Tuesday, 16 November 2010

'Just' Postnatal depression?

I'd like to share my day with you, if I may.

It started peacefully at my parents and I got myself ready to go to speak to 'Homestart' volunteers at St. Helen's - one of my regular sessions. Like many people I was then confronted by a frozen car; put my bags in the boot but then couldn't open the door! Last night I hadn't closed it properly and the damp air and ice rendered it immovable from the outside. Oh no! Dad wasn't around so I only had one option - crawl in via the boot!!! I smiled at the thought that if this had happened when I was suffering from 'just' postnatal depression, as some would say, I would have sobbed my heart out, punched the car or worse still. This morning I was just glad that I was wearing dark trousers and not a short skirt, clambered across the back seats and managed to push the door open, hoping no-one had witnessed my unladylike actions. Success. But then the ice wasn't clearing. No de-icer. Back in the house to get Mum and Dad's car keys - none in their car either. In getting their keys I walked muddy footprints on the hall floor. Aargh!  By this time the windows were clearing and as I had allowed extra time I wasn't in a panic. As I drove to St. Helens I reflected on these minor annoyances and again acknowledged that with a healthy mind and body you just take them in your stride. But for anyone suffering with 'just' a mental health problem these events could actually tip them over the edge. How do you cope with such things?

In years gone by I possibly would also have been convinced that a day that started so 'badly' would then go from bad to worse - I'd probably get stuck in traffic; the IT for my talk would fail; I would be late for my next meeting , etc. etc. In expecting the worse, it often happens. Instead I chose to laugh it off and decide that it could only get better - and it did. When did you allow a bad day to get worse?

I love speaking to Homestart volunteers. http://www.home-start.org.uk/homepage Through a network of nearly 16,000 trained parent volunteers we support thousands of parents who are struggling to cope. Our families need support for many reasons including post-natal illness, disability, bereavement, the illness of a parent or child, or social isolation. Parents supporting other parents - to help build a family's confidence and ability to cope.
Today was no exception.  One of the group actually had a daughter who went to school with Dom when he was little! Thank you to those who were brave and open to share some of their stories too. I hope I showed via my story that it's far from 'just' postnatal depression, but how severe the effects can be and the legacy it can leave behind.

Last night I caught up with a good friend of mine and it turned out that the company that she works for has just opened up an office in the exact building I was delivering to Homestart! So I called in to say a quick hello to  'Home Instead'  - Home Instead Senior Care provides award-winning home care to elderly people, allowing them to stay in their homes for as long as possible. http://www.homeinstead.co.uk/Index.do
My Grandma suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and I know the impact that has on everyone concerned. I hope to meet up with them again soon.

From there I went to meet a wonderful lady called Sharon Hanner, who is part of 'A Quiet Place', which  provides evidence based, personal development programmes, supporting the achievement of unique outcomes for all ages and abilities. http://www.aquietplace.co.uk/ . A mutual friend, the amazing speaker Molly Harvey, http://www.mollyharvey.com/, had suggested we meet. I am so pleased we did - thank you Molly! Sharon has kindly given me some of her materials - watch this space and I will tell you more! 

We met up at Nugent House school, where I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand a couple of 'A quiet place' rooms. http://www.nugent.wigan.sch.uk/  Nugent House School is part of Nugent Care, which is a multi-service agency, and one of the North West’s leading charities, caring for children, disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages. As a teacher for children with severe and profound learning difficulties my passion was around a multi-sensory curriculum. Now I suggest ways to improve and maintain good mental health is by appealing to and gratifying our senses. So this area is right up my street! I will report back more on these in the months ahead.

From there I met up with my little sis and gorgeous niece Sophie at M & S in Widnes

Then it was time for me to spend the evening with Dom. Since the divorce we try to see as much as possible of each other but I also really, really appreciate our time together even more. He is currently nursing an injury so I am in my element being able to 'fuss him' - as much as any 14 year old boy will allow! After taking him home I am now back at my parents reflecting on an amazing day, appreciating the wonderful people I have met and wondering what, if anything, it will all lead to.

Then I caught up with Facebook and received the link to this sad, sad, story. 
My heart goes out to Katy and her family. We were only talking this morning about how your mind can be so 'irrational' that such actions seem acceptable and the right thing to do. Only when we are mentally fit and well do we realise what an awful situation this is. One day Katy will be 'better' than she is right now but she must live with the fact that she took her son's life. Sadly others will judge her badly for it. I only have sympathy and empathy. I know how 'screwed' your mind can get when you 'just' have postnatal depression. If only we could 'pull ourselves together', as those who are ignorant about the illness will flippantly say.

It disturbs me that 'cuts' may consider postnatal illness support, training and treatment to be a 'luxury' and something that isn't necessary. It sadly is too late for Katy and her family. PLEASE LET US KEEP WORKING TO ENSURE THAT SUCH THINGS DO NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.

So spare a thought, in this PND Awareness week, for those families that are affected by a mother or father suffering in the postnatal period. There is no 'just' about this illness. It is not due to them being lazy, a failure or overreacting to everyday hiccups like I had this morning. It is a real, and potentially fatal illness for some. It MUST be treated and prevented as much as is humanly possible.

Here is another feature on puerperal psychosis and PND this week in the Daily Mail - I get a mention.

Elaine Hanzak


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