‘MAKE UP & BREAK DOWNS’ By Lisa Hammond. An honest story of Motherhood & Mental health. And Make up. How make up can be used as a powerful tool to positively impact your mood and selfesteem.
• BACKGROUND •
that be living with anxiety or suffering with stress, baby blues or all spectrums of postnatal depression (PND). She also recognises that being a mum can be hard whether you've had a mental health diagnosis or not, so many parts of this book will be relevant for all mums in general. It may also be helpful for partners or those living with someone with a mental health condition, so they can be equipped with some of the knowledge she and her husband wish they had during that time of their life.
Lisa (37), is mum to son Finlay (7), daughter Rowan (3) and wife to Alex (38). She was diagnosed with PND two years after having Finlay which had then progressed on to puerperal psychosis by the time this was picked up. Since talking openly about her mental health journey on social media and at events, Lisa has had many messages of support and sharing of experiences from both strangers and friends; but believes it is not enough just to talk about it and that more action needs to be taken. Hence why ‘Make up & Break downs’ was written to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental illness, but more importantly to encourage others to talk and seek the professional help they may need. ‘Make up & Break Downs’ captures Lisa's experiences of early motherhood – the good, the bad and the ugly. Her intention with this short book is to help new mums, or women who are going through internal battles with their mental health - whether 2
Lisa was never really informed of how her mental health could be affected pre and postnatally and her wish is that every pregnant woman and new mum is given access to this information. This is her own story but with professional input from a psychotherapist and a psychologist. Alex also shares a snippet and an insight in to what life can be like living with someone with a mental illness. It includes downloadable tools ranging from beauty tips to breathing techniques – developed from Lisa’s previous experiences and things she would have found useful during early motherhood. Lisa is a make-up artist so talks all things confidence make up and how beauty regimes can help rather than hinder us. Particularly as mums or busy women we are often bottom of the pile, especially when it comes to having a beauty routine or moments of self-care and she believes that make up can be a powerful tool to positively impact mood and self-esteem.
• INTRODUCTION • When I started to think back to when I was a new mum and the feelings I used to have, these were quite vivid. They were a mixed bag really of love for my baby but also a longing for my old life back. I also felt isolated as I was the first in my close group of friends to have a baby. I remember endlessly scrolling through social media and thinking how amazing everyone else’s lives were compared to mine and how it seemed like they were taking to motherhood like a duck to water. Others appeared to be in this new born bubble of love and here was me dreading the long nights awake feeding and not really enjoying the days or the baby groups I dragged myself to because that’s what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing. Everyone at these groups looked like there were totally in control of motherhood and I was sinking fast. Even if they were feeling the same as me it didn’t seem like the right place to have these conversations, plus we didn’t know each other very well so I certainly wasn’t comfortable bringing this subject up or admit that I was struggling. I felt tired and not my like me at all. All I wanted to do was hide away at home so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I know now that social media (and some baby groups!) isn’t always a true reflection on life and most people only highlight the good bits of their day and tend to miss out the crap things that happen to the rest of us! But when you’re feeling low, tired and not yourself like I was, it’s hard not to believe that all the shiny, happy pictures aren’t real life. 3
I most certainly didn’t take to motherhood like a duck to water. I was more like a swan. On the surface I appeared to others like I’d got my shit together (so they tell me!) but in reality often my legs were going like crazy trying to keep me afloat and balancing the realities and responsibilities of parenthood and all that comes with it. Only now has the time felt right to share the story of my early motherhood journey. I know everyone’s experiences are different, but my hope is that by reading this you’ll get the reassurance you deserve that you are doing a great job and that lots of mums (and dads) find parenting hard at times. I know I’m not alone in my experiences and I’m not the first person to share them but if my story helps you in any way or can even make you smile at times then I’ve set out to do what I intended. Imagine how things would be if more people were open about their struggles and insecurities rather than pretending everything was always rosy? By having these conversations about mental health, which by the way every single one of us has (mental health that is), it would help to normalise this subject and stop the stigma that can still be unfortunately associated with it. It’s not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, in fact 1 in 4 of us will suffer with mental ill health at some stage in our lives. We all need to share more, so here goes….. •CHAPTER ONE• MUCH MORE THAN MAKE UP When I was on maternity leave with Fin, during the evening I trained in make up and hair as a way of doing something for me outside of being a mum, but also to learn the skills to make myself look and feel
