RIP Charlotte Bevan :(

There is always an awful lot of terrible news in the press, with families and friends going through intense suffering and grief. But nothing hit home to me so much as this tragic story of Charlotte Bevan. The moment I heard my heart was sinking, wondering if she had some form of mental health condition that might have led to such uncharacteristic behaviour.

For the latest story, this article covers it:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/04/baby-girl-dead-body-charlotte-bevan-avon-gorge

My heart goes out to the partner/father and family of the mother and baby. I am really shocked by it all. Whilst details are unconfirmed, it does indeed appear that she lived with a mental health problem of some sort. I won’t talk about this specific case too much as they need to be left in peace, but in general terms this highlights in such a stark way how careful ladies need to be, particularly if you have bipolar, schizophrenia, BPD, depression, or any of the many issues the brain throws at us to deal with.

I blogged earlier on in my pregnancy about the staggering chances of postpartum psychosis and depression in the first couple of weeks after birth – 50% chance, 1:2 ratio – not sure I can make it clearer just how bloody high the risk is of a serious incident – so to see such news above is really terrible.

The lack of sleep, combined with raging hormonal changes, combined with massive fluctuations of medication in your system, combined with the shock of being a new mother, combined with the general grind of living with a mental illness, combined with the sheer physical exhaustion your body has been through these last nine months and then pushing out a baby on top of it all…..these things can’t be underestimated. And NOT ONE person will be able to prepare you for it. It’s just something you have to get through. All I can do is share my experiences and hope it resonates somewhere with someone.

I was under 24 hour watch when in hospital. I was monitored constantly. I couldn’t even go down the corridor 2 seconds without being asked where I was going and if I was ok. I know I haven’t gone into the particulars of the birth, and it isn’t really for this story, but my baby was in intensive care for the first ten days of her life and it was like no other experience I ever want to live through ever again.

Because of this, because of my bipolar, because of the very high chance of an incident, I was never left alone. I had blood tests every day, blood pressure checks four times a day, my lithium was put up to almost double the dosage I had been on, and I was on strong antipsychotics. I had hallucinations, seeing ghostly wisps coming through the curtains of the ICU to take my baby away. I was so close to the verge of physical collapse. I was given Lorazepam which did not work at all as I was so frantically needing to be with my baby. I was sleeping 2-3 hours a night, impatiently lying in bed waiting to be able to get up to go see my baby. I probably could have snuck down to the ICU to see her, but I was under such strict orders to remain in my room and try and get some rest I didn’t want to go to the effort of being challenged. They really were scary, those nurses!

Perhaps somewhat controversially, I was also told under no circumstances was I allowed to breastfeed. I had to remain on my medication to prevent episodes of mania, psychosis or depression at bay. Now, the whole breastfeeding thing is a whole different article and I want to go into that at a different time. But this just again puts it into perspective how, as a new mother,  even when we think we are doing the best thing by our children, it might be better to do something else. It’s terribly hard to go against your instincts and what we are programmed to do. Ultimately, though, it’s the best thing for our babies and for us. They were really hard on me for a reason and, looking back on it, I am grateful as I think it probably kept me alive.

I’m hoping that there is not a chance that the psychiatrists advising this lady would have told her to come off her medication to breastfeed. We have no information on this so I won’t go into it more. What I am appalled by is how a woman with a known history could have been left unchallenged throughout the maternity ward and then out the hospital in such a way. I hope there are some serious questions asked here about how they take care of such vulnerable women and how on earth this was allowed to happen. There has been a major failing somewhere along the line for this to have happened.

No words can express how sad this has made me feel and my thoughts are with the family.

I’m researching and it’s quite exciting!

Well it has been a challenging few weeks but today I am beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. I am applying for a job where I can not just openly declare my bipolarishness to the world but actually have it as an asset and work for to improve the lives of people living with a mental health condition.

OK so I also might not get the job :) but the whole process has been so useful for me. There were some really interesting questions on the application form which got me looking at my bipolar and BPD stuff in a completely different way. I went off to do some further reading and research and read up on things I had never heard of before, but that really impacted on things that have been niggling at me since before I was even diagnosed.

Co-production and social models of disability are so interesting. I often felt through pregnancy, labour and definitely after giving birth that I was being forced to do something the medical profession told me I had to do, rather than follow my instincts. I thought as a new mother, full of hormones and with bipolar, I had no instincts. I was really rather wrong and the whole thing did nothing for my confidence.

