The Truth behinde the photograph | Mental Health

We take photographs and keep them for many different reasons. Usually its to record a memory, a happy moment in time, a special occasion or a place that we visit. Not very often do we keep a photograph that reminds us of a difficult time in our lives, but this is what this photo is for me. A very difficult time in my life.

Looking at this photo you make think its just your average family snap. The sort of photo people have taken daily, and to be honest it is. I was about 4 months pregnant with my second child, Charlie and my in laws had come to visit for the weekend. They had come to see us before they went away to Australia for a month for Christmas to see family, and wanted to take a family snap to show our relatives abroad. Pretty normal right?! But what most people didn't know, even myself really if I'm being truly honest. Was that I was suffering with peri natal anxiety and depression. A condition not often spoken about and one that is not often understood.

I remember exactly how I felt when this photo was taken as if it was yesterday. I remember my heart racing and pounding out of my chest as if I had just run the 50 metre sprint. I remember how much my head ached and my kneck hurt from constantly feeling on edge and walking round with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I remember the struggle that it was to get dressed that day and put on a little make up to hide my puffy face from the tears I shed that morning, and I remember how hard it was to sit there and pretend to be "normal" and that everything was okay and how happy and excited I was to be pregnant.

The truth is I wasn't. I have shared my story in full here and you can also watch my video on it below. I was in my own living hell. Each day that passed harder than the previous. I felt I was failing as a mother to my daughter and as a wife to Rich. I had struggled the previous year with anxiety and I had got help and recovered. But when your pregnant your meant to be happy and excited?!? At least that's what I thought.

It finally all got too much, and why I was never at a point of wanting to end it all or having suicidal thoughts, I remember thinking I can not live the rest of my life feeling this way. I posted anonymously on a parenting Facebook page explaining how I felt and I was surprised to see how many women had felt or felt the same way as me. They encouraged me to speak to my midwife and tell her how I was feeling. I also searched my symptoms online and came across PANDASUK a fantastic charity who helped women just like me. When I was given a diagnoses of peri natal anxiety and depression I cried with relief. There was a name for it! I wasn't the only one and I wasn't loosing my mind and I wasn't a bad person. After a few months of CBT and regular chats with my midwife I began to feel like me again.

I relapsed about a year later and developed health anxiety over my children's health due to my son being very poorly when he was 5 weeks old. I blamed myself and felt it was some sort of karma for how I felt about him during my pregnancy. I was convinced he would be taken away from me and my daughter too. Fast forward to today and after having another round of CBT to help with some new issues I was having, I am happy to report I am in a really good place.

I am currently 28 weeks pregnant with my third and I haven't felt this happy in a long time. I feel I am at a point where I can control any anxious thoughts and feelings that I get, because they do crop up from time to time. The difference is I am now armed with the tools and techniques to manage them before they take over. Knowledge is power and I can see and react to these thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.

I no longer hide away in my house, avoid social situations or pretend like everything is okay. As much as I hate this photograph of myself I keep it as a reminder of how far I've come. I look at that photo and feel sad for the girl in it. It sounds strange referring to myself as another person, but honestly if you or I met that version of me today along side the person I am now, you wouldn't put us together as one. I don't recognise that person anymore. I would love to go back in time and give that version of me a hug and tell her that everything will be okay. I just needed to be a little brave and ask for help and that when I do, it would change my life in more ways than one.

I get so many messages from women who are feeling the same way I felt and it honestly breaks my heart to know that someone is suffering in the same way I did. Its the reason why I am so passionate about raising awareness and sharing my story. Not for attention or a pat on the back, but just so another women out there doesn't have to feel alone and to give them some hope of recovery. Because with the right help and support recovering can and will happen.

Its a photograph of a fake smile, an awkward pose and of someone who is in complete turmoil, but its part of my story, part of me, and it gives me the strength on my bad days to know I can do this and I've got this!

If you feel like you are struggling, or know someone who might, I cant stress enough how important it is to reach out to your midwife, doctor or even a friend and tell them how you feel. As I said above, with the right help and support you will get better and find the old you again.

I now have my life back and my days are not filled with anxious thoughts and panic attacks. I finally feel like me again. I just needed to be a little brave and speak out and I am so glad I did. I found the old me again. Mental health no longer controls me and my life...I finally feel free.

Thank you for reading.
Natasha x

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