better. I still use make up as a tool to boost my confidence as find I feel better internally as well as externally when I’ve taken the time to apply it. As part of my job as a make-up artist I talk to so many women, lots of them who are mums. Often when they sit on the make up chair their insecurities pour out. As well as saying how amazing motherhood can be, I’ll often hear words such as ‘overwhelmed’ ‘pressure’ ‘guilt’ or phrases like ‘my head feels full’ ‘I’ve lost my sense of self’ ‘I’ve let myself go’ or ‘I feel ugly’. It’s hard to hear these words but I completely understand what they are saying. I get it as these are all words I have said, and I still have days where I feel like that since becoming a mum. I see the pressure many of my friends and clients put on themselves to be the perfect mum and it shouldn’t be like that! We have enough to deal with so I’m here to speak openly and honestly about my ‘definitely not-perfect’ motherhood journey. I want to show that you’ll have good days and bad days and this is normal. If only I could go back and tell my pregnant self some of these things.
I love being a make up artist, especially seeing how make up can affect how others look and feel when they wear it. It’s amazing being able to help a bride on her wedding morning or a mum on a rare night out to look and feel their absolute best and see the confidence this can bring them. When we become mums we often don’t make time for ourselves, putting most of our effort and energy on our new baby. Our sense of style can get side tracked for lots of reasons - ease, comfort or to baby proof ourselves! One of the most important things as a mum is that you feel happy, so if make up can help you in part with this then that’s got to be a good thing. I don’t want this to sound superficial or that I’m glamorising mental health - I’m not in any way saying make up is the answer to every bad day as that certainly isn’t the case. Some days make up was the last thing on my mind, but for me there was and still is, something really healing in taking that time back for me and having a beauty regime or a rare moment of selfcare. Take this morning for example, I was super exhausted last night for no apparent reason, it was just one of those ‘hit a brick wall moments’ that still often happen and as a result I didn’t exactly spring out of bed, in fact I really wanted to crawl back into bed and have a few more hours under the duvet. But the kids won’t go to school alone, so I dragged myself out of bed, got them ready for school/nursery and did the school run. I debated shoving my old faithful ripped jeans on and wearing my top knot for the 4th day in a row (you know the one!) but instead I had a shower, washed my hair (granted I didn’t have time to dry it) and wore something I feel good in and felt almost immediately better for doing so and had a pretty productive day.
That could have easily gone the other way, but it was the simple act of taking the time out to do something for me and feeling worthy of this time, but also to do with having a routine. Routines can really help when you’ve got a new born and for anyone struggling with depression. Having a routine and following it is a small step or achievement which, believe me, doesn’t have to be much on a bad day but what a difference doing it can make. Something as simple as having a shower can totally change my mindset. In the thick of my postnatal depression I used to get a real sense of achievement if I’d managed to get up and go out to post a letter or put a load of washing on. If that was all I did on a bad day then that was good enough. It was still an achievement, a result and a step forward in my eyes. Don’t put yourself under any pressure to do too much or anything you’re not ready to do. Take each day at a time. In terms of a make-up routine most of us have that one thing that makes us feel more put together. For me it’s filling in my eyebrows every day to disguise the serious overplucking they were subjected to when I was in my teens! For others it may be a lick of mascara, braving a red lip or applying some bronzer. Just that something to make us feel a bit readier to face the day. To watch how I fill in my brows quickly and easily in the morning or to learn how to create the perfect shape by eyebrow mapping click on the link below: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3s T9zDA0ZqhpaZN0vufA8w?view_as=subscr iber
Remember though, just because someone you know always looks put together it doesn’t mean they don’t have their own 5
stuff going on internally. Mental health can affect anyone at any time in their lives regardless of appearance, age, sex or upbringing. I remember people saying to me after I was diagnosed with PND – ‘I never thought you were going through that as you always had your make up on and dressed well’ (they must have caught me on my good days!). It just goes to show that we should never assume someone is ok or always accept ‘fine’ when we ask someone how they are. Don’t keep it to yourself if you’re not ok. If you feel unusually tearful, anxious, down or stressed, tell someone about it as I promise you’ll find you’re not the only one that has these struggles. http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/?s= self+care I wish I’d done that sooner, but I guess it’s better late than never. The response I’ve had from people since talking openly about my mental health is incredible which is why I’m now passionate about turning my negative experience into a positive one by sharing my experiences to help others. No amount of baby books or classes can prepare you for what it’s like and how it can affect our sense of self when we become a new mum as everyone has a different experience. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots and lots of incredible things to look forward to when we become parents and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are also parts we might find difficult or can’t control or predict and that’s ok too.
