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.
Sarah is relatively new to TMR, and runs with the Thornbury group. She shares her story of depression that began in pregnancy and has persisted long after.
My mental health issues started when I was pregnant with my first son, and got worse when he was born. At this time, not much was said about mental health problems, and there was a strong sense of stigma, shame and misunderstanding in admitting to them; a family member even proposed I did not seek help in case my baby was taken away from me.
I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and prescribed medication. I was very ill and extremely anxious about issues such as cot death and being an inadequate parent. My son, probably sensing my emotional state, was a very fretful baby and cried for most of his first year (or so it seemed) until he started to walk and become more independent.
Physical activity, and especially being outside and running has made the biggest difference to my mental health, and I cannot imagine being without it now. I trail run 4 or more times a week, and find the release and challenge to be mind and life changing. I regularly enter trail races which gives me a huge sense of achievement.
As an organisation, TMR in my experience so far, has been very supportive of women, many of whom are happy to discuss their mental health (perhaps because I am open about my own issues, and that may give “permission” for others to feel able to discuss their own). The TMR community feels inclusive, honest and open about mental health issues, and that’s great.
I believe there is still a way to go to make talking about mental health and getting help for mental health conditions equal to how we would treat and talk about physical health conditions. There are women who I believe are shamed into being silent in their struggles when there is help available. There are women who ask for help and are offered only medication and a very long waiting list for any further support.
As women I believe there is so much we can do to support and build up other women experiencing these struggles, and I’d love to be a bigger part of that process. There are midwives and other professionals who could be better at having the conversation with women; an antenatal midwife, when I confessed during my second pregnancy that I was feeling low said “Oh don’t start all that nonsense again.” Not that helpful!
I find Postnatal Depression a somewhat meaningless term; for me, depression started before babies were born and has persisted long after! There is something minimising about the term, as though it’s somehow less serious than depression or anxiety that is not related to having a child. That needs to change.