You’re probably completely in love with your new baby, but at the same time you know that something isn’t quite right. You may be constantly checking if they’re breathing, if they’re too hot or too cold, or just simply feel like something bad is going to happen.
On top of this, you may be having, quite out of the blue, some very strange and frightening thoughts, that are causing you crippling anxiety, and making you question your sanity.
No doubt you might be keeping this to yourself at the moment, for fear that you’re going mad and someone might take your baby away from you.
You’ve probably found this site by frantically searching Google for answers or comfort at 3am, desperate to find someone who has gone through the same thing, and how to get better.
Look no further! Not only have I been there, but I have come out the other side stronger, healthier and happier than I have ever been in my entire life…and you will too.
The reason I wanted to write this blog is to offer some advice and reassurance to those people who are experiencing this awful, scary and debilitating mental illness.
I must stress that I am not medically qualified, and I urge you to please seek help as soon as possible, whether this be a doctor, or even just taking the first step of talking to your partner/friend/family member. You would not believe how common this is, and the good news is, it is very treatable.
This blog is about post-natal anxiety, not post-natal depression. I don’t have any experience with the latter, although I’m sure the two illnesses cross paths (especially with intrusive thoughts).
There is a lot of information available about PND, and I am so glad that it is now recognised as a legitimate disorder as I have seen first-hand the misery it can cause.
New mums need so much support, especially in those first few terrifying weeks.
PNA as it stands is a little known disorder, but still affects lots of women worldwide. I was actually not officially diagnosed by my GP as having PNA (even though I had every symptom), mainly because, I feel, there was a lack of understanding and knowledge on her part, and also because I held back a lot of the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing through sheer fear.
Unfortunately she treated me under the umbrella of PND, even though I wasn’t experiencing the common symptoms, e.g., a persistent feeling of sadness or low mood, lack of energy, and a loss of interest in the world around me…I was the happiest I’d ever been in my life!
I have struggled with anxiety for many years, so the feeling wasn’t new to me, and I knew how to deal with panic attacks. What frightened me to my core this time was the intrusive thoughts (or brain farts as I now affectionately call them).
The nature of them and the fact that they were just so relentless actually convinced me I was going insane…and I had a tiny baby to look after. It was for this reason that I went straight to my doctor in floods of tears.
Luckily, I got better through medication (I wasn’t offered counselling – I was deemed not ill enough). I also did a lot of research online, and basically taught myself cognitive behaviour therapy. It worked. The bad news is I still get intrusive thoughts, I always will, and you might too. That’s just the way the brain works. The good news is, they don’t bother me in the slightest.
When I was pregnant there was an absolutely horrendous story in the news about child sexual abuse, the worst one I had ever read. It affected me really badly, unnerved me, and I wish I had never read it.
Obviously, because I was about to become a mother myself, anything like that was bound to upset me even more. I tried to put it to the back of my mind, but it was so distressing it took me a while to forget about it.
Molly was about 4 months old and I was changing her nappy one day when suddenly this horrendous image of child abuse (relating to that awful story) flashed into my mind. The mental image was so real I thought I was hallucinating.
It took me aback and I winced in horror as I quickly put her clean nappy on. Shaking, I could feel the all too familiar panic start to rise inside me, and my thoughts began to race…
“Why the hell did I just think that”?
“What if it means that I want to hurt her”?
“Maybe I’m losing my mind”?
“What if I’m beginning to get post-natal psychosis”?
That one horrendous thought caused enough panic in me to set my mind racing at 1000mph. From that moment the scary thoughts kept coming, one after the other, and I couldn’t stop them.
For me, this was the worst part of it. I could cope with the physical feelings, i.e. the tight chest, rapid heartbeat, shaking, blurred vision, as I knew that these would eventually pass. But once these thoughts started it was like I was on a high speed train that never stopped, and I couldn’t jump off.
By the time John got home that afternoon I was sat in the chair rocking back and forth, staring out of the window in floods of tears, absolutely convinced that I was going insane.
I won’t describe the thoughts here as if you’re in the state of mind that I was in back then, then they can be catching.
I remember reading something online that day from a woman who had suffered post-natal psychosis, and she described that she had seen smoke pouring out of her baby’s nose. It was obviously a hallucination and a symptom of her illness, but because I was so anxious at the time I couldn’t look at Molly in case it happened to me.
My intrusive thoughts were all based around sexual abuse, as this was what my biggest fear was based on at the time.
The rational side of my brain was telling me to calm down, that it was just anxiety, but because the nature of the thoughts were so horrific, and they were about my beautiful baby girl, the emotional side of my brain took over, and I just couldn’t get a grip of it. What an awful visious circle that is.
Looking for help
I put off going to the doctor immediately as I knew that she would probably prescribe medication, which, foolishly, I didn’t want. So, as most people do, I went online and began searching for help (I hadn’t told John exactly what was wrong, I just said that I was worried about everything).
Unsurprisingly there was absolutely loads of information on anxiety, panic attacks and intrusive thoughts, but not a lot relating to post-natal anxiety.
I did find a few old threads on Babycentre and Netmums, which gave me some reassurance that this had happened to other women, and that I wasn’t losing my mind. It was on one of these threads that I found the book:
I cannot praise this book enough. It saved me in those first few horrendous days when the thoughts started. I downloaded it for my Kindle and read it in one night, referring back to it for many weeks later.
I would highly recommend purchasing it. Not only does it explain how common intrusive thoughts are (near enough everyone gets them, it’s how we react to them that matters), but it also gives you techniques on how to deal with them.
Another book which I now refer to as my bible (hence the title of my blog) is:
I think every new mum should be given a copy of this book before they leave hospital! It explains everything in fine detail, and it was after I read it that I started to feel better.
This is my first blog post, and I am completely new to this, so I don’t want to overload you with information.
Just please be reassured that you are not alone. Even if I can reach one stressed-out worried parent, then I have done what I set out to do. Please remember:
- You are completely normal
- This is really common
- You are an amazing parent
- You will get better
- Talk to someone you trust
- Make an appointment with your GP
Thanks for reading.