•CHAPTER TWO• MOTHERHOOD AND MOOD
I had my son Finlay in 2011 and to say I struggled being a new Mum is an understatement. Being a Mum is ‘supposed’ to be the best feeling there is, but I can honestly say this is not the case for everyone and certainly wasn’t for me. I still feel a bit of sadness and guilt that one of the times that’s meant to be the happiest in my life turned out to be one of the darkest. I was diagnosed with PND and puerperal psychosis in 2013, two years after having Fin. I am better now than I was back then, but I remain on antidepressants and am still dealing with my illness one day at a time. This means that some days I feel good, focused and full of energy whereas at other times I can feel so tired I can’t function and I become easily irritated. Sometimes juggling being a mum, a wife and running my own business feels too much and I get overwhelmed. Usually when that happens I need to be on my own or sleep. That usually is enough to fight those feelings without them getting out of control as they were before. In the beginning, like all Mums (and Dads) I was thrown in to a world of nappies, breastfeeding and sleepless nights and just learned what to do as I went along. I do remember thinking a lot at the time ‘what have I done?’ ‘my life is over’ and as much 6
as I hate to admit it felt like Fin was a bit of an inconvenience being demanding and always interrupting my sleep and life as I knew it. It was those experiences and feelings that started me thinking I must be a terrible mum and didn’t deserve my baby. I felt so guilty. Everyone else appeared to be totally in control of motherhood and here was me not really enjoying it if I’m to be totally honest. If you can relate to this then please know you are not alone. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with PND, no-one finds motherhood a walk in the park and loves it all the time. It can be hard. Really hard. I’m going to admit now that as much as I love being a mum and adore Fin and Rowan to bits, I don’t always enjoy every single minute of being ‘mum’. I’m still an individual and still need my own time which is why I can occasionally be seen skipping out of the playground when I’ve dropped them both at school/nursery, knowing I have a few hours to myself to concentrate on work or the other jobs I must do that day! I also look forward to time with my girlfriends, work friends and my husband. For me it’s important to have that space so when I’m with my kids I can be the best mum I can be. I’ll never be a mum that happily crafts and bakes with my children but equally there will be mums out there that are not as willing as me to kick a football backwards and forwards as many times as I do. We are all different and that’s ok. I also know some mums don’t like to leave their kids or they don’t have a choice in the matter; I am in awe of their patience. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s pointless trying to compare yourself to others. If we are doing our best that is good enough.
Before I found out I was pregnant I had no pre-conception of what I’d be like as a mum or even what being a mum was going to be like. Well, it hit me like a tonne of bricks. Looking back, the very first signs of not being well were there; the fact that I wouldn’t leave Finlay alone in the early weeks. Like, ever. When the health visitor popped by a couple of days after I had given birth to check my abdominal muscles she commented on how full my bladder was. I told her I wouldn’t go to the toilet all day unless someone was around to stay with Finlay, even if he was asleep and safe in his cot. I now recognise this is not normal behaviour but I didn’t see it at the time and presumably nor did she. I also remember in the first few months I used to sit on the sofa for hours breastfeeding as I was scared he wasn’t getting enough milk. Fin was in the lower weight spectrum, so I then became obsessed with timings of his feeds and if I so much as went over 5 minutes late then I would completely panic. I’m a big believer in routine for babies but this was on another level. I’m telling you this because you know your baby better than anyone else so listen to your instincts when it comes to feeding. There can be so much pressure to breastfeed and fit in to the weight guidelines but ultimately you will know what’s best. Yes, most professionals know their stuff, but no-one knows their baby like you do. Looking back with a clearer head and more confidence I think to myself - someone had to be in the lower or upper weight category so why not be Fin? He seemed happy and healthy in every other aspect which surely is a sign that I was doing ok?
