Anita's story: becoming a calmer and more confident parent

May 2024

Anita became anxious and over-protective after the birth of her second son and her family became increasingly isolated. Support from Families in Mind helped Anita to look after herself and care for her children more confidently and expand her support network

My feelings of anxiety came to a head after the birth of my second son. I had been anxious during my pregnancy because, prior to his conception, I had experienced a miscarriage at 12 weeks. I was really scared about losing him too and, as a result, I didn’t bond much with him in the womb.

As a child, I had suffered with anxiety. I had quite a difficult childhood in Hungary, my home country, and my anxiety was exacerbated by being bullied at school. When I turned 16, I approached a GP service for help and, unfortunately, they reported this back to my parents. After that, I lost trust in mental health services.

"Before getting support from West Sussex Mind, I was in survival mode. Now I’m enjoying life more and enjoying my time with my children. The support from Families in Mind has been life-changing"

My second son was born shortly after the start of the first lockdown, so eventually my partner had to go back to work, meaning that I was left at home to take care of a baby and a toddler on my own. As I continued to feel disconnected from my son after his birth, I became very protective of him, and we became increasingly isolated. My son also became clingy and rather fearful around other adults.

As restrictions started to ease, I became anxious about leaving the house with my sons, and I often felt lonely - sometimes I didn’t speak to any other adults during the day, outside of my home. Unfortunately, I had lost contact with mums I had made friends with at toddler groups with my first son, and any family lived a long way away.

During lockdown, I had tried reaching out for help with another charity which offered phone-based support once a week. But it was someone I didn’t know, and we didn’t have the chance to meet face to face, so it was of limited help, and the service was more around practical than emotional support. After that, I was recommended by another mum to get in touch with West Sussex Mind.

Finding "life-changing" support

The Families in Mind service was life-changing for us. I met other parents who were experiencing isolation and similar problems, and I could speak confidentially with a support worker. They helped me get out and about with my baby and toddler, through activities such as seaside walks, and this gave me something to plan for, and to look forward to and get excited about.

I did the Enjoy Your Baby course offered by the Families in Mind service. What I loved about the course is that, while other mental health services for new parents focus solely on how to take care of the baby, the Enjoy Your Baby group helped mums to look after themselves as well as their baby. Self-care is the main technique I learned from Families in Mind and now I make sure I do something for myself once a week and to find a space to be me. I was set targets to look after myself; I remember one of the first ones was to use a bath bomb I had saved for six months, and to treat myself to a relaxing bath!

I also travelled to Bognor to take part in the course activities, which was a big step for me gaining confidence to go out again after the lockdown – it felt like an adventure! My youngest son has now completely lost the fear of being around adults, and he is a very self-confident toddler, in part thanks to support from Families in Mind.

I felt like I had lost my identity as an individual before I sought support from West Sussex Mind. I wasn’t working anymore, and my former colleagues didn’t have children. West Sussex Mind was very welcoming and created a safe space for parents to go through their journeys together.

Expanding my network and learning to help others

When you come to Families in Mind, it’s a very friendly environment; no one is ever pressured and you can drop in whenever you like and request one-to-one support if you need it.

Since getting help from Families in Mind, I’ve gained the confidence to build my own connections and friends in the community, expand my support network and I’ve started going out again to do meditation and yoga.

I’ve also started helping other people. I’ve always found it rewarding to help others and so I decided to train to become a peer support worker with West Sussex Mind. The peer support training was over 10 weeks and was online, which helped me to manage training while caring for my children. I now support a Families in Mind group once a week and give peer support to others, and if they need cover, I can cover some of the meet-ups.

Before getting involved with West Sussex Mind, I was in survival mode. Now I’m enjoying life more and enjoying my time with my children; I have an amazing relationship with them, and I cherish every moment I spend with them. I’m a calmer parent now, and I’m grateful for that.