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I am a Graduate Member of CILEX and all being well am due to submit my application for Fellowship next month. I specialise in Wills, Trusts and Probate and I find that I draw on my personal experiences frequently as part of my role, being able to empathise and sympathise with clients during a difficult life event is an important quality.
I am a mother to one young son, he has just turned 3, and I suffered with post-natal depression for most of his first year.
I’m not sure when my post-natal depression started and whether it was sudden or a gradual process, but I do remember an overwhelming sense of not being good enough to look after him. I went on maternity leave quite early; I was 34 weeks pregnant and struggling with terrible pelvic pain (SPD). I loved being a mum but when my husband returned to work, luckily he worked a few minutes’ walk away, I was left with a baby that would only settle if he slept on me. The house was a mess and if I was dressed and out able to get out before 10am it was an achievement.
My husband is a soldier so we had a close network of friends all working just up the road from our house, I remember joking with one of his colleagues that she must think that I lived in my PJs as every time she called around I wasn’t dressed. I’m definitely one to hide my depression with humour and this was probably an early sign I wasn’t right. Maybe I should have left her to settle my son, she had a real knack with him, whilst I ran upstairs for a shower, but the thought never occurred to me. Post-natal depression really does creep up on you.
No one really asked any questions about why I was determined to return to work when he was not quite 6 months old, I’m not sure they are allowed to ask questions as long as you have taken the minimum few weeks to recover from the birth. But I wanted to return to work to get a sense of myself back and to spend at least some of my week focusing on something I didn’t feel like I was failing at.
I knew I needed help with my mental health when those first few weeks I was back in the office, I spent my whole hour commute wondering if I should drive home that evening. Even writing this now it hurts to share just how low I was feeling. I was never suicidal; I just didn’t feel like my presence was any benefit to my son or husband. I genuinely felt like they would be better off without me.
I didn’t share with many people how I was feeling and that I was struggling with post-natal depression, I don’t think I was ashamed of my mental health but work was my escape from those feelings and I didn’t want my colleagues asking me how I was feeling.
When I eventually had to share that I was struggling, my employer was incredibly supportive, they had no idea because I’d hidden it at work so well. There was no shame or sympathy, just shock and stories from the few colleagues I told about how they had also suffered.
My Head of Department and HR Manager didn’t change the way they were around me, they just found ways to support me and ensured that I knew I could talk to people both in the office and independently if I needed to. My employer had always been understanding, but they ensured all of the decision makers around me were aware that I needed more support and a bit more flexibility whilst I got support for my post-natal depression.
Things do get better, I was put on medication and offered talking therapies. I opened up more about how I was feeling and didn’t hide away when I was having a bad day. I also increased my hours at work, this won’t help everyone, but it meant I felt like I was juggling less, and my son thrived in nursery.
Find time for yourself, whatever it is and take breaks from the little one, don’t let the guilt of being away from them overwhelm you and use the time apart to remind yourself why you love that little smiling baby so much. Most of all talk to people, you are not as alone as you think you are.
For support with PND contact PaNDAS on 0808 1961 776
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