•CHAPTER THREE• TIREDNESS TIPPED ME OVER THE EDGE MY TIPS FOR TIRED EYES -
use an eye cream nightly. I do my skincare routine when the children are in the bath. Any later than that, forget it! apply a small amount of eye cream with your ring finger to the orbital bone (top & bottom of your eye) dabbing gently for daytime, apply a concealer under the eyes and at the side of the nose where it creates a shadow general rule with concealer is 2 shades lighter under the eyes – apply lightly use a highlighter in the inner corners of your eye to open the eye and to make it appear brighter use a light colour on your eyelid or simply an eye primer to make eyes appear fresher avoid eyeliner in the water line of the eyes (bit above the bottom lashes) curl lashes and apply mascara to give that instant pick me up drink lots of water and eat foods rich in Vitamin K such as broccoli, sprouts, kale and other green leafy veg
Once I’d come to terms with being a new Mum and having responsibility for this new life, instead of getting into a rhythm and finding things a bit easier, along came the tiredness. I was expecting to be tired with 7
a new born – I’d been told they don’t often sleep much and its normal to be exhausted and emotional at first, but for me I was tired to the point where I couldn’t function properly. At times I felt that walking more than a few steps was too much and all I wanted to do was hide under the covers and rest. Lack of sleep didn’t just have me reaching for another coffee, it is also my trigger for anxiety and low mood, so not sleeping much had big consequences for me. I was not only physically drained but mentally too. Now I know how to deal with it which is obvious – basically sleep. At least once a week I go to bed when my children do which I highly recommend and I try to sleep in the day whenever I need to and it’s possible. I know this isn’t always an option but try to sleep whenever they do. The housework can wait. It’s your chance to recharge because let’s face it, there was a reason people used to be kept awake as a form of torture. Everything seems so much harder when we’re tired and our emotions are much more intense with tiredness. So, if you take anything from this please listen to these words - don’t try to do everything straight away as you will eventually burn out. Trust me. Sleep and recharge whenever you can. When the inlaws come to visit you – sleep. Let’s be honest about this, they’re not there to see you anyway so pass over the baby and take yourself to bed! Don’t feel guilty about doing this as it’s so important to do. As well as the extreme tiredness, I was also experiencing physical symptoms that were not normal for me such as headaches and leg ache, so I had several blood tests and trips to see the doctor but was brushed off as a ‘first time mum’ with nobody really considering how I was feeling as anything serious. I had nothing to compare these feelings to so just carried on struggling and hoping to feel better. Despite the waiting 8
nothing changed and I actually began to feel a lot worse so back to the doctors I went, now convinced I had life threatening illnesses. Another tip from me here is to not try to self-diagnose how you are feeling by looking it up online! We are all guilty of filtering out what the possible causes could be and concentrating on the worst possible outcome. Still nothing was picked up and again I was sent away with no answers. I know now that thinking you are terminally ill is a common symptom of PND. So, if you feel unusually tired, achy, tearful or low don’t think it’s just a normal part of being a new Mum. Yes, its normal to be more tired than usual but if your instinct is somethings not right then speak to someone. Don’t struggle in silence. •CHAPTER FOUR• LOSING CONTROL OF REALITY By the time Fin was two, my health had reached tipping point and I was finally diagnosed with PND which had progressed to puerperal psychosis. It took me having a breakdown and panic attack in work then at the doctors for someone to recognise what was wrong. I felt so relieved I was finally being taken seriously and that I was going to start on some medication and get the support I needed. I was immediately signed off work for a month but was told it would probably be much longer I needed to be absent for. I was pleased to have this time to recover but would soon realise this was just the tip of the iceberg and the recovery process would be a long one. Puerperal psychosis is a rare condition that affects 1 in 1000 new mums and is defined as a mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted. Had I heard of it back then? No. Was I informed
that this was something to look out for as can potentially affect someone after childbirth? No. Did I know the signs & symptoms to look out for? No. It shouldn’t have reached this point and taken 2 years to be diagnosed and I don’t want any other woman to have to go through this either. During pregnancy and after having our babies, we are given lots of information on breastfeeding, weighing our babies, changing nappies etc but what about help for us? Do you think there is enough information on self-care and how to look after our mental health after giving birth? I’m not sure there is which is why I’m weaving this into my book to remind yourself to look after YOU as well as your baby or children. You matter. If you are not well then you can’t look after others properly.
