A PND Brain Dump

At the moment all I want to do is wake up in the morning and feel happy to start the day. I cringe when I open my eyes because I feel so groggy, I don’t want to be forced down the stairs to feed little mouths and minds. I don’t like that I dread opening the curtains because then the light will come in and I will have to acknowledge that this is another day, another 15 hours of struggle until I get to close my eyes again and be happy in dark ignorance. I hate that I can rarely get myself dressed until 11am, and by then it’s baby naptime, so there’s no point in doing anything until baby wakes up. Then there’s lunch followed by toddler naptime and when that’s all done with the day is basically over and we’ve spent the whole time rattling around in our house.

Sometimes I get glimpses of how it should be: occasionally the feeling of heaviness and foreboding leaves. I am dressed and excited for the day and I find myself having a little spring in my step. It’s such a tease because this is how it should be! This is what my life should be like all the time, enjoying these two wonderful people who came from me, not forcing myself into jolliness for their sake, you know? Actually living and being the jolliness, feeling it without having to work for it. But the cruel thing is that I’m never quite sure how the good days happen. I don’t know why I spend one day smiling and feeling light hearted and the next on the constant verge of tears or worse, hiding in the kitchen so the kids can’t see the sobbing that happens for no reason.

The GP has been quite rubbish. I went to her four weeks ago as the tablets she’d prescribed me, though I felt they were working, were causing me to sleep 10-12 hours a day. Not practical. I was constantly heavy eyed and searching for my next fix of sleep, and even more unable to get up in the morning. She took one look at me, said I was looking better as I wasn’t crying and told me to stop taking them. She said that anti depressants only affect about 10% of how you feel so they weren’t doing that much anyway. I was in there for 5 minutes, she didn’t ask me any more questions about my behaviour or state of mind. It was quick, easy, impersonal and totally wrong for me.

I’ve since had 4 weeks of horrible withdrawal effects: vertigo, night sweats, insane palpitations. If you include the two weeks of awful anxiety, insomnia and teeth grinding I had when I went on the medication, I have had side effects for as long as I was taking the tablets.

I felt a bit like I was on a conveyor belt with my GP. I told her I wasn’t coping, with no further probing she put me in the ‘woman with PND’ box and sent me along my way with 20mg of citalopram and a nod. And when I was having problems with that she didn’t probe, she just took me off the medication. The CBT I enquired about was ‘not worth it as the waiting list is too long, you’ll be better by the time it comes around’.

I thought that she must know best in telling me to come of the medication so I did, but I think she was wrong. I have so much faith that what doctors say is without question the right thing (apart from with Elfie… I always am suspicious then) so I did what I was told. But I don’t feel any better, just a bit more disheartened at the help that’s on offer.

One dangerous part of the way I’m feeling at the moment is that I’m so good at putting a brave face on it. I am used to just getting on with things and making sure everyone around me is clean, fed and happy and because I’m managing to function there has been no urgency. Even though I have these bad days I also have good days so I suppose have been wondering, is this what my life is destined to be like now? Just surviving, getting through each day? Enjoying only about 20% of it but that’s better than nothing: is there actually anything wrong with me?

My life at the moment is lived through a glass window. I’m looking at it, it’s happening in front of me, but I don’t feel like I’m an active part of it. Sometimes the window opens and I can reach through and be present in my life – these are the good days – but then the window closes and I return to my role of spectator.

The thing is, I had started to just come to terms with the fact that this would be my normal. The GP effectively signed me off as healthy (which may be slightly my fault as I’m so good at ‘faking it’), where else is there I can go from here? It is only through emails from a couple of friends who have been going through similar experiences that I have realised how much support I still need. They’re receiving therapy, weekly GP visits, proper specific mental health support. This is what I need, I don’t think I can continue to cope for much longer on my own.

All together this all sounds like a bit of a negative post, but it’s not. It’s positive if anything. Because I have come to the realisation that I am not OK, life is still crappy for me, and most importantly it doesn’t have to be this way. I didn’t know that before, I thought I just had to get on with it.

