Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week 2021
04 May 21
This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, a weeklong campaign dedicated to talking about mental illness during pregnancy or after having a baby. The theme for this year’s awareness week is ‘Journeys to Recovery’.
HPFT has a range of support for women during pregnancy and after the baby arrives. For some women, what should be a time of joy is sometimes very difficult and challenging but help is at hand. Full information on the support available from our Community Perinatal Team is available here.
For women who need more intensive support, our Thumbswood specialist inpatient unit offers treatment to women experiencing significant mental health difficulties during pregnancy or in the first year of a baby’s life. The unit offers a warm, nurturing environment for mothers and babies. The unit provides holistic care from a range of healthcare professionals, offering mental health treatment for mothers and support with infant care and development and encouraging the formation of lasting positive bonds.
We spoke to a few mothers who are receiving support around their own journeys to recovery.
Nadine’s recovery story
Working with Jacqui and Sue (Occupational Therapists) has really helped. Jacqui and Sue very quickly worked out what worked best for me and adapted their coaching methods to fit my needs. Not a single session left me feeling like the time had been wasted and I always finished the session feeling motivated for the week ahead. I have learnt some very crucial techniques which I'm positive will help prevent me from falling back and to help me out of it quicker when I do.
Running for recovery
My running shoes… are so thread bare. I got them the Christmas I was at the unit and they have been with me every step of my journey - metaphorically and literally! Running and positive mental health have gone hand in hand for me when one ebbs so does the other and when one thrives the other follows very quickly behind. It has been tough to get my fitness back and at the beginning I felt like it was an impossible task, but I have an app that shows my progress and it is amazing. Exercise, like our mental health journeys, are about progression, not perfection.
Being able to shower on my own
The hair on the shower wall is probably an odd one... But our "journeys" are so long, they can be daunting when you only look at the journey as a whole. This time last year I physically could not shower on my own. When I was at the unit a nurse would have to sit in my room with my door open and often had to come in and get me out, at home my husband would have to come in with me. The shower was a scary place for me - nothing but your thoughts to haunt you, they always ended with me on the floor, catatonic and unable to move. The day my husband walked into the bathroom and found my hair plastered all over the wall was an amazing day - not only had I had a shower without being forced to, I'd made it in and out all by myself for the first time in almost a year!
The two pictures of the buoy in the sea are my metaphor - I love my metaphors.
At the start I clung on to that buoy, I was lost at sea, with no shore in sight and it felt like the storm was coming right for me to drag me down to the bottom of the ocean.
Thumbswood and the amazing staff and mothers there convinced me that the only way to find the shore was to let go.
I was promised that if I just let go, I would be able to swim and that I would be supported to keep my head above water until I could swim by myself. It was so scary, trusting people I'd never even met before that I wouldn't just drown the moment I let go. Some days the water is calm, and it feels easy, even pleasant, and some days the storm is there but the float is always there - the unit, the staff, the mums who are now my friends. They have taught me how to swim and how to just float when I need a break. I haven't reached the shore yet, but I can see it and every time I worry it’s too far away; I look back at the buoy and realise that's even further away. Every time I talk about how "unwell" I am my friends and family point at the buoy and remind me how far I've come, further than I ever thought possible.
Another mother’s recovery story
Truthfully, my recovery journey from perinatal mental illness hasn’t been a linear one, but I have come so far from where I started. Thanks to the perinatal mental health team, seeing me, hearing me, informing, and supporting me, there have been vast periods in my recovery where I’ve felt I’m absolutely bossing it and that many of my troubles are behind me. But inevitably, I’ll come to a bump in the road from time to time. Whilst hitting that bump totally shakes me, it’s an opportunity for me to call on the knowledge I have developed about myself, my patterns and the wealth of powerful coping skills I have learned in Emotional Coping Skills group therapy and one-to-one Occupational Therapy.
I’m probably not at the end of my journey with mental illness, but I have climbed up so far from where I started, that the lowest point seems so distant and foggy now. I try to use my good spells to learn, recall and embed new tools for coping, so now when I slip back down, I have the resources to pick myself up again. I no longer feel hopeless or resigned to darkness. There are so many more brighter days ahead and I’m here for all of them.
This mother shared her journal with us, where she has drawn about her experiences