[I’ve put together some quick & easy hairstyles that can be achieved in under 5 minutes using 2 hair grips (4 if your hair is thicker!). 5 minutes of self care can make a massive difference to your day. Click on the link below to see more:] https://motherhoodmakeupandmentalhe alth.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/twogripstyles-in-less-than-five-minutes/ To give you an idea of how my mind had lost control of reality was a time when I was walking in the park with my friend. Fin was in the buggy and I saw a man put what I now know was a disposable BBQ in the bin 9
as he was tidying up after himself. I was 100% convinced that BBQ was a bomb and went on to have a panic attack – there was nothing my friend could do to convince me this wasn’t happening, I believed this to be real. My mind was telling me that this was a bomb and Finlay was in danger and there was no reasoning with anyone. Now I can look back and rationalise this feeling but then in the moment no amount of reassurance helped. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. My breathing quickened, my heart felt like it was going to explode and I had to take myself away from the ‘bomb’ or something really bad was going to happen. It took me about 15 minutes to calm down then I went straight home and locked the doors to keep Fin ‘safe’. Another example was when my husband Alex paid for someone to clean the drains at the side of our house. In my mind they were not cleaning the drains, they were digging a tunnel into our house and were coming back that night to steal Fin. Again, no amount of reassurance from Alex could tell me otherwise. I remember yelling at him saying how could he be so stupid and not realise what they were planning to do. I also checked the drains over and over again for the supposed tunnel. Even though nothing was there I convinced myself that their plan all along was to come back that night. I slept with Fin right next to me and made sure all the windows and areas into the house were blocked or locked. After reading up on this a few years later I now know that intrusive thoughts can be a sign of postpartum obsessivecompulsive disorder (OCD), which is linked to PND. Looking back that is pretty scary stuff and thoughts that I could not control but when I was in the thick of it that’s how I felt. At
my worst, these thoughts were happening several times a day and I could not leave the house without thinking someone was going to grab Fin from his buggy and steal him, or that I was going to be shot or stabbed. I even thought about what coats to wear when I was going out as the thicker they were the harder it would be for the knife to penetrate into my back. Crazy, but true. These types of intrusive thoughts can also be common for people suffering with depression, in particular psychosis, and are something I had to live with for a very long time. Other less serious behaviours could be continually looking over your shoulder when you are out for a walk for fear of someone following you. I also remember I used to think people were following me in a car so I’d stop outside someone else’s house pretending it was mine so they could overtake and wouldn’t know where I lived. Those first two years before I was diagnosed were really tough for my family and close friends as no one really knew what the matter was. In hindsight these signs are very real indicators of PND and psychosis, but I guess if you or someone close to you hasn’t experienced this before then it’s hard to know what to look out for. I also wasn’t talking openly about these thoughts for fear Fin would be taken off me as people would think I was an unfit mother. That is such a rare thing to happen and people would only want to help you so please don’t keep these feelings to yourself. It’s so important to open up to someone you trust. I’d also become obsessed with locking doors and double/triple checking them throughout the day. I wouldn’t have any windows open as in my head someone was going to climb in and steal Fin. No question about it. The curtains were closed in the 10