Instead, often I think we are disempowered from making our own choices and working together with the clinicians to come up with a more holistic model for our treatment. We are individuals and a one size fits all simply won’t work. We are already battling against society’s impressions of us all running around in Bedlam so why make it even harder for us by not involving us in the decision making process over our own bodies?

The Equalilties Act of 2010 and supporting EU legislation is based around a medical definition of disability – that we are broken and something must be done to fix us. So immediately we begin with a negative connotation that is only reinforced the more you battle the maze of treatment out there. We are passively expected to receive treatment and not question it. Yet when my dosage was massively too high, I had such a fight to try and reduce it down despite feeling like complete shit and running around in a madly anxious manic fog (and guess what – I feel so much better for having it reduced!).

It is a lot to think about, and when I am a bit less raw from the whole labour and newborn experience I will discuss what I went through. In the meantime, here is an interesting article on some research on co-production. I’m going to try and incorporate more into my care regime. It has got me thinking so I hope it helps some of you as well.

http://www.scie.org.uk/publications/guides/guide51/what-is-coproduction/principles-of-coproduction.asp

Tired. Tired. Tired. Did I mention I’m tired?

Here’s a post I was in the middle of typing when pregnant, around March I think, and then never got around to finishing. So I have finished it now. It might be useful for those ladies considering an increased dose of their medication during pregnancy :) I do talk about thoughts of death, paranoia and suicide in the context of adjusting medication so please don’t read on if that could trigger you in any way. 

I’m sorry it has been some time since I last posted. I have been surprisingly busy and I find these days my brain can only process one thing at a time.

It has been a nice time. I have done job interviews, unexpected as I am so big now people need a periscope to look around me. I’ve seen friends. I’ve hung out at home with the dog. I’ve helped DH with his studies and even picked up my own books once or twice. The online book thing is going well. I’ve had a TON of appointments at hospital.

And I have not slept. I’ve had my medication upped twice in the last three weeks.

Insomnia is a killer for anyone at the best of times. When you’re lugging round an extra 20 kilo and your lithium levels are falling then it becomes a playground for dark creeping thoughts in the middle of the night.

I was very resistant to my medication being increased the first time round. I’ve got a little one to think of inside me. I am the kind of girl who deals very well with a lithium count of 0.4-0.5ish. I don’t deal well at the higher end of the range. I was therefore pretty upset at the thought of more drugs.

As it turns out it is, of course, fine. Basically the volume of fluid in your body increases, which in turn then decreases the potency (for want of a better word) of the lithium in your blood stream. I was reading at 0.2 which is basically nothing. But, because I was irrational and tired and lacking in hormones, I didn’t make the connection to a dip in lithium altering my perceptions. It wasn’t until I was sat with my psychiatrist that I realised all those thoughts of having a suicide pact with DH so he wouldn’t die before me were not in the normal way of thinking.

Because those thoughts weren’t along the lines of ‘oh, I’m going to kill myself now’, I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was normal to plan my death, and because I was thinking waaaaay ahead into the future, such as in my sixties and seventies when it might have happened naturally at some point anyway, I didn’t see a problem with it. I created elaborate schemes in my head about euthanasia (legal in The Netherlands), car crashes, train accidents, travelling somewhere where there was a high incidence of plane crashes, so I wouldn’t have to live if DH died before me when I was old.

I also had increased anxiety, and DH retrieved me from the supermarket a couple of times as I couldn’t cope with the amount of people around me. I started, for the first time, to understand what paranoia in bipolar really meant. I was convinced that people walking past me on the street were about to come and do me harm, and that I couldn’t trust the doctors and nurses in the hospital to do what was right for me.

All of it, my psychiatrist assured me, was completely not normal thinking. And all that was because of a dip in my lithium levels.

What was impressive to me was the rapid turnaround in my thought process once they increased my lithium. Eventually I went up to 1000mg per day spread out over five lots of 200mg. It was amazing how much better I started to feel again. What I found as well towards the end of my pregnancy was how high they wanted to keep my lithium count – as high as possible – to avoid any potential psychotic episodes immediately after the birth. I really am a girl who doesn’t do so well on a higher count, so it goes to show how massive the changes in my body were that being around the 0.8 mark was absolutely fine for me in my last month or so.

