be back as soon as he was allowed the next day. His eyes were so sad and he looked completely deflated. This was not how he had imagined our life with our new baby to start either. To this day I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for him – going home to an empty house that should have been full of happiness and new born baby noises. Instead, he arrived home often after 9:00pm to a dark house and lonely, hungry cat. He would then begin the house chores that I would have normally been doing. He must have been exhausted both physically and mentally, balancing doing a full days work, visiting his son and wife in the evenings and then going home to start all the household chores, and then doing a couple more hours work after that.
He must have been worried sick about my health and recovery, but he kept it together in front of me for 90% of the time. I know that if the situation had been reversed, I would not have coped as well as he did. I would have found the time at home on my own heartbreaking, knowing that the new cot we had bought was empty and the nursery quiet. Even more saddening would have been the empty space in the bed beside me night after night.
For the rest of my first day on the unit I got used to my new surroundings, talked to the staff and met the nursery nurse who was on duty. She explained what her role would be and that she would support me with the care of Harry. Initially, the nursing staff would deal with Harry at the night times so that I could catch up on my sleep and for the first few nights I would be given something to help me sleep. That night, on the advice from the staff, I had a bath and got myself ready for bed as they said that I needed to establish a good night time routine to help my body learn to get ready for sleep again.
I tried to watch a little television in the living room, but couldn’t really concentrate, so I decided to go to bed. I asked for my medication, took it and settled myself down in the single bed. After lying there for about half an hour I realised that the mattress was plastic, the duvet had a plastic covering underneath the duvet cover, both of which crinkled loudly every time you moved. The curtains were really thin and let in all the light from the street lamp outside my window. I wasn’t allowed to have the bedroom door fully shut as the night nurses had to carry out regular checks on me. This meant that as their office was only down the corridor from me, I could hear all their conversations – they didn’t even attempt to keep their voices down. The office telephone rang periodically which was extremely loud and echoed around the ward. Eventually I did drop off to sleep, only to wake up a few hours later. I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours, and again managed to drop back off again.
The next morning when I woke up, I felt dreadful, very low in my mood, distraught that I hadn’t managed to sleep any better, lonely without my husband and terribly sad as to where my life had lead me. In the end I got up and went to find the nurses. They were in the office feeding my son. The sight of him with someone strange didn’t even bother me. I was glad that someone else was taking responsibility for him – I felt that disconnected from him. The nurses on duty that morning were lovely, particularly the nursery nurse who would become a great support to me. After letting me sit with them a while, they suggested that I go and get myself some breakfast. I really didn’t feel like eating – my appetite was non existent and the last thing that I wanted was food. Already I was back down to my pre-baby weight, whish was really worrying my Mum as she new that I normally love my food. However, in an attempt to show that I was willing to work with the staff, I went and got my self some cereal and did eat some, but fiddled with most of it. After this I went to have a shower. The shower was in a room on its own and had a tatty plastic shower curtain that didn’t cover the gap properly, so all the water poured out on to the floor. The actual shower was a push button affair that stayed on for a few seconds. I stood in the cubical and pressed the button. The shower was freezing cold. I tried again. Still freezing cold. I got out and went to find of the nurses to say that I thought it was broken. It turned out that it wasn’t broken, but that we were on the end of the hot water supply system and the sluice tap had to be run first thing. As this was the case every morning, why did somebody not go and do it first thing so that at least you could get a warm shower! After finally getting showered and dressed, I went to find the nurses again to see what I did next. They suggested that I washed and dressed my son. I didn’t want to, but I picked him and took him to my room where I quickly did the necessary and took him back to the nurses.
Later that day I decided that I could really do with some fresh air. I went to the nurses station, where by now the afternoon staff had come on. I enquired if I could go outside for a walk to be told that I couldn’t for the next few days as the staff needed to observe me. This really scarred me as I felt like they thought that I was a danger to myself and to my son, which I guess with hindsight, I could have been for all they knew of me. I just wish that someone had made this more clear on my arrival. For the rest of the day, until my husband and parents came later in the evening I just sat in the living room on the settee with my blanket and a pillow staring in to space. I did as little as possible with my son, and if am truthful, I was beginning to resent and deeply regret having him.
The visit from my parents was very difficult as they found it hard to see me in such a state and in a psychiatric unit. The nursing team had a meeting with them to offer support and give them an outline of what would be happening to me whilst in their care. When my husband arrived I felt no pleasure at seeing him, which upset me because I knew that that was not how I normally felt about him. After they left I had another bath, got myself ready for bed and went in to the living room. Again, I just sat there staring off in to space. The night staff came on. Where was the night nurse that had been so lovely the night before? The nurse that was on duty didn’t strike me as nice, even in the state that I was. She barely spoke to me and went straight in to the office. When I went to ask for my meds, she barked at me that she would do them at 10:00pm. Back to the sitting room to stair in space and wait for the appointed time for my pills. Eventually I went to bed.
After hours of tossing and turning, I got up to go and find the night staff. The nurse was doing her own ‘personal’ ironing in the living room with the television on. I told her that I was having trouble sleeping. ‘Why can’t you sleep?’ came the short sharp answer and she carried on with her ironing. After sitting there for a while I went back to my room and lay there till the morning.
The next day followed a similar pattern to the day before. By this time I was beginning to feel pretty desperate and very claustrophobic. Again, I did as little as possible with my son. During the day time, I just sat with him in the living room and let him sit in his bouncer. I would pick him up occasionally as I was worried what the staff might think off me – it wasn’t because I felt an urge to hold him, far from it.
The tea trolley appeared at 17:00 as it had done the previous evening, but again I didn’t feel like eating and managed a couple of mouthfuls at the most. My husband and my parents came, but I didn’t really feel like seeing them and cried for most of their visit. I got ready for bed, sorted my son out and went in to the living room. This time I didn’t ask for my medication as the same nurse was on. After taking my tablets, I went to bed and spent most of the night tossing and turning with burning anxiety and sweated profusely. My mind was racing and I was finding it increasingly difficult to turn my head off. I would lie in bed with random thoughts flying about and random songs playing over and over. I was also panicking about the following morning as I knew that I would have to look after my son.
~ Running scared ~
The next day, I got up again and followed the same routine as the two previous days. However, today was different. I had not one, but two visitors. The first being one of my best friends, who would become an amazing source of support and my Health Visitor. Both were well meaning in their visits, but by the time they left they I had come to the conclusion through talking with them that the unit was the wrong place for me and that it was actually making me worse rather than better. My husband also came in during the day time and I told him my intention that I would be coming home that evening. He didn’t seem to have the same conviction as me but was gentle and did seem to think that I was much brighter and animated. That afternoon, one of the nursing staff came to tell me that I would be having a meeting with the ward consultant to review their initial observations of me and to see where we would go next with my treatment. I called my husband to tell him the news and to ask him to return to the ward at the allotted time. I went back to my room and began to pack up my things.
The time for the meeting arrived and I was very nervous. We entered the room and met my consultant. It was the start of a rocky relationship. She asked me various questions about how I felt, in particular my feelings towards my son. She asked me if I had any suicidal feelings, which I admit to lying to and said no. She stated that it was in her and the nurses opinion that the best place for me was the unit for the foreseeable future. I thanked her for her advice, but basically told her that I didn’t feel the ward was the right place for me, and that in the three days that I had been there, no-one had come to me to do any sort of work towards getting me better. I was told that this was because I was being assessed and that they had to make their decisions of how to treat me based on the assessment. Again, I thanked them and said that I would be going home that evening. My husband had become very frustrated by this point as he didn’t feel that he had had any of his questions answered adequately either. It didn’t help that the consultant didn’t say hello to him and introduce herself, nor did she look at him during the meeting. The consultant again stated that she didn’t think it wise for me to go home and that it would be against her advice if I did. I asked if I was not allowed to go home and if I had been sectioned. She said no and that it was ultimately down to me what I did next. Feeling very angry, I stood up and told her that I would be going home that night and that I would not be coming back.
We left the room. By this time my brother had arrived and was completely shocked by my surroundings and stated ‘what do you want to be in this grim place for?’ With this, I grabbed my things, collected my son and marched round to the nurses office. I asked them to let me out. The nurse on duty, who was absolutely brilliant to me said ‘you have packed a lot of things, you do realise that this is for one night and that you must come back tomorrow by 9:00am?’ My very short response was ‘We’ll see about that’. The nurse opened the automatic doors and I went out in to the fresh air for the first time in three days.
Being at home was very strange and it didn’t feel like I expected it too. The house seemed strange, like it wasn’t mine and I was just visiting it. I am normally very house prod and take pleasure in keeping a clean and welcoming home. All I felt was pressure – I remember being terrified at the thought of housework, even something really simple like washing the pots. I think deep down in my heart I knew that I was not any better and that I would be returning to the unit, so did my husband. One of my favourite television programmes was on the television – Spooks, I stared at the television blankly with pictures and sound just washing over me . We got changed for bed, sorted our son out and then lay on our bed together – all three of us and just looked at our son and cuddled. I felt nothing, absolutely nothing. I was just dreading the next day. We put our son to bed in his own room and settle down in ours. My husband cuddled up to me, but all my nerves were standing on end and I probably felt like a block of wood in his arms. I had an extremely disturbed night and most of it was spent trying to get as far across the bed as I possible so that my husband couldn’t touch me. After being awake nearly all night, I heard the heating click on at 5:00am and knew then that we would have to get up in a few hours if we were going to get back to the unit by 09:00am. I spent the next two hours tossing, turning, sweating and panicking about going back to the unit. At 7:00am my husband got up and went to get our son up, which became the norm for him, as well as dealing with all the night feeds whilst I was at home. After a while he came back in to the room and told me gently that I had to get up and get ready to go back to the unit. I ignored him at first in the silly hope that he would change his mind. He repeated himself, but a little louder this time. I told him that I wasn’t going back and he couldn’t make me. This went on for a while, when he eventually lost his patients with me. He pulled back the duvet and gently, but firmly got me out of the bed and told me in very clear terms that I was to get in the shower. I stood there naked and refused. He turned the shower on and pushed me. I think I was in there for no more than a few minutes, before I flung the door open, ran out and threw myself back in bed. I was soaking wet and crying. I pulled the duvet over my head and chanted that I was not going back. Again my husband had to get me out. He picked some clothes out of our wardrobe and stood over me until I got dressed. My hair was still soaking wet. I sat on the end of our bed and told my husband defiantly that if he wanted me to go back to the unit, he would have to get the Police to escort me there. My husband realised at this point that it was no good getting cross with me and sat down beside me and explained the reasons for me going back to the unit. He calmed me down and managed to get me down the stairs. During this time our son had remained quiet and just sat waiting to go in his car seat. Once down stairs the panic set in again and I sat on the settee saying that only way he would get me out the house was if he got the police to forcibly remove me. Somehow he managed to get me outside to the car. I pulled my hood up on my coat as I did not want the neighbours to see me. I felt so ashamed and was sure that the neighbours had realised that something had gone wrong – I really didn’t want to be talked about either.