house for months as when I looked out I thought there would be someone at the window with a gun and for at least 4 weeks I didn’t step outside the house for fear of this. This played a huge part on my family’s life as I was literally trapped inside the house, so we couldn’t do anything and I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone. My illness definitely had a negative effect on lots of people but I couldn’t see that at the time. Alex would take Finlay out but I didn’t want to go anywhere with them. If they were so much as 5 minutes late home then that was it, they’d been in a car crash and I’d work myself into such a state about this. Another abnormal behaviour I started was sleeping with Finlay’s monitor next to my ear until he was around three, even though his room was right next to ours and we had both the doors open. This gave me some comfort and reassurance that if anyone tried to steal him in the night then I would be aware and could stop this. Alex questioned this behaviour but put it down partly to me being an overprotective Mum. I know he regrets not knowing these thoughts were part of my illness and I certainly feel stupid at times for not picking up on how ill I was but as new parents it’s hard to know what ‘normal’ behaviour is and what isn’t. The reason I’m telling these stories is not to alarm you, but to open up about my experience in the hope that this may resonate with you or someone you know so you or they are encouraged to seek help. I felt desperate and alone at times but by persevering with my doctor’s appointments and starting to talk more about my feelings I got the help and support I so needed. I was referred to a mental health mother and baby unit and was under the care of a psychiatrist which
was an unbelievable help but something I so wish I could have accessed earlier. It felt by the time I’d been referred the worst of my illness was over. I’m still extremely grateful for being able to access this service but wish I’d been able to use it earlier. •C H A P T E R F I V E • MOTHERHOOD
next 9 months and beyond are going to be filled full to the brim with nail biting worry and anxiety. Even if you've never suffered from anxiety before, pregnancy taps into those primal fears you never (consciously) realised even existed in your mind, triggering a whole host of worries. Let's face it, you are growing a tiny human being in there, so who wouldn't be worried? And worry is a normal thing, we are hard wired to worry and feel anxious, it's a natural response to stress and danger, but sometimes, that 'worry' can become more than 'just worrying'.
Catherine Asta Labbett female only psychotherapist
Nothing can prepare for you for the journey of a lifetime. I should know, I’m a mum myself. Meeting my husband 5 years ago means that in the space of 5 years I’ve gone from a mum of one, to a mum of 3 and more recently, to a mum of 4. I’ve been in private practice as a Female Focused Psychotherapist now for over 3 years, and in that time, have helped lots of women on their journey to, and through motherhood. What I’ve learned is that for many women, the seeds of anxiety can start way before you see that blue line on your pregnancy test. If you've had problems conceiving, suffered previous miscarriages, experienced the devastating loss of still birth or suffered from an anxiety disorder before you got pregnant, chances are the 11
I’ve also learned that growing a tiny human takes you on a journey to the very edge of your being. Every single resource you are ever going to need, and never knew you possessed, is going to be called upon. You discover that you have access to an energy you never knew existed. And then it’s you and your baby, and there is no time to recover, you are straight into motherhood from your warrior like performance and life as you know it, has changed forever. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) 1 in 5 women develop a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after their baby's birth – and it’s not surprising why that is so high. There are so many unrealistic ideals out there about motherhood and when you are sleep deprived and recovering from one of THE most epic events of your life, it’s understandable. Add to that the well meaning stream of comments from friends, family and complete strangers and
the loss for many women of what feels like their entire identity as a woman, you can start to understand why motherhood can feel like a struggle. Working with women in the Bringing Sparkle Back clinic, the one thing I come up against on a pretty regular basis is what I term, 'The Pursuit of Perfection'. So many women, who are struggling in their lives, have this need, this drive for perfection. The thing is, perfection is a bit of a mask. Perfection is the thing that masks fear. That fear is the fear of not being loveable, not being good enough or not being enough. If you believe you aren't good enough, you will strive to be the best at everything. However, we all know that perfection doesn't exist, so what happens when you strive to be the best and you fail? It validates that feeling of not being good enough, or loveable or simply enough. It's perfection or bust. Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. If you go through life expecting that your life will & should be perfect, you will ALWAYS be disappointed because perfection doesn't exist. Screw perfection. It's the imperfections of our lives that makes life so unbelievably wonderful and this applies in bucket loads when it comes to motherhood. So how do you cope and survive and enjoy the real beauty of motherhood? Here’s some of my top tips… 1. Don’t lose who you are. Underneath being a mum you are still you. Hold onto her and show her some kindness and self-love. 2. Make time for self-care. Be a manager of yourself. A bath, reading a magazine in peace, a car 12
