So here we are.

So here we are. I read something the other day that spoke about how having a mental health illness had become the “in thing”. How it had become fashionable to be mentally unwell and talk about “making it through the battle”. Actually I really couldn’t disagree more. I think it is that now people actually talk about being mentally unwell more. We actually don’t talk about it in hushed tones so much. We don’t say “they were a bit depressed you know”, whilst looking around to see who might of heard. We say “they have depression”.

We know more now about the many mental health illnesses that are out there. To talk about people actually having a negative impact for speaking about their mental health experiences just seems barbaric to me. Yes, feeling down is not the same as being depressed. Being a worrier is not the same as having anxiety. Having mood swings doesn’t mean your bipolar. But as someone who has postnatal depression and anxiety, I cannot even begin to imagine why someone would suggest that people want to have a mental health illness. Why someone would feel people find it cool and trendy? And how anything negative can come from people sharing their stories.

I still have intrusive thoughts sometimes. 18 months on. Can you imagine having thoughts of harming your own child? Your child who you loved more than anything. Your child that you would do anything to protect. Can you imagine having images of them being hurt just pop into your head? Can you imagine making a cup of tea and being terrified they would get burnt, even when they were in the next room? Intrusive thoughts are normal for parents. They are normal for everyone. But what’s not “normal” is having them in your head every single day, all day. You’re not ok if you plan how to kill yourself on a daily basis. You’re not ok if you refuse to put your child down, forever, because you think if you do they will die. I would not wish a mental health illness on anyone.

People talk about it being a journey because it is. Least for me it is. Setbacks and good and bad days. Triggers and overwhelming moments, when you think; “can I really do this?” To be in a constant battle (yes I said battle too) with yourself, with your mind and how your feeling is exhausting in every way. When you find some positive, when you feel just that little bit better, when you find yourself in recovery, why not share your story? Shout it from the bloody rooftops. After I shared my story for the first time on social media, so many people messaged me. People I’d never met, old friends, school friends from years ago. They spoke to me about their experiences and suddenly that very lonely, isolating time becomes just that little bit less lonely. That little bit less frightening.

How can that not be good? How can talking about what we are or have been through not be good?

Yes I know, talking about something isn’t going to change everything. We still do not have enough inpatient beds. Mental health nurses are overworked, understaffed and at times unappreciated. Sometimes you might be on a waiting list for 2 years to get help. GPs still don’t know what to do sometimes when you go to them for help. I know this. I am not completely naive. All this, yeah, it’s crap. But that doesn’t mean we shut up about mental health. It doesn’t mean that talking isn’t beneficial. It doesn’t mean posting a cheesy “uplifting” quote on instagram is stupid. Because actually I believe talking about is helping the change. Because more people are signing up to donate to organisations like Mind and Rethink. More people are becoming volunteers in hospitals. The government are starting to take notice. Because we’re loud. We’re talking. We’re making noise and we’re making a fuss. The NHS needs more money to create more beds. More mother and baby units. To employ more mental health specialists. To allow more employers and employees to go on courses regarding mental health. We need it for more nurses. We need it for more facilities in rural areas. We need it for transport for those who can’t get places. We need more housing, because 75% of those who are homeless will suffer with an mental health illness at some point. In fact, 1 in 4 of us will have a mental health illness at some point in our lives. We have so much more to do, so many ways we need to improve.

So write to your local MP. Donate to organisations when you can. Volunteer in your spare time. But don’t stop talking. Don’t stop sharing your experiences. I won’t. And I don’t think anyone else should either.

Stay tuned for another one.

Love, Kate. X

So can we do better?

So when I tell people what I do, I feel so proud, I smile and feel like the NHS is my baby that has just said their first word (weird analogy but you get the gist). That doesn’t mean I think the NHS always gets it right, because I don’t think they do. After all, no one or nothing is perfect, it’s impossible. But I do think the NHS is a wonderful organisation. It’s stretched, we who work for it are often stressed and personally, being a nurse is hard work physically and mentally.

