Pregnancy and Depression are no longer new to me. Although this is my first pregnancy, after eight months, I am fairly used to it. As for depression, I don't know if I will ever be used to it, but it has been part of my life for the majority of it.
For the last few weeks I have been really struggling. Not with anything in particular, but all of it. Life in general. As usual, there was no defining moment, no spectacular single event, not major mishap, just an ever increasing feeling of shittiness. As always the feelings of low motivation and lack of interest escalate in to complete 'I don't give a crap, what's the point? what does it matter if I can't drag myself out of bed after another night of little or no sleep'.
Last month I had discussed with my G.P. about increasing my meds again. I said No. I didn't want to. To be honest, I don't want to be taking them at all and doubt I will ever accept that I will have to for the rest of my life. During the last three years of so, I have been on numerous medications, anti depressants, combinations of pills and dosages.
I have never accepted the depression / mental health diagnosis fully, too often the diagnosis has changed and never been explained to me why. Besides once you are labelled with mental health issues, everything and I mean EVERYTHING becomes a consequence of that.
Not sleeping = side effect of mental health problems
Want to kill yourself = side effect of mental health problems
Gain weight = side effect of mental health problems
Lose weight = side effect of mental health problems
Get a cold = side effect of mental health problems
Feel stressed = side effect of mental health problems
Feel down = side effect of mental health problems
Get a headache = side effect of mental health problems
Get a stomach ache - see the pattern...?
When I fell pregnant I was at the lowest I'd been for a while, I had attempted suicide and really did not want to live. I wanted to just sleep. It wasn't the first attempt and I doubted it would be the last. I remember telling my CPN that although it may not have worked, at least I slept for 14 hours!
I knew I was pregnant within days and my mood flitted frequently between happy, scared, and full on What the F*ck?! As I have mentioned previously when I found out I stopped taking my medications, in conjunction with Drs' advice, gradually. I tried to cope without but as my head was all over, it wasn't a good idea. I thought of suicide again several times, but would not / could not bring myself to do that to my unborn child. Eventually, near the start of my second trimester, I went to see a pharmacist for information. She was great, gave me actual information, numbers, etc. but stopped short of over loading me with information.
When I restarted on the medication, just one of them, I felt bad, but was assured by medical professionals that the risk to baby was less than if I relapsed, as according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists 'you may need a higher dose of medication if you become ill. Sometimes you may need two or more medications to treat a relapse. This might be more risky for your unborn baby than if you take a standard dose of medication throughout pregnancy.' Only one doctor actually said directly to me I was risking my baby's life. I told him bluntly, it was a lot less risky that me killing myself.
Finally, I started to feel human again, worthwhile. I actually thought about my future and not just the baby. Hell, I know it sounds selfish but what I wanted to do! I have never fully bought into the whole depression (etc.) thing, I often think it's a lazy diagnosis, especially seen as it's not my only one! The end of feeling rubbish and feeling better, was to me the ending of the couple of grotty years. A lot had happened, much of it very unpleasant, so naturally I was stressed. I spent years self medicating and managed to get through the years preceding it, so I would again. Maybe...
But recently my mood has dropped, seriously, again. Again seems to be a popular word around me, so perhaps I should have expected some form of crash.
At the beginning of this week, I was fast approaching breaking point and would have probably hit it face first at full force had it not been for some great people on Twitter keeping my sanity, reminding me I was normal! That's no mean feat!
I thought enough is enough. I was so stressed out I needed help. I don't know how much of stress / anxiety is normal for a first time mum, or whether I passed that a long time ago. It feels like the latter. I'm normally one of those people that once she finds something of interest, in this case pregnancy, I dive in head first finding everything I can about the subject. At the beginning of my pregnancy, knowing that this was probable, and possibly not healthy for me, I made a conscious decision not to do this.
However, as I am in the 'High Risk' pregnancy category, I am being seen by both the hospital midwifes and the local midwifes. I am not seeing anyone consistently, so it's hard to develop a relationship with them. I have been reliant on the Internet, which presents its own problems. As I said I wasn't sure how much of my stress was normal, at least if I was around others in the same position (i.e. pregnant) it would help. I asked one of the midwifes for support, to be told she didn't know anything but maybe try the health visitor and the Mental Health in Pregnancy service. She also referred me to NSPCC. As she had no leaflets I wasn't sure what for! I have received a letter since to say it was for their Pregnancy, birth and beyond course, although I still have absolutely no idea what that is!
My CPN also called the health visitor service and was told I would be getting one appointed during this last week. I have not heard from them yet though.
F, who has kindly volunteered to be my birth partner, had mentioned Home Start to me a while ago. I didn't really know what they did, so read a couple of the posts on their site. I sent an email basically blurting out my current state of mind and begging for some help, or at least a point in the right direction. After a couple of emails, a lovely lady rang me to discuss coming to see me to see what type of help they could offer. She asked casually how I had heard of them, something they ask everyone. I said F had mentioned them to me, as she used to be a volunteer with them. As soon I mentioned her name, I could hear the smile on the lady's face. I knew I had made the right decision to contact them.
My psychiatrist also referred me to the Perinatal support service, so I am awaiting an appointment from them.
At my therapy appointment this week, I mentioned all this. He told me I was emotionally dysfunctional and that I needed to accept help, but also know when to ask for it. He is right obviously, but I couldn't help but think 'No shit, Sherlock'!
I have also increased the meds. I feel slightly better in that I have asked for help and seem to be getting things in place. Although I think 'surely, I shouldn't have needed to be in this state for someone to check I was coping?' But again, maybe that's just part of the I need to accept help, ask for it, and admit that I am not weak for wanting the help anyway.
I would hope that there was some kind of service that signposted what help was available and where to find them. Given my 'diagnosis' and at risk category, surely they should be clear signposts?
If you have already suffered from mental illness in the past you're more likely to become ill again in the first year following the birth, even if you have been well for years.
I would have loved one point of contact throughout my pregnancy, someone to answer my questions, I had to wait nearly a week for a call back from my midwife. I know that is not possible in the ever decreasing NHS but it would have been nice. Someone I could call and ask those silly random questions to. And believe me I have lots of silly random questions! I'm sure they are 'normal' (to the extent normal exists), but don't feel it to me. I don't have many female friends, especially not ones with children. And have little family, so am rather alone in this.
For anybody that does need help, I will post my sources when I find them, or are given them. My Angels (hey, it's Easter and a nod to religion is allowed) and me have found these so far:
08457 90 90 90;
(Ireland): 1850 60 90 90;
Perinatal And Mental Health Unit
44 Hyde Terrace
44 Hyde Terrace
Tel: 0113 305 5509
Ask your local hospital as they will have a similar service.