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Do you think PND ever really leaves you?

(62 Posts)
alicemac83 Thu 20-Feb-14 09:23:01

Hi all,
I might be in the wrong forum, but I wondered if anyone had any thoughts on this. I had PND three years ago, and I'm recently getting over another period of depression. I think it was brought on by planning another baby and remembering what happened last time.
I've started having some counselling, and last night I was talking about how I genuinely love working full time, and sometimes I feel like I need more 'me' time etc and how that makes me feel guilty a lot of the time, especially after having PND. I was hoping for some reassurance, but I left the session feeling even worse - and more guilty!
I feel like there's something wrong me with for wanting my own life and working etc. Can anyone else relate to this? I wonder if all the guilt etc is related to having PND and will I ever be able to let go of that?

Quinteszilla Thu 20-Feb-14 09:25:41

I will follow this with interest. I never had any "depressive tendencies" until I had PND when my second child was born. I managed to get through it without any antidepressants, but I think it has set off something in me. I have had periods of depression since, and find it difficult to claw myself back up on top of things.

I hope things get better for you.

Showy Thu 20-Feb-14 09:27:09

I had PND with my first. It's definitely gone and there's no spectre of it looming, no chance I'll fall back into a depression. It was triggered by a peculiar set of circumstances and a traumatic labour and delivery. All of that is behind me.

BUT, it will always inform the way I do things and the person I am. The way I parent DC1, the small anxieties I will always have about her and her brother, my attitude to parenting, it's all inextricably linked. I think because PND merely magnified what might have been normal anxieties and struggles with a newborn, the echo of it will be there in the choices I make.

It's difficult to explain. It doesn't control me, but it has and continues to subtly inform the person I am.

BrandNewIggi Thu 20-Feb-14 09:27:30

Maybe you are anticipating feeling exactly the same with a second child as you did with your first? I was absolutely fine with dc2 (sleep-deprived etc, but no depression at all) - it can happen that way! Loads of women work full-time - do you enjoy the time when you are with your dc, but just also enjoy the time apart? I can't see anything wrong with that.
Sometimes counselling makes you feel worse before it starts making you feel better - or maybe you have the wrong counsellor.

Showy Thu 20-Feb-14 09:28:50

I've thought of a crap analogy for how I feel. If PND was a big, suffocating blanket then what I'm left with years later is a single thread running through everything I do.

There you go. Crap analogy.

Probably didn't help at all.

Dilidali Thu 20-Feb-14 09:38:16

PND will/does go away.
I did not suffer with it, but I stopped at one child, thoroughly enjoy and thrive in my career, I went back to work full time etc. there's nothing wrong with that and I have never had any problems with my decision. And it was mine, not my DH's, who would have loved another one, but put no pressure whatsoever, it took us 7 years to conceive this one, I could have gone back to the excruciating process of IUF, IVF, tests and injections etc, but decided I won't put myself through this again, I'm grateful for the one we got.

I would have welcomed another one with all my heart, but not like that.
The only thing is other people asking when you're having another one, DD asking when is she having a sibling etc, she's got over it now, but years and years later and being old etc, I still stand by my decision and my family came to terms with it too.

alicemac83 Thu 20-Feb-14 09:57:05

Showy, I think that analogy is very good, and very much like I feel.
I think the recent episode was definitley brought on by planning another baby, and also I had a 3 day period of my DD being incredibly difficult. She told me she didn't love me and that she wanted her childminder, not me. I don't know why but I felt really negative towards her and it reminded me of how I felt when I had PND. I think it triggered all those old feelings. After PND I was fine, absolutely adored my DD, and still do - but the recent depression has left me feeling very vulnerbale, and unsure. It's almost like I'm terrified of feeling anything other that love for her, and If I do I feel like a terrible mum.

ButEmilylovedhim Thu 20-Feb-14 10:09:18

Hi Alice. Sorry to hear all that. I too had PND five years ago after DD was born. I was on anti ds for about two and a half years so that was the acute phase I guess. I'm still finding that I'm still recovering though. Every six months that go by, I think "oh, I'm a bit better than I was before." That's a good thing but does show for me, it is a very slow recovery.