But looking back on my own patient experience. I received incredible care. That’s not to boast, that’s to hope one day everyone will. It’s to talk about the good and celebrate it but more importantly learn from it. I went into A&E at around 8pm on Sunday evening. I had a midwife appointment on the Monday where me and Jordan had agreed I needed to tell her how I was feeling. But by Sunday evening I had decided I couldn’t manage any longer and if I didn’t receive help I was going to kill myself. I stayed in A&E till Wednesday evening. Usually you stay in A&E for a max of 4 hours until you are either sent home or sent to another department or ward of the hospital or another organisation. Within those 4 hours treatment needs to be decided.

Within 4 hours treatment was decided for me, but there were no beds available in the country on a mother and baby unit. Winchester had some but they had a policy that babies had to be over a month old and Arth was around 3 weeks. I stayed in a room for those 3 days with Jord, Arthur and my sisters came in and out too. We all cried, a lot. I slept a little bit on a mattress on the floor. We even smiled a little bit. We talked and cried some more. I begged those who looked after me to help me, I begged them not to give up trying to find me somewhere, and they didn’t.

I didn’t go onto the follow on ward from A&E because I worked there. Just two months before, I had been there working, heavily pregnant excited for my new adventure. Fast forward two months and I was a shell of who I was once. The thought of my colleagues seeing me like this mortified me. I wasn’t ashamed of the situation but I didn’t want to be unprofessional, I didn’t want them to see me any differently. I didn’t want to lose my “credibility” as a nurse. It wasn’t about having a mental illness, it was just about having an illness. So they let me stay in that room for 3 days. I went to the matron who I had worked with before, I broke down and sobbed as I asked her to help. My manager of my ward came in and told me she wouldn’t let me go home, she promised me she would make sure they find me a bed somewhere.

When I look back at that incredibly difficult time, I will never forget those who worked tirelessly to help me. But I know this is not always the case. I have had people message me saying they’ve been to their GP and they’ve sent them home saying “there’s not much they can do, see how you feel in a few weeks”. I’ve seen people bounce in and out of hospital overdosing again and again. I know young people who were put on waiting lists even thought they harm themselves every day. We say depression and people roll their eyes. They say “oh she just gets a bit anxious”, like it’s nothing.

But it’s not. There isn’t enough mother and baby units in the country. Some people don’t have one anywhere near where they live. There isn’t enough inpatient beds. There isn’t enough permanent staff because nurses are too stretched. We have waiting lists even though some people don’t have time. We have people who work in healthcare who disapprove of mental illnesses. But we can do better. And from a few years ago I think we already are.

Finally it is becoming more recognised that men suffer depression too. Addiction is treated as a mental illness. There are more volunteers on the streets because 80% of those who are homeless in the UK report their mental health suffers. Charities like Samaritans have call lines open 24/7. We have World mental health day, International day of happiness. Of course there is still a long way to go. More money is needed. More education in schools, healthcare and workplaces. More staff and more organisations to make more beds. But, like I said before, nothing is perfect. But, to me the NHS gets it right a lot more than they get it wrong.

Stay tuned guys. Sorry it’s been a bit quiet here.

Love, Kate. X

So here we are. So let’s talk about money.

It’s something people can be uncomfortable with. It’s something that’s not really spoken about. I will tell you the truth. I think sometimes it’s harder than we think. They have been days when I think “do we have enough for food?” They have been days when I’ve cried because I’m scared about the future. They say money can’t buy happiness but the thing is, you do need it. We need it in life. It’s sad but we do.

I know we are incredibly lucky to have a roof over our heads, we are incredibly lucky to have food in our fridge. But we do struggle. Babies are expensive, life is expensive. Transport whether you have a car or you get the bus, train whatever, it’s expensive. Sometimes trying to save feels like we’re trying to run in sand. We’re saving and saving but we’re actually not, the money is going but there’s actually nothing to show for it.