journey on your own with the music on LOUD – it doesn’t matter how small, make those moments of selfcare happen. 3. Embrace the power of the red lip. Honestly, no matter how tired you feel pop on your lippy. Red lipstick is my go to equivalent of a shot of espresso. There’s something about wearing a red lip that tells the world you mean business. 4. It’s ok to not be ok, and its ok to ask for help when you’re not ok. 5. Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect mum. Your best is good enough. Embrace the imperfections. •CHAPTER SIX • IF ONLY I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW If you are not asked to fill in a depression scale following birth, please ask to complete one. It’s a list of 10 questions developed to identify women who have PND symptoms. Best practice is that this is given to new mums to fill in within 8 weeks after giving birth and it is done alongside your health visitor/midwife. It can also be used for depression screening during pregnancy too. I never filled in one of these questionnaires and often wonder how things may have been different had I done so. I recently completed the Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale and answered it as I would have back then. I scored 24. A score of 14+ means you should seek professional help as a matter of urgency. I also answered the Post Natal Depression scale and scored 23 out of 25. If you score 20 or more in this test you almost certainly have a severe case of PND. You and your baby are already at risk and immediate steps need to be taken in terms of you getting
help. For some reason these tests were both missed on me; I’m not sure why but I do know that I would have received help sooner had I been assessed. I have spoken to friends about whether they were given this test. Many of those that had, admitted they didn’t always answer the questions entirely truthfully as were scared about what the health professional might think of them. They also didn’t want to admit to themselves that they may not be in as much control as they’d like. As a result, I decided to put together a ‘Check Yourself Check List’ as a way of checking whether what you are feeling is usual for you or something more serious. It can be filled in by yourself so will give you the opportunity to be truthful about how you really feel. It uses some questions adapted from PND scales but is also a take on some of my experiences when I was living with PND and triggers I now look out for to ‘Check myself.’ You may relate to some of these questions and if so, this could be the first step in you getting the help you need. I developed this tool with Dr. Emma Hepburn who is a clinical psychologist with 15 years experience working with mental health in both adults and children. Emma explains clearly why the feelings I was experiencing during some of my worst times may be happening to us. Emma helps to reassure that these are not unusual for those living with different forms of mental ill health and advises that if you relate to any of these experiences it is worth getting yourself checked out by a professional. If you’d like to access this tool please email email@example.com and I’ll send you more details. 13
•CHAPTER SEVEN • IRRATIONAL IRRITABILITY The road to recovery was certainly positive but not always plain sailing! As I started to get better with the intrusive thoughts, my irritability levels increased. Oh my WORD hearing Alex breathing would tip me over the edge. Poor thing – I’d have to leave the room if I could hear him breathe or he has this annoying tapping he does with his fingers when he is concentrating. I know it was irrational, but I’d never been so irritated by anything in my life. Noises would often be amplified and the smallest of things would cause me to want to scream or feel like my head was going to burst, so to say Alex was walking on eggshells at times was an understatement. Luckily, we can look back and laugh but at the time its drove me (literally!) crazy. Noise is still a big one for me and if there is too much going on at once or music and TV playing at the same time I can feel my anxiety kicking in. During these times I take myself away to somewhere quiet and take a few minutes to regulate my breathing and enjoy the silence!
