I never really intended to discuss my mental health on this blog. The whole purpose of setting up Parenting and PND was to have a platform for such topics. I always intended to keep them separate…I didn’t want my experience of Postnatal Depression and Postnatal OCD to take over this writing space. Back then I thought that by keeping them separate in the blogosphere, I could keep them separate in life. I didn’t want the mental health side of things to take over my identity. It took me a while to realise they are both part of my identity. Equally. I am not one without the other.
Thus I find myself writing here tonight. This evening has been a challenging one, that’s for sure. Wednesday 8-9pm on Twitter is #PNDHour run by Rosey over at PND & Me. A truly fantastic, brave lady who has taken her own personal experiences and turned them into something so positive for other people. Whilst I failed to attend the chat the last couple of weeks (forgot – oops!), it has been so helpful for me in the past. So informative too, I’ve learned a lot from other people’s experiences. It is great to see health practitioners, mental health advocates, charities and local officials take part in the chat, as well as the obvious mums and dads. Yes, dads. So maybe that wasn’t so obvious to some…but yes, dads can get postnatal depression too.
Tonight I ended up chatting to a few others about my own experience with Postnatal OCD. Now, Postnatal OCD is a side of things that people are generally too scared to talk about. They are scared of how their friends and family will react, and they have an incredible fear that they will have their baby taken off them. I was one of those people to begin with, but thankfully I have a fantastic support network at my local family centre, namely my health visitor and a lady who works for West Sussex Coastal Mind. Because of these two amazing women, I was referred to Time to Talk (a local counselling service) for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and that was the first big step along the road to recovery.
Through CBT I learned that my thoughts and feelings were normal. Ok, so maybe ‘normal’ isn’t the best word…let’s go with common. I learned to accept them for what they are, to label them, to stop trying to force them out of my head. Because forcing them out just makes them return with ten times their original power. Most importantly of all, I learned that it was ok to feel the way I was feeling. That I wasnt alone, that there are other people out there going through the same thing.
One of the main reasons I started Parenting and PND was to try and help those people who were experiencing the same thing (or similar) but didn’t have the same support network that I do. The people who are too scared by what they are going through, and just hide away in the hope that it goes away. The people who can’t bond with their children and don’t understand why.
You know what? With all the good intentions in the world, it’s still a bloody scary thing to talk about. Especially to strangers over the internet who could react in any way you wouldn’t expect. Not that it really matters if they don’t like what they hear, because it’s not as if you’re ever going to meet them if you don’t want to. Not realistically.
I could feel my heart racing as I mentioned some of the side effects I experience during one of my lows. The phrase intrusive thoughts is one that holds so much power; so much misunderstanding and judgement. Because people really cannot understand the full process behind it until they have experienced it themselves. I thought I did, before I was pregnant. I’d read about people with PND and how some of them act, and going by facts and my own history of depression I thought I understood it. It wasn’t until actually experiencing it myself though that I really truly got it.
Do you know what it’s like to have no power over your own mind? To doubt yourself because of your own way of thinking? It undermines everything you believe and everything you are.
So yes, this evening was a difficult one. Racing heart, sweaty palms, and the early signs of an anxiety attack. But I also feel liberated. I spoke out, and shared.
I haven’t broken a barrier, I can feel my shell rebuilding as we speak (thoughts of…what am I doing writing this out? It’s not a good idea. I should just delete it). Although it’s not much, I feel like I’ve weakened it a bit. For now, that is enough.