So I have taken the first step once again: I plucked up the courage to ring my Health Visitor last week (are you still allowed to have a Health Visitor when your baby is 9 months old?) and she’s coming to see me on Monday. I will not be afraid to tell her how I feel, it’s more important now than ever to be brave and admit to it. I need to see a doctor again and I will insist it is a different one to last time. I want proper support – I deserve proper support. I will kick this thing and turn my bad days into good ones again.

53 Comments
  1. Please, please go and see another doctor. I’m amazed she just took you off the medication so quickly – it’s no wonder you’re having horrible withdrawal symptoms. You should have been prescribed something else that worked for you, or a lower dosage. To be honest, I think she’s behaved incredibly irresponsibly and you’re right to feel pissed off at this.

    I hope you get the support you need and deserve.

    1. Thank you, Sian. At the time I accepted all I was told and got on with life but you’re completely right. I’m hoping I can keep my strength up to make my case but if not – at least it’s all written down x

  2. You’re still allowed a health visitor until your child is 5.

    I’m in a kinda similar situation to you but without the babies! For the past 4 years I have been going to my GP, asking for help with my low moods. A lot of GPs blamed it on the pill. Some blamed it on stress. Others said “this is your 20s and it will get better.” I felt like you, I was watching myself through a glass window and putting myself into further stress; during my nursing degree I was working 3 jobs and writing assignment. After 4 years, I just cried with my head on my GPs desk asking for something to help and now I am on citalpram. Like you, I am always groggy. I am sleeping for 10-12 hours a day but as a nurse, it’s not working out. I start my new job next week and I am already worried about how I am going to get through a shift.

    I’m disheartened by your GP; any medication take 6 weeks to get into your system. I always ask patients that unless they are allergic is to try and cope with the side effects (which is what we have) for 6-8weeks. If it’s not working, then we go onto something else. I’m on week 5 and I am waking up less groggy and today is the first day that I didn’t have a nap! I went to see my GP yesterday and he wants me to stay on 20mg for a further 3 months and drop it down to 10mg, then 5mg until 6 months are up.

    I wouldn’t care if the CBT waiting list is long; everyone says that. It is definitely worth going. I did this in the summer of my final year of Uni and it really helped with the grief I had with losing my Nana 3 years ago and how I coped with my family afterwards.

    I’m sorry you feel like this and it’s patronising when people say ‘it gets better’ but it does. I highly recommend (from a nurse point of view) returning back to the GP, requesting CBT and another discussion about medication. Citlapram is a blanket one prescribed to most people and there are others, more effective ones which they are reluctant to prescribe due to their cost.

    If you google “mental health foundation podcasts”, there are some fantastic ones on sleep and breathing techniques. Really helped me a lot.

    Good luck .x.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting – hearing other people’s experiences helps me so much.

      I think our NHS is wonderful but there are so many failings. One of them is mental health: there is help for those slightly affected and help for those very much affected but not much in the middle. It’s a shame there is not more support for people like us.

      It sounds like you’re coming out the other end: I wish you all the best x

  3. I had a health visitor until my daughter was two – think that’s probably some kind of record. She was one of the very few people who treated my PND with any intelligence though. That and a psychiatrist who told me I needed to stop being in the house, was having an identity breakdown and basically needed to go back to work (but that’s just me and not the answer for everyone, I hasten to add!)

    There is such a blunt hammer generally when it comes to dealing with PND I have to say. And it’s almost always shunted into a “medical” condition by the mainstream – rather than often a very logical reaction to a number of factors – isolation, shattering of identity, claustrophobia, financial problems, loss of “status”, loss of freedom, endless routine, lack of stimulation etc.

    In my case (and many others I have heard), they kept trying to just fob me off with antidepressants or valium or sleeping pills or other chemical coshes, which is just bloody lazy.

    In the end, despite my PND being very severe for 15 months, I managed to get out of it, when I found my psychological/emotional keys, within around a month.

    And while there may have been a hormonal element at play (anecdotally a large proportion of PND sufferers get better around the 14-15th month mark, which does seem to indicate hormones settling – as well as the full turn of a calendar, which is a minimum cycle in any large life transition) it was so marked and so conscious and quick a shift that I know it was finding what clicked with me that really moved me forward emotionally.

