Am I Recovered?

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It was quite obvious to me when I was unwell. For some sufferers of PND, the depression or anxiety creeps in and grips hold slowly, and can take a horribly long time to recognise what’s wrong and reach out for help. For me it was very sudden. I didn’t feel right from the moment LC was born (and, in hindsight, before then) and at eight weeks postnatal I had a breakdown of sorts – no sleep, no appetite and struggling with basic functioning. I had no option but to realise I wasn’t well and get help.  
The hardest part for me wasn’t knowing I was unwell but recognising when I’m well. Two years later I struggle with this.  
I began to see big improvements in sleep and appetite within a couple of weeks, and in mood a few weeks after that when the medication and therapy began taking effect. Several months after seeking treatment I was functioning well, the anxiety was being managed for the most part and I was experiencing lots of periods of happiness.  
This was fantastic and light years from where I’d been but still I felt…not quite right. It’s that not-quite-rightness that I have struggled with for the longest time. 
If neither you, nor a loved one, have ever experienced mental illness before it’s not really something that crosses your mind much. But once you’ve experienced it, especially in such a sudden and traumatic way, it leaves it’s mark and, sometimes, it’s all you can think about. For many months I scanned my mind for depression and anxious thoughts on a daily, often hourly basis. Am I really happy right now? Am I worried or anxious? Believe me, there’s nothing that kills a lovely, joyful moment quicker than stopping to question if it’s lovely and joyful!  Am I having any suicidal thoughts? Well, I wasn’t but now I’ve had that thought I guess I am…so does that mean I am having suicidal thoughts? You get the idea.  
This fixation on my wellness has plagued me. I sometimes feel I ruin every happy moment (and they are frequent, if I’m being objective) by questioning and scanning. I guess it’s a form of heath anxiety, specifically surrounding mental health. I try to treat this overanalysis in the same way I managed the earlier, more severe anxiety but I don’t mind admitting it’s tough, it’s the one part I still haven’t quite shaken and I’m not sure why. Maybe time will help, even more time 
It has improved considerably. I used to scan and question constantly. Then every time I was alone with my son. Now it’s more occasional. I recognise certain triggers; breaks in routine (my husband is off this week so my usual schedule is altered and I don’t do great with that) or when LC is in a particularly challenging phase. The latter brings it’s own incessant questions; am I stressed/anxious/sad because I’m still recovering or is it just because mothering a two year old is so bloody hard? 
Postpartum Progress call this hyper alertness the Sixth Stage (have a read, just acknowledging that the not-quite-rightness is something brought me comfort). Since it has reduced so much since the beginning I live in hope that eventually I won’t analyse my thoughts at all.  
Or should I be looking at this another way? Maybe the analysing will never disappear completely. Maybe I will never live my life with quite so much careless abandon, will always be a little more vulnerable. Maybe I will never entirely let my guard down again. And maybe that’s okay, a good thing even. Could it be a way for my mind to protect itself and ensure I never go back to a place quite as bleak as that first time? 
This slow, draining final recovery stage, if that’s what it is, coincides with you being effectively written off by the medical profession too. Resources are limited, I get that, so if you’re coping, living and surviving just fine then it seems you’re basically on your own now. Doctors and therapists are needed elsewhere, to help the more acute cases. I want to see long term care for PND improve but for now if we want to find a way to truly move on from these questions and feelings we ultimately need to find the way ourselves it seems. At least we have each other. 
Meanwhile, I try my best to be mindful, to be present and not worry too much about putting a label on how I feel every day. And also grateful, for how far I’ve come – whether I’ve made it all the way yet or not.

18 comments on “Am I Recovered?

  1. What a powerfully poignant post. I remember vividly asking a new doctor if/when we’d know if our daughter was getting better. Her answer was the episodes would be less severe with more time between. Hugs and prayers to you! xx B

  2. I love this blog! I could have written this myself, I had my daughter 6 months ago and like you felt very strange straight away, was at my worst 6 weeks after birth followed by another very rough period at 3.5 months. I felt so hopeless, like I was a bad mother, was letting people down, having terrible intrusive thoughts, anddoubting whether I loved my daughter if I was feeling so bad! It was such a bleak time and so hard for people to understand if they have not been there. The mental health service in wales is sadly lacking so I started on antidepressants and paid privately for cbt. I feel so much stronger now but still feel so unsettled by how bad I did feel and am petrified of feeling that way again! Am constantly analysing my thoughts and am still bothered by the thought of whether I love my daughter despite knowing that I adore her! It’s hard to move past it completely and I do wonder whether I will ever be as carefree as I was before! I am hoping that my over active mind will subside when I go back to work. In the meantime I am trying to live in the present and let the thoughts wash over me rather than trying to figure out the ‘deeper meanings!’ Thank u for sharing this blog, it really does help xx

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, really glad my posts have helped. Sometimes you just need to know someone else has been in the exact same place as you, right? Yeah I have to constantly work on letting go of thinking too much. Take care x

      1. I think what your doing is a really positive thing. I’m a social worker (adults) and am thinking about setting up a peer support group for pnd related issues. Ive been lucky to have 2 friends in the same boat, which makes me think that pnd is far more common than the stats suggest… I have never felt so vulnerable in my life and the worst part is thinking that u will never feel better again. I also feel that my anxiety remains more heightened when I’m alone with lil one, or my routine is interrupted. I have to focus on ‘not getting anxious’ it’s like I’m anxious about getting anxious!! There is a particular walk that I did when I was feeling terrible and I wanted to be able to go back there and feel 100% again and feel that those feelings were completely behind me, but when I go back I think, am I better? If so, why do I still have strange thoughts?! I just want to wake up and NOT constantly analyse how I feel that day, or whether ‘strange thoughts’ have entered my head! It’s a horrible illness and I do think that there is an element of PTSD that comes into the recovery… Can I ask, did u have to repeatedly increase ur antidepressant dose? I am still taking the pills and whenever I get very paranoid about being ‘ better or not’ I up my dose…. I’m not sure I actually need to up it again but it’s like a reassurance thing, I’m now one dose away from max with sertraline. Also have u considered another child? I really want a second but am scared….. Xx

        1. I agree that PND is much more common than 1 in 10. I was (some days still am) completely obsessed with whether I would ever get better, so terrifying and horrible. You took the words out of my mouth – “anxious about getting anxious.”