By this point my husband was crying and very clearly upset by what had happened. He packed the car up again and strapped our son in whilst I sat slouched in the front seat with my hood up. We didn’t speak a word on the journey back to the unit. To add to the misery it was raining and very dark. The radio was on in the car – Terry Wogan, who normally made me laugh! I have a great love of music, but it was getting to the point that I couldn’t stand to listen to it as certain songs made me sad for times that had gone by and reminded me of when I was happy. It made me feel like I would never feel happiness again.
We arrived at the unit and parked in the car park. I begged my husband not to take me back in with tears rolling down my face. He too was distraught and just got out of the car and collected our son. I followed him. We walked round to the unit doors and pressed the buzzer again. The doors slid open , and in we walked again. We waited in the foyer with my heart pounding, the next set of doors opened and we were greeted by a new nurse that I had not met. I froze. I heard my husbands voice at the side of me telling me to go in. I began to back away. The nurse stepped forward and took hold of me gently and managed to persuade me to come through the doors and sit on a chair that was placed just the other side. I was totally panic struck and with hind sight, not really in my own mind. I kept getting back up and going to the unit doors asking Jeremy to take me home telling him that he couldn’t leave me there. It was awful. My poor husband just stood sobbing telling me over and over, that I needed to stay there to get better. I couldn’t see it at the moment – I was convinced that the ward would make me worse and that to get better, I needed to be at home with my husband. After a lot of crying and begging, the nurse eventually calmed me down and managed to get me into my bedroom. I was given a sedative to help me calm down.
My husband eventually left the unit saying that he would come back in the evening as he had to go to work. Working for yourself has it pluses and minuses. It did mean that he could be with me as much as possible, but the business did suffered for him not being there. After he left, I calmed down, unpacked my things again an went in to the living room to resume sitting on the settee and staring in to space.
With hindsight I now realise that I was desperately trying to run away from my illness and escape the mental torture that I was experiencing.
~ In the unit……again ~
Over the next few days developments were made in the nature of my condition. As I had not been sleeping at night time, I finally admitted to the nurses that I thought I was hearing voices at night time and that I was finding it impossible to switch my head off. I just had this random running commentary all the time, interspersed with songs playing over and over . I was never actually convinced one way or the other that I was hearing voices. It could just have been my mind playing tricks on me as I had not been sleeping well. However, the nurses commented that going on other traits they had noticed in my behaviour they were pretty convinced I had the onset of Puerperal Psychosis. It was explained to me in ‘light’ detail what this meant, and I was given a sheet to read up on it. I just accepted the new diagnosis as though I was being told that there had been a change in what I had ordered for tea that evening (which the nurse later told me had concerned her too). For someone who is suffering a mental illness and struggling to concentrate on anything, being given a sheet to read was perhaps not the best choice. Also when giving someone news like that, it would have been better to wait and tell me when I had a family member present who would remember the conversation.
My husband came to visit me in the afternoon, and the nurses explained the developments to him too. Naturally he had lots of questions and the nurses on duty were excellent at explaining and giving answers. I do remember one nurse saying that as I had Puerperal Psychosis, my recovery rate would be quicker than if I had depression, as Psychosis is easier to treat due to the accuracy of the medication. To me she seemed to be suggesting that she didn’t think I had depression and my recovery was going to be much quicker than I originally anticipated. How wrong she was going to be. Also, it was probably wrong of the nurse to tell me this and set false expectations, however well meaning she was.
That evening my parents came to visit. The Staff nurse on duty had set some time aside to sit my parents down and talk them through their diagnosis and the medication that they were going to start me on
Naturally there were a lot of tears as my parents found the information very difficult to accept. Surely there was a mistake, after all, they knew me to be a very bright, friendly, organised young women. Where had their daughter gone? Who was this stranger that had taken her place?
I was numb, I had no feelings at all. I couldn’t feel sorry for them and didn’t want to comfort my parents as I normally would. They hugged me and I just stood there stiff in their arms. There was also something unspoken between us all, and I recognise it now as fear. We were all scared out of our minds as to what would happen to me and my relationship with my son. To make matters worse, I still wasn’t eating much and had no appetite and this didn’t help my strength or my concentration. The nurses monitored what I ate, but never did they say ‘you really ought to eat something’. It took my mum to sit with me at the dinner table and watch me eat.
The week that followed was very difficult. The general run of things would be that I would get up in the mornings, wash and dress, sort my son out and then wait for my husband and my family to visit. I was still doing as little as possible with my son and getting no enjoyment out of looking after him at all. I was withdrawn from everybody and really didn’t want any of my friends or extended family to see me. The days were long and lonely and I felt completely trapped by a new baby that I didn’t love. I hated him crying and just wanted him to sleep all the time so that I didn’t have to tend to him. I became obsessed with his sleeping habits and wanted to tell everyone what a poor sleeper he was.
I remember one particular day that my parents came to see me. I was sat in my usual place on the settee in the living room. As I was the only patient in the unit at that time, I was allowed to have my visitors in there. Mum was sat with me talking about general day to day stuff. I just sat and cried and eventually blurted out that I wanted to die. Mum was very shocked by this and shouted at me telling me not to be so stupid and to think about those that would miss me. I understood her reaction as it must have been very distressing hearing your daughter say such things, but to me, that is all I wanted – an end to the way that I was feeling, and a way out of the terrible situation I had found myself in. That night really marked the beginning of my suicidal thoughts that would stay with me until I was better.
After my first full week of being in the unit, it was suggested that I try and go out for a short walk with my husband at the weekend. I dreaded it. The idea filled me with angst. My husband, however, was keen to try and do something fairly normal – he had so far had no chance to take his little boy out for a walk as I had been so ill.
At first when we set out the cold, fresh air felt good on my face, but I soon felt panic set in, and got no further than the hospital exit when I had a huge panic attack and wanted to turn back to the unit and security. I stood stock still gripping the pushchair asking my husband if we could go back. He was brilliant and reassured me that nothing would go wrong, that he was there with me, and if we could just make it round the block I would have made a massive achievement. We carried on. I made it through the walk, but couldn’t get back to unit quick enough. I hated being out with our son. It all felt like too much. What if he cried? What if he got hungry?, What if he needed his nappy changing? Just the real simple things, I was having a major problems dealing with. I honestly believed at this point that I would never, ever love or want my son.
By the second week, I was taking anti psychotic, anti-depressant, sleeping and sedative medication, and was beginning to sleep a little better. However the intrusive suicidal thoughts had got progressively worse. I decided that I should tell the nurses as it was really worrying me that I may do something. They seemed to take me seriously and asked me if I had any sharps to declare over what I had handed over on my arrival. And that was it, apart from being checked on occasionally if I decided I wanted to go in the bath and had the door shut.
Every Monday I would have a meeting with my Consultant and a staff nurse to discuss my progress and to reassess the medication that had been prescribed for me. My husband attended most of these meetings with me as I was finding it difficult to concentrate and would forget what I had been told as soon as I walked out the room. I would enter with the hope that something miraculous would happen to speed up my recovery, silly really, but I was desperate. At one meeting my husband became frustrated and challenged the Consultant as to what else would be offered to aid my recovery. When we initially went in to the unit, we were told that the nurses would do some work with me to aid my recovery. If nothing was to be done other than have my medication monitored, what was the benefit of me being in the unit? He understood that they were providing me with a safe environment to get better, but this could also be done at home with a little organisation.
Although his challenge didn’t seem to go down too well, it did galvanise my Consultant and the nurses in to action. Whether or not they would have done this without intervention, we’ll never know, but they did seem to be slow at being forthcoming. It was suggested that my named nurse would start to do some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) work with me. This sounded really positive and in my current state, I was as keen to engage in this as I could be. Again, I was given quite a lot of leaflets to read through. In a number of them there were sections for me to write my current thoughts and feelings. It was also suggested that I start writing a mood diary so that the nursing staff could try to see if there were any patterns or triggers that could be identified. I began work on the leaflets and the mood diary. I also spent time with my named nurse. We began by addressing all the negative thoughts and feelings that I was experiencing. We then tried to give each one a positive slant, and help me to see that whilst the thoughts and feelings were distressing, they were just that – thoughts, and thoughts don’t necessarily have to become actions. I found these sessions very distressing, I struggled to concentrate and would finish feeling emotionally and physically drained.
I tried to continued the CBT work with my named nurse, but as she worked shifts and had quite a bit of holiday, our meetings became a little sporadic over the next few weeks. Also, during the meetings that we did manage to have, I began to feel that she was just regurgitating what she had read in a book and was finding it difficult to have real faith in what I was being told. However, I had started doing a little more with my son and I was accepting visits from my closest friends and family. I had managed to go out a few times, and eventually got my confidence up to go out on my own. At my weekly review with my Consultant she said that she was fairly confident that they had got the Psychosis under control, but that it had aloud for a depression to come out. Great! Solved one problem to be presented with another!
Following one of my meetings with my named nurse, she told me about some classes that were run for in-patients on the unit to offer them the chance to do something creative, have a break from being a mum and to mingle with other people on the psychiatric wards. The classes that were on offer were such things as sewing and knitting, woodwork, music, painting, clay sculpting etc. At this point, I was willing to give anything a go to see if it had any effect on me getting better. I really didn’t want to come across as someone who was not prepared to put in the effort and meet people half way. And so, I signed up for the sewing and sculpting classes. I really didn’t know what to expect, but went with the idea that maybe I would meet someone of a similar age to me who was experiencing something too and may be they could give me some answers.
I had to be escorted to the room by a nurse from our ward. I had never been on to the other side of the reception area off our unit and felt quite nervous. On passing through the doors, I was quite surprised. The room that we had entered was large and airy and had tables and chairs scattered round. There was a roll-away table tennis table in one corner and quite a few posters advertising coffee mornings and social groups. We carried on through this room and down a corridor with lots of rooms running off it. We arrived at the room that the sewing class was in. Whilst nurse and I stood waiting for the tutor I looked around at the other ladies who were attending the class. They were all female and of mixed ages. Most of them were dressed quite eclectically, and seemed to be in a far worse state than I was in. Initially, I wanted to turn around and go straight back to the unit, but I decided to stick it out and not be so judgemental.
The tutor arrived and escorted us all in to the room and this is were my named nurse left me and went back to the unit herself. The other ladies that had been waiting outside all seemed to know each other and all went to sit on a table together. I was quite glad of this as I really didn’t want to sit with them as clearly they were all loop the loop! I went and sat at a table on my own and waited for the tutor to come and see me. She was lovely. She tried to get me to sit at a table with the ‘nutters’, but I refused saying that I was quite happy. She set me up doing a cross stitch, something I had never done before, and must admit to thinking that my friends would find it hilarious – me, doing a cross stitch – yeah right! However, I found it strangely therapeutic – having something else to focus my attention on other than a baby that I couldn’t stand and feeling so completely alone and isolated by my head. As I sat, I listened to the conversations that were taking place on the other table. It was mostly about life on the open wards that the ladies were placed on. Basically, they were secure units, some of them mixed, they were not allowed to keep anything in their possession that could be used as a weapon on themselves, or others (staff included), once the kitchens were closed at night, they couldn’t get a hot drink, they couldn’t keep anything remotely ‘nice’ of their own on the ward as it would get stolen and basically they had no privacy. At the time, I really didn’t care about their situation as I wanted to separate myself as far from them as possible. After all, I wasn’t crazy like they were.
