Hi I’m Rhiannon, 36 years old and mum to twins William and Beatrice.
I was always a little concerned that I may be at risk of postnatal depression, having suffered depression in the past. My first ever experience of depression happened just before I was 30. I used to have a very demanding role in advertising and worked far too hard for far too long. I didn’t recognise at the time that constant worrying and insomnia were symptoms of depression. I overcame it by taking a long time off work and focussing on re-learning how to relax instead of being on a hamster wheel. I sought Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and found it really helpful. I was ready at the time to try to pull myself out of the depths and found it gave me some really useful tools to help myself, something I now firmly believe is important in the path to recovery. I also went back to doing something I used to love when I was younger – painting. I found peace and friendship at a local acrylic painting class and this really helped me. Through painting, I gradually learned what it was like to truly relax and my self-esteem grew significantly as I realised that I was actually good at it!
My husband and I married just after I had returned to work and we started to try for a family. This was a very difficult time for us as month after month passed with no pregnancy. We sought help from the NHS, which wasn’t helpful! After three and a half years of trying and undergoing two operations, and trying every holistic and homeopathy therapy, we attempted IVF. It worked! It was twins! My pregnancy, whilst joyful, was full of worry. We had been given some very scary statistics by the consultant about the likelihood of losing one or both babies. But I held on to them and was induced just before 38 weeks. Two big, healthy babies were born!
Then began the task of looking after newborn twins and moving house, twice!! I have never ever gone through anything as exhausting and stressful as this and unfortunately, when we finally moved into our house and the babies were 18 weeks old, I started with the symptoms. Insomnia, anxiety, tearfulness, feeling alone and overwhelmed, resenting my babies, being frightened of them even. This was awful. I knew what it was immediately. It was postnatal depression. I tried to ride it out and get over it but with very little sleep and day-to-day life being very hard, I couldn’t do it. I spoke to the Health Visitor and went to see the doctor. This was the conversation I had been dreading for weeks. My experience of GPs and depression was not a positive one. They didn’t have any time for me and all they could offer was tablets. I remember saying “if I could just have some help, I probably won’t need tablets”. Yes they agreed but there wasn’t any help available. So I went on them. I felt worse for the first few days and then eventually the fog began to lift. I started to sleep. I started to be able to leave the house. I started to be able to respond to my babies’ needs and not resent them. I went to some toddler groups – it was very tricky but I did it. We were pretty much all in our pjs the first time we went to one! But the people were friendly and pretended not to notice. I applied to a charity called Homestart for some help. They provided me with a local volunteer who came to us every Tuesday and helped us in a toddler group. Life was getting better. I met more and more people in the village and made some lovely friends.
Then came the email from the Children’s Centre… “We are looking for people to help us to set up a group for parents suffering from low mood”. I replied and said I would help. And so Parents Supporting Parents was born. I am passionate about this group. I want it to work. I want parents and carers to speak up if they are suffering and to come for help. I hope you read my story and come to speak to us. We are a friendly lot and will provide you with peer support to help get you back on your feet.