MY TIPS ON HOW TO HELP WITH ANXIETY -
Take yourself away to your calm place and away from noise, your phone, children (if safe & possible) Concentrate on breathing deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth Apply a cold damp cloth to the forehead Drink water Try to focus on smells you like or are familiar with Practice grounding: Look for 5 things you can see; 4 things you can touch; 3 things you can hear; 2 things you can smell and 1 emotion you feel
•CHAPTER EIGHT• A L E X’ S S T O R Y
perfectly honest I ain’t that good at expressing my own feelings at times so I just want to share a story with you. When Finlay was around 1 years old I got in from work and asked Lisa the usual how she was today the way I do it - “what have you been up to duck?” Being from Leicester calling someone ‘duck’ is a normal, polite way of addressing someone and in the last 3-4 years I’d potentially said it to Lisa a couple of times every day! Well that day it was not good to call her ‘duck’. In fact, it was not a good day to be from Leicester! Lisa was adamant that I was saying this to annoy her, she thought I had become ‘more’ Leicester recently and she could not stand it anymore…I had to change. So I was there thinking ‘arhh baby blues and all that’, ‘she’ll be fine’…how wrong I was. This Leicester thing went on for weeks and I cannot say what stopped it but when I look back this irrational behaviour was played out in a number of situations and to be honest still happens to this day. The only essential difference is I know now that this is a huge sign that Lisa is not feeling well and I can begin talking to her about it. There are no golden bullets of advice or epiphany that I can tell you that will mean you can spot PND signs early or even manage life when someone you love is captured within such a debilitating experience. Be kind, don’t shout, give her a hug and definitely don’t call her duck.
It is hard to put into words what it’s like being the ‘other’ person in a relationship with someone experiencing mental health issues, especially when you have missed numerous tell-tale signs that could have helped. Feelings of guilt, fear, frustration and helplessness filled my thoughts once Lisa had been diagnosed and it still haunts me today. I ain’t no writer and to be 14
•CHAPTER NINE • THE NEW ME
â€˘CHAPTER TENâ€˘ ALWAYS LEARNING My motherhood journey has now moved on to dealing with my independent, stubborn and emotional 3 year old daughter (she is of course a number of lovely things too!) This brings with it a whole new range of challenges but we wonâ€™t go in to that now. Perhaps an idea for another short book?! I was going to call this chapter â€˜Back to my old selfâ€™ but Iâ€™m not the person I was before I had Finlay and Rowan, how could I be? Iâ€™ve brought these two amazing little people into the world, faced challenges, been tested to the limits and grown as a person and that can only be a good thing. Being a mum has taught me to have untold patience, love unconditionally, to relish the rare quiet moments and have extreme gratitude for the family I have. I appreciate my parents even more for everything they have done for me now Iâ€™m a parent. They are amazing role models to me, my sister and their grandchildren. I often think if I can follow in their footsteps with my children then I know Iâ€™m doing a good job. Iâ€™m a firm believer in things happening for a reason so have taken a positive from being ill in that it has given me the platform to reach out and help others who are going through similar experiences. I wouldnâ€™t have been able to write this until recently so please believe me when I say it does get easier. The long nights awake feeding become shorter. The endless nappy changing are less frequent. You do get time back for yourself if you want it and the feeling of overwhelm gets lessened. Life looks brighter and Iâ€™m loving being a mum. Well, most of the time! 15
My mum always has a smile on her face when I tell her what Rowan has been up to and often says â€˜I wonder who that reminds me of?!â€™ I canâ€™t for the life of me think who! Also, Finlay is nearly 8 so thinks Iâ€™m the most embarrassing person in the world if I dare to kiss him or hold his hand in public. ESPECIALLY in the school playground! I guess what Iâ€™m trying to say is that every stage of motherhood holds its own challenges and I could hedge a bet that the majority of mums have lived these too. It doesnâ€™t make them any easier when youâ€™re in the thick of it but we get through them in our own way and with the help of others. Yes, I still have rough days and yes, I still doubt myself but donâ€™t we all? So, I want to finish with some words of advice for you: Share, Sob & Sleep. Love, Lipstick & Laughter. And in my case, eyebrows đ&#x;˜Š Lisa xx https://www.instagram.com/_lisa_hammond_/ firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or someone you know has been affected by any of these issues speak to a professional who can help. Alternatively, you can access information on the link below: http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/inform ation/
An honest story of my early motherhood journey and struggles with post natal depression. And how I believe make up can be a powerful tool to...
Published on Sep 9, 2018
An honest story of my early motherhood journey and struggles with post natal depression. And how I believe make up can be a powerful tool to...