As the month passed by I began to notice that my Consultant would come on to the Mother and Baby unit on various occasions through out the week. Whenever she did, if she saw me in the corridor, or had to pass me, she would completely ignore me and look anywhere but at me. This made me feel very uncomfortable and I came to the conclusion that she didn’t particularly like me. Whether this was the case or not, surely working in the profession that she did, it was vital not to show your personal feelings. It also made my weekly meeting with her very difficult. I had to gear myself up for each one and prepare myself as best I could. However, each week I would be complaining about the same things and I was getting the feeling that my Consultant was sick of hearing me go on and becoming frustrated that I didn’t seem to be making any progress mentally.
By this time I had a new ‘in mate’. In some ways this was great for me as it reinforced that my illness didn’t just happen to me. However, it gave me someone to benchmark myself against. When she was around on the ward she seemed quite cheerful and had quite a bubbly personality, so surely she wasn’t suffering as bad as I was. Also, some of the nurses, particularly the night nurse that I already didn’t get on with was very friendly towards her, but getting more and more cold towards me. This really upset me as I am normally someone who everybody gets a long with. I just wanted to shout at her that my current personality wasn’t me at all and that under ‘normal circumstances’ she would like me. Also with me being so vulnerable, you would have thought that she would have been kind regardless of her feelings. In the end I spoke to the ward manager about her and was assured that I was just being a little paranoid and that all her staff would treat patients the same.
After being on the ward for roughly a month, two major things happened. The first was that I was aloud to spend some time at home, and the other, I was put on to a programme called Stress Management which was led by the lady that would become my Occupational Therapist.
My first trip home was really strange. After pushing for it in all of my weekly meetings with my Consultant, I thought that I would be relived to be going home and that I would really enjoy it. It was awful. On the way home my husband suggested that we nip in to a supermarket to pick something up to eat. It took me all my time to get in to the store. Whilst we were in there I just wanted to get out. Making the decision of what I wanted to eat was tough, and then there were queues at the checkouts! We eventually got home and got ourselves sat at the dinner table to eat lunch. Our son began to scream. My husband got up to comfort him and I remember thinking ‘can’t we even eat our lunch together without you creating’. For the rest of the time, I just sat on the settee and didn’t want to engage in anything. For my husband, I think he was just blinded by the sheer joy of having us home for a short while that he didn’t realise just how I was feeling. Inside I just wanted to go back to the unit and hide in my room. On my return to the unit I was asked how the visit had gone. I told them what I thought they wanted to hear. ‘It went well’ I lied.
During the following week I had my first Stress Management meeting. I found it really difficult initially to get integrated into the group, particularly as it was a rolling 12 week course and women just joined as there were spaces, however, as the group started talking I soon felt at ease. The women were very welcoming and all had varying stories to tell. I also met my Occupational Therapist. She was terrific. A very softly spoken women who was kind, patient and very easy to talk to. After the first group I felt really elated. I had spoken quite a lot and the topic really hit home with me. Plus the fact that my mum was coming to meet me after the group to take me shopping and to have my hair cut – both of which I actually felt like I wanted to do. Maybe things were looking up.
The shopping trip went really well. I had my hair cut and managed to be in town without any panic attacks. We even went into a busy restaurant to have lunch. When I returned to the unit I was still on a high. All the staff commented on my new hair style and that I had even put some make-up on. The first time in nearly two months! I almost didn’t want to go to sleep that night as I was worried that my high mood would not last. I was right, it didn’t. The next day I was back to feeling very low and hopeless and didn’t want anything to do with my son.
It was the beginning of December and my birthday was approaching. Normally I love my birthday and get very excited. This year, I couldn’t care less. It was just another day. However, my two best friends tried their hardest to ensure that it would be the best it could be. They turned up at the unit with my mum armed with birthday cake, nice food and presents. We had a little tea party in my room. I felt like I was watching myself go through the motions. I tried really hard to look like I was enjoying myself though, seeing as my friends had made such an effort.
I also had what I saw as the best birthday present ever. I had seen my Consultant earlier in the week and we had discussed the anti-depressant that I was taking. We had agreed between us that it didn’t seem to be having much of an effect on me and that we would change it, starting with the first dose on my birthday. I saw this as a sign and desperately hoped that this would be the tablet that made me better.
My mum took me home afterward my tea party with my friends and we set about making another birthday tea for when my husband, dad and brother finished work. The evening went ok, but by the end of the night I was in tears as it all just felt so wrong. I was getting desperate to feel like my old self and I knew that the persona I had taken on was not me at all. I just couldn’t see a way back to being me. That night I stayed at home for the first time. Things went ok, but they were far from normal.
~ Our first Christmas ~
I absolutely love Christmas and am such a big kid – right from picking the perfect tree and decorating it to carefully choosing presents for my family and friends. I love wrapping up the presents and making them look beautiful. I enjoy Christmas parties, singing carols, cheesy Christmas songs, decorating my house, winter walks and most of all playing in the snow when we get it!
It is a tradition that we buy our Christmas tree the weekend following my birthday. So, as I was on leave from the unit we got up and dressed and went to our local garden centre to look for a tree. Normally I am very anal about this and have virtually every tree out in the garden centre for inspection of whether it is green enough, has a good spread of branches and most of all is the perfect shape and height! What should have been a happy trip, particularly as it snowed a little bit as we chose out our tree was just flat and again I felt nothing at all. On the way home my husband suggested that we go out for dinner as a treat. I made up some pathetic excuse why I didn’t want to go and said that we ought to get back home.
Once home, we sorted the tree out and I decorated it and mechanically flung some decorations around the house. My husband occupied our son and I was glad of the distraction of putting the decorations up. Part of me wanted to make the Christmas as normal as possible and the other wanted to tear all the decorations down and hid in a hole.
Over the next few weeks we did as much normal stuff as possible to get ready for Christmas. However, there was none of the normal gayety about the house. The atmosphere felt heavy when I was at home. We didn’t do any of the exciting celebrations such as going to carol concerts, nice meals and enjoying the Christmas spirit. My consultant had told us that I would be able to come home over the Christmas period and would need to return to the unit in the New Year. In the week running up to Christmas we had an early Christmas present, our son slept through. This was a god send particularly for my husband as he was getting up to do the night feeds as well as doing a full day at work.
My parents came to stay from Christmas Eve until the day after boxing day. They were both fantastic at trying to lift my mood and make the best of the situation that we were in. Christmas morning was very hard. I normally get very excited at giving and receiving presents. This year, I had just bought people whatever came in to my head with no real thought. I did get some fantastic presents. One of which was a voucher from my parents for a day at my favourite health spa. However, I couldn’t face the thought of going and put it to one side saying that I would save it to treat myself with when I was better. Deep down I was being irrational thinking how could my parents be so insensitive. Surely they could see that there was no way that I would ever be able to go! For the rest of the day, I just floated about and didn’t feel part of the celebrations at all. I posed for the necessary pictures and even put our son in a silly Santa baby grow and tried to look as though as I enjoying his first Christmas. Inside I was crushed and heartbroken and could see no way for a happy future.
My in-laws came to stay with us after my parents had gone home. It was so bizarre! We would normally have lots of fun, go on nice walks and play games in the evening. None of this happened. Most nights we sat watching the television, with me being quiet and not really wanting to engage in conversation with anyone. My Father-in-law was obviously very upset by my illness. He had not witnessed it himself before now, only heard things through my mother-in-law. He was saddened to see how withdrawn I had become. Where had the vivacious girl gone that he knew. My Father-in-law always recalls the first time that I met him and my mother-in-law before my husband and I got married. It was at their leaving ceremony in the church that he had been Vicar at for many years. There was a 200 strong congregation and I had to sit up at the front as part of the family. He still says that he can’t believe how I just took it in my stride, and wasn’t fazed by the number of people. Now, he couldn’t imagine me coping with one stranger let alone 200!
New Years Eve came upon us. It was also my husbands birthday. It was a real struggle for me to get motivated to do anything for him. Normally I would shower him with affection, presents and organise to do something nice. I had originally asked my husband’s best friend and his wife and daughter to come over and stay for New Years eve. I realised that I had been ambitious with this and couldn’t really face it. Plus the fact that it would mean staying up past 10:00, I was already worrying that the fireworks would wake me and that I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. I dreaded the thought of being tired. In the end, it was just me and my husband and an uneventful, early night.
The rest of the New Year passed off and it was time for me to go back to the unit. There was part of me that wanted to stay at home with my husband as I knew it was the normal thing to do. I had got used to being in my own bed and was sleeping a little better. However, I had become obsessive about my bedtime. I would sort our son out for bed and get him settled for around 7.30pm, then I would just sit on the settee and stare at the television with whatever programme that was on just playing away. Before being ill I would do all sorts in the evening from going to the gym three times a week, to seeing friends, to doing the ironing. Instead, I would get agitated and be telling myself that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. After having a cup of Horlicks (which I had also become obsessive about) I would make sure that I was in bed for ten o’clock prompt, leaving my husband sat downstairs on his own.
On arrival at the unit the staff commented on how well I looked and that they could see my leave had gone well. I agreed with them partly because I desperately wanted to believe that things were getting better, and I also because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I was silly really because I was fooling myself, my family and the staff.
After staying in the unit for one night, I was aloud home again for another two week period and provided this went well, I would be discharged at the end.
Again, we returned home. However the two weeks that followed were really difficult. My husband had to go back to work following the Christmas break, and I was left at home alone with our son. Some days were easier than others, and I realised as the week went by that I was much better if I someone with me, so I tried to make sure that I saw either a friend or relative each day.
I remember one particular day, I was trying to get some mundane jobs done around the house. I had put my son in his bouncy chair so that he could watch what I was doing. In no time at all he began to cry. I tried to comfort him and he seemed to settle down, so I put him back in his chair. No sooner had I begun to do something else, he began screaming. I tried to comfort him again, but this time he was having none of it. After what seemed like ages I finally lost patients with him. I held him near to my face and screamed at him to shut up and dumped him back in his chair. The poor little thing just sat their, tears streaming down his face, his arms desperately reaching for a cuddle, something that I felt unable to do. This upset me deeply I as knew that normally I would be a very loving person and would never treat my new born son this way.
The rest if the two weeks passed by and it was time for me to return to the unit.
~ Discharged! ~
Back at the unit we had a meeting with my Consultant who asked how my leave had been. Again I told them what they wanted to hear. I told them that it had been great and we had had a really good time – lying again!. At the end of the meeting my Consultant stated that she thought that I was well on the road to recovery and that it was time for me to be discharged from the unit, but that I would have support at home from my Occupational Therapist and the Community team. It also meant that I would be able to drive my beloved car and get myself about to see people. I had been hanging on to this saying that it would give me some independence and hopefully help to improve my mood. Deep down being discharged didn’t feel right, but I went along with it because I didn’t want to dash anyone’s hopes that I was getting better. My husband was delighted and gave my hand a really big squeeze.
