Anna Ceesay, the Founder and Editor of Motherdom magazine, shares her personal experience of maternal mental health issues in this guest post alongside tips from experts Dr Rebecca Moore and Dr Emma Svanberg on alleviating anxiety and depression.
Over to Anna:
In January 2017, I reached out for help. I was pregnant with my second child and I wasn’t feeling well. I now know that I was suffering from perinatal low mood and anxiety. (‘Perinatal’ means the period from conception to when baby is 12 months old.)
Some mornings I would wake up with a sinking feeling that stayed there for the whole day. Sometimes I felt fine, great even, but when I did start to feel anxious or low, I hid it very well from everyone around me. I hadn’t even told my husband or parents.
I was lucky – I had an amazing GP who immediately referred me to my local NHS therapeutic team. I had CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions with a perinatal clinical psychologist, until my baby was six months old. CBT was life changing and mind-blowing. It taught me that I’m more than my thoughts, that my thoughts don’t need to control me, and that I can even change my patterns of thinking.
I came out of my experience with maternal mental ill-health feeling much better. I’m not ‘cured’, but now I have the tools to understand my mind a bit more. I also feel happier as a parent, able to be more present and enjoy my wonderful children, who are a gift and a blessing. (My daughter is nearly 6 and my son is now 2.)
But even though I feel better, I wanted to find a way to help other parents. And I’m a journalist. I realised there was no media platform dedicated to parents’ mental wellbeing so I’ve created one – Motherdom magazine. It’s not just for people who would identify with having a mental health issue – it’s for any parent with kids under 5 who wants to maintain positive mental wellbeing.
And it was really important to me that the magazine should be backed by leading experts in maternal mental health. I’m very proud to say that perinatal psychiatrist Dr Rebecca Moore and perinatal clinical psychologist Dr Emma Svanberg are both on Motherdom’s Editorial Board.
If you’re a parent and you’re feeling low, here are their top tips:
Dr Rebecca Moore’s tips for starting the conversation about mental health:
- Pick the person you feel most able to speak with and start the conversation.
- If you can’t say it, write it down.
- Some women find it easier to share how they feel on social media, where they can be anonymous and speak to their peers about how they feel.
- Tell your partner or a family member and consider taking them to the GP with you.
- Speak with your GP, and if you don’t get the response you want ask to see a perinatal champion who are local experts in perinatal mental health.
Dr Emma Svanberg’s tips for improving your mental wellbeing:
- Build a ‘village’ of people around you to rely on when things get tough.
- Plan with your partner, if you have one, what you can do to weather the storm together.
- Think about your parenting journey and celebrate the new skills you’ve learnt and how far you’ve come.
- Often people look back and feel a sense of loss. Rather than thinking about the old you before you had a baby, think about your new identity and what you want to achieve.
- As well as seeking professional help, there are things that we, as parents, can do to look after our mental health. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Motherdom is a place where we can all come together, a place where we can support each other in our parenting journeys, and a place where we can be happier parents.
Anna Ceesay is a former BBC journalist, a mum-of-two with personal experience of maternal mental health issues and the Founder and Editor of Motherdom magazine. To find out more and get your copy, visit: https://motherdom.co.uk or follow @motherdom_mag on Instagram.