I'm a mum-of-two – here's my raw and honest story of living with postnatal depression | The SunMay 24, 2023
POSTNATAL depression is rife among parents, affecting more than one in 10 women within a year after they've given birth.
But many mums hesitate before speaking out about their battles with mental health in what supposed to be a blissful period for them.
Ellie Polly Killah, a YouTuber and mum of two boys aged six and two, said she'd ummed and ahhed about sharing her own experience for two years.
In a video uploaded to her channel, she gave a raw account of her postnatal depression and the severe anxiety and intrusive thoughts it triggered in its aftermath.
"I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, I'm just gonna say it how it is because it's not a pretty thing to deal with, to go through so I'm not going to try and make it so," she told viewers.
"This is my story from the beginning till now and how I learned to live with it – I say live with it not overcome it because I don't think you ever do," the mum went on.
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She hoped the video might help anyone at the precipice of this process.
Ellie said she had no history of mental health struggles when she gave birth to her first son Leo in 2017 at the age of 27. She was the first of her friends to have a kid she recalled feeling lonely.
And Ellie became aware of her 'attachment issues' with Leo immediately after he was born.
"People love to tell you that when your baby is born you have this immediate rush of love when you look at them," she explained.
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But Ellie said that isn't the case for everyone and it wasn't the case for her with her first child.
"Obviously I was amazed when I saw him, sort of overwhelmed, couldn't believe he was here, but Idon't remember feeling that complete love and awe of him."
Ellie struggled to feel bonded to Leo, but thought there was just 'something really wrong' with her."I would cry every day but a lot of the time in secret," she remembered, and the new mum said she locked herself in her room to do so whenever someone came round to visit.
"I think I did it secretly because I was embarrassed or ashamed, or I thought if people knew I was struggling that they would just think I was this awful mother, or he'd get taken away from me."
"Your brain sends you an all of these imaginary scenarios."
In retrospect, Ellie questioned how she thought this was normal.
Her fiance Clint went back to work when Leo was two weeks old and he'd often have to travel, meaning that Ellie was on her own a lot.
She remembered ringing Clint and saying of her son: "I feel like I don't like him."
She told viewers it was painful to recall feeling that way, but it made her begin to realise something wasn't quite right.
"This was the first baby for both of us, so we didn't really recognise post-partum depression or know what we were really looking for."
At eight weeks old, Ellie's bond for her baby 'came on quite suddenly'.
"I remember it hitting me like a wave, looking at him one day and being like: there it is," Ellie said.
Intrusive thoughts and OCD
But the guilt of not experiencing that early attachment lead to the mum being 'extremely anxious' about her son.
She explained: "The intense love and responsibility that I had to this baby lead me to constantly, constantly [think] he was going to die."
Ellie would have 'hideous, morbid, intrusive thoughts' multiple times a day, particularly triggered when she was driving or Leo was in the bath: "It was intense."
She started to get panic attacks and physical side effects from the anxiety she was experiencing, like like a tight chest, stomach pains, nausea and headaches.
"I know now that OCD basically goes hand in had with severe anxiety," Ellie went on. At her worst, Ellie was convinced her home would catch fire in the night and would obsessively plan out an escape route in her head before sleeping.
She also became gripped by the fear that she would die in the night and leave her baby on his own – Ellie asked her mum or fiance text her every morning in case this happened.
The new mum had her wake-up call when she confessed this fear to her friends one evening and saw the horror on their faces. She booked a therapist appointment the next day.
Ellie said therapy was hugely helpful to her recovery journey, as was medication.
The mum saw female therapist who specialised in anxiety, who taught her techniques that Ellie said she used to this day.
A method deal with with her intrusive thoughts was to take a deep breath when she was taken over by one, soak it in and then weigh up the evidence it is true vs. the evidence it isn't.
"The one or two minutes it takes for you to sum up that evidence for and against, you've completely calmed down," Ellie said.
Three years later Ellie said she's realised how common her experience with postnatal depression is.
"I'll worry about my kids forever, I'll probably always get these horrible thoughts and ideas, but I know how to deal with them so I just get on with it. It doesn't control me at all."
She went on: "If you are in a dark place and feel like you need help, just talk to someone."
Then it's best you get professional help, as these kinds of feelings are "really hard to master on your own".
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The mum ended on a happier note.
"And if you had a bad experience and you're nervous about your second, let me tell you it was a completely different experience for me second time round."
What is postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby, affecting more than one in every 10 women within a year of giving birth.
It can also affect fathers and partners.
While many mums feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth, these so called "baby blues" don't last for more than two weeks after giving birth.
If your symptoms last longer or start later, you could have postnatal depression – it can start any time in the first year after birth.
Signs that you or someone you know might be depressed include:
- a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
- lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- finding it difficult to look after yourself and your baby
- withdrawing from contact with other people
- problems concentrating and making decisions
- frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby
Many women do not realise they have postnatal depression because it can develop gradually.
Speak to a midwife, GP or health visitor if you're feeling this way and remember:
- a range of help and support is available, including talking therapy
- depression is an illness like any other
- it's not your fault you're depressed – it can happen to anyone
- being depressed does not mean you're a bad parent
- it does not mean you're going mad
- your baby will not be taken away from you – babies are only taken into care in very exceptional circumstances
Local and national organisations, such as the Association for Post Natal Illness (APNI) and Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS), can also be useful sources of help and advice.
Read more on the NHS's resources for treating postnatal depression here.
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