Chloé shares an honest account of her journey of mental health throughout pregnancy and the early years of motherhood.
I guess I had pretty good mental health bar some phobia issues until I was almost 30. I had had a very short period of time off sick from work running up to my marriage but other than that I functioned well.
My first child was 2 when I had my first mental breakdown. I was lucky that I had family support and because of this childcare was organised and paid for and so I was able to shutdown and opt out of my life for a time. Eventually my son was awarded a full time nursery place because of my illness. After my breakdown I never went back to being a full time mum to him.
Gradually I got well enough to feel ready to have another child (my first son was now 5 years old). I had a very anxious pregnancy filled with feelings of impending doom. I was certain that either myself or my new baby would die during the birth. The birth went well and I thought “now I can relax and do this,” however within a few hours my son was in special care with a serious infection. My mother’s first baby had died from this infection and I was told that even if babies survive, that 10% will be left with serious complications. I was also told that the illness can recur in the first 3 months of life.
My baby got well and I took him home. I was full of fear and spent weeks lying awake all night while he slept beside me.
At 6 weeks he was rushed into A&E at the children’s hospital with suspected meningitis. I had 3 harrowing nights in an isolation unit believing once again that I would lose my child. He got well.
I battled through anxiety and somehow managed to be a stay-at-home-mum as I wanted to be and it was a huge deal when youngest son started school alongside all the other children his age, like a normal child!
I started attending Changes Bristol groups after my son turned 3 and I was no longer allowed to attend mothers for mothers groups (which I discovered when my second son was 6 months old – they helped me hugely to cope with that time).
I had few friends and felt quite isolated. I joined changes and decided to give it 4 weeks. I returned home each Tuesday for 3 weeks and cried. It was so different to what I was used to at mothers for mothers. I found it hard being in a mixed group. I was so shy and it was difficult to share. My husband told me to stop putting myself through the agony but I stuck to my 4 week plan. On the 4th week I came home smiling!
It has now been almost 4 years since I joined Changes Bristol and I’ve rarely missed a week. Life has had some serious ups and downs in that time but attending the group has been something that has kept me strong. Being able to share without judgement and in a safe place makes me feel heard and validated.
Hearing that I’m not alone really helps the struggle and also being able to help others through listening and sharing experience makes me feel good and helps with my self esteem issues.
However badly my week is going, I know I have people who are ready to listen every Tuesday (or other days if I’m in crisis and need an extra group) which helps me to feel less isolated.
I’ve got a group of friends I met through Changes and these friendships are like nothing I’ve experienced before. We talk openly together, we meet up regularly despite how we might be feeling, we bring laughter, tears, anger – whatever we feel is OK. We accept one another and I feel fully accepted by these friends.
I’m honestly not sure I would be here now if it wasn’t for Changes Bristol.
Barton Hill Settlement
41-43 Ducie Road