About Me

Kent, United Kingdom
I have the perfect family but still struggle to find the light in the darkness of post-natal depression.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

NHS: No Hope, Sorry?

Unless you've been under a rock this year you've probably noticed that it's the 60th anniversary of the NHS.
And after a conversation with a friend about their experiences battling to get even the most basic of care, I thought perhaps some of my own reflections on the subject might be timely.
You may already have read a bit about it but if you're interested, here's the rest - at least in how it relates to my PND. There was a whole other battle about my frequently dislocating kneecaps but that could be a whole other blog!
So as I mentioned the other day, the birth was fantastic. As good as it could have been, and the care in the birthing centre could not have been better.
But a few weeks on, when I realised there were problems that weren't going away, things started going wrong.
I've thought and thought about this (with the old rational argument at the back of my mind) but I do believe the early stages of this "illness" could have been handled better, and then who knows what would have happened?
So I started with the health visitor who came round after the midwife signed us off. She was lovely, in a motherly kind of way, but that's as far as it went. When I spoke about my feelings of despair, guilt, failure, she nodded and listened and offered to come back for more nodding and listening.
Which maybe is all that some people need - but I needed more.
So then I tried the nurse at my six week check. Who could not have been less interested. She seemed to care more about ticking the boxes on her screen about contraception, which I can assure you was the least of my concerns!
She suggested I saw a GP. So I did. And to give him his due, he didn't question my belief that I had PND or needed help. But his answer was simply medication, and then go away and get on with it.
I tried, I really did, and increased the dose and tried some more. But it wasn't getting better. And every visit to the health visitors' clinic ended the same way - not with a lovely chat about how well Tasha was doing but with me in tears begging for someone to help me. The response? We'll make a note on your file and ask someone to get in touch. No one did.
So I went back to the GP again and asked for something else - it's called "talking therapy" in the magazines.
He was keen for more drugs and more time. I thought that combination could be a lethal one - and that's not an exaggeration.
So I ended up with my own mental health nurse. Who was lovely, and managed to get me a referral to a psychiatrist, who then referred me to a psychotherapist. And I saw both for a bit - until the pyschiatrist discharged me for the sole reason that she was moving jobs and would not be replaced.
Therapy in all its forms is a slow process - some would say a lifelong one. So I wasn't expecting instant results, but some kind of hope of improvement would have been nice. That was dangled over my head, in the form of a group therapy session that was being set up.
Hurrah, I thought - finally people who understand and won't tell me how fantastic motherhood is...
And to some degree, I got that - and I've made at least one good friend who I hope will be a lasting one. But that was the only thing I got out of it. I had to take time out of work - which meant a premature confession to my problems and made things feel uncomfortable - and some weeks we would spend the time discussing holidays or the therapist's family life.
I did speak up - I'm sure you would expect nothing less! - after a particularly distressing session where I literally asked for help in coping with just living and surviving another week, and was told to bring it back to the next session as we were out of time.
That was a catalyst for me - I wanted to get better and it's clear it wasn't going to happen here. So I started looking around and managed to find my lovely therapist. And after just one session I felt a hope I hadn't experienced in the months and months since Tasha was born.
But when I mentioned this at the group session - which I had been persuaded to give another go - I was told it showed a lack of committment to the group. So I decided committment to my recovery was more important and 'quit' group therapy.
I've since heard that another two people have quit and one is only going part time, which perhaps indicates the problems go deeper than my dissatisfaction.
I'm glad I'm angry about this, because it's what helped me survive. But it shouldn't be that way. Not everyone who is depressed has the strength to battle with those who are supposed to be there to help - for some, even plucking up the courage to make that first appointment with a GP can be a struggle.
Of course, some people do just need a low dose of those good old happy pills and that's enough to sort them out, so it's right that they should be the first option. But if they don't work the system seems to fall apart somewhat.
Maybe it's about budgets. Maybe, as I've said before, I'm just difficult. I know many people who would agree with that.
It's great that there is a real awareness now among the medical profession about this, but I'm not sure it extends beyond the relatively mild cases. But there are still mums out there with PND who harm themselves or their families so surely that makes it a priority for training and budgets?
When it's a fight just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get dressed and leave the house, it's massively unfair that we have to fight for the help we need to get better too.

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