Since starting my mental health blog, I have been approached by a few people regarding my own struggles. My story is not a pretty one, but that goes without saying when it comes down to a personal battle with mental health. It is not, however, entirely ugly. It is not a beast of a story; it didn't stem from abuse or childhood trauma. There was no death in the family, or anything that extreme. There was, however, a divorce, and from that divorce stemmed many other issues. Memory loss, insecurity, loneliness, depression, anxiety. All of these things can be attributed to a part of my past that I can't even remember.
I was 25 when I became pregnant with my first child. Due to my history with mental health, I was marked down as high risk for postnatal depression. Nobody really explained it any further to me, just that it was nothing to worry about at the time and the medical team would keep it in mind when treating me. That was it, I never heard anything more about it. Nobody really explained what postnatal depression was, or the different kinds of postnatal mental health issues.
When my son was born, things were hard. I'd been induced and ended up having an emergency c-section, so things hadn't gone to plan from the start. Breastfeeding was a massive struggle, and I still believe it to be the main issue that triggered what was later diagnosed as Postnatal OCD. My memory of those first few months is incredibly hazy, so I don't actually remember how I ended up at a Play and Chat group at my local family centre. I say 'group', it was still new and for the first few weeks me and my son were the only ones there. Run by Tracy of West Sussex Mind, it was a place I could go to talk about my struggles and confusion. Being able to offload like that really helped, especially in a one-to-one environment. Through Tracy I got referred to Time to Talk for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which was exactly what I needed. It helped me to understand my anxieties and intrusive thoughts, and through being able to label them I was then able to manage them. They are by no means gone – they still rear their head when I am particularly exhausted or stressed, but I know them for what they are now and I am able to dispose of them relatively easily.
I continued going to the group when more and more people joined, which is a massive thing for me and my social anxiety. I have made some fantastic friends through it, and I am so glad that the dimensions of the group have been extended so that more people are welcomed and we can stay on when my son passes the age of 2. I am so incredibly grateful for Tracy and her Wednesday session – I have gone from living in fear and having very little bond with my child, to being able to enjoy going out and about with him and having a connection that is strengthening daily.
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