    Working out what I needed, how I needed it, practical structure changes (these can be very important – not every answer is found through going in emotionally – sometimes the answer IS practical – more childcare, more structure that suits you, more company, a new project, which then sorts out the emotional stuff), where I wanted to go as me, not just a mother, and just having an alternative focus basically.

    I was still knackered, course! But I didn’t dread getting up in the morning. And that is how it should be.

    God, what a rant. Sorry! But I just feel very passionately about it all, because it’s so nasty – and I so hope you start to feel better soon Alice.

    1. I loved your response. Rings very true. Life changes are huge and have such an impact. At some of my low points it has been helpful for me to acknowledge how upset I am. I’ve weathered some rough storms (still am!) and oh I know those days of the hours stretching ahead and seeking solitude in the bathroom. Therapy has been incredibly vital for me. Seriously has kept me going, and ready to face the world again for the next few days. Also, sewing for me gave me a focus and pleasurable activity to reap some satisfaction from. Not everyone’s cup of tea but something fruitful and creative can always be a good thing!
      I hope the health visitor is really responsive, supportive and “loving”. xx

      1. I think acknowledging how upset I am definitely helps it seem more real – you’re right! Working on http://www.mamauk.net has definitely given me a welcome creative outlet (I’d love to be able to sew – I can’t even manage a button!!) so I’m carrying on with that as much as time allows, I love having a project.

        Thank-you xx

    2. A lot of what you have said has made so much sense to me. I already know I’m battling with loss of identity (how do I sort that one out?!). Working lifts me like nothing else which is odd as I’ve spent my whole life looking forward to having kids and not being able to work, so I’ve re-ignited my working life (though it’s mostly around the kids).

      Hearing snippets of stories like yours is so important as it reminds me that I’m not alone. Thank-you for sharing, I loved your rant xx

  4. Kayleia is right – Citalopram takes ages to get into the system properly and you feel SO crap to begin with – my side effects were constant yawning and teeth grinding at night along with the incredible tiredness. I think you should definitely consult another doctor and go for the CBT. I’m actually off the medication now (thanks to a fantastic doctor worth her weight in gold who has sadly since retired) but now seeing a counsellor who has been amazing. She would say, and I agree, that documenting your feelings on here is an incredibly brave, strong and beneficial thing to do. Alice you’re definitely not alone and I totally applaud you for being so open.

    1. Thank-you Juliet. It seems sad that the level of care you get seems to depend on how good your doctor is. I’m glad I have people like you on here who can keep pushing me to be strong and find that support – I will do all I can x

  5. Please please don’t give up hope – I would find another gp ASAP. It wasn’t pnd for me but it was the worst spell of my life. There IS another side, I absolutely promise. And if I can get there I know 100% that you can too :-)

    I’m not sure what you were on, but have a google of cipralex. More anxiety based, in my experience it gives a ‘boost’ and increased my happiness just when I needed it. I never felt drugged up or suffered any side effects. It’s newer than citalopram I think.

    Obviously drugs are different for everyone – it might be trial & error but you WILL get there, everyone deserves lovely days :-)

    E xxxxx

    1. Thank you Emma, I’ll definitely ask about cipralex. From what I can tell about citalopram it’s the easiest, cheapest mass-market AD out there that is automatically prescribed to the women in the ‘PND’ box!

      xx

  6. Well done for being honest with yourself. I’m very disappointed in your GP, she sounded so promising at the start as well.
    Would it be worth showing your HV the blog posts you’ve done re PND? It may help you to have them to refer to if you find it hard to talk about.

    Now, I have no actual experience to base this next bit on, but would it help if you tried to tackle some of the things you’ve mentioned one thing at a time? (Stop me if this isn’t helping). You mention first that you hate that you don’t get dressed until 11am. Could you make that your first thing to tackle? Perhaps sort out your clothes the night before so they’re all ready for you in the morning and then first thing in the morning when you wake up: get dressed. You can always shower later or something, but first thing you do just get dressed. Then you are more ready to face the day! and you’ve tackled one thing that is making you feel worse right now.
    xxx

    1. Thank you Heather. To be honest I think If I gave my HV my blog posts and asked her to read them I might explode watching her reading! I am going to go back through them tonight and note down some key points that I want to discuss with her though.

