This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (30th April – 6th May) which is a great time to be talking about the importance of mental wellbeing as parents. A recent study by Mum’s Enterprise revealed that postnatal depression remains undiagnosed in up to 25% of UK Women and up to one in four women are still living in silence. Our writer Kate Tunstall tells her personal story of post natal anxiety.
After my first daughter was born, which was fairly traumatic in itself, I was hyper alert for symptoms of PND. What I didn’t anticipate was that I could be fine for several months and then start to struggle. It was a shock and I think it’s really important to be aware that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to postnatal mental health.
Admitting first to myself and then to my husband that I was in a bad way and needed some help was not easy – mostly because my symptoms didn’t fit typical PND. It was only when I read about Post Natal Anxiety that everything fell into place and I could finally put a name to what was going on in my head.
I’ve since discovered that though the two often go hand in hand, PNA is not often discussed but is actually more common than PND. For me, it was brought on in part by the trauma of delivering a poorly baby, but I was also juggling a grievance case against my previous employers and a very overbearing MIL. Unfortunately she was a master manipulator and my husband was unable to see what was taking place until everything came to a head when I had a mini breakdown.
The strange thing about my experience – but one I imagine many will relate to – is that when I’m feeling well I’m quite confident (some may say outspoken!), and yet during that hellish period I felt impotent. I was unable to voice my anxieties and allowed them to eat me up to the point of being a neurotic, irrational mess. I was constantly agitated and on edge and lost a lot of weight.
But getting my husband’s support was the best thing I could have done and the beginning of things turning around. Thankfully as soon as I alerted him and opened his eyes to the situation, he was wonderful and life could not be more different now. Yes, it’s hectic and chaotic, but that’s the reality of having a young family and crucially – I can (just about!) cope. Please – if you are struggling, confide in somebody and get the help you need.
Mum’s Enterprise Ltd who commissioned the report, is a company dedicated to facilitating positive change and gender equality by helping to get mums into work. Their Founder and CEO Lindsey Fish offers some advice for mums who may feel like they are struggling after having a baby:
There is such a huge pressure on women to ‘appear’ like they are on top of life and although this is unfounded in so many cases; it’s human nature to want to come across like you are in control of a situation. Combine this with the pressures of being a good mum and to come across like you know what you are doing as a parent and all of a sudden it’s no surprise that it creates a huge pressure to bear. When this is then on top of the needs and wants to be independent, earn a living, continue to be fulfilled in work or business and then potential extra strain of life at home, the chores, the cooking, caregiving to your children… I could carry on; it’s exhausting just to even write it out. These are just some of the pressures and challenges us women have to deal with on a daily basis and that is hard. I believe that the combination of all of this is hugely overwhelming, for many women there will be a natural point when depression and anxiety kick in and if we don’t get the help and support or can recognise the symptoms and reach out for help or have the courage to speak up then it’s a problem, a big problem.
Now I am not an advisor or trained as a mentor of any kind but this is just my opinion as a mum who has faced some challenges, hurdles and know friends who have also experienced post natal depression and the challenges of being a mum.
First admit to yourself that a problem could be there. If you feel strange, aren’t sure what’s going on or think something isn’t right then you have to first admit to yourself that something is up.
Then find the courage deep inside, be brave and speak up. No body else knows how we feel inside unless we tell somebody. A doctor, a partner a friend even a stranger. Then it’s out there, it’s vocal and you can talk about it.
And also meet other mums; make an effort to be social. It could be mums in business, mums having a brew or whatever it is you want to do. There are plenty of ways now to try and be more social so you don’t isolate yourself. Attend one of our events, seek local groups there is an app called MUSH, which helps mums meet up.
Everything we need to tackle how we feel, are experiencing and needing is out there. You just need to find it and again hopefully that is where we can help through live events and sharing the fact that women aren’t alone, that there are solutions, support, expertise and real true work and business opportunities out there we are very dedicated to helping the nation be happier, being fulfilled in work or business contributes a lot to how we feel and how we cope. #Shootforthemoon and take charge.
Mum’s Enterprise Ltd is hosting two roadshows this year, in June in Manchester and in September in London. The events are aimed at helping attendees get into the right frame of mind for change and are a must for those looking to retrain, find flexible work, or start / grow a business.
To register free, get involved or just to find out more visit www.mumsenterprise.events