I don’t think we talk about it enough. We don’t talk about food banks. Or soup kitchens enough. We don’t talk about affordable housing and loans enough. But it happens. And I don’t think we should be ashamed. We need to talk about how if you have twins you can only claim child tax credits for one of them. We need to talk about how expensive house deposits are. How expensive childcare is. We need to talk about flexible working. We need to talk about car sharing. All these things that need work, change, discussion. Otherwise we won’t ever see improvements.

There are a few people out there who are talking about the tricky subjects. But I still think we need to do more talking. There are times when I feel like I need to shy away from talking about tough stuff like money, I don’t want to speak about it. I don’t want to think about how I’m struggling. But we should. I don’t think you should feel shame in looking into getting help with money.

And with everything we went through I did worry about it. I still do. It was scary thinking about Jord travelling to see me in Nottingham, money goes quick. Hotels, food and petrol. It went. And it went quick. When you become unwell you have to focus on getting better but the world doesn’t stop. You still have to pay bills, buy food, you still have to live.

Worrying about money created stress for us both individually but it also puts a strain on relationships. It slows down healing and getting better. It makes everything harder. Even now it’s still hard. Times are tough. You know it’s really tough when you google; “can I sell a kidney?” Turns out no, FYI. It’s good to know these things though.

Children are expensive and money does have an impact on mental health. For those instagramers that do sponsored posts, I say good on them. They get a lot of stick but it’s a job. It’s a way of providing for themselves and their family. I would do it. I am not ashamed. I work and I love my job. I want to move further in my career in the future. For myself but for my family too. For self development but for the money too. I don’t think about spending money on material goods, I want money to buy our own home. I’d love to be able to help my Mum, to give back a little.

So here I am. I’m talking about money. I’m trying to work out how to buy our own home. I’m trying to move forward in my career. I would like to blog and one day I wouldn’t say no to doing sponsored posts on Instagram if it works for us. I would love it if my writing around mental health and motherhood got published, if it was really recognised. Money? We do need it. I know we are incredibly lucky. Sometimes I forget, but I know. But I’m still going to strive to do better, to develop.

Stay tuned for another one.

Love, Kate. X

So here we are, sleep, it is important.

So here we are. Sleep and mental health. – Man it is important. 9 months in and I’m still napping when I need to. Most of the time (fingers crossed it stays like this) Arthur sleeps pretty well, naps and at night. But not all the time. And I’m prepared for when and if it all goes tits up. Sleep is so important to me, for my mental well being. To feel ok, emotionally, physically.

We do obsess over it as parents but for some it means more to others. For me, it really impacted my mental health. It made everything so much harder. Being alone in the middle of the night with just my thoughts, whilst feeding, it was hard. Not being able to pass Arth over and say; “can you feed him?” Nope, he needed me because Jord doesn’t have the right nipples (men eh?).

I remember a professional saying to me about how it was ok if you didn’t sleep, you just had to get used to it. But what if you can’t? What if you simply can’t manage it? That’s ok. Arthur would feed sometimes for an hour or more at a time. He usually when for around 2 hours between feeds, I was lucky if he went near 3 hours. Some babies sleep for 4 hours between feeds straight away. Some wake up every hour, even at night. If your struggling it is ok to say, I need help.

I know it is national breastfeeding week and please know I am not trying to deter people from breastfeeding. It is wonderful. But remaining well is important, for you and your babe. If sleep does mean a lot to you, if you really struggle without it, ask for help. Suggest one expressed feed at night for you partner to do so you can sleep. Spend some time at your sisters, your Mums, your parents in laws. Ask them if they can help out a little, if they can have the babe whilst you go for nap.

Obsessing over sleep, when you get it, when your babe is going to sleep through the night, it’s not healthy. But it’s ok to admit you need it. It’s ok to admit you miss it. It’s ok to ask for help. We don’t just need to accept it and put up with it, they are things you can do to help. But, I also remember a professional saying to me; “even when your tired if you can’t sleep but you desperately want to, don’t just lay there obsessing about it. Don’t just lay there wishing you were asleep.” They told me, listen to some calming music, read you favourite book, have a relaxing bath. Wishing yourself to sleep will not help. If your content lying down, then do it, relax. But I think if your lying down just wishing you could sleep but can’t, it doesn’t help. It just makes things worse.

