Real-life, my journey through Post Natal Depression (PND)
By Natalie Nuttall
I see myself as one of life’s natural copers. I aim high, I juggle, I compete – hell, I even like to excel. So motherhood came as a nasty shock, coupled with a serious dose of PND (Post Natal Depression). It more that stopped me in my tracks – it felled me and brought me to my knees.
When my son, Oscar, was eight weeks old, I knew something was seriously wrong. I spent hours crying inconsolably, words couldn’t explain the sense of emptiness and desolation I felt. Layered on that was the guilt of not feeling an instant joy at becoming a mum. When other mums gushed that it had ‘completed them’ I felt like a fraud, ashamed and desperate to run away. Not just from those other mums but from my own life.
My first visit to the GP was pointless. The doctor clearly had no concept of PND, urged me to get some sleep and fumbled on the internet for information to print off. I’d already researched, I spent hours lost in research – looking for answers, for a lifeline, for some sense of certainty that this nightmare would end.
With the help of my health visitor I booked another appointment, this time with a female GP. She comforted me, listened with empathy and told me she understood and things would improve. I was prescribed anti-depressants and referred for screening for CBT therapy – deemed a priority case given I was caring for a newborn. That fact alone scared me.
A week later a letter arrived advising me of a 16 week wait for CBT. Back at the doctors (I joked I must warrant a season ticket and parking space by now), my GP listened with concern at the news and vowed she would fight my cause and the delay was unacceptable. I know now how lucky I was to have that support. Within a day I was booked into weekly CBT sessions with an amazing therapist who, too, had a profound impact on this whole journey of mine.
It was in those early dark days that I started asking around about support groups. I knew there were at least three breastfeeding groups in my area, supported by health visitors - so why nothing for mums with PND? After a couple of chats with my health visitor I decided the opportunity was there for the taking and something had to be done. We set up a focus group and other mums in the area came forward to talk about what we wanted from a group.
The manager of the local Surestart centre offered a room as a weekly venue. After a series of meetings we started making headway and The Smile Group was born (Supporting Mums in Living with their Emotions). The last thing I wanted was a depressing circle of mums having to ‘share their story’ so we deliberately set out to make the group friendly, welcoming, unintimidating and a relaxed place to be.
All the mums in the group share a passion to change things. We’ve seen gaping holes in the way services operate – from the lack of ante-natal reference to PND to GPs who misdiagnose and health visitors who are equally flippant. I contacted my own NCT tutor to gently make the point and she said “we didn’t make a big deal of it because I didn’t want to dwell on it and bring the group down.”
There is some way to go to ensure better care for mums with PND and PTSD. Resources are also an issue. We’re struggling with the fact health visitors can’t attend the group anymore given budget cuts and the way services are commissioned.
My son is one next week and I look at him now and can’t put into the words the love I feel for him. It’s overwhelming. Someone on Mumsnet once said to me that although having PND is horrendous, it can make you a better person and you really value the important things. I think she’s right.
The Smile Group meets ever Friday from 10-12 noon at Hurdsfield Children’s Centre, Hulley Road, Macclesfield. Twitter: @TheSMILEGroup
Note: Natalie contacted Mental Healthy about her group. Her passion to do something about the lack of support for people with PND in her area was driving her. Her personal story is so inspiring that we wanted to share it with you.