My Postnatal Depression Recovery Story

“Postnatal Depression recovery stories.” These were the only words I typed into my browser for weeks. My anxiety was incredibly high, I genuinely thought I was losing my mind. Instead of cuddling my son or enjoying his first smiles, I was scouring the internet for undeniable proof that I wouldn’t feel this way forever.  
Despite what my damaged mind was telling me, things did get better. I don’t feel that way anymore. So I’m posting my own story for any other mums who might be searching for answers now. 

Green shoot coming through the ground, representing hope during postnatal depression recovery  
My son was born at 1am on 27 Apr 2013 after 12 hours of labour, an epidural and finally an emergency section (read the full birth story here). They had given me so much anesthetic at the last moment I became “blocked,” meaning I couldn’t move or feel anything besides my head and neck. I couldn’t hold my son for several hours, and I couldn’t feel when he was feeding.  
Looking back, things weren’t right from that very first day. I wasn’t feeling anywhere near the post-birth euphoria I had been expecting. But it wasn’t until eight weeks later the cracks finally began to show. 
My son had just begun sleeping better, only waking for one feed during the night, but while he slept soundly at last I lay wide awake. The less I was able to sleep, the more I panicked during the day. How can I take care of him when I haven’t slept? What if I drop him down the stairs because I’m so exhausted? What if I fall asleep on the sofa and suffocate him? Of course, with these anxieties running around my mind all day I was nowhere near relaxed enough to sleep when night came around, and so the vicious cycle continued. I was lying in bed for around six hours each night, my heart racing and my thoughts spinning, until my body eventually gave in and I slept fitfully for between 1-2 hours before I awoke with a jolt, feeling sick and panicked once more.  
After six days of sleeping only an hour or two a night I burst into tears during a group I was attending at my local children’s centre. The staff were incredible, they calmed me as much as possible and called my health visitor. For the next few days she came by to see how I was, she listened to my fears and heard how I still wasn’t sleeping. I took all the usual advice – bath before bed, fresh bedding, read a book etc – but this only made my sleep worse. The pressure to sleep increased my panic and continued the cycle.  
I was then referred to my local specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service. This is a fantastic NHS service which, sadly, isn’t available in all Trusts. Fortunately for me, Essex has it and that small team of individuals probably saved my life, or at least kept me out of hospital. 
After they assessed me I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression. I had been desperately hoping there was another explanation but deep down I knew it wasn’t only insomnia, I wasn’t eating or able to think straight either, all triggered by horrendous anxiety. The team liaised with my doctor (who was fairly useless, more on that here) and visited me at home twice a week. Under their guidance, I found the courage to begin taking a combination of medication (a sleeping aid, diazapam for short term anxiety relief and eventually, reluctantly, an antidepressant).  
The medication firstly helped to get my sleep back on track. I was terrified that the sleeping tablets wouldn’t work but 15 mins after taking my first one I succumbed to sleep on the sofa and my husband helped me to bed where I slept solidly for four hours – a vast improvement from how I was. Each night I would fear the tablet wouldn’t work and each night I slept, for an increasing length of time until my sleep patterns were fairly normal again.  
Despite the improvement in sleep and appetite I was still suffering from anxiety attacks almost constantly. I simply couldn’t function properly. Once the drugs took some effect the PMH team sent round their Occupational Therapist who specialised in anxiety management. I still think of this amazing woman as an angel sent to save me. She gave me some basic, CBT-based tools for managing fear which, with lots of hard work and practice, began to improve my mood and functionality.
Eventually the PMH team were able to discharge me when an appointment with an NHS therapist became available. Again, I was very lucky to see a CBT therapist who had a lot of experience with perinatal mood disorders.  
One of the most difficult things about this illness is the slow recovery time. In my opinion, medication goes a long way to take the edge off and kickstart your recovery but it can only do so much – therapy is a vital tool for long term recovery. Through therapy I was able to begin to reroute lots of damaging negative thought patterns.  
Recovery was definitely an accumulative process for me. Medication and therapy bore the brunt but there were many other aspects of self-care which were vital to me; good, regular sleep; a decent diet; fresh air and a walk every day if possible; supplements; support from family and friends; mindfulness; books and websites like Anxiety No More. And, critically, online support. Postpartum Progress, PND specific message boards and other blogs were a huge help to me back them.  Since my initial recovery I’ve found out about other wonderful places to find online peer support, such at #PNDHour on Twitter.  Just knowing you aren’t alone can help tremendously. 
Unfortunately, even with these tools, recovery takes time and patience, which is the biggest challenge of all. I remember being filled with despair when I read how long recovery can take for some people but the important thing to remember is even if full recovery takes months or longer you won’t be in that acute stage the entire time. The real hell was lessened in a matter of weeks for me. After that it becomes manageable, life becomes more bearable. You feel stronger and safer. You might not be thriving but you’re surviving. 
Parenting is hard and I still feel overwhelmed by it sometimes. I still wonder how I’ll cope. But then I remind myself that I’ve come through the last two years so there’s no reason I can’t keep going, keep striving, keep getting stronger. I also remind myself of all the things experiencing PND has taught me. I know how to deal with unhelpful thinking, I worry considerably less, I don’t sweat the small stuff and I have much more empathy for others. In many ways, I’m stronger. I think I’m probably a nicer, less selfish person. I’m not going to ever pretend PND is anything close to a gift, but there are certainly aspects to my personality and my life which have benefited. 
PND isn’t fair. It’s a cruel and terrible illness. But recovery is possible. If you’re reading this and thinking you’ll never get better try to remember that everyone who has ever recovered once thought they never would. And then they did.