          I do best when I accept that “yes, I’ll think about PND today. And yes I’ll probably scan my thoughts today. But that’s okay, I can still get on with my day and be happy with those worries there.”

          I increased once (from 20mg to 40mg fluoxetine) about two months after I first began taking it when I plateaued a little). I then stayed there for the full 18 months I was on them. When I was tapering off of them I would sometimes find a spike it my anxiety when I lowered/spaced out a dose. At this point I would make a deal with myself if I still felt a bit rubbish after two weeks I would stay where I was or consider going back up. But each time after two weeks I evened out again so carried on. Went on that way until I was off them completely. I know what you mean re being a reassurance, that’s why I stayed on the final “dose” for so long – I was taking one 20mg pill every two weeks! Obviously that has no clinical affect but I was comforted by it. In the end I just bit the bullet and it was okay.

          Yes, we likely will try for a second. Frankly, I’m terrified. But I feel I will go for it anyway and just put in place as much support and as many safeguards as possible.

    1. Thank you so much for reading, Anya. It has indeed been a very long journey but on the whole I feel very well now. I am changed, that’s for sure, and it’s taking time for me to make peace with that. But there are definitely some positive changes too and I feel like a stronger, better person in a lot of ways. Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  3. Great post…. and I really know that not-quite-right-feeling very well. I know I’m better but something feels missing – maybe post natal illness really did kick the shit of me and now I am left feeling far more vulnerable than before, but vulnerable isn’t a bad thing either. It’s made me so much more self aware, and stronger emotionally – I know I can weather the storms and help is at hand. :o)

    1. Yes exactly. More vulnerable but also stronger. I used to think you couldn’t be both of those but I guess you can! I know eventually I will be more comfortable with that vulnerability.

      Thanks for reading.

  4. My little girl just gone down for a nap, and I’m thinking, that Rather than putting pressure on ourselves to quit thinking about anything pnd related we just need to accept that we will. Having pnd has probably been the most traumatic thing I have ever experienced and it makes sense that it’s something I’m going to be able to not think about. Would you forget if you had cancer? And even if you were successfully treated would you ever forget those feelings, like when you were told about your diagnosis? Or how you felt when you were waiting for results about whether the chemo was working? No, you probably would never forget, and to some degree those feelings would never completely leave. Anything that has that much of an impact on you is not easily forgotten. However I like to think that having that experience of ill health makes you appreciate even more how wonderful life can be.. The little moments that when I was in the middle of my illness I couldn’t take any joy from…whereas now I can laugh at my little girl, enjoy being with her in the bath splashing with the plastic ducks, kissing her forehead when she is sleeping soundly, and getting excited when I find a really cute (but cheap!) vintage jug to go on my dresser. I like to think that I now appreciate these little things more….I think we all need to accept that we will assess ourselves in a different way, and monitor our thoughts (just as you would look for lumps and be vigilant to symptoms as you would if you had recovered from cancer) however it does not mean we are ‘unwell’ it just means we are human beings. Definitely a good approach to just accept the thoughts will be there, but you can still be happy. And hopefully in our post pnd selves we can take some comfort in the fact that pnd has helped us to appreciate the good moments more…. So yes, if you do get a flash of questioning whether you are ‘actually’ enjoying the moment, just laugh at yourself and thank the memory of pnd for highlighting the good moments to you.
    Ps I use the comparison of cancer to pnd because my mum is thankfully recovering from breast cancer, and I have noticed a lot of similarities between the two… Keep writing I enjoy your posts. Apart from your one yesterday about insomnia was so well written it totally took me back to ‘that place’! But it also makes me thankful that I am no longer there 🙂 xx

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your brilliant words. I’ve made this comparison to cancer or other physical ailments myself before but sometimes my frustrated mind forgets it. Thank you for such a great reminder, it has made me feel so much better 🙂

      I’m pleased to hear your mum is in recovery, I hope you both stay well.

      Thanks again for reading (and sorry about the trigger-ness of the last post!).

      Take care
      L x

  5. Glad it helped a little bit, it’s what I tell myself when I get stressed about whether or not I am recovered or not… I mentioned in your post on intrusive thoughts that I still have thoughts when I am alone with little one, along the lines of whether I am having any of ‘those thoughts’ and I will have the thoughts when I see the things that triggered me before ie a plastic bag, a knife, but they are more like memories (ie I used to think that) but they no longer throw me into a spiral of panic….but they do make me feel uneasy because they make me feel I’m not yet ‘better. It’s this that I have had most difficulty shifting, the memories of all the horrible thoughts! Do you think this will ever go?! Any tips on how to manage this?! I’m hoping that when I do go back to work my mind will be kept more busy! R x

  6. For a long time I kept wondering whether that scanning was normal.. Am i a bad mom? have I been ‘nasty’ today? Did I yell at my son? wait, is that anxiety?!Glad you to have read this and been able to point out what that phase was. Hugs to you Laura.

    1. It is unpleasant to be scanning and analysing your mood a lot because it can prevent you from really being IN your life and that moment. I still struggle quite a bit with this but I’m learning and it’s definitely getting easier. Take care x

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