Emily – how CBT and medication helped her with postnatal anxiety and how she now runs a group helping other mothers

One of our first contributors to the ‘page of hope + courage’ is Emily. On this page we are collecting a variety of stories of people who have struggled with postnatal depression and anxiety. Here Emily discusses how CBT therapy and medication helped her with her postnatal anxiety and how she now runs a group to help other struggling mothers.

I have positive thoughts for the future and now enjoy my children. I love going outdoors with them and exploring things – this in turn helps me with my anxiety.

Emily writes;

I had a tough time when my first daughter was six months old as she developed food allergies and terrible eczema. She reacted to milk and ended up having allergy tests done. I found the whole allergy baby thing hard work and pretty isolating. I blamed myself for her allergies. When I was due my baby boy I was then determined to ensure he did not face the prospect of allergies.

I decided when breastfeeding my baby boy, even if I did have mastitis, I would avoid antibiotics at every cost. No surprise in the first few weeks I did get mastitis again and I spent every waking hour breastfeeding, massaging my boobs and eating garlic or drinking pineapple smoothies. I took herbal medication and researched ways to get rid of mastitis naturally.

I was exhausted.

I had mastitis three times all together and every time I would wake hourly to feed him and then care for both my children the next day. My parents lived a good half hour drive from me and I live in a village not walkable to many places where I could meet other mums. Life became isolating and eventually I become exhausted. My husband took on a new demanded job, so I spent even more time alone at home, hidden away.

This was when my illness really kicked in. I developed negative, terrifying thoughts around my little boy.

I avoided going out or being in busy areas with lots of children. I would wash my hands lots and I would avoid my family touching or holding my baby boy.

Eventually things spiralled and the thoughts, the anxiety and the way I felt was so overwhelming. One day I woke up and as I started to run a bath for my little boy I got a thought that my hands were unclean, I felt so frustrated and useless. The anxiety was so bad I couldn’t bath him. I told my husband and we rang the health visitor who referred me to a therapist.

I was offered medication for my anxiety from the GP but once again I refused as I thought this could be harmful to my baby. But in hindsight taking it would have saved a lot of heartache and difficult days for me and my family.

I eventually got therapy with the NHS, but after eleven sessions they discharged me saying they thought I was well and could cope alone. However I knew I was far from well and my hands were red raw and the thoughts just as bad. I changed to a private therapist and started to take medication.

These two things changed my life. I had really good CBT – this therapist talked to me as a mother and carried out CBT at a different angle. The medication helped me focus a lot more and lifted my spirits.

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Emily and her beautiful family

I honestly believe had I been informed about postnatal mental health issues and symptoms and had knowledge of it , I may have been better equipped to gain support earlier and take hold of the anxiety. I feel angry the illness took so much from me, it took away memories with my family and it took my confidence as a mum.

I can say now I can see the light and I am through the worst of it. Although I still have bad days but a lot less.

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Emily on holiday with her family

Things that have really helped me;

A good therapist- a good therapist who you can trust and be open with. Someone who can understand you and direct you in a way you don’t feel nervous or belittled.

Medication – I take setraline – it is fine for breastfeeding

Helping others- I now run a group called mums in mind in Southampton set up for mothers who have postnatal illnesses. This group has really helped me do something positive from something that was so horrendous in my life.

Crafts- I like doing crafts at home and making things. This gives me a focus when I am anxious

Talking to people- I talk openly about my mental health and it really helps me. I try to explain it to others and in turn more and more people have said ‘I had that too’. There is a huge stigma but it’s real, it’s a real illness.

Support- having family and friends that support YOU.

Now I am starting to recover from postnatal illness I can see how horrendous mental health can be. It’s an invisible illness that people can’t see and therefore don’t believe but it’s real and it’s terrifying for those who experience it. 1 in 5 people suffer from mental health illnesses and it is more common than we ever will truely know.

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Emily and her children

It’s been much better the past nine months.

I feel positive about things now and I enjoy my time with my kids. We are off on holiday this week

I wouldn’t have even stepped out the house a year ago without anxiety. I push and challenge myself daily. I make the most of everything.

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I see a therapist now every two to three weeks or even less depending on how I am getting on. I am hoping to return to work in September (I am a children’s nurse). It’s been a tough eighteen months but I am getting there.

I have positive thoughts for the future and now enjoy my children. I love going outdoors with them and exploring things – this in turn helps me with my anxiety.

Emily runs a group called Mums In Mind in Southampton . It was set up to help mums with perinatal illness or who just struggle. It runs every second Friday of each month in the evenings (craft, coffee, cake). She’ll also be starting another session every third Wednesday of the month at Shirley Baptist church for coffee and cake mornings.  Click here to find out more.

You can also find Emily on Instragam where she continues to share on stories @mummy_andus2

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Emily at one of her Mums In Mind meet ups

 

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