Once you recognise that you potentially have mental health problems, the next step is how to deal with them. There are a number of options available, and these are the ones that myself or other mums I know have tried and had some benefit from! I hope that this list helps someone going into a GP appointment to know a bit more about the options and what they could try!
Sometimes, when you visit the GP the first response is to prescribe medication. Thankfully, when I went to the GP with my postnatal depression I had the experience of having been on antidepressants previously, and I knew that they wouldn’t be very effective for me. I did eventually end up using medication, but not for very long at all. However, there are some misconceptions about using antidepressants that need addressing!
You CAN breastfeed while on antidepressants – sertraline is the most common one for breastfeeding mothers, but the majority of tablets carry the same risk level for a low dosage. If this is one of your concerns, bring it up with the doctor because they have a handy little book they can check that tells you if it passes to the milk or not!
Side effects ARE worth mentioning to the GP – when I was on sertraline I could barely stay awake. It is a common side effect of this particular medication, and I went back to the GP to say that I couldn’t continue to use it. Easily enough I was switched onto an active antidepressant, fluoxetine, which did not make me feel drowsy at all. Even with medication, you need to find what works for you – it’s not one size fits all! I know a mum who was on sertraline successfully as she used the drowsiness side effect to help her get to sleep at night too by changing when she took the tablet to right before she went to bed.
You SHOULD NOT feel ashamed for taking medication. After all, depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain. If you had a limb amputated you wouldn’t manage it without analgesics, so why should you manage without medication when part of your brain isn’t functioning properly as it should?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
I’ve tried this once in the past in the form of group sessions, but I’m fairly certain it can be done one on one too. I found the group sessions really helpful when I was younger, but my memory is failing me here as it was over 10 years ago now!
CBT can work for a number of mental health issues including depression, OCD, eating disorders and more. It is an active form of therapy which aims to change your outlook on life by setting goals and completing tasks in between sessions. It can make you feel like you’re really making a meaningful change in your life.
Talking therapy includes a lot of different types of therapy that actively involve you talking to a therapist, but they take many forms! CBT (above) is one of them too. There’s also family therapy, relationship therapy, psychotherapy, etc. But counselling is the most common of them.
Counselling on the NHS is usually done by self-referral and it’s a pretty simple process. When you contact the GP about your mental health concerns, you can ask for contact details of local counselling services – they should all have these to hand. Otherwise, have a look on the NHS website to find your local service.
This is something that works really well for me. I’ve attended family therapy and counselling a few times and, although I don’t get on with family therapy (probably due to my family being the root cause of many issues), when I try counselling I always see a marked improvement from when I started. If I had the money to do it, I’d probably pay to see a therapist for counselling weekly because it helps me that much! At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works for you. If you absolutely hate the thought of this, peer support might be a better option!
If you’re a twitter user, I strongly recommend following @PNDandMe. Rosey hosts a twitter chat every Wednesday 8-9pm for parents suffering with their mental health to talk in a supportive environment on a particular topic. Mummykind has co-hosted one in the past, and I regularly take part in them when I remember! This is a great way to remind yourself that you’re not alone, and it’s also much easier to type out how you’re feeling than to say it out loud, so it could be worth having a go if you’re daunted by the thought of going to counselling!
Craft Attack (or similar)
Harriet went through a craft therapy group after she had little Florence, and she’s written about her experience before on MummyGoesWhereFloGoes. I haven’t tried this one personally, but I can only imagine how something so therapeutic itself can really help you to overcome or manage you mental health difficulties. Even if the groups aren’t available in your area (ask your GP to check!), taking some time to yourself with a colouring book or another crafty project might just help you to calm yourself and re-centre – refocus on you!
Again, this is another one that Harriet has trialled and is particularly helpful if you had a traumatic birth and are suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, it’s not only available if you do have a PTSD diagnosis!
It’s available to any woman who has recently given birth, and the idea is in the name – it’s for you to ask questions that you only thought of after the birth, to have your questions answered so that you can maybe come to terms with things that happened during or after the birth of your baby. This service might not be available in every NHS trust so make sure to discuss it with your midwife/health visitor to find out if you can access the service where you are!
I hope you find this little summary useful, and please, if you’ve tried any other kinds of therapy let us know what they are and how you found them in the comments!