      I think tackling some of the things head on is a really good idea. I don’t know if you’re familiar with FlyLady – flylady.net – they help you live an organized and happy life. One of the things they say is a good idea is to lay your clothes out every night and immediately get dressed when you get up. I’ve always thought (hmm yes, maybe that’s a good idea) but now I am going to try to start doing this from tomorrow. :) xx

  7. I cannot BELIEVE there are doctors like that out there!! My GP (mind you – a private one :| ) was so super nice. Don’t give up until you find a doctor who’s not an asshole :)

    PS. I took 20mg of Citalopram as well and I remember the constant yawing but I wasn’t tired as such, just embarrassed in meetings at work! There are so many different medications around and I am sure you can find the one that suits you… It might be a bit of trial and error but I think it’s worth it.

  8. I’m shocked that she said that about CBT to you. They can’t just put you in a ‘woman with PND’ box and hope it will go away as your baby gets older. The depression may have come about due to having a baby but it doesn’t mean it just goes away as your baby gets older. It should be treated like all other forms of depression.

    xxx

  9. Hey Alice, i dont know you or comment much but i follow your blog – i love it! but just wanted to say I have them days too. One day I am full of happiness with a ready to go attitude and then the next day I don’t want to leave the house or open the blinds to let the sun in. I think the guilt of my sad behaviour (i act happy and everything is ok but its not) affecting my baby causes me to get up with new hopes the next day. I’m so up and down its exhausting. I don’t know if its me being a women, me being a new mum, or just me being the women who wants more from her life – this in particular is me ready to explode from frustration of the ideas i want to do but don’t because so tired of being a sahm. All I can say is I can totally relate and you’re not the only one and that maybe it’s taking longer for you to adapt and except what has changed in your life. If I was you I would be so proud of myself – a mum with two lovely kids, a husband, a great blog and a exciting mama magazine. stay positive, smell the roses, don’t feel guilty for the bad days you’re only human after all and I hope you get them damn doctors to listen up! :)

    1. You’re really right – it is exhausting. And such a vicious circle, I have such a lovely life and this is what I’ve always wanted and I feel very guilty that I’m not loving every second or making the most of every day!

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment xx

  10. Oh hon, not good news. Go with your gut on the medication thing – if you don’t feel it was the correct course of action you need to see someone else (perhaps ask who is the doctor that has charge of pre and post natal care at the practice – there usually is one). Sadly some doctors are just ignorant of PND and tend to brush over it because they don’t understand it. She should have put you on the list for CBT as soon as you had seen her, regardless of the wait list. I got an appointment within three weeks so the ‘wait list’ may not be as horrific as she perceives.

    I have heard that Citalopram is a nightmare from a number of people. Everyone is different, but I went onto Sertraline (50mg) with both bouts of PND and went on (and off it first time around) with no issues apart from feeling a little jittery at the beginning. My sister in law who works at SF General says that sometimes you need to try more than one to get the right one for you.

    Good luck – I hope that it goes OK with the HV and new doctor.

    x

    1. Thank you Tori, it’s been brilliant reading everyone’s comments. There was a part of me that was thinking I was making an awful fuss.

      I’m going to look up Sertraline and add it to the list I will take to the GP of ‘medications I might like to take that aren’t Citalopram’.! xx

  11. I’d like to tell you what a powerful and great post this is, and it really is but all I want to scream is: NO, NO, NO at your GP. That is THE biggest mistake you can make with antidepressants. If you were on 20 she should have taken you down to 10 and then you could have gone off it, she just made everything worse now. This is also going to make it unlikely for you to want to go on anything else in the future to avoid those horrible initial side effects. I’m still in touch with the HV even though Z is 3. It’s good to talk to someone and get some tough love and often they’ll know what to do. xx

    1. Thank you lovely! I’m not scared to go back on anything but I don’t want it to be Citalopram and I will be v wary of side effects and coming off them when the time comes. Hopefully my HV will be nice to me tomorrow and the next doctor I see will be better informed on PND and medication xx

