“When I’d thought about being a Mum, I had always pictured myself sitting in a café with my friends and our babies, having a lovely time. In reality, I was so tired that I wouldn’t see anyone. I felt 100% broken.
‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ is the worst thing anyone has ever said to me. It was all I could think of. I was putting so much pressure on myself and every time I started to drift off, I had a rush of adrenalin. It was torture.
I was obsessed with getting better and being a ‘normal Mum’. I tried everything. At one point, I was seeing my IVF counsellor, using the NHS’s Talking Therapies, seeing an EMDR [Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming] therapist twice a week and having weekly hypnotherapy.
When my sister told me about Bluebell, I wasn’t keen because I scared of being labelled with post-natal depression. I was convinced that I couldn’t be depressed because I loved my baby. But when I looked at Bluebell’s website, it mentioned anxiety too, and I could definitely relate to that.
At first I saw Bluebell as just another form of help - I didn’t know Bluebell was going to be the help. They got in touch and told me my buddy would be Holly (and I couldn’t believe I was the first person to sing to her about Buddy Holly!)
I hadn’t realised that these people who had been trained to help me had also gone through the same thing as me. When I met Holly, we got on instantly – and she got me 100%. She made me feel normal. I’d think, ‘Look at you! There is a way out. You’re fine. I want to be fine.’
Holly told me that post-natal depression and anxiety are linked and that I shouldn’t be afraid to call what I had depression. She explained everything in normal language, in a non-medical way – in a human way.
At one of our first meetings, Holly drew what looked like a heart rate chart, with waves going up and down. She pointed to where I was then – up high – and explained that I wasn’t going to get better overnight. I wouldn’t be able to flick a switch and feel fine. She drew the waves getting smaller, stopping completely and then starting again. She was showing me that I was going to have waves, and she’d be there for me during those waves.
The perinatal mental health team and my GP advised me to go on sertraline [an antidepressant], but I didn’t want to at all. I didn’t believe that I was depressed, and I thought antidepressants were an easy way out. But I finally agreed to a low dose. If this drug was going to help me be a normal mum, then I’d take it.
I’ll always remember the day I told Holly I was going on antidepressants. She took my hand and said, ‘Well done Anne. This proves that you’re a very good mum because you’re putting your heath first. You should be really proud of yourself.” I cried my eyes out at that. Holly helped me see that I was doing the right thing. I was on sertraline for six months and it helped a lot – it calmed my anxiety, though I still have those waves.
I wouldn’t say I’m 100% ok at the moment. Getting better is an ongoing process. But I’ve got all the tools that I know I need, and, thanks to Holly, I know now that I’m ‘normal’. I know that what I’m feeling right now is what millions of mothers out there are feeling.
Now I just want to help other people like Bluebell has helped me. If by telling my story I can help one person, that’s brilliant. My advice to other parents would be to reach out. It’s a lonely road if you do it on your own, but you don’t need to do it on your own.”