Some people drink caffeine by the gallon, some people just magically survive on minimal sleep and still seem to boss life. Me, not so much. I didn’t do much expect feed Arth, eat and sleep for those first couple of weeks. The washing came second, washing up cane second, takeaways, ready meals, batch cooking, became our best friend. Make up? Pffft! The world was lucky if I managed a shower lasting more than 30 seconds. When I become unwell, it was so hard to not have Arthur with me at night. I couldn’t sleep with him there, I couldn’t sleep without him. The anxiety was too much either way. I began to learn how to function with very minimal sleep.

Medication helped. Eventually sleep came back to me. I am not ashamed of needing it to help me sleep. I am not ashamed my boy had to have expressed milk and formula overnight when things got real tough. I needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own. I totally believe it is ok to admit you need sleep. But just try and remember, it does get a bit easier. Don’t let routine, bedtimes, napping, rule your life. That’s my advice anyway, I hope it helps, even if it’s just one person, if it’s just a little bit.

Stay tuned peeps.

Love, Kate. X

So here we are.

So my cousin asked me to have a look into trans mental health. This is something I’ve really struggled with. Because I’ve been trying to find out stuff and find the right words but to be honest there really isn’t much out there.

Mind are brilliant and they have a whole section on LGBT mental health. They have information on support, personal stories and what to do if you need help. There is also specific LGBT 🏳️‍🌈 organisations and charities. But I couldn’t find much positive news/ things we are doing for specifically trans mental health.

One thing I did find that the World Health organisation up until recently classed transgenderism as a mental illness/mental “disorder”. They have now changed this (hallelujah)! For one I think it’s scary to think we still use the words “mental disorder”. I think it has such a bad feel to it, it sounds so negative. We have even started to move away from using “disorder” in the physical medical world, as a nurse I really don’t hear it very often anymore.

It’s outfashioned and outdated in my opinion. But secondly and my most important point; being transgender is NOT an illness. It is not a mental health illness. Those who are transgender are unfortunately more likely to suffer with mental health illnesses but it is not one in itself. I think to suggest it is, is wrong. It’s scary to think that one of our biggest health organisations described it as this.

So what did I discover on my quest to find out about trans mental health? Well, we have a lot of work to do. I found out that those who are LGBT are at higher risk of developing a mental health illness due to bullying, lack of acceptance and discrimination. This is so sad and just shows we need to change.

But yesterday I watched Bristol pride and felt so much love. It was wonderful to see so much support just for people being themselves. I saw so many organisations coming out and supporting pride; football clubs, health services, shops, political parties, it was wonderful.

However I hope one day the feel of protest is not a part of pride. I hope in the future it is not something we need to protest about. That one day it is accepted and there is no negativity, just love, just celebration.

So here’s to a future of improving mental health services for everyone. To recognising those who are at more risk and improving the support that is out there.

Love, Kate. X

So we’re moving forward…

So here we are. I Won’t ever forget it or be ashamed of what I went through. Nor will I pretend that I am not afraid it will happen again in the future. But for now it seems we are moving on. Life is moving forward and the dark days have gone for now and been replaced with mainly sunshine. It feels so good.

I will always try and blog. But they might be a few and further in between now. I will always talk about mental health and I will always be here for anyone who needs to talk. I’m moving forward with my life now but what happened to me has helped to shape who I am.

I know if I got through it once I can get through it again. For the future I am hoping to come off my antidepressants completely. I’m hoping to life a healthy life, mentally and physically. I’m prepared for when I decide to have another baby what might happen. I’m going to be open and tell everyone what happened and welcome every bit of support I can get.