It's my confidence that has taken the biggest knock. I'm not as outgoing as I was and I'm less confident driving now. I'm a SAHM so it's easy to hide away to some extent. I've made some tentative moves towards a job but they haven't worked out for various reasons and each time I felt knocked down again. I don't think a job would be good for my mental health and therefore the rest of the family so I'm not pushing it for now. I realise I am very lucky to be able to make this choice. We get by on DH's salary but it's by no means a luxurious existence.

I think with PND you have to do what works for you. For you, it's working and you feel better for it and therefore I'm sure have more to give to your family. For me, it's not working and that allows me to save my somewhat limited energy and patience for looking after the children and recharging when they're at school. I have felt guilty that I'm not 'economically productive' and I do worry about the future but I'm doing the best I can do at this moment in time with the information I have. I think it's largely a mother's lot to feel guilty a lot of the time, especially about working /not working. I square it with myself by saying that by doing the best thing for me (ie staying as mentally well as I can) I'm largely doing the right thing for DH and DCs.

Counselling is usually helpful in cases like ours, (If you can find the right one, I had a dreadful one at first) but it can make you feel worse for a while because all the emotions are brought back to the surface. If you think the counsellor is good, it might be worthwhile to persevere for a while. I saw a therapist for a year and apart from the anti ds, it made the biggest difference to me and I hate to think where I would still have been without it.

So in summary, (sorry this has been such an essay!) you sound like a very good, caring mother who is looking after yourself as best you can, by getting out there and working and building yourself up. No need to feel guilty, be kind to yourself, you're doing well in difficult circumstances. I know that's easy to say and much harder to do, but keep practising! Take care honey xx

ThePippy Thu 20-Feb-14 10:14:27

I had PND with both of mine. Undiagnosed and untreated with DC1 but not too bad, very bad with DC2 and ended up on prozac. For me the PND came from really terrible anxiety that was triggered by many aspects of having young babies, and a feeling of total loss of "self". It does go away, but I think can often cast a shadow over how you feel going forward, not in terms of the PND itself lingering, more a new understanding of who you are as an individual and knowing your own weaknesses.

In both cases with my PND the growing age of the babys helped (in that many of the anxiety triggers naturally go away as they get older) especially as they are frankly very very dull when they are under a year, and also getting back to work was my saviour. Until I had children I don't think I had acknowledged just how much head space I needed as an individual - so time when I don't have to interact with anyone and can just do my own thing (even if that is nothing) and let my mind be calm. I have found that children fill every waking minute of this head space and for me this is not good for my mental health.

I adore both my children (now 4.5 and 2), they make me enormously happy/proud and I would never change the way my life has gone, but I will admit that I do still fondly remember by pre-children days when time was my own.

However life is slowly getting easier in that they are slowly becoming more and more independent, and I get glimpses of me time every now and again, even when they are around. I do know however that I could not be a SAHM, and if that was ever necessary I know I would become pretty unhappy. I work full time, and not even in a job I love, but it has become my escape - the one time I get to have some control over things. Even the odd break and lunch hour is like a shot of a necessary drug that I need for positive mental health.

Don't beat yourself up for working and wanting your own life/space. It is normal and absolutely necessary for some people. It comes with its own challenges which I notice a lot more now that my DC1 is at school and ironically for the very first time I have started to wish I didn't work full time and could spend more time with DC1. This makes me realise that for me much of the problem is down to the totally dependent nature of very young children which I find overwhelming and claustrophobic, but DC1 is now an age where we can have a conversation that is interesting, they can attend to the toilet themselves, feeds themselves (including taking plates back when finished and washing hands etc), dresses themselves, reads a little and can find ways of entertaining themselves. It is a totally different dynamic in the house now and definitely easier and more enjoyable. Just another couple of years to go with DC2 and I think I will feel like a different person.

HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Thu 20-Feb-14 10:23:34

I think your guilt is related to depression. IME depression is a bit like alcoholism (I have no experience of alcoholism, but I relate my experience of depression to what I have read about addiction). I consider myself to be a former alcoholic depressive, to be a recovering addict depressive. In other words, I need to work on my anti-depression strategies every day. They need to be a way of life, like being a committed athlete or person of faith. I need to be on the alert for a resurgence of the depression, and to ask for help when I begin to need it (and not wait until I drown!).