Throughout all of this, my baby, of course, was completely 100% unaffected by it. They are tough little creatures, babies, designed to survive some pretty extreme conditions. As an expectant mother none of that matters whatsoever so there is no point in trying to reassure yourself in that way!

I have also resolved to not be one of those mothers that dishes out completely useless advice. Unless you’re the one living it, it’s almost impossible to understand what someone is going through, so therefore the only thing to do is emphathise (as a bipolar mum to be you are not alone) and offer a shoulder of support. The only advice I will give is keep an eye on those lithium levels. If you start to suddenly see the sky turning purple with pigs serving champagne, find yourself plumbing the darkest parts of your brain, doom scenarios marching through on a frequent basis at 3am, or even convinced that the old lady in the apartment opposite you has a incredibly sophisticated camera setup just to record your every move with the ultimate aim of taking your baby away (yes, that was me to the last two), then please get to your GP or psychiatrist asap and talk it out. Cortisol is not good for our growing little ones and particularly not for you.

So, to sum up:

– monitor your lithium every week or two weeks, following your doctor’s advice to the letter
– try and sleep as much as possible. Rest during the day. Take it easy. Get someone else to do the hoovering/housework/walk the dog

And that’s it :) Having a successful pregnancy on medication can be done and I am very glad I continued with my lithium.

Hypomanic hangover

demonicdivas:

Oh my yes this blog post is so spot on.

Originally posted on purplepersuasion:

One of the unexpected benefits of being on antipsychotics is that I’ve not had a hangover since 2011. Being that bizarre hybrid creature “an extravert with a degree of social anxiety”, in the past I often used to find myself drinking more than I meant to at parties or on nights our as an attempt to allay my nerves. I can’t do this now; anything more than a couple of units of alcohol begins to mix with the quetiapine in a very unpleasant way which has put me off having more than one drink in any given evening.

After those occasions when I’d have one, and then another one, and then another, I’d go to sleep fairly easily but at some point in the early hours I would jolt awake, palms sweating and pulse racing, feeling like Uma Thurman in that scene in Pulp Fiction when she’s given an adrenaline…

View original 1,247 more words

I’m back!

I will write more. I am sorry I haven’t posted for months! But such is the joy and bittersweet elation of becoming a new mother. I have a gorgeous beautiful baby girl who is the light of my life and oh crumbs is six months old soon. But my word, the ups and downs of bipolar and pregancy and the whole WHAT THEY DON’T TELL YOU AFTER  YOU GIVE BIRTH. I want to make a whole website dedicated to it just to help other women – and their partners – who have to go through it all. Labour was actually a hugely cathartic experience. And the sheer bliss and joy of holding my newborn in my hands was the most transformational, wonderful moment.

As to all that happened afterwards, I will leave it for now. Writing is my release so perhaps I will find the words to describe the final months leading up to the birth, and the months after, to give me some form of therapy. At the moment I waver between sheer happiness and crying nonstop at nothing in particular. It has taken me a long time to adjust.

For now though, let’s just say that I have overdone it. My medication has been adjusted. I am back in the UK. My husband has been my rock but even so has come close to breaking. But we look at our sweet adorable baby and feel so humbled and blessed, and we find the strength to get up and go on again. Just a cuddle or shy smile or giggle from her transforms my whole day. Becoming a mother was the best thing that could have happened to me. And, when all is said and done, I look at my little family and know that, once I am out of my thick, black pea soup in my head (the only way I can describe my world at the moment) all is well in the real world.

I will return……

It’s a boy/girl/alien/I can’t relate/guilt/aaaaaah

Firstly, I talk a tiny bit about sexual abuse in this post so please don’t read on if you think it might be too much for you. Not much as I am banned from thinking about it by my psychologist! but it very much relates to what I want to write about today.

And sorry it has been a little while since my last post. Somehow water got into my laptop and it wouldn’t work for a while. As with the miracles of technology here it is up and running again!

I have had time to think about what to write about next. As ever, so many words and so many ideas and limited space to write about it. I’ve also been extremely tired these last few days and had an unwelcome return to hg, along with a dip in my thyorid so it’s been a bit of a trying time.