  12. Your GP is not doing her job right – I would put in a formal complaint. It sounds like she’s more concerned with getting you in, ticking a box and moving in to the next patient than actually caring for you. You do deserve better, and I’m glad you are seeing your HV about it (my HV says she’ll see me when Aiden is 2 so I don’t know how long you get them for – seems to depend from person to person!). I hope your HV has a few more brain cells than your GP and you get the help that you need xxo

  13. So sorry to hear you are feeling like this. I agree with the others, ask for another GP, demand to be put on the CBT register and ask for advice on your prescription and all the options. I really hope you get the help and support you need x

  14. I’m going to echo what others have said and recommend a new doctor (which it seems you’re doing). Taking you off one lot of medication so soon with no withdrawal plan seems shocking to me. I live with someone with depression, and have seen for myself the effects just missing one day of medication can have. The fact your GP took you off it knowing you have two young children to care for seems so irresponsible.

    Don’t give up. There is a way out, it just takes a while to find the way that is right for you.

    1. Thank-you! It has been awful and I’m quite annoyed, but I guess at least I have the courage to keep plodding along until I get the right answer xx

  15. I’m going to say this now, and without reading the other comments, so I may be repeating what has already been said. Please see another doctor. PND is not something that should be taken lightly and I am appalled and disappointed by the treatment you have received so far. Fight your corner.

  16. I can’t believe your GP, she sounds terrible. Antidepressants should never be stopped cold turkey, it takes careful tapering to avoid the nasty withdrawal symptoms you’ve been experiencing :( But also it’s so important to use the improved mood you get from the pills to find coping mechanisms for when you eventually come off them. That’s why I can’t believe she said don’t bother with CBT, it’s so irresponsible.
    I took Citalopram and it worked for me once I got over the first few weeks side effects. I don’t know what time of day you were taking it but my doctor suggested taking it in the evening rather than the morning. Fluoxetine worked for me too but I felt a bit of a zombie on it. It’s all about finding what works for you and you will since you have acknowledged that you need the help. Good luck with the health visitor xx

    1. Thanks Natalie, I can’t believe at the time I wasn’t able to put my foot down with the GP but I just went along with whatever she said. It’s only looking back on it now that I realise how ridiculous it was.

      I was taking them last thing at night but that meant I couldn’t get up in the morning, so I switched to taking them at about 10am but that only worked if I was able to keep busy and get some adrenaline going, otherwise I’d fall asleep. NIGHTMARE, all-round. Hopefully the HV will have some sensible suggestions tomorrow xx

  17. Hi Alice,
    This is Nicola (I was a Livejournal friend back in the day!) I just want to say how much I enjoy your blog and how wonderfully honest and real you are on here. I read all of your posts and look forward to them popping up on my feed :)

    Please go and see a different GP for a second opinion. As somebody who was on Citalopram for many years (I have since switched to a different drug), it does take a long time to settle into the system and I only noticed the gradual effects over a period of about 6 months. I also had a phase of coming off it too quickly and I took a huge nose dive and became very unwell. I fear the doctor you saw thought that a few weeks of it would serve as a quick fix. On a recent visit to my own GP I poured my heart out. She felt that CBT was not the best option and that I needed long term therapy to help me. I went away with a sense of relief. 4 weeks later she seemed to have forgotten who I was and then told me to self-refer for CBT. Like you say above, the NHS is wonderful but it does not seem to be as strong when it comes to mental health. It feels as if you would have to do something drastic to raise any kind of alarm bells and that is not a healthy system in my opinion. Many of my family members suffer with mental health problems and my mother had PND. It took some terrible things to occur before anybody stepped up to help.

    In Manchester there is a self-help referral service that I have recently contacted. I told them everything in a form I had to fill in and they got back to me very quickly. There are lots of options including group support and 1:1 support. I have yet to attend these as the waiting list is 3-4 weeks in my area, so I cannot advise on the quality. I wonder if there is a similar service in your own area? It annoyed me that I had to self-refer but it also meant that I was much bolder as I am better at writing things down than saying them. I have asked for exactly what I want (both group and 1:1 help) and they have signed me up for these.

