As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.
Amanda, who runs with our Greville Smyth mums in Bristol, describes the effect effect that losing her dad soon after giving birth had on her emotional and mental wellbeing, and the benefits of being open and tackling the problem early on.
I’m a mum of two, my eldest is three and my youngest seven months. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter at Christmas in 2017. A few days before that, my dad was suddenly taken ill with what was a few days later diagnosed as a cancerous and inoperable brain tumour.
He received various treatments throughout 2018 and was thrilled to be here to meet my daughter when she was born in the September of that year. In the December, we were told his treatment was no longer working, and he passed away late January 2019. In addition, just a few days beforehand, my grandpa – his dad – had also passed away after a long illness.
Looking back to when my eldest child was born, although I never sought professional help, I now recognise that I was probably suffering with postnatal anxiety. I’d heard a lot about postnatal depression but, despite having struggled with anxiety at times before I had children, I can’t say that I’d heard much or knew much about how postnatal mental health issues could manifest as anxiety.
I knew with my second pregnancy that I was probably at an increased risk of struggling given my previous experience and what was happening with my Dad.
Once my Dad passed away I felt as though it was time to get some professional support as I was starting to feel overwhelmed and unable to get my head around everything, and that was making me less present and less patient with my family.
I had weekly counselling sessions with a psychotherapist for a couple of months and found it extremely valuable. It was great to have time each week to talk about how I felt, and speaking to a professional who was also completely unconnected to my family meant I could really open up and be honest about everything I was feeling. It really helped me to be kinder to myself and stop worrying about whether I was grieving in ‘the right way’.
Throughout the pregnancy and since I’ve had my daughter, I’ve had lots of support from my husband, family and friends and have tried to make sure I do as much as I can of the things that I know help keep me in good mental health.
For me, this includes getting outdoors, seeing friends, and trying to carve out a little bit of time each day on my own to clear my head. Not necessarily easy or always possible with a newborn, but getting back into running means I can usually tick off a couple of these at a time!
Although it’s been overwhelming at times, going through all of this at once it has meant I have really tried to live more in the present as much as I can, so when something good is happening or I feel happy, really noticing that and feeling gratitude for it.
At times, I’ve struggled with not having much time to myself to process what was happening. I make a concerted effort to try and get a bit of time for myself wherever I can (often now this is actually on a run) and counselling has helped me to accept that every experience of grief is different and doesn’t necessarily fit a model or expectations.
I have found running to be of huge value for my mental health. Before having children, I loved running as a means to relieve stress and clear my head, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d be able to get back into once I’d had a baby.
After my son was born I spoke to Mel at a local fair where she was running a TMR stall, and realised it was totally something I could do again! I went along to a social run not long after and have never looked back, even completing a half marathon in 2017 and training as a Run Angel.
I’ve made a few really special friends through TMR, have met so many lovely people on runs and am continuously inspired by all of the stories that are shared through the online community.