Update as of 3rd May 2018 – My son has just had his 5th birthday and yet I still return to this post often.  I can see how much I’ve grown and strengthened even since I wrote it.  We are always learning and growing and this is a wonderful thing.

I never dreamed it would be possible for me to enjoy being my son’s mum as much as I do now.  Even when I wrote this post I wasn’t quite there – I was well but I wasn’t 100% happy and content as a parent.  I am now.  Parenting still has it’s tricky times but when your mental health is good you can face them head on, and can enjoy every moment of the good.  Keep fighting, you will get there.  Click here to find me on Facebook if you ever need to talk.

Related posts:

12 Tools For Managing Anxiety

Anxiety Toolkit video series

10 Affirmations For Anxiety Sufferers

51 comments on “My Postnatal Depression Recovery Story

  1. This is phenomenal – not that you had to go through this hell, but the fact that you are sharing your courageous story here. You are going to help out so many women. More than you know. The same women like yourself who are desperately scouring the internet for that piece of hope – something that says “It’s going to be ok”.
    I didn’t fit into the cookie cutter of symptoms of PPD. Mine started out with horrendous sleep patterns, anxiety and anger. I wasn’t depressed at all. My mind raced so fast and I remember that panic when the sun would start to set.
    I’m so glad that you had that support and even more glad that you are here, fighting, on the road of recovery, and sharing. One hell of a warrior xoxo

  2. Thank you for sharing such an important story. You are helping so many people with your words. You are connecting in so many ways.
    PPD hit me at four weeks post partum and I suffered for a long time but I saw light and I healed. There is hope. There is help. And with blogs like this women will see there are others like them.

  3. Well done for being brave enough to share! I’m sorry you had to go through the experience of PND, and glad to hear you got help and things are better. Hopefully others will be able to read this and know they’re not alone. #twinklytuesday

  4. You are so brave and strong to have come through this and it sounds like bursting into tears at that meet up was the best thing you could have done, I hope it is all an upward journey for you now so the joy of parenting can shine through. #TwinklyTuesday

  5. What a strong woman you are, not only to work through this, accept the help and now you tell your story to help others. You are stronger, and that will benefit you and your child, for the rest of your lives.