What has been on my mind though throughout this is my baby. You may well think ‘well durrrrr, it’s inside you, how can you not think about it’ but really, it’s surprisingly easy to distance yourself in your head from what is happening to your body. I mean, people do it all the time if they are over/underweight etc. So even though your belly looks like Mt Versuvius, the baby’s kicking you in the bladder in the middle of the night and you get out of breath after walking 5 paces, still it doesn’t feel real.

Something that has been real, however, has been finding out that it’s a girl. As some of you know, I was abused by our (female) housekeeper as a child from the age of 3-6. Basically as soon as she could get me on her own once my mum left my dad. So, no detail here on what happened as it isn’t relevant (and as said, I’m not allowed to think about it). Also it had the knock on effect of making my relationship with my mother even worse.

Mum engages in what DH describes as ‘psychological warfare’ which, for me with bipolar and resulting Borderline Personality Disorder traits from the abuse, meant we did not have a happy time of it with each other growing up. Mum has an ambivalent relationship with women doesn’t like them but is attentive to men to the point of fawning all over them. So I grew up with that.

Before you think she’s an evil bitch, no she isn’t. She is damaged in her own way, but the problem is she can’t see what she is like because no one has ever told her. As soon as this twigged with me it was easier to deal with. I got an education and I got out. After spending most of my 20s trying to please her, it wasn’t until I met DH and started to really understand me as a person and my illness that I could stop the guilt of never being good enough and begin to get angry about what happened, and start to heal myself.

So, this is not about the woes between me and my mum or my abuse. It’s about the impact this had on me finding out we were having a girl. I was at first elated, and then terrified. The fear was awful. And memories of my abuse resurfaced.

Before finding out the sex of our baby at 20 weeks, I was convinced it was a boy. I don’t know why. I just didn’t want to think of it being a girl. Part of me also wanted a mini-me of DH :) but a large part of me didn’t want to think of what it would be like, or what I’d have to face up to, if it was a girl. Which was very funny as I knew DH wanted a girl and before falling pregnant we thought it would be a girl we’d want first. We even had the name ready.

When confronted with the ‘it’s a girl’ news I then went into hibernation in my brain. I was listening to hypnotherapy cds telling you to bond with your baby and all I got was a white, blank wall. I got flashbacks of what happened to me when I was little. I thought of the misery I had growing up and as a teenager. And I was just plain scared.

I hadn’t seen my psychologist for a while so DH made me call her to make an appointment. It was such a relief to talk to someone about it and she immediately asked how I felt having a girl. Being able to share my fears about my daughter going through exactly what I went through was a relief.

Firstly, I now know rationally that I won’t be an abuser myself. The idea makes me want to puke. But there’s that tiny seed in your mind that has read online that those who are abused turned into abusers. Even writing this freaks me out a bit. Fortunately my psychiatrist said that was not the case and just the fact that I found it abhorrent meant that I would be ok. There’s also that fear that other people will think you’re abusing your child. I still  have that a bit but DH has told me that I’m being ridiculous. All this irrational stuff that I think I know is now irrational and will be ok.

The other thing is other people abusing your child. I know that the majority of kids never experience this. I know though that abuse is hidden and happens far more than we realise. DH and I have talked about it and he says, very sensibly, that all we can do is educate her to look after herself and that she trusts us to come to us with anything. He points out that I never had that trust or stability at home so by providing a loving environment we can minimise the risk to her.

As for what happened between me and my mother, well I was terrified too of projecting onto her my own experiences. I think we try so hard not to be our parents anyway, but here I really was trying to go the opposite! I started to post on a few threads on Mumsnet that really helped. It was good to see that other women found having daughters very therapeutic in helping them get over their issues with daughters. It’s silly, I have close female friends and I know I don’t dislike women the way my mother does. What my psychologist and ladies online said was that having self awareness was half the battle in ensuring history doesn’t get repeated.

And I was told to not worry so much :) I felt soooooo guilty that I wasn’t some beaming earth mother. I felt like I had something growing in me that was so far removed from my sense of reality.

Interestingly, the memories of abuse returning coincided with my lithium levels dropping around the start of the year. Finding out I was having a girl was a trigger for memories I had ruthlessly repressed my whole life and boy were they buried deep. I was retreating back into my little world of doom scenarios, paranoia and clawing blackness. This was punctuated by memories that left me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut. I was so paralysed sometimes I couldn’t move. AND the hormones of pregnancy meant I felt emotionally all over the place and wasn’t able to cope with the most unwelcome, intrusive thoughts returning.