We left the meeting room and began packing up my belongings. I had asked for all sorts to be brought in during my stay in the unit in the hope that it would make me feel better. Photographs of my wedding day, my beloved cat and a picture of me and my girlfriends on my hen weekend. In reality they just made me sad as they where a stark reminder of how I was before I had my son. It also reinforced the notion that I was believing, which was that having a baby had wrecked everything and that I had made a huge mistake. As time went by I would become more and more obsessed with this.
Once home, I set about unpacking all my things and rearranging all my sons clothes and toys that we had so excitedly bought when we were expecting our baby.
We had the weekend to get settled before my husband had to go back to work on Monday. On being discharged from the unit, I had been told that someone from the Community team would come to see me on the Monday to make sure that I was ok.
On the Monday morning, after my husband had got our son up and ready, I eventually got up to take over. My husband went off to work with a kiss from me saying that I would be fine and that I would call him if I needed him. I hadn’t really been on my own much before this, so it was a bit of a shock to the system. To go from having full time care at the unit to nothing was scary. However, I had decided that I would put every effort in to getting myself well again.
So, I strapped my son in his bouncy chair and put him in the middle of our bed and went to have a shower. The second I put one toe in, he screamed. He didn’t stop screaming when I got out and carried on whilst I got dressed, trying to pacify him at the same time. Once dressed I picked him up and did my best to settle him down. He eventually did. I put him back down to begin drying my hair. The second I put him down again, he started to scream. By the time I had finished drying my hair and went to pick him up, he was beside himself. I felt really angry towards him because he wouldn’t even let me get ready with out creating a fuss. I tried and tried to settle him, but he was too upset. In the end I resulted to shouting at him again and telling him in no uncertain terms to stop the noise that he was making. This just made things worse. I did manage to get a hold of myself and calm my son down, but it had really shocked me just how angry I felt towards him. As this had happened twice now, I was beginning to worry that I was capable of really hurting my son.
I spent the rest of the day waiting for a call from the Community team. They never called.
Over the next few weeks, I tried to settle down in to some sort of routine at home. I still wasn’t getting up in the mornings. Looking back, this seems so unfair on my husband as he was going to work as well as getting up with our son. My Occupational Therapist had been out to see me and we had started work on some methods to help me deal with day to day living. We identified that I didn’t like being on my own and put in place a diary sheet for each week that I could fill in with things to do, people to see and places to go. We thought that by keeping me busy, I wouldn’t have time to dwell on being ill. Really, it was a way for me to make sure that I wasn’t trapped at home on my own with our son.
My Aunties and Uncles were brilliant and would let me go to see them at the drop of a hat. When I was with them there was no pressure for me to say anything and they understood how ill I still was. However, I could see in their eyes how sad they were for me and knew that they too were desperate for a glimmer of the niece that they knew. This said, they never said anything and just made general conversation with me as they knew that it was all that I could cope with at the time.
I continued with the Stress Management group on a Wednesday, but was finding it harder and harder to engage in it. One of the reasons was that there was normally a crèche service offered to the mothers that were attending. Due to staff shortages on the Mother and Baby unit, they could not offer the service. This meant taking my son in the group with me. He screamed for most of them and made me feel as though I was really incompetent with him. On several occasions the group leader offered to take my son for me, and this only served to make me feel even more that I couldn’t cope with him.
At the end of January we had our annual cricket do for the team that my husband played for. He had had an amazing season prior to our son being born and had by far been the best player in the team. Normally, I would really look forward to the do and have a nice outfit ready and be excited to see all the cricket team and their extended families. This year I was dreading it. We arrived and I remember clutching my husbands hand. I felt completely out of my depth. Everyone was very warm and welcoming as majority of them knew what had happened to me. During the meal I nearly cried because I felt so sad. The presentation part of the evening arrived. It was to be my husbands night – he won the best batsman award, player of the year award and several smaller trophies for 100+ not out scores at various matches. I would normally have swelled with pride and been very emotional, I felt nothing. All I was worrying about was the fact that we were staying at my parents overnight, that we would be late getting in and I knew I would have a bad nights sleep.
The next few months drifted by following a very similar pattern. I would manage to go for about two to three weeks just coping, and then we would have a crisis. I would either call my mum and get her to come out of work to be with me, or I would call my husband and he would have to leave work.
We had decided to put our son in to nursery two afternoons a week. Partly because we wanted him to get used to things before I went back to work in March, and also because I had been complaining that I got nothing done when I was with him. The idea was that whilst my son was in nursery, I would either go to the gym, do some house work, have my cousin over to do Reflexology with me, or just do something nice for me. I used to love going to the gym, it was my thing. I would go at least three times a week and was in really good shape. Now I couldn’t face the idea, I was too scarred to go because I knew that I wouldn’t enjoy it and I would just find it a complete struggle. My parents and my husband did really push me to go as they had read that it would help. I understood this, and their reasons for wanting me to go, but I just had no motivation what so ever. However, I did let my cousin come over to do reflexology with me. At first, I hated it. I found it very hard to relax and would not shut my eyes.
So, more often than not, I would spend my spare afternoons panicking that I would have to and fetch my son back. Sometimes, I would go and fetch him a little early, just to try and prove that I wanted him with me.
During this time I also made several calls to the Mother and Baby unit stating that I was really struggling and that things were not going very well at home. I spent a lot of my time in tears despairing at the state that I was in and obsessing that I didn’t want my son and that I had made a big mistake in having him. It was also around this time that I had my second change in medication. The antidepressant that I had been put on was obviously not working and if anything had seemed to make my mood decline. The antipsychotic tablet was to remain the same. It was about now that my Mum started to question whether I still needed to take the antipsychotic medication. My Consultant did not take well to being questioned about her prescribing techniques.
~ Yo-yoing ~
After one of my telephone conversations with the Mother and baby unit I decided that I would like to be readmitted to the unit as I felt that I was not coping at home and that I needed some extra support. I was offered admission, which I took. I didn’t consult with my husband or my parents as I knew neither of them would be happy. My husband had previously arranged for my Mother-in-law to come and stay with me as he knew that I was struggling a little bit – this had to be cancelled at very short notice.
Again, I packed my things up and my husband drove me and our son over to the unit. Leaving me this time didn’t appear to be so difficult as we knew what the drill was. However, after spending two nights there I remembered all the things that I hated about the unit. On the second morning when I woke up, I called my mother-in-law and asked her how quickly she could rearrange her plans and come and stay with me. Being fabulous like she is, she said that she needed to rearrange a couple of things and that she could be with me the next day. With that I phoned my dad and told him that there was no need for me to stay in the unit and that I would be coming home that day, if he could come and pick me up. He agreed. With that I went to find the nurse on duty and told her that I would be going home that day. She seemed a little shocked at my decision, but said that I would be allowed to go home. My dad collected me, and the next day my mother-in-law came to stay with me for a week.
At this point I felt like my life was yo-yoing between being at home and staying on the unit and that I had not know a ‘stable’ period since the birth of my son.
The week that followed was difficult. I struggled in all aspects. My mother-in-law tried really hard to help me and to lift my spirits. She was brilliant with her grandson and was happy to take on some of his care. She even got up in the night to feed our son to give my husband a rest. Although I am very close to my mother-in-law, I still felt that I had to put on an act to some degree, and I don’t think she really realised just how bad things were. By the end of the week, she said that she felt all I needed to do was to get a little confidence around my son and that things would slowly improve. To give her this impression was a little naughty of me, but I really didn’t want her to think that I was incapable of looking after her only grandson.
~ Back to Work ~
March arrived and I was due to go back to work. I had a meeting arranged with the HR team to discuss how we would phase my return. They were aware that things had gone pear shaped after I had our son as my husband had kept them informed. Work was brilliant, very supportive and keen to make sure that my return was as smooth as possible and that it didn’t put any pressure on me. With hind sight, I really shouldn’t have gone back so soon, but I was desperate to try and get some normality back. I was always going to return to work part time Monday to Wednesday, but we decided for time being that I would do my three days, but on reduced hours 10:00 till 15:00.
My first day back was really hard. I remember getting ready and dreading the day ahead. I got in the car and drove my usual route. I put the radio to be greeted by Terry Wogan. I soon turned it back off because I couldn’t stand the music and it made me feel sad because I would normally be laughing along to his quips!
I arrived at work and made my way in to the building. I immediately I saw people that I knew. They were keen to welcome me back and ask how things had been. ‘Difficult’ I replied. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone. At my desk yet more people welcomed me back. I just wanted to turn round and run back out the doors. I think by the end of the first day people had realised that something was wrong with me and that I wasn’t the bubbly, happy girl that had left to go on maternity leave 6 months earlier. I hated it and deep down knew that it wasn’t going to last.
As I had returned to work on reduced hours, I would go home at 15:00pm and try to do some house work before I went to collect our son. However, more often than not I would go home and panic about collecting him and feel sad because I wouldn’t look forward to it.
It was not long after my return to work that I made a crisis call to my Mum. I had arrived ay work one morning and was finding it very difficult to concentrate and was having panic attacks. I called my Mum, who was brilliant and agreed to leave work to be with me. It was on this afternoon that I first told my Mum that I didn’t love my husband any more and that I wanted to get away from him. She handled it very well, considering the news that I had given her. She asked me what would I do, and where would I go. I told her very confidently that I would move back in with her and leave my son with his father. Mum managed to reason with me and talk me round. After dropping that little bomb shell, we went off shopping. This bazaar mood swing, going from one minute talking about leaving the man that loved to nipping off shopping for baby things was another indication of how ill I really was and was in no way normal behaviour for me.
I continued to have review meetings with my Consultant who was getting increasingly exasperated with my lack of progress. On one occasion my husband and I went to see her she talked about the possibility of me being sent to have ECT (Electro Convulsive Treatment) and told us to go away and have a look at a website and have a think about it. Without looking at the website, I told my husband that I was prepared to go through with it. I was so desperate for anything to work. He was a little more reserved and wanted to have a look at what the possible side effects were. He was so brilliant my husband. Through out the ordeal he never gave up, no matter how bleak things got. His primary concern was my health and getting me better, everything, apart from our son came secondary. He didn’t have a night out with his friends and he gave up playing his beloved cricket just to be with me as much as possible.
At my next meeting with my consultant we were all prepared to discuss ECT and agreed that we both wanted to go ahead with it. Before we had chance to raise it with her she quite forcibly told us that there was no way she would send me for ECT as I was working. I felt completely crushed by this. I had built my hopes up, thinking that maybe the ECT would work on me and get me back to my normal self. We felt completely mislead by her and very disheartened. Even my husband had understood her to have said that she was considering the option, so it wasn’t just me. We left the meeting feeling very much ‘dumped’ and that we were running out of options.