This may sound grim, but it is not. It can be as simple as opening the curtains when I get up and looking at the blue sky and the birds and the spring bulbs coming up. And then getting on with the morning.

It's about putting in prevention plans when I know something potentially triggering is coming up.

I had my first severe bout of depression after dc1 was born, but not after dc2 and 3 were born. I put this down to us preparing wonderful supprt frameworks during my pregnancies, so that I was not left to crumble afterwards. These included various combinations of HV, peri-natal outreach, community psychiatry, the labour ward, apost-natal doula, and my total and utter gem of a dh.

Apart from these, the best treatments I have found for the bouts of depression over the years have been:
Honesty - asking for help
Selfishness - doing things for me
CBT - learning to think differently.

Each bout has been less severe, as I learn and build on the lessons of the past.


HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Thu 20-Feb-14 10:27:00

Showy I like your analogy.

alicemac83 Thu 20-Feb-14 10:29:20

ButEmilylovedhim, I think you're right about counselling. I don't feel like my counsellor is very good. When I had my assessment I saw a different lady who was really insightful, and when I left I felt immediately lighter and positive. But with the new lady, she just tends to repeat things I have said. I'm quiet self-aware and already think a lot about things, so I feel like she's not really offering me anything new.

Pippy, I think I'm quite similar to you. My DD is 3 now, and I do find it easier than when she was a baby. I didn't really enjoy that time and was always looking forward to her getting bigger. I think as I'm still recovering from the latest spell of depression, and that's why I'm feeling quite unsettled about my feelings for DD. It's strange, because before Xmas I was besotted with her - I just need to tell myself that that's the real me and now the anxiety/lack of self-confidence etc is talking, not me.

Quinteszilla, how often do you find you experience depressive periods? Have been to your GP and does anything in particular trigger them?


kalidasa Thu 20-Feb-14 10:33:20

I totally agree with pippy. I think some women find that total dependence incredibly fulfilling but some of us find it absolutely stifling. I also had very bad PND (mostly because of a terrible pregnancy I think as the actual birth was fine but the PND set in pretty much immediately). I also love being back at work. I do feel a bit guilty that my whole personality has not somehow shifted after having a child, and that actually the things that I am most excited about and most uplifted by (my complex and very intellectual job; reading and writing; teaching; ADULT conversation) are still the same and I don't suddenly find hours with a baby fulfilling, even if the baby is my own. But I went to a parenting session organised by work and the woman there said a really interesting thing, that actually research suggests that women's priorities are NOT changed by having a baby, but that the enormous emotional upheaval does allow people to be in touch with their real priorities sometimes for the first time. So actually if you find that you feel much the same or even (in my case) more focused and ambitious at work, that suggests that you had quite a good insight into yourself in the first place and are probably doing the right job. I found that quite reassuring!

My feelings did change once the PND finally lifted, in that I finally felt clear that I loved DS and I started to enjoy some of the time with him. But it wasn't a complete reversal. We are hoping to have another one but I can't imagine not going back to work full time afterwards. I also enjoy him SO much more now (he is 14 months) that he is a real little person, and actually I find stroppiness, tantrums etc easy to deal with, whereas DH who enjoyed the beginning much more gets really wound up by them and finds it hard not to take them personally. You can actually do "things" with him now - like show him how to do something, or work on a scrap book - and that's much more me than all that mind-numbing sitting around of the first few months.

I have read three things recently that I have found interesting re: work and being a mother. The 'high-earners' thread on here (don't be put off by the title), a book recommended by that thread, Valerie Grove's "Compleat Woman" from the 80s (about women who combined careers with marriage and large families, and who are wonderfully breezy and unangsty about childcare in a way that seems now both refreshing and oldfashioned), and the "Bad Mother" book by Ayelet Waldman that I've just started reading (quite spiky but also funny).

IglooisnowinSheffield Thu 20-Feb-14 10:37:44

I agree with what showy says. I had PND after DC3, it has gone that horrible fog has completely cleared and I can feel a wide range of emotions now. But I don't have the same rationality I used to have over there health, I used to be calm and never panicked now I am a but of a worrier. This might lift too though as DD is still a toddler with underlying health concerns.

