Today is World Mental Health Day. There are many people sharing their stories about the reality of living with mental health. Why is this important? Because by sharing our stories and uniting our voices we can be the change needed to make sure that people and families affected get the help and support they need.
For me personally being able to speak out and not be ashamed to admit that I have suffered is very important. For a long time I felt I couldn’t speak out, silenced not only by my own fears and doubts, but of others.
Birth trauma sadly affects many women and their partners, but there can a silence to trauma that makes ones feel they should be strong, get over it and be ok. No one ever acknowledged what I had been through, it was like it had never happened. My family, those who cared for me after the birth and postnatally never once asked if I was ok? This led me to believe that I should try to forget it, be grateful me and my baby was a live and not complain or make a fuss. Only this led to me trying to bury feelings that couldn’t be wiped away.
As time passed my trauma and the inability to talk about what I was feeling and struggling with led to me developing Perinatal PTSD. Yet it took many years to actually get a diagnosis, instead I was passed around from person to person, service to service and offered treatment that didn’t help me. The more people I saw, the more treatments I had that didn’t help the more I believed I was deflective and weak, the problem was me! The problem wasn’t ‘me’ I had PTSD. When I tried with one counsellor to talk about my experience she told me to ‘let it go, to try to concentrate on now and that we were alive’. Oh how I wished I could. Instead images haunted my mind, anxiety ravaged my body and I became a ghost, a mere shadow of who I use to be.
Perinatal PTSD has stole lot of my life, it has also affected my parenting and intimately my children. If just one person had acknowledged the horror I had endured, If one person had listened sooner, if one person had said what happened to you mattered, instead of making me feel bad for not ‘getting over’ it, maybe I would have recovered sooner.
My battle to get a diagnosis and treatment has left me with long term mental health issues that sadly I may never fully be free from. So while today is world mental health day my battle is everyday.
Everyday I will fight to get families the help they need both in maternity and mental health services.
Everyday I will speak up for those who have suffered birth trauma.
Everyday I will lift me voice and make people listen about PTSD and the devastation it causes.
No one should struggle to access support for their mental health, instead it must be as important as any physical illness. We cannot afford to ignore perinatal mental health because the impact on children, families and communities is huge. But more than that it is the impact it has on the individuals whose lives it rips apart, whose memories it steals and hearts it breaks.
This morning as I rushed around cleaning I glanced at the picture on my wall of my two beautiful girls and the tears fell till they choked me and sobs racked my body. I feel cheated and let down by those who I needed to help me. Yet I know that in really it was not their fault, but the fault of a system that lacks correct training, services and treatments. The fault lies in us making mothers feel that bringing home a healthy baby is all that matters.
Mental health matters, it matters because it affects us all. So today world mental health day, look at those brave enough to share their stories, real people that struggle everyday and remember that sometimes all they need is for you to listen, because in doing so you can make a world of difference.