Over the next couple of weeks I began to start feeling very sick some mornings and would wake up feeling dreadful. I began to have days off work. Some days I would not go in because I was felling so low and knew that I was struggling. I had a meeting with my Occupational Therapist who had been out to see me several times and told her that I was not coping back at work. She was fantastic and told me that there was no shame in admitting that things were not working out and that I needed more time. When I told my husband and my parents that I had decided that going back to work was too difficult at the moment, they were not so supportive. My mum was desperate for me not to be on my own and felt that being at work would be better for me. She couldn’t understand that this was actually making me feel worse. I was unable to concentrate at work and just couldn’t get my brain in to gear to think logically. My mum would get very upset and plead with me to try and stick it out. My husband thought that I was running away from my illness and trying to hide from it. Their reactions upset me, but I knew that I could not cope. I went to see my Doctor, who was brilliant. He told me that really he would like to see me trying to go back to work as it would be better in the long run. I told him that I just couldn’t cope with it and he agreed to sign me off for two weeks. I think the real concern that my husband and my parents had was what would I do with my time. They really didn’t like the thought of me being alone. Their concerns were right. I was terrible on my own.
We had put our son in to nursery three days a weeks when I returned to work, we decide to leave him in as he had got used to seeing his little friends. I was glad of this, as my relationship with him had really deteriorated. My husband would still get up with him in the mornings and I would lie in bed as long as possible. This had begun to annoy my husband, and quite rightly so. He had a chat with me and told me that he wanted to see me getting up in the morning and at least going to the gym on the days that I didn’t have our son. He was convinced that it would make me feel better. Most mornings, I would get up before my husband went to work and pretend to him that I was going to start my day. As soon as he left the house, I would dash back up stairs, and get back in bed. I would lie there having terrible thoughts, mostly about committing suicide or packing my bags and running away. Some mornings my husband would open the bedroom windows before he went to work. This used to really upset me because I would hear people in our cul-de-sac getting up and leaving to go about their day. I felt so jealous as I wanted to be ‘normal’ like everyone else. I also couldn’t stand the sound of birds singing or seeing the sun shine, so I would shut the windows and close the curtains, and there I would stay until just before my husband got home giving myself enough time to have a shower and be doing something before he arrived.
~ The Depths of Depression ~
Through the latter phases of my illness, I had the deep desire to run away and leave everything behind. A couple of times I did actually pack my bags whilst my husband was at work and got in the car to leave. I would drive as far as the motorway before common sense would kick in and I would turn round and come home. I also had days that I decided I couldn’t look after our son. This meant my husband either having to ring our sons nursery to see if he could get in for an extra day, or my husband taking the day off work to look after him.
The suicidal thoughts continued. One day I sat and pressed all my tablets out of their packet and got handfuls ready to take them. I could never find the courage to do it. I was frightened that it would not work to be honest. I remember wishing that there was a tablet available that I could take that would guarantee death because I would have taken it.
I had started to be paranoid about the house being in a untidy. I hated doing any thing would make a mess. I wouldn’t make myself any lunch as I didn’t want the kitchen to get in to a mess. I would do the minimal of jobs because my rationale told me that it would stop the house getting in a mess. Weekends were particularly awful, I would not want to do anything with my son or my husband. A lot of the time I would want to sit and stare in to space. We saw very little of our friends as a couple and didn’t go out on dates like we used to. My mum and dad did have our son over night a couple of times whilst my husband and I went to the cinema, but I hated it. I just sat there with the film washing over me, fidgeting, wishing for it to end.
We made several crisis calls the Mother and Baby unit. One particular stands out. It was a Saturday morning so an on call Psychiatric nurse came to see us. She did have some knowledge of my medical history, but we had to update her on quite a bit. The purpose of our call was that I had decided that I could not cope any more, I also dropped another bombshell that I didn’t’ love my son and I wanted to give him up. I was almost screaming at my husband and the nurse. I just kept repeating over and over that I did not love my son and that I didn’t want him – this time I was utterly convinced that it was the truth. After nearly two hours of going round in circles, the nurse announced that she was leaving as we were getting no-where. She said that she would be in touch with my consultant and that someone would contact us on Monday. Again, no-one rang.
After this, things really began to slide. I became more and more obsessed with committing suicide and spent most of my time planning how I was going to do it. One morning after my husband had gone to work, I got up, I went in to the bathroom and began to run the bath. I went downstairs and collected the sharpest knife, went back upstairs, got undressed and got in the bath with the knife. I held it to my wrist. I had so many conflicting thoughts running around in my head. It was like I had good, rational thoughts being spoken in one ear and the devil commenting in the other. Thank goodness the rational thoughts shouted louder. Also I think the fact that I couldn’t guarantee that my attempt would actually work. So, I couldn’t do it. I cried and cried. Once I calmed down, I got out of the bath and got dry and dressed and called the Doctor who agreed to see me. I told him what had happened and told him that my sleep was still very poor. He listened sympathetically. He prescribed me a small amount of sleeping tablet as he felt it dangerous to give someone with suicidal tendencies an amount that could be harmful.
When I got home my husband was there. I told him what had happened. He just dissolved in to floods of tears. At this point I really felt that he didn’t know what to do any more. He phoned the Mother and Baby unit again and told them that things had become unmanageable at home and that he couldn’t take responsibility for me any more. The unit told him that they would phone back with some options.
Whilst waiting for the phone call, I begged and pleaded with my husband not to send me back to the unit. I really didn’t want to go back in. To start with he was adamant that I was going back and he didn’t want me anywhere near him. He tried to get me to understand how he felt hearing his wife telling him that she wanted to kill herself, and facing the thought of life without his wife and our son without a mother. I tried to feel emotion at this, but couldn’t feel anything. Throughout the hole period of me being ill, this had been a common complaint – feeling as though all my emotions had been completely switched off. I hated being cuddled, I didn’t want to be kissed, I certainly didn’t want sex – the thought of it made me feel creepy. Most of the time I was completely unable to cry, but when I did, I found it impossible to stop.
Eventually, I managed to get my husband to agree that he would not ask the unit to take me back in.
Over the next few days, my husband was frightened to leave me alone in the house, he went out every morning dreading what he was going to come back to. He made me call him throughout the day so that he knew that I was alright.
~ The Crunch ~
Finally the crunch day came. I had got up in the morning and it was a very bad day for me. I felt at my lowest ever. I decided I had to tell my husband that everything was over between us. I told him that I wouldn’t look after our son and that he needed to go to nursery for the day. He was in despair. He called my parents and told them what had happened and they arrived fairly quickly. They were very upset. My husband had to go in to work that day. As he left, he looked at me and very gently said, “I’ll see you tonight if you are still here”. His eyes and posture were so sad, he looked as though his heart was breaking. After he had gone my parents let rip. They were so angry and confused by me. My dad was crying which is very rare – he told me that he didn’t know who I was any more. My mum could barely look at me. She couldn’t believe that I let the man I love leave the house thinking that he wouldn’t see me again. This triggered something in my mum. She yelled at me that if I had told my husband that I was leaving, then that is what I would do. She told me to get up stairs and pack some things together. I refused. She then told my dad to get me upstairs and make me get some things together. I refused again and got myself behind the dining room table where he couldn’t reach me. By this point my mum had completely lost patients with me. She flew round the table at me, grabbed hold of me and dragged me up the stairs. She grabbed the nearest bag and started to throw some of my things in to it. I was begging her to stop, and taking things out as she put them in. She completely ignored me and told me to get downstairs. I went and sat on the settee and refused to move. I told my parents that they couldn’t force me to go anywhere. After a while things seemed to calm down a little. My mum still wouldn’t look at me and if I made an attempt to go near her she would shrug away from me.
My husband returned early afternoon as he couldn’t concentrate at work. He seemed relieved that I was still there. He had no idea, neither did my parents that I had decided that I needed to go back in to the Mother and baby unit. Things could not continue as they were. I told them my plan. My mum was upset and told me that if I went back in to the unit this time, I had to stay there for a decent length of time and stop messing everyone around. We phoned the unit and they agreed to send a social worker out to assess me for admission.
When he arrived, straight away I could tell that we were not going to get on with him. He arrived looking scruffy and had a cap on that he didn’t take off when coming in to our house. He was patronising in his tone, and at one point spoke very rudely to my mum and asked he if she knew what a social worker did. This didn’t help things seeing as my mum had worked in social care for the best part of her working life so far! After asking me a number of questions, he left to make some phone calls and said that he would be back in about half an hour. On his return his manner had not improved, but he did tell us that there was a bed at the unit if I wanted it, but I had to go in that night. My mum questioned this as it was already getting late and we hadn’t had our tea, neither had we sorted our son out for bed. He advised us that it would have to be that night. I was secretly quite pleased as I couldn’t face a night at home knowing that I would be going back to unit in the morning. I accepted the bed and went to get mine and my sons things ready for a third time.
~ For the third and final time ~
We arrived at the unit fairly late. To my dismay, the night nurse that didn’t like me was on duty. Great. She didn’t say hello, or say that she was sorry to see me there again, just asked what had gone wrong this time.
Whilst I was in with the nurse my husband had gone to the nursery to settle our son. By about 11:00pm we had finished my admission and I finally got to bed. I had a terrible nights sleep and in the morning I didn’t want to get up. When I finally did, I found out that there were three other women in the unit and that they were all currently in patients. Again, this gave me some comfort, at least there was someone else in the same boat.
Over the next week I tried to settle in to a routine. I had visitors, my husband came every night and I tried to engage in some CBT work again. However, as time went by, it became clear to me again that some of the nurses were being funny with me, along with one of the nursery nurses. She would ignore me. In the end I asked her directly if I had done anything wrong, she denied that there was anything and from then on tried to make polite conversation with me. I had a new named nurse, who at first was really enthusiastic with me, but soon became distant.
During this time I saw a consultant junior doctor. She decided that she would like withdraw all medication as she didn’t feel that any of it was working. She also declared at this meeting that she felt that I didn’t have depression and that it was something more ‘psychologically’ wrong with me. I felt so angry at her. I knew that I had severe depression. Everything that I had been experiencing was classic of all that had been written in the leaflets the unit had given me and my family to read about depression. By the end of the meeting she had decided that she would like to see how I coped with out medication and would review me again in a few weeks. I left the meeting seething and feeling quite mixed about being withdrawn from my meds.
Over the next few days my meds were reduced to nothing. As they were, my mood seemed to drop even further. At this time my son was having very disturbed nights, I think that this was because he was in a strange environment. He would wake up at about 13:00am in the morning and then cry for a good hour or more. Some nights I would go in to him. I must admit that I was not very nice to him on these occasions. I would pick him up rather roughly and get very agitated with him. Some nights I would just pull the covers over my head and let the nurses deal with him.