I hope you find the peace that you need, it is a shit illness.

alicemac83 Thu 20-Feb-14 10:50:43

This is so interesting, and exactly what I needed. It's so nice to talk to other mum's who understand. I think before I had my DD I had visions of myself being a bit of an earth mother, and giving up work etc etc. It's odd that I ever felt like that really because I've always been really ambitious when it comes to work and have worked hard to get to the position I'm in.
I think I need to accept that I am how I am and that I'm not like every other mum (and that every mum is different).
When I talk to other mum's about how bad they feel about working and how much they miss their kids I nod and sympathise, but really I feel very happy being at work and know that my DD is having a great time.
When I'm 100% healthy I don't let this bother me, but at the moment I'm dwelling on it quite a lot. HergraciousMaj is right, I think it's the depression making me feel guilty.
Honestly - I'd love to me one of those mums who has a baby, is happy from the start and doesn't have to worry about this sort of thing!!

kitstwins Thu 20-Feb-14 10:55:00

I had PND after the birth of my twins. It was due to a very difficult pregnancy and birth and was undiagnosed for a long time. I muddled through and did my best to cope. I was also determined to hide it as, irrationally, I feared that someone would find out and take the babies away from me. The guilt was overwhelming.

I'm 'cured' now but I too run with showy's 'thread', which mostly manifests itself in a continual low hum of anxiety about my children. This anxiety was a loud constant noise when I had PND (fears of them dying, constant panic about bad things happening to them or me) but lessened once I was 'cured'. What I wanted to ask was do other people have this anxiety also? I do wonder if it's a hangover/'thread' (such a good analogy) of PND? For example, I see disaster everywhere. If we go to the park and my children climb a climbing frame I imagine them falling off and smashing their head open or breaking a leg; I always imagine the worse case scenario. When they ride on their scooters my heart is always in my mouth as I envisage them falling over and scraping their lovely little faces or hitting their heads/knocking all their teeth out. I'm filled with panic about them hurting themselves and run after them the whole time saying "be careful", or "slow down". It must drive them mad.

Am I the only one with this? I didn't get PND with my third child but the anxiety about accidents has perpetuated and extended to him and has never left. Having spoken to other friends with children they look quite bemused at my levels of anxiety and certainly my husband doesn't think like this (he's careful with them but just doesn't see the worse-case-scenario/disaster movie as I do). Is it just me or is it a common thing amongst other mothers who have had PND?

HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Thu 20-Feb-14 10:56:16

I think that the biggest mistake I made was to become a SAHM. It was my dream. I was delighted that dh supported me and that we could afford it. But turned out to be a poisoned chalice.

However, had I returned to work I would probably have felt guilty as I would not have had the opportunity to learn that I am not, after all, an earth mother. I would probably still have had depression, but I think that, overall, my mental health would have been better.

Now the time has come for me to get back into paid employment. I'm half delighted and half terrified.

Minesota Thu 20-Feb-14 10:56:49

I had PND too and then AND when I was pg with with my second.
I think that recovery from PND takes time. Much more time than people want to acknowledge.
It's much easier to think that as soon as the depressive thoughts gave sort if gone that's it everything is solved and ok. In reality, the consequences of PND stayed with me for a long long time. I felt unsure of myself and my parenting for years. I felt unsure of the strength if my love for dc1 for years. It took me probably about 5~6 years for me to really feel ok with myself as a parent to dc1.
And I think I had the chance of having dc2, who I bonded with straight away, to remind me that if I was a good parent to dc2 then probably also was a good parent to dc1!

HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Thu 20-Feb-14 10:58:57

kitstwins me too. I think that when those intrusive thoughts start taking over, then the thread is beginning to re-weave itself into a blanket. A warning to take action before I get overwhelmed.

kitstwins Thu 20-Feb-14 11:02:17

Oh and I was keen to go back to work once my children were a year old. I'd enjoyed my job before I had children and planned to return anyway, but I was surprised at the level of relief I felt. Maybe that's not PND but relating to having twins and that being quite full-on for the first year. I do think though that when you've had PND you become very analytical (and critical?) about your actions as a mother. Probably because of the guilt.