Fortunately my psychiatrist bullied me into taking more lithium. As my levels started to rise again, so my control returned over my memories. I developed techniques with my psychologist to distract myself when the thoughts of abuse came back. Every time I would associate an action I’d do with my baby with abuse, I would think of all the positives and doing things with DH rather than the fact that act had led to my situation. Or, I just think to myself ‘I’ll deal with it when it happens’. It’s very dangerous to have psychotherapy when pregnant – it’s not allowed. So during this time I have to distract myself until I can deal with these new memories at an appropriate time.

I’m much more in control now. I’m doing pregnancy yoga more and find myself finally getting more excited about having a baby. I couldn’t relate to it for ages and ages. But now she’s kicking and moving around it’s easier (and scarier haha) to think ‘wow I’m having a girl’. I can’t wait to cuddle her and tell her how much I love her. I can’t wait to tell her how wanted she is. I send those thoughts to her all the time and DH talks to my belly telling her how excited he is to play with his baby girl in three months. I can’t wait to read to her some of my favourite books that were mine as a child, take her to absorb all the museums and galleries and just mooch around in summer looking at all the beautiful architecture and canals and clogs and stuff :)

Still scared. Still worried I’ll turn into my mum. But I don’t think that will happen. I will make mistakes. But what I will let my daughter know is that she is loved, wanted and will always have stability, safety and security with her parents. I never had that and if that’s what I can provide to her then to me that means more than all the playstations, clothes and toys in the world. Material counts for nothing – love and being loved is everything.

Hyperemesis and bipolar. Lucky us!

Please note that I talk a little bit about a psychotic and self harm episode in this post, so don’t read on if it might cause any problems for your condition.

There’s so much I want to write about, so much I want to share, that I almost can’t get the thoughts out coherently to write something that is a) sensible and b) legible. But something that affected this pregnancy so badly has been on my mind.

Staring into the mirror today, I wanted to write about diet, exercise, pregnancy, bipolar, and all the links between it. This was inspired by the row of acne that had appeared seemingly overnight on a person who has never struggled with it ever before. But I want to have more of a think about that post as I firmly believe diet plays a HUGE part in having a negative impact on modern day living.

But not today because that requires thought and some good research to back up my theory.

I am thinking of depression today. I’m not feeling low emotionally; actually pregnancy and impending motherhood, combined with not having to drag myself to a job I hate every day, has meant I’m probably mentally the well-est I’ve ever been these last few weeks. It’s a lovely feeling. But I’m bone-gnawingly tired. It eats away at every single atom of my being. Pregnancy tired is like nothing I have ever experienced before.

Combine this with struggling with hyperemesis which, for the ease of writing I’m going to refer to as HG throughout the rest of this article, it’s been a massive hit of physically sick as a dog, mentally unable to think straight and exhaustion combined with insomnia.

So, what is HG quickly? It stands for Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is an extreme form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP). NVP is very common, and around 70-80% of women will experience it in some form. With HG, however, it is relentless nausea and vomiting, with women experiencing sickness 10-12 times a day as normal and unable to keep any liquids or solids down. 1 in 100-150 women will need hospital admission as they are so severely dehydrated or malnourished.  Just to reiterate, that is NOT morning sickness! Morning sickness also subsides by around week 12 of pregnancy, whilst HG persists in varying forms throughout pregnancy and, sometimes, even after birth for a few weeks.

HG affects 1%-3% of women in pregnancy according to the excellent support network in the UK, Pregnancy Sickness Support. Think of all those women all round the world having babies – a quick Google says around 130 million a year – and then think, of that around 4 million are wrapped around a bucket for most of that time, unable to do much apart from suck on an ice cube.

I’m part of a thread on Mumsnet which has been a life saver. The wonderful women of the Hyperemesis thread, run by a quite marvellous mother hen who ensures there is always a support space for mums to be to hear from others and just have a moan. Other posters generously share wisdom on medication and what to do to get through to the somewhat pigheaded medical community what women need to do to get treatment.