I had also complained that since being back in the unit my sleep had deteriorated again. My consultant was very sharp with me about this and told me that I had to stop having such a preoccupation with it. However, she decided to put me on a sleep chart to monitor the situation. This would have been a great way of getting a clear picture as to what was happening. However, the nurse that was on the night shift most of the time was the nurse that didn’t like me. To make matters worse, she had a sidekick who seemed to just about tolerate me. They were supposed to come in to my room at regular intervals to check my sleep. If I was awake I had to either raise my hand or speak. I can honestly say, hand on heart that the nurses did not come in to my room regularly. When they did, I was awake and I made sure that they heard me. One morning in particular, I got up and asked to see my chart. The nurses had put down that I had slept from 11:00pm – 06:30am. I know for a fact that this was not the case. For one, I went to bed around 10:30pm and lay awake until 12:30pm when I got out of bed and asked for some sleeping tablets and the other, I had made the nurse aware each time that she came in to my room that I was awake. I was so angry when I saw the chart that I asked to see the head of the ward. At first I was worried about upsetting the night nurse. She had already had a word with me about the sleep charts saying that I had challenged what she had recorded and that I was making it look like they were lying – she was! I felt like things were getting a little personal.
The ward manager was great and re-assured me that the sleep charts would be looked into. I told her that I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse as I already felt that the nurse in question did not like me. That night, I dreaded her coming on duty. I was mentally preparing myself for a confrontation. I had already got the impression that the nurse in question was not afraid to speak her mind. I was sat in the lounge when she came on duty. She marched straight passed me and in to the office with out so much of a sideways glance. The staff did their handover, and when this was complete, she stayed in the office. I stayed in the lounge, convinced that she would come and say something, She never did. I got up and went to my bedroom and decided to have a lie down. Later the nurse came in with my medication. I had heard her go round to the other ladies rooms, have a really nice chat with them and ask them if they needed anything to help them sleep. She came to my room last, walked in, handed me my medication and a drink and then walked out again. Her actions really upset me. I was at a point in my life when I needed support and kindness, not someone who was old enough, and should have been professional enough to know better.
This treatment went on for a couple of nights, apart from one night where I was in the lounge watching something on telly. The night nurse liked to have ‘I’m a celebrity……get me out of here’ on. I was watching something else. She very pointedly said to me, ‘what are you watching’ I answered. She just humphed as I didn’t put on what she wanted and left the room again without a word. Finally, one night, she came in and seemed to be much brighter towards me. She came to me and said that she wanted to see me after she had done the handover. I am sure that she did this so that I would sit and worry. After the handover, she called me in to the office. I really did think that she was going to have strong words with me. Instead she said that it was clear that the sleep charts were not working and that instead she was going to work with me to help me get back in to a good sleeping routine. She said that she would write a sleep plan, including things that I should be doing before bedtime to get in to a good routine and to prepare my body for sleep. She also said that she thought I was not doing myself any favours by just sitting in the lounge and getting worked up about not being able to sleep. I really felt like she was being genuine and trying to help me. We agreed that she would write up the sleep plan and then let me see it. To this day, I have never seen it. Neither was it ever mentioned again. Needless to say her treatment of me went back to how it was before the meeting – not speaking to me and not making eye contact with me.
I can honestly say the third time that I went in to the unit was the worst time of my life. I felt very low, very lonely and continually thought about how to commit suicide. Also during this time, my feelings towards my husband were changing. I no longer looked forward to him coming to see me in the evenings. Some nights I didn’t want him to come. Once he had bathed our son and settled him in bed, we would then sit in my room and make polite conversation. During this time we devised a plan to try and aid my recovery. We set up a long sheet of flipchart paper on my bedroom wall. It had a space for each day of the week and the idea was that I would record my achievements each day, no matter how small. The reason for this is that it would help us to identify if I was getting better – obviously the more that I started to achieve, the better I was becoming. To start with I did quiet well and we had some good lists. However, I soon lost interest in this as it was becoming blatantly obvious that I was not really getting better. It was also becoming a bone of contention between myself and my husband and it was getting to the point that the only thing we would talk about would be why I hadn’t written anything up on my chart.
The weekend was approaching and I was getting more and more worried about it. My husband had been talking about going out for the day from the unit. I couldn’t bare the idea. I didn’t want to go anywhere with him or our son. The Friday night before the weekend, I had a terrible nights sleep and spent most of the night awake thinking that I didn’t want to be with my husband any more and that I wanted him and our son to disappear. By the time it came round to Saturday morning, I was convinced that this was what I wanted. I called my husband at about 08:30am in the morning and told him that I needed him to come the unit. He asked if our son was ok, I told him that he was fine, but that I needed to see him now.
He arrived really quickly. He asked me what was the problem – I told him that I didn’t love him anymore and that I didn’t want our son and that I wanted both of them to go away. I told him to take our son home and not to bring him back. My poor husbands face was distraught. He just collected some things and began to put our son in his pushchair. I asked him where he was going, and he just said ‘what do you care, if you don’t want me or our son anymore, then it is none of your business’. And with that he left.
I had no tears, I felt nothing. For the rest of the day, I just lay in my room. The nurses on duty came in to check on me periodically. My name nurse tried to get me up and to do some psychological work with me. I just lay on the bed and basically told her to stop wasting her time. It was the longest day of my life. I lay watching the hours tick by dreading the fact that I knew my son and my husband would return. I had terrible anxiety and could not relax. I just lay with my eyes closed trying to shut the world out. In the afternoon, another nurse came in to see me who was brilliant. She spent time just talking to me and listening to how I felt. I told her that I just wanted to lie there and not engage with anything or anyone. I wanted everything to stop. I wanted my head to stop, I wanted the horrible thoughts to go away and the anxiety that surrounded them. Most of all, I wanted to stop feeling the way that I did and to start loving my husband again and the relationship that I was supposed to be having with my son to blossom. The nurse reassured me that all this would happen and that I just needed to keep a bit of faith and keep fighting. She did manage to get me out of my room for a little while. I just sat on the settee and watched the time again.
Later in the evening my husband returned with our son and went to give him bath. I tried to make conversation with him, but he just didn’t want to know – I can hardly blame him. After he had sorted our son out for bed, he went to have a chat with the nurse that had looked after me in the afternoon. I don’t know what was said, but my husband came back to my room and started to talk to me and try to understand what my mood had been about. We managed to talk through things and agree that we would put the day behind us and start again.
~ Humiliation ~
The next week I had another meeting with my consultant. This time I asked my mum if she wanted to come in to the meeting with me and my husband. I could see that she was getting exasperated with the lack of progress that was being made and I wanted her to be able to hear what was being said. After all, I was her baby and I know that both she and my Dad found me being poorly very, very distressing.
We sat and waited in my room to be called in to the meeting. We were called around by the nurse that had been really nice to me. On entering the room, my consultant nearly exploded. She said very sharply that there were only supposed to be one person from my family in the meeting and that I had been told this. I hadn’t! My husband stepped in and asked if my mum would be able to stay as we felt she needed to be part of the decisions that were being made. She responded by saying that there were only two spare chairs. There were three. She then said that someone needed to be looking after our son. He was fine with one of the nursery nurses – after all this is what they were there for. In the end she shouted at my mum saying that she didn’t want her in the meeting and that she was to leave – now! I was in total shock. I just stood there. Normally, I would have been straight in there protecting my mum and making it very clear that she was not to be spoken to like that. My husband was fuming. My poor mum had to leave the meeting after being totally humiliated in front of the other medical staff that were in the room. My mum went back to wait in my room. We had the meeting with my consultant, but it was very difficult. My husband barely spoke because he was so angry. I can’t remember much from the meeting, just that they did feel that I was depressed and that they offered me yet another anti-depressant. Thanks for the diagnosis, again….
When I got back round to my room, my mum and my husband hit the roof. Before we had chance to do anything there was a knock at my bedroom door. It was my Occupational Therapist. She could not get in the room quick enough to say that she thought that my consultant had been extremely rude and that she took no part in how she had behaved and apologised for the embarrassment that had been caused. After she left, the nurse that had been really kind to me appeared to say that she too felt that my consultant’s reaction was very unprofessional and totally uncalled for. She also said that if we felt we wanted to take things further that we could speak to the ward Sister about what had happened. My mum had already decided that this was the action that she would like to take. As soon as she got chance, she got in touch with the Ward Sister for the ward and a meeting was arranged.
The meeting went really well and the Ward Sister was very apologetic and listened to my mum’s grievance. As it happened, my consultant was on the ward the day that my mum was in. The Ward Sister fetched the Consultant in to the meeting to apologise. However, my mum felt that it was insincere and that she was just doing her duty, particularly as the Consultant never gave her eye contact and still tried to explain her reaction, rather than just apologise. As things turned out, my mum decided that she was not satisfied with the apology and went on to make a written complaint. This was handled very professionally and she was seen by senior members of the complaints board who took her seriously. My mum’s aim was that something should be done about the way that my consultant had handled things. It was not a personal vendetta against her. There were several things that had happened that my mum was not happy with. Apart from the incident at the meeting, my mum felt that it was quite poor that I had had several meetings with the consultant and the medical staff without anyone from my family present. As my memory was so poor and my concentration shot to pieces, it would have been really helpful to have someone with me. I would often come out of the meetings and my family would ask me later what was discussed and I wouldn’t be able to recall things.
My mum was also upset that I had been offered another antidepressant so soon. She had understood it that I would be drug free for at least two weeks to see how things went and we were only a week down the line. I could understand where she was coming from but I knew in myself that things were not going to come right on their own. My mums concern was that the antidepressant and in particular the antipsychotic was making my situation worse and not better. However, given the fact that my mood had dropped even lower since coming off everything, this was all the evidence that I needed. I didn’t want things to get any worse than they were. I started taking the new antidepressant.
~ A turn for the better ~
The next week things started to take a turn. We decided to buy our son a baby walker as there was one in the unit and he seemed to like it. We thought that it would be a good idea when I eventually came home for good. Needless to say, our son loved his walker, he would go beetling about the unit in it and loved the freedom that it gave him. I was still thinking very practically at this point and thought that it was great as I would be able to get some things done around the house. However, this was a step forward as before I was not bothered about doing any sort of cleaning. My mum commented that after I had gone back in to the unit for the third time, she had been around to my house and was shocked to find that there weren’t any clean clothes in our drawers and the house was in a tip. She hadn’t realised just how much things were slipping. Normally I am a very organised person and always on top of my housework, so for me this was a clear sign that I was ill!
I had a few days home on leave which went much better than had previously. I managed to get some jobs done and cook a meal. Could things be getting a bit better – I didn’t dare believe it. Also during this time I had started to answer the phone more. I had been avoiding it whilst I had been ill and getting my husband to answer it.
The weekend rolled round again and I was aloud home leave. We decided to take our son to the Zoo. In actual fact I instigated this, which was a huge step forward. Although things were not perfect, I enjoyed the day and managed not to have any sticky moments. I even put a skirt on and made myself look nice. We took our son out of the pushchair so that he could look at the monkeys – he seemed to like them. We even joked that he belonged in with the orang-utans as he is a little red head and a bit of a monkey himself. He was completely taken with the penguins and we even posed together so that my husband could take a photo of the happy occasion. All in all we had a good day and returned to the unit happy. As things turned out, our trip to the Zoo was a significant day as things just got better and better from there.