I know motherhood is guilt, but there is certainly an extra truckload when you have PND I think. I'm reconciled to having had PND and I love my daughters passionately and no differently to my younger child (with whom I didn't have PND), in fact I possibly have a more intense connection with them as there is a little bit of sorrow at our sad beginning and my love for them was hard won and determined and resolute. But for the first year of my life I wasn't really me and for the first month I was going through the motions and pretending at connections that I just couldn't find, however hard I tried and hunted for them. My daughters were smothered with kisses and held all the time but inside me I knew that something was missing. A part of me had been switched off and I just couldn't find the switch, in spite of (desperate) looking.

Gosh this is a ramble. Seven years now and it's like yesterday.

alicemac83 Thu 20-Feb-14 11:04:36

That's what I need to learn, how to stop the thread becoming a blanket. I tend to panic if suddenly DD is a bit difficult or goes through a phase - I always think 'she's going to be like this forever, I can't cope.'
Minestoa, I think that's a very refreshing way to view it. I agree that the consuquences of PND can last a long time. For example, I still feel very envious of friends who have babies and love it from the start. I guess I feel shortchanged by having PND, but at least I'm not alone!

Minesota Thu 20-Feb-14 11:24:03

Interestingly anxiety about my dcs safety has never being there for me.
But anxiety in bit loving them enough and not being a good enough parent has been strong. Yes it has reduced a lot, quite disappearing but I probably still put much more thought than most people about how to do x and y, what is the best approach to z and doing A would need for the dcs when they are adults ....

alicemac83 Thu 20-Feb-14 11:27:36

I'm the same Minesota, my anxieties are always based around how I feel about DD, if I love her enough etc etc. It's exhausting sometimes - but in some ways I think that the fact that we agonise about it so much shows we do love them - otherwise we wouldn't care about how we feel.

kalidasa Thu 20-Feb-14 11:34:47

Yes my SIL has a baby who is only 6 months old and she is already a couple of months pregnant with the next, she loves it so much! I do feel sad and a bit of a failure for not feeling like that, but then I also remind myself how straightforward and straightforwardly rewarding I have always found my work, a huge source of emotional satisfaction in a way that a lot of people never experience. As you say, we are all different!

(Also, her baby slept through very early and DS still doesn't - I do think that makes a pretty huge difference to how you feel about the first year or so.)

I think what is hard to believe is that your way can still be a good way to be a parent, especially if you don't have a 'model' for it. My mother had a much more 'traditional' role as did most of the mothers I knew growing up, and sadly at work there are very few senior women who have had children.

ButEmilylovedhim Thu 20-Feb-14 11:41:53

Yes I agree Minesota. It is the consequences of PND that last and last in my experience. The lack of confidence, just general scaredy-cat ness of my existence now. Is this just me now, forever? I mean I was never wildly outgoing or confident before, I was a fairly quiet, bookish, introvert but the things I used to do, seems like that was a different person to me now. I used to help run a toddler group and lead activities, I used to be in a church homegroup with a very diverse (and challenging, in a good way) group of women and was good friends with them all.

I haven't been to church in years not because my faith faltered but because I couldn't be around people anymore. Although my faith is not what it was because it hasn't been supported to grow. Anyway, that probably is not relevant to most people but I do feel it has all been about loss apart from gaining my lovely DD. Loss of friends, some faith, interests, mobility (nervous about driving now),even the relationship with my mum took a battering because, for reasons best known to herself, she refused to help me when I was at my lowest. A lot of my counselling was about coming to terms with that!

I met an acquaintance the other day who knew about my depression. She herself has battled very serious physical health problems and is now feeling better because she has found treatment that works. She asked how I was and I said pretty much better, maybe 95 per cent. (On a really good day) She was obviously feeling tonnes better and said "Aren't you glad it happened? ie. both our illnesses Don't you feel stronger for coming through something like that?! I didn't want to rain on her parade so I didn't exactly disagree and said I was certainly wiser now. But I walked away and thought of course I wish it had never happened! I lost years of my life to it, it's still affecting me now and I feel predisposed and vunerable to depression when I never was before. All this what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Not always.

Sorry for going on about myself, OP. It's nice to talk with others who are a few years down the line from it. Hope you don't mind.

Sorry to hear that your counsellor might not be that great. They do vary so much. I know they are meant to reflect what you say back to you to soome extent, but there's got to be more to it than that! Is there any chance you can swop to the woman you saw first? The awful one I saw was through the GP (!) The good one was private. Don't know how common that is.

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