    I really hope things improve for you soon Alice. Please know that you are not alone. x

  18. oh Alice I’m so sorry you are feeling this way. Your experience at your Doctors brings back so many memories, it wasn’t until I showed up at the surgery with a packed suitcase and demanded to be sectioned they listened to me…but thats a long time ago and another story for another day!
    Your very brave to write about this and if you ever want to talk you know where I am xx

  19. You’re absolutely right to see another GP and to refuse to accept the way you’re feeling is “normal”. Life WILL be happy for you again, but you do need support if it’s to get that way. Constantly being the one looking out for everyone else, putting your own feelings last and “faking” happy is a dangerous path to tread. There’s only so long you can fake it after all. Keep knowing yourself and, if you need to, keep fighting for the support you undoubtedly deserve. xxxx

  20. *useless internet hugs*

    You are right, go back and get proper support. Get on the CBT waiting list as who knows how long it will take! I hope your next appointment is more fruitful x

  21. Hello lovely. There are so many comments here, and I don’t have time to read through them all so I apologise if I am repeating what has been already said.

    Find a new doctor and discuss medication options. It took me over a year to work out exactly what medication I needed and in what dose. Luckily I have a great doctor but it wasn’t straight forward. Now a combination of the pill and Fluoxetine have me on a level from where I can work on getting my life back and getting better. It might take time but there will be an option out there that works for you.

    The other thing is I was referred to ‘Health in Mind’ for support and CBT. I think that they are a charity – not sure that they are country wide so you might need to google to see if they are near you but I am sure you can self refer to them for medication support (going on and coming off etc) as well as CBT etc.

    I hope you find the support you need soon x

  22. Definitely talk to your HV – I found mine incredibly helpful when eventually I couldn’t carry on – she was able to sit and talk and listen and take time rather than the doctors conveyor belt

    One thing she made me do was to write down every day 3 things I had done well – to focus on the positive, didn’t fix things but did start to give me a lifebelt to cling to that I wasn’t totally cocking it all up

  23. Oh God, your GP! You’re supposed to come off antidepressants slooooooowly so you don’t get all the shitty withdrawal you’ve been getting. She should know that, it is basic. Happy Pills 101 if you will. I know you might not want to change your GP, but is there anyone else at the practice you could see? I am glad you are seeing your HV xxx

  24. I don’t really have anything ‘useful’ to say at all, but just wanted to pop by and say that I think you’re amazing. Your posts about pnd have made me address my own issues with motherhood and it’s so good to read about real life experiences rather than people who present their life through rose coloured spectacles of perfection. In short, I think you’re great!

  25. What a very weird thing to say of your GP. I hope you’ll find the energy to look for someone more capable…
    On a slightly different note – don’t beat yourself up if you don t get dressed by 2pm and if you don’t do anything with the kids apart from hanging out and watching Peppa again and again and again. It’s fine, seriously. You posted something on Mama’s FB page today that rings very true. They are only small for a very short time. Don’t spend that time stressing yourself with things you ‘should’ do. Much love, Dxx

  26. Sending you a big hug Alice – you do deserve better, good on you for recognizing that seeking what you need. I’d also say that it’s important that whoever you choose to talk to – doctor, HV, therapist etc- accepts where you are coming from but also helps you feel even more empowered to get past it. I’m not talking about an instant solution but rather a positive connection that helps you know you will get past the PND. If they don’t make you feel this way they are not the right person to be talking to. Don’t back down until you find the right solution for you xxx

  27. All I want to do is cuddle up on my sofa and immerse myself in your blog. HOWEVER… my 7 month old daughter Erin is going to wake up any second, so I’ll have to delay for.. oooh, f knows.. Being a parent and having time for yourself, to recuperate is so hard. I’ve just been to the doc myself re: PND and your above post scarily mirrors my feelings.. and I’m sure lots of other people too. Good luck with it.. I’m going back to therapy tonight which will do me lots of good. Drugs are much better taken recreationally! ;)

    I look forward to more posts! Marianne x

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