Another important day was approaching, our wedding anniversary in July. As previously mentioned, my mum and dad had bought myself and my husband vouchers to go to a Health spa. I had felt sick at the thought of going here initially, but now that things seemed to be getting better, I was actually looking forward to it. I had even booked to have a full body massage. A moth ago, you would not have got me out the door to go, let alone be booking a treatment! We had a lovely day, alright, I didn’t feel 100%, but we were together, and I was happy to be there with my husband. I even went in the gym and the swimming pool – can you believe it?? My husband looked relaxed for the first time in months and was having the time of his life – sat in his robe, out on the lawn reading our favourite – Harry Potter!
During this time, I had also been taking my son out in his pushchair a lot more, and I was beginning to enjoy this. I liked the fresh air, and the feeling that we were doing something nice together. I had also started to enjoy seeing my friends and family. Before, I had just felt like an outcast, cut off from everyone around me, like I was there but I wasn’t, just a shadow of my former self. Conversations would be happening around me and I would just be sat there obsessing about how bad I felt and being very jealous that everyone’s life was going on around me. When I told my mum how I felt, she assured me tearfully that her life was not going on, and that it had been on hold from the day that I had first been poorly, the same with my dad.
~ The final discharge day! ~
Over the next few weeks I was at home much more than I had been in the unit and this was a very good sign. My weekly MDM meeting arrived and my husband, son and I travelled in together. We had been previously told that I would be discharge at this meeting so we were all in high sprits. I had already emptied out most of my room and only had a few items to collect. On arrival, we went to the room that had been mine and waited. The room already felt like it wasn’t mine any more. I felt a little uncomfortable being there as it just bought back bad memories. It was in no way a comforting room, quite the opposite, stark and very impersonal. My consultant came round to collect us. I noticed that this had been the case since my mum had put in a complaint about her.
The meeting went really well and I was discharged! This time it felt brilliant. I knew in my heart that I would be going home for good, no coming back within a few months. We went back round to the bedroom and collected the last of our things. Whilst we were in there, my first named nurse came to see us to say goodbye. She gave both me and my husband a great big hug and said how good it was to see me well, and that in the nicest possible way, she hopped never to see me in the unit again. She escorted us out to the automatic doors of the unit, held her pass up to operate them, and out we stepped in to our new life. Me, my husband and our son. It felt like someone had lifted the blinkers off my eyes and swept away the dark, dark clouds that had been around me and fuddling my mind. I felt like I was walking taller and with a bit more purpose. I even felt excited at what lay ahead. I remember feeling like I had been woken up to my son. I already had much stronger feelings for him and I was beginning to notice his little habits. I had missed out on so many of his miles stones. By this I mean, that I had been there and seen them, for example, when he smiled for the first time, sat up and crawled, but I felt nothing, no real joy. This could still break my heart now if I think about what I missed too much. For how well everything was going, there was still a part of me that felt scarred to believe that things were on the up. I had been ill with depression for 9 long months, but at last it looked like it was coming to an end – it was now August 2007.
~ Our first holiday ~
At the beginning of the year we had booked a holiday with my parents to Scarborough. At the time of booking it, I was screaming in my head that I didn’t want to go and that there was no way I would enjoy it. The thought of packing was too much for me. I couldn’t bare the idea of having to sort out all paraphernalia that we would need to take with us. What would I do in a strange bed, how would I sleep, what if our son woke up in the night? I had even formulated excuses in my head to give to my parents and husband as to why I would not be able to go. The darkest part of my mind was telling me that it would be ok as I would not be around by the time of the holiday. However, now that I was feeling better, I was actually looking forward to going. I had started to buy bits of new clothing for myself and for our son. I went and bought a small collapsible pushchair that would be easier to get in and out of the boot.
The day before we went on holiday, my Aunty and Uncle who had been really supportive to me whilst I was poorly had my son for the day so that I could pack and get the house tidy. Everything just fell in to place perfectly. I was beetling around as if nothing had been wrong with me. I made a list of what to pack and got on with preparing for our first family holiday, which was a true sign of the old me being back!
The holiday was just wonderful. We stayed in a static caravan, my parents in their touring van. The camp site was perhaps not the best that we had stayed on. The brochure failed to mention that the local tip was on one side and the scrap metal yard was on the other, but it didn’t matter. The weather was beautiful. We had some fantastic days on the beach. Our son loved the sand and had no fear of the sea. We have some fantastic pictures of him playing with his bucket and spade, and his first dip in the sea. I was so happy. It was wonderful to see the sea and be able to enjoy the beauty of it, to watch the sun sparkle of the waves and experience the sounds and smells. It really was like waking up from a deep sleep.
The rest of the holiday was taken up with a trip on a steam train, which again our son really enjoyed – I think that he is going to take after his Grandpa with his love of trains in general. We went to the Aquarium, where again our son was besotted with the fish and liked to pat the glass as they swam by. There was one section of the Aquarium that was set aside for the jellyfish and was lit by ultraviolet lighting. That morning we had put sun cream onto our son as it was hot. He looked hilarious under the ultra violet light as it picked up the sun cream and his entire face glowed bright white! We took him swimming where he squealed with delight and was by far the happiest baby in the pool. We also had a monumental event take place – our son took his proper first steps. The look on his face was worth all the money in the world. It was just sheer delight. All too soon the end of the holiday came around and I was sad to go home. I had enjoyed the time with my husband and my parents immensely. Before going on holiday my husband and I decided that we would like to do something nice for my mum and dad to thank them for all the support that they had given us. I had ordered some flowers for my parents and wrote them a card to say thank you for everything. On the last evening of our holiday, we cooked them a nice meal in our van and produced a bottle of champagne to sup. My parents were very touched.
~ More milestones ~
Back home, and I was to return to work the Monday after our holiday. I was not nervous at all. I was just so happy to be going back feeling like the old me. I walked in to work with my head held high and was looking forward to being back amongst my friends. They greeted me like a long lost friend and said that they could tell the instant that I walked through the door that things were better!
The day went fine. As before, I returned on reduced hours, which was great. I used the spare time between finishing work to do some shopping, or house chores. However, I would always look forward to collecting my son from nursery.
The 1st birthday
October rolled around and it was coming up to our sons first birthday. Before I was feeling better, this was another event that I was completely dreading. I had told my husband that there was no way we would be having a party for our son and that we would just have a quiet gathering. No chance now that I was better. We ended up with 25 people (including 6 children a similar age to our son). The day was fantastic, hectic but fantastic. Our son got spoilt rotten and by now I was feeling totally smitten with him.
December arrived my 29th birthday. My husband treated us to a weekend away in London and took me to see The Phantom of the Opera, which is one of my favourite musicals. We had a fabulous time. It was wonderful to have some time to ourselves to be just husband and wife and to enjoy each others company like we used to. We even made each other laugh again and share silly jokes. He even humoured me and visited Harrods with me. Harrods is my favourite shopping store at Christmas. We bought several baubles for my tree and also a present to take back for our son. The weekend reminded me of how things were between us before I was Ill and I think we fell in love all over again!
Our 2nd 1st Christmas
Christmas 207 and was just magical for me. We had a wonderful time, and for me it was my first Christmas with our son.
I bought some beautiful presents for my friends and family and really took the opportunity to spoil the people that I love. I had many outings with my on, such as a trip on the Santa Express steam train. He delighted in this and I have some wonderful photos of my son sat proudly with his friends giggling with joy.
My in-laws arrived the day before Christmas eve and commented on how beautiful the house looked all decked out with a real tree, bunches of holly and the fireplace all trimmed up. We spent Christmas eve afternoon in one of my favourite villages. Whilst returning back to the car, my Father in-law and I happened to notice the evening sky. It was a perfect Christmas seen, all milky with a big full moon and twinkling stars, all that was needed was Santa to go past in his sleigh!
Christmas day was busy, but a very happy occasion. As my parents, brother and my husbands brother and wife were joining us for dinner, the cooking had to be shared between my house and my Mum’s. She arrived at the allotted time with a huge turkey all ready to go! The afternoon was given over to opening presents, which as you can imagine took an age as there were so many of us! Typically, our son was more interested in the boxes and wrapping paper than his presents, and spent most of the afternoon standing on top of one of the boxes that his presents came out of! As you can probably guess, Christmas this year really made up for the previous year!
~ Living life to the full ~
So, now it is the beginning of July 2008 and life is fantastic. We have been busy doing all the normal things that a young family should, such as going on holiday, enjoying days out and feeling immensely proud of our little chap who has now developed into a very loveable, mischievous toddler.
We had our son christened at the beginning of June. It was a super day as it was an event that I never believed would happen. We shared it with close friends and family – it was just a shame that the weather didn’t play ball.
I no longer take the anti-psychotic tablets and was discharged from my consultants care on 23rd June, which is a real milestone. My husband and I are smitten with our little boy and already feel that my illness happened, in most respects a life time ago.
I really truly believe that I would not be here now if it wasn’t for my husband – he pulled me through and for this I love him all the more. I do honestly believe that lesser men would not have coped like my husband did and may have walked away from the situation. My husband never gave up, he never believed any of the horrible things that I said to him and he always kept the faith that things would get better. I am immensely proud of him and I am also proud to call him my husband. We have talked about my illness, and how it effected him. He did say that it was much harder the second time that I was in the unit as I seemed to have completely given up hope. I know that there were nights that he came home and cried. I always felt for him at home on his own. If I was upset I had the staff in the unit to talk to. My parents had each other to draw strength from, but my husband went home to nothing. After all, the person that he would of talked to (me) had been vacant for a long time.
Thank goodness I am back now! Going through something awful like depression, really does make you realise just how much your loved ones mean to you. My husband and my son are my world.
Because last year was such a wash out there are several holidays and outings that we have planned this year to make up for time lost. One thing that I am really looking forward to is a trip to Paris with my husband for our wedding anniversary. I have organised this to say thank to my him for all the love, support and patience that he unconditionally gave to me, but to also give us some ‘man and wife’ time. Don’t get me wrong, we love being with our son, but it is nice to be on our own now and again. However, it will be the longest time we have left our son, and no doubt by the third day we will both be pining for him!
I am determined to live my life to the full and to take enjoyment in the hear and now. Before I was poorly, I would to often be looking to the future, rushing through life and not just enjoying the moment. I now take life at a much more relaxed pace (for me anyway) and I don’t get so stressed by the little things that used to wind me up. Even my friends have noticed a difference in me. Reportedly, I am not so ‘Monica’ from Friends and far less of a stress head!
And so, to sum things up…..
My parents lives are now back on track. I don’t think that either of them can quite believe just how quickly I got better. My mum, even now checks with me that everything is alright and worries if I seem slightly out of sorts. My dad just smiles a lot and cuddles me. I do not know how my parents got through the last year with me. It must have been heartbreaking watching their daughter go through so much torment and be completely unable to help. I know that it made my mum ill and that my dad was very worried for her and for me. But they too, never gave up. Sometimes, when I think about things, I can’t decide who had the worse deal out of me and my parents, me for being so ill and feeling so alone, or my parents having to watch their daughter be slowly destroyed and hear her say awful things that were just so out of character.
