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YOUR FAMILY

Light at the end of the tunnel

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FEW years ago, I knew a soldier who was strong, confident and independent, writes Maj Clair Robinson-Kirk. She had a good job, was recently promoted, happily married and planned to have a family. After the initial shock of falling pregnant with twins she was excited to be bringing two healthy little girls into the world in March 2015. For the next few months she relished in motherhood, amazed by how much her babies brought joy into her life. The only negative was the isolation she felt from work; no phone call, no visit.

BACK TO THE DAY JOB

After months at home, it was time for her to go back. With her husband working away most of the time, she had to make it work on her own, with the help of a nanny, for at least a year. The pressure began to build. After restless nights, a day’s work followed by feeds and bedtime routine, there was very little time for her. She was anxious about going into work, getting in late, panicking to the point where she couldn’t even enter the building and would hyperventilate, fearful

that she was failing and would be criticised by her peers and chain of command.

DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Relationships with those closest to her became strained. With no explanation for irrational and angry outbursts, the isolation grew. When the nanny arrived each day she knew her children were safe, so it became easier to hide away in her room. An emotional mess, not understanding why she couldn’t just pull herself together. She finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with PostNatal Depression (PND). The reason for her behaviour was explained and a sense of relief came over her. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. After another house move, she threw herself into a new job while still receiving treatment. But the stresses quickly came to the fore again. The fear of not being good enough was too much. She disengaged with work and became introvert, desperately wanting someone to talk to, yet distancing herself from everyone and everything. This mum-of-twins had lost her identity, spiralled into despair, unable to keep putting on her uniform as her armour, thinking she was not worthy to wear the rank she had earnt. Despite her loving husband, family and two beautiful daughters she felt

“Recovering from PND can take months or even years, so don’t expect too much of yourself or those close to you. It takes time to rebuild a person.” detached and guilty that she wasn’t fulfilling her motherly responsibilities. Mental ill-health was crippling her. That woman was me.

ON THE UP

I was finally signed off sick by medical professionals with the assistance of a very proactive health visitor and welfare officer. It was this action which saved me. With a joined-up approach through DCMH, the medical centre, the welfare team, health visitor, Help for Heroes’ Tedworth House and a local PND support group, I was finally on the road to recovery. In the end, it took a change of job, supportive work colleagues and treatment. I completed my graduated return to work programme last April. I believe my mental ill-health was caused by several factors but making the transition from full-time mum to full-time employment was the most difficult. Your priorities change, so the 100 per cent which you used to give to work is no longer achievable and adjustments need to be made for

everything to be manageable and balanced. Recovering from PND can take months or even years, so don’t expect too much of yourself or those close to you. It takes time to rebuild a person. I’ve had to re-assess my life, be realistic with my priorities, be open and honest during treatment and accept support when it’s offered. Mental health has no prejudice and neither should we. We need to be more aware of the signs and symptoms, be able to identify those who are more at risk. No-one should ever feel ashamed in suffering from mental ill-health, they should feel supported to ensure a swift recovery. &

USEFUL LINKS MIND mind.org.uk NHS nhs.uk/conditions/post-nataldepression ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS rcpsych.ac.uk ACTION POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS app-network.org ASSOCIATION FOR POSTNATAL ILLNESS apni.org PANDAS FOUNDATION pandasfoundation.org.uk MOTHERS FOR MOTHERS mothersformothers.co.uk NCT nct.org.uk HOME–START home-start.org.uk

On the up: Clair with her twins

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MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH ALLIANCE maternalmental healthalliance.org

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