  6. Thank you, thank you for sharing your story. I managed to escape PND altogether, but I did suffer from clinical depression earlier in my life, and I agree that medication is only part of the answer. Thanks for linking with #TwinklyTuesday.

  7. I think this post will help so many women. G is 7 months and I still have that anxiety, I think I might ring the doctors tomorrow, I thought I was just being neurotic. Thank you so much for sharing #maternitymondays

    1. Anxiety is so awful, but CBT and Paul David’s book have helped me a huge amount. Absolutely visit your doctor if you’re worried, and feel free to message me if you ever wanna chat.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting x

  8. Oh wow, you are SO brave writing about this and being so open, honest and frank about it. PND is awful and I really don’t think that people understand the severity of it unless they’ve experienced it themselves. I too experienced PND and had to take anti-depressants, so I know exactly what you’re going through…Just remember this is NOT a sign of you being a bad parent, it’s just a sign that sometimes it’s okay to need a bit of help – and you’ve asked for it which shows massive strength on your part…Give yourself so much credit for that, and writing this amazing post. Love, Lady Writes

  9. Fantastic post and brilliant this will be able to help so many people. I’m glad you had such a good network of support and over time could help yourself as well. It must have been horrendous to have that anxiety on top of the general parenting stresses. I hope each day just gets better and better. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst and see you soon x

  10. Great post! Hope that writing it has helped the healing process a little bit more… You’re absolutely right that PND isn’t fair. You have been through 9 months of growing a human, then giving birth (csections are not easy!) and then when its time to “enjoy” motherhood, PND is hovering over you like an unwanted guest. Can you tell that I can relate to all of that?! Glad to hear a fellow mama is on her way out of it 🙂

  11. Gosh what a truly inspiring post – you have come through so much and you show an absolutely honest account of how difficult yet possible it is – and hopefully will be for so many other mums. Thank you so much for sharing this, every mum’s experience is so, so different but anyone going through anything at all similar to you will be really inspired by how far you’ve come 🙂 Thank you for linking up to #ParentingPicks Mim x

  12. What an amazing blog post 🙂 honest and truthful – you write from the heart and share what anyone who has suffered this Terrible illness feels and thinks but if often too scared to share. I too have suffered and consider myself to now be in recovery but what a journey it has been. All us mummies need to keep sharing and supporting each other the way you do through your posts – you help give us confidence to fight and to be more open and honest with others on an illness that has too long been a taboo subject and often misunderstood.

    Thank you Laura x

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, lovely. It is indeed so important for us to speak out where we can to help others feel less alone and more supported. I’m glad you are on the mend now. Thanks for commenting x

  13. I came to your blog via #coolmumclub meet the members today and wanted to thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like you had a really difficult start to motherhood and it’s wonderful that your blog is now helping you as well as no doubt so many other mums going through the same thing. I’ve had depression before and thought I was over it, having had medication and a lot of therapy. I didn’t have any PND with my first child but then it hit me last year after the birth of my twins. It’s horrendous. Well done you for speaking out! x

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments. I feel blessed to have this platform to reach people and share my experiences. I’m sorry you suffered too, it is genuinely the worst thing I’ve ever been through but hopefully we are stronger on the other side. Thanks so much for taking the time to come over to my blog, read and comment and I hope you continue to stay well x

  14. GREAT post!! I first got PND 12 years ago after the birth of my first son, again with my second (so badly so that I then developed anorexia and was admitted to hospital for several months), again with my third and fourth but amazingly, not with my fifth. I have recovered and relapsed more times than I care to count but the most important thing is that I did it, I survived it!! And that is the most important thing!! Well done you, and great to speak out, especially today on mental healh awareness day. #timetotalk #brilliantblogposts

  15. It is so brave and amazing of you to share your story and help others who may be going through a similar thing. PND really is not fair and I think the more people who share the stories the better for everytone. you are incredibly strong to speak about it xx

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