I can tell that my brother is chuffed to bits that I am me again too. I joke with him that it took me to be really ill to get his attention, but I know that he really cared. I understand too that he found the unit a really sad place to be in and didn’t like coming to se me in there, but he put this aside and came as much as he could.
My Aunties, Uncles and cousins on my dad’s side of the family were just brilliant too. They all came to see me in the unit and would spend time with me. One set in particular that I am very close to, were amazing, they let me go to their house and just be quiet if I wanted to, they took me out, and they helped me to see the beauty in my son.
My friends were really supportive too. They sent me lots of text messages and didn’t get upset when I didn’t reply. They came to see me in the unit, even if they found it really difficult. One friend in particular was a brick She came to see me as much as she could. She took me out – I’ll never forget our trips to Mothercare where we tried to fit 2 adults, 2 babies, and 2 pushchairs in to a car that already had an overcrowded boot! My dad would say that he could tell when she had been to see me as I seemed a little brighter. For her support, I will be eternally grateful and she really has demonstrated what true friendship is all about.
Our son is just a dream. He has developed in to perhaps the happiest little boy I have ever known (of course I am biased). He has a smile to die for and the bluest eyes that sparkle with mischief and delight. He has the most infectious chuckle that you can’t help but laugh with him. His hair is the most unbelievable shade of ginger – yes ginger, but it has strands of blonde that almost sparkle gold. He loves to play and run about and of late has started to give kisses and cuddles that you just can’t get enough of. There are so many things that I could tell you I love about him, his lovely little lips, his toothy grin, his inquisitive fingers, the feint freckles on his nose and cheeks – the list could go on and on. What I will say is that I love him with all my heart. He is a ray of sunshine on a dark and dreary day. I just have to think of him if I am tired or a bit fed up and I can feel the smile leap across my face and the warmth spread in my heart. I would never have thought that I could love him just as much as do.
Looking back on my experience of mental illness, I feel that there are still some lessons that the mental health service can learn and actions that can be taken to improve the care of their patients. There are simple things that would go along way to making a difference such as creature comforts when you are an inpatient. I am not talking about converting wards so that they look like the Ritz, but things such as a shower curtain that fits the shower properly so all the floor and your clothes don’t get wet would go a long way. Someone thinking to run the hot water so that patients don’t end up with a stone cold shower is also a very small thing, but if you have had a terrible nights sleep and feel yuk, a warm shower can go a long way. There are also some things that are more fundamental to a patients care, such as no matter what a member of the nursing staff thinks about a patient, they should remain patient, kind and treat all patients the same. The last thing you need is being made to feel that you are unliked when you are already very vulnerable. Surely, to be in the mental health profession, you have to have the ability to care for all, no matter their history. If staff have become that jaded with their job that care is no longer at the foremost of their skills, then maybe it is time to move on.
The first time that I went in to the Mother and Baby unit, I felt very supported by most of the staff, particularly the nursery nurse and my Occupational Therapist who worked very hard with me. The second time, this was not the case, apart from my Occupational Therapist, I felt like people had been warned about me and that somehow they thought that I was being very dramatic about things and didn’t really need their help. I can assure you that this was not the case, and I was in need of more support the second time than the first.
I was also desperate for some sleep. I know that I had been taking sleeping tablets on and off for quite a while. I also know that you can develop an addiction and need stronger and stronger doses to get the medication to work. However, to try and make someone sleep without tablets on the their first week back in admission, but then be offering them openly to other patients like they were sweets seems cruel and almost a little vindictive, like someone is using their power to show that they are in charge. Also, at night-time, noises carry much further. As the staff on duty had to keep the nurses office door open. It might have been a good idea to turn the volume down on the office phones which rang periodically throughout the night and they were very loud.
The weekly MDM meetings that I attended were also very important as they were to help decide how best to get me well again. I think if someone is as poorly as I was, it should be the nursing staff’s duty to make it clear to the patient that it would be advisable to either have their partner, or a member of their close family attend the meetings, so that they too can hear first hand what decisions are being made and why. After all, women who suffer postnatal depression are another women’s child and you don’t stop caring just because your child is older. I know from my mum that she wanted to be very much involved in my care and felt frustrated at times because she couldn’t get to talk to my Consultant herself.
During my second stay in the unit, I was encouraged to write a mood diary to help me see that maybe some days were better than others, and to help the nursing staff identify any patterns in my moods. This is a good idea in theory, but if you are too ill and do not feel motivated at all to do it, then you should not be feel forced. It is enough to cope with feeling like you do, but to then feel forced to do something and have someone react angrily when you haven’t done it, just adds pressure that is unnecessary.
Mornings on the ward were particularly hard for me, more so, if I had had a bad nights sleep. The nurses would have a shift change at 07:00am and would start to arrive for their shift from 06:30am. I know that the ward is their place of work, but for the patients, it is home for how ever long they are in for. Therefore it would be considerate of the nurses to try to come on the ward as quietly as possible. It is perhaps not the best idea to stand shouting conversations across the ward and letting doors bang, when patients are not aloud to have their bedroom door shut. It seems quite ironic that some of the nurses would be stern with some patients who were making a noise (because they were ill), telling them to be quiet as they would wake the babies and other patients., but then the nurses would be equally noisy themselves.
Please don’t misunderstand me though with regards to my gratitude to the unit and some of the staff there. Undoubtedly with out it, I may not have been here to tell my tail. The unit is excellent in providing a safe place for new mums to retreat to if things aren’t going according to plan in terms of their mental wellbeing both whilst pregnant and following giving birth. It is an NHS resource and I do strongly believe that not enough is done to promote the good work they do and the fact that it exists. During all my stays on the unit there where always other patients on the ward with varying degrees of illness, which goes to show that there is a definite need for the service.
However, I would say that I didn’t find some of the services provided whilst staying on the unit helpful, such as the hobby classes. Attending classes to have a go at painting or sewing were not high on my agenda, given how poorly I was. I feel that women who may find themselves in my circumstances would find it far more helpful and reassuring to meet other mothers that have experienced Post-natal depression and have come out the other side. I really believe that an hour spent with someone not associated with the nurses or the consultants would give women suffering PND real hope and physical proof that they will recover and return to normal life.
As for the women that I met in my class, I am truly sorry for the attitude that I held towards them. After all, they were someone else’s daughter, and maybe someone’s mother, sister, Aunty, cousin or friend and all parties were probably suffering the same torment that I and my family/friends went through. It really does go to show that mental illness has no respect for gender, age, financial status, intelligence etc. People who suffer with it deserve the same compassion as some suffering with a physical illness. The shame and stigma that goes along with mental illnesses realty does need addressing.
The way that my consultant reacted when I tried to have my mum and husband present at an MDM following a particularly bad weekend was totally unacceptable. It was unprofessional and just should not have happened at all. Up until that point we had put our total trust in her and looked to her to lead us out of my illness. Her display did nothing to help relationships that were already a little frayed. My family and I had become pretty desperate for help as my situation did not seem to be improving. Up until this point we had had complete faith in my consultant, after all, she was the expert. After her outburst, it knocked our faith quite a bit and we became uncomfortable in each others company.
As for my medication, this will always be a bone of contention for me and my family. Through out the whole time that I was ill, I had 4 different antidepressants and 2 anti psychotics. It was very clear that the first antidepressant was not working. It maybe had a small effect to start with, but then it ceased. It did seem to take my consultant quite some convincing of this before she would entertain changing. When she did, it was for a drug that seemed to also have a negative effect on me. I spent most of my time in tears and feeling utter despair. During this time my antipsychotic remained the same. After several months on my second drug, my consultant agreed to change my medication again. This time it was for a drug that really did seem to do absolutely nothing. This is when I got to my lowest and the suicidal feelings began. It got to the point that my husband was scarred to leave me at home, so we decided that a stay in the unit again would be the best course of action. During my stay it was decided that all medication would be withdrawn and that I would go drug free for a couple of weeks so that we could assess my mood. It was very clear that my mood dropped significantly within the first week of being drug free, so before the 2 weeks were up, I was offered my forth antidepressant and a change in my antipsychotic. The later drug was given to me for the extreme anxiety that I had been suffering from, not because they thought that I was psychotic any more. Within 2 weeks I was feeling almost back to my normal self. It was bizarre. After feeling wretched for 9 long months, it took 2 short weeks for things to improve. The reason for this we will never be certain of. However, several people within my family are of the strong opinion that the first antipsychotic (we have subsequently found out that in some cases it has actually made depression worse) was making me worse. It just seems too much of a coincidence that as soon as the antipsychotic was stopped that I began to dramatically improve. What ever the reason though, I am just thrilled to be back to the ‘good old me. I am still on medication – an antidepressant and a low dose of another antipsychotic. The only side effect from the new tablets is that I have put on a lot of weight. Again, after reading up on my tablets, it is a common side effect, but to be honest, I’ll accept it. I would much rather be happy and enjoying life.
My husband and I have talked about living with my depression and the effects that it had upon us and we now feel that we are back to how we were before the whole sorry episode started. We have discussed whether we will ever have another baby, both of us always thought that we would have two fairly close together in age. However, following our experience we have chosen not to. I do understand that lots of women have gone on to have a second baby and not experienced depression again, but for me, I just am not prepared to even take the chance. We love our son dearly. If I should be ill with a subsequent baby, our son will be that much older and will know that there is something wrong with mummy and we are not prepared to put him through this. We understand that there is no guarantee that the depression will come back with a second baby, but there are no guarantees that it wont either, and I personally do not ever want to experience post natal depression again, even if it is milder than before. It does get me down from time to time that I have no happy memories of my son as a small baby. I don’t have a favourite baby grow that I liked to see him in and most of the photographs that were taken before I was better mean nothing – I don’t remember them or what occasion they were for. For this I feel cheated, however, this is something that I am coming to terms with.
I also feel sorry for my son in that he will never experience the love and friendship that is shared between siblings. Don’t get me wrong, I know that they would have probably gone through a phase of not wanting to know each other, just as my brother and I did, but as we grew older, we grew closer and we now have a good relationship. This won’t happen for my boy.
We have agreed that at some point we have to put the experience behind us and leave it where it belongs – in the past. For me there are several things that I want to do before this. One is to write an account of what happened to me to share with other women in the hope that it will give them some faith, and help them hold on to the belief that no matter how bad it gets, they will recover. So, here it is. I hope that whoever reads this, finds it as helpful to read as I did to write, no matter whether your depression is mild or severe. I hope you take comfort in that the fact that things you are experiencing are not real, its just your mind playing a vicious, cruel trick. You may also be able to identify with some of the things that I felt and did, again, I hope that this account will show you that you are not alone, you wont be the first to suffer and unfortunately you wont be the last.
The final thing that I want to achieve is to be medication free. I stopped taking my anti-psychotic in January 08, but will not begin to reduce my anti-depressant until August 08. Reducing my tablets to nothing will take time, but the day will come, and that is when I can truly close the door and call my self free and celebrate surviving perhaps one of the most cruellest things that can happen to a new mum.
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