The birth of my first child should have been the happiest time of my life. I was newly married, enjoying life to the full with a fantastic and supportive husband and father.
I had a difficult labour, culminating in a pre- eclamptic fit which was very frightening for my husband who thought after getting a son he was going to lose his wife.
Three months after the birth, my health visitor noticed signs of post natal depression. I remember crying for no reason, criticising my every move, feeling guilty for everything and generally feeling bad that I couldn’t cope with the demands of my new baby. I lost all confidence in myself and my self-esteem was rock bottom.
After discussion with my G.P, I was started on anti- depressants which were to help with my low mood and anxiety. I was also referred to a postnatal support nurse who came to visit me on a weekly basis and although I was very appreciative of the help and support given it didn’t take away my feelings of guilt and hopelessness.
As my maternity leave came to an end I knew I wasn’t ready to go back to work and after lengthy discussions with occupational health were I was employed as Nursing Auxiliary I made the decision to terminate my contract.
As time went by I began to dwell on my own childhood and the things I had locked away began to come to the fore. I don’t know why my past wanted to come back, but it did and there was no stopping it. It shaped me as a person then and it was about to do it all over again.
Over the next few years I experienced a gradual improvement.
Following the delivery of my second child I was to experience a deeper depression and the diagnosis changed from postnatal to clinical. I became withdrawn, limiting my time with family and friends, I had no interest in myself or the motivation. My sleep was disturbed, I became paranoid that everyone was looking, talking and judging my ability as a person. I started to experience very frightening panic attacks with thoughts of suicide looming over me. Although I had these feelings, I would confess that the face I wore in private was very different to the one I wore in public. Those were dark days and under the surface a volcano was about to erupt I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that my life seemed to be crumbling before my very eyes.
So on recommendation of my G.P. I was voluntary admitted to my local psychiatric hospital and during that time I received counselling and psychotherapy treatment. I remember feeling a failure and very embarrassed at the thought of having to go there. What was everyone going to say about me? On admission I was given very little information on how my stay was going to help my recovery. I remember feeling all alone and afraid of some of the people around me, who were openly responding to voices in their heads. In the morning you were awoken to the deafening sounds of nurses shouting your name to come for your medication. I found this exercise humiliating and very degrading. I felt like a prisoner and missed my husband and children desperately. I stayed for 6 weeks before I was released to the comfort of my own home.
The years that followed were very much up and down and it took some time until I was able to get my life back on track. I joined various groups and these enabled me to broaden my horizons and look at myself in a different light. I had a great desire to help people in similar positions to my own and this led to voluntary work with Praxis and the decision to take on the course of Queens Cert in Counselling. During this course I discovered a new self-awareness and gained knowledge and skills, it increased my confidence and gave me hope for the future. A job opportunity arose with the N.H.S.C.T and with new found confidence I applied for the position of Support Worker in a community mental health team.
As I waited patiently I was delighted to be offered the job. I had a great satisfaction notifying the DHSS that I no longer needed benefits. Looking back this was a big undertaking and I am glad it paid off.
My new journey began in March 2003, I have since moved to another team within the trust and I am very passionate about the work that I do. I also am involved with Recovery Workshops and it makes me feel very proud to know how far I have come and that I can help other people in their recovery of depression. My clients today are the people who give me inner strength to keep going and make life worthwhile, although I have to be mindful of my own Mental Health.
I am not alone and like many people I have to work at keeping well; sometimes life doesn’t make this an easy task. However I am thankful to my husband who has been my rock and inspiration. Throughout he believed in me when others didn’t I have shared my story on numerous times in the hope that I can give people a more positive outlook on life and to realise that there is life beyond depression.