So here’s to the future. It’s going to be scary, up and down and who knows what’s going to happen. But I’m excited. It’s hopefully going to bring happiness, progression, love, laughter, opportunities and possibilities. Out of the showers and into the sunshine. 🌧☀️

Love, Kate. X

So don’t be afraid of needing medication.

So here I am. I’m currently on the maximum dose of antidepressants. Am I ashamed of that? No. I think they are part of what saved my life. I started of on a small dose. It was increased and increased again.

We had quite a few setbacks along our journey and each time would hit me hard. A very low point on the unit was when I was in isolation on my own. I didn’t want Arthur to become unwell again and on the unit I felt like people were avoiding me because they were afraid of catching it. I felt very alone. I confided in a member of staff and explained I wanted to kill myself and how I was going to do it. My antidepressants were increased once again and I became more high risk so I was observed more closely.

It was part of a very up and down journey. I do not know if I would have overcome those very low moments without medication. I am someone who doesn’t even like taking paracetamol. Yes I am a nurse. Yes I know the benefits of medication. But it’s just me. If I can find a way without medication I will do it. But when I became unwell I tried to do it by other means. I went outside, I kept busy, I exercised, saw my friends, my family but I needed more help. I needed professional help.

When I was admitted to Nottingham I couldn’t wait to begin antidepressants. They were my first sign of hope. My first glimmer of a future. I remember the consultant explaining to me they can sometimes at the beginning contribute to you feeling worse before you feel better. My heart dropped at the moment. I was panicked at the thought; how could things get worse than this? Thankfully I didn’t experience that. They did take a few weeks to take affect but then they began to help.

They were then increased again because I was on a very low dose. They wanted to increase then slightly because they start at a small dose to see how your body reacts and if their successful and how the side effects affect you. I’ve think I’ve been quite lucky in I haven’t had many side effects (I don’t think). I’m also lucky that it can also be treated for anxiety.

At a very low point in my time at Winchester they were increased again to the maximum dose. I was wanted to end my life and could not see a way out. I was seen by the doctor and my observations were increased. We decided the antidepressants needed to be increased again. I wanted help. I couldn’t see any hope. I would of tried anything. Anything in the world. Thankfully, I got through that low point. The medication definitely helped.

Unlike for my depression, I tried many different medication for my anxiety. The first one just basically, some of the time, knocked me out for an hour or two, which was good in a way because I was having trouble sleeping when I first became unwell. But if I couldn’t sleep, or if Arthur needed me and there wasn’t chance to sleep then I would feel so tired. I would feel just drained of any energy I did have. It took me a while to realise this but when I did I stopped taking it.

Then I tried something for anxiety which affected my milk supply. This is when the issues escalated with breastfeeding and my anxiety along with it. Soon I stopped that one too. And then their was the final anxiety medication that caused me to sleep through Arthur waking up in the morning. I’ll never forget waking up and him not being there. I had seen him just a little while before in the night and I was on the unit so I was sure he was safe but, I was so confused; why did they take him? Was he alright? When I find him the staff member explained he had started to wake up and cry. My heart broke. I had slept through him crying. I will never forget that feeling of guilt. Never. I had taken that last medication for a day or two, it was then stopped too.

So my experience with anti anxiety medication has not been positive. Eventually I decided I wasn’t going to take any specifically for my anxiety. I was going to try and manage it on my own, without medication. Months later, I’m still managing. The anxiety slowly (very slowly) decreased. I didn’t really realise how much it truly affected me until I now long back. I was a mess! It ruled me. I was afraid of everything. Everything was a risk. Everything was a danger to Arthur. And I had to protect him from everything. It was exhausting. I still have my odd moments but it is a world away from what it once was.

I am not ashamed I am still on antidepressants. I am not ashamed I need medication to help me. I hope it’s not forever, just because one day I would like to be completely free of this. But for the moment, those little tablets are what I need. If you’re are struggling please don’t be ashamed in getting help. Don’t be closed off from the idea of medication. And don’t think you will HAVE to have it. You might not. Help comes in many different ways. Don’t be ashamed of needing it. We all do sometimes.

Love, Kate. X