It’s hard to explain the toll this has on you. Don’t be sucked into the marketing bullshit of pregnant women serenely eating lettuce and drinking smoothies whilst doing Tai Chi in Hyde Park on a misty morning, playing with their children and running marathons. I know you exist somewhere you lucky things, but it is not really like that when you have HG. You LOSE weight. I actually shrunk in my first trimester which was alarming enough. You cannot eat a thing. Your tastebuds change on a daily basis and I was devastated to not be able to enjoy a Ribena any more; it was like something had died in my mouth. The thought of going near toothpaste or a toothbrush is retch-inducing so you’re at risk of cavities due to no dental hygiene for several months. One poor woman tore a face muscle vomiting, another developed an abcess and several of us pulled stomach muscles with the force of our sickness.

And this goes on for pretty much NINE months. Some women are unmedicated. Doctors refuse to administer even the most basic antiemetics. I swear to god if one more person in my family had recommended ginger to me I was going to cut them out of my life. Women are told by supposed medical professionals to change their diets or buy sickness travelling bands, wtf???

There is a persistent lack of understanding that medicine is ok in pregnancy so long as it is monitored. There are horror stories of women being so sick that they are in hospital being advised to have an abortion because there is nothing safe to give them and their baby. Which is, quite frankly, rubbish.

I was very fortunate. Around eleven weeks I couldn’t cope any more and went to my GP who immediately prescribed me a front line, commonly used drug called Emesafene, essentially an antihistamine with vitamin B6 after checking it didn’t interact with my thyroid medication and lithium. Now, this is in the Netherlands so if you want to know what might work in your country or what to ask your doctor about there are the usual links below. Whilst I was working I took two a day and it just about powered me through the day, along with probably far too much diet Coke and Nutella sandwiches, along with sipping ice cold tap water (I went off bottled water!) which was all I could eat or drink. It didn’t really ease up until I stopped working and was able to properly rest.

What has any of this to do with bipolar or depression you may wonder? Well, consider the impact that has on your body. I’m one of the fortunate ones who a) got a GP who knew what to do and b) got medication that worked. You’re permanently feeling like you’re about to puke or doing the deed itself. Your body is very weak and you’re trying to at least keep down your pregnancy multivitamin so the baby develops ok. You’re off work and potentially with an unsympathetic employer so you are worrying about that. You’re unable to get out of bed or, if you’re lucky, you’re lying on the sofa, unable to see friends or family as you are in effect housebound. And chances are you have a GP who tells you to buy a packet of Ginger Nuts and you’re saving your precious energy stores to battle with them on your next visit to beg to even try some of the basic medication that is available and within the NICE guidelines. And you’re worried about the impact all of this has on your growing baby.

Stress + HG = high chance of prenatal depression. Prenatal or antenatal depression affects as many as 1 in 10 women. A dear friend of mine had it severely for most of her pregnancy. Recently we discussed on our thread how having hg was impacting on our moods. We all felt that we had been so low at several points, plus the stress of having to battle with the establishments both medical and work related, meant that most of us had had some form of depression at some point. This had taken its toll on partners and those inspiring women who were on baby no 2 or even 3 and had young children who were being impacted as well.

Stress + HG + bipolar = high chance of prenatal depression + serious chance of bipolar episode. I should know as I narrowly dodged this bullet.

Because of my bipolar and the fact I’d had a miscarriage, my very nice GP in all good faith referred me to my local hospital. Neither I nor she realised at the time that all my care would be transferred to the main university hospital in the city and be led by the perinatal psychiatric team. I’d gone to see her to get an increase in my thyroid medication which was duly done, and off I trotted to the local hospital expecting to be told I’d be scanned from around 8 weeks when there would be the best chance of seeing the foetal heartbeat. To my bemusement and slight fear/paranoia, I was told they wanted to see me immediately and I would be scanned from six weeks onwards. This totally freaked me out, and I didn’t know then that they had no experience of dealing with patients with psychosis or bipolar or any form of mental illness.

My scan at six weeks showed not much, but that all looked quite normal. My scan at 7 weeks was a different story. I had by this point seen the perinatal psychiatrist and been told I would be switching hospitals, but that there shouldn’t be any harm in going to the last planned scan in the meantime. How wrong we all were. I was told by the dumb bint calling herself a doctor that my lithium was just for my ‘mood’, my blood pressure was too high (I had just come off a flight from London after being away for a work event and had sat in the waiting room for an hour and a half as they were so delayed), and that my bowel was too full for her to see anything on the scan. She then went onto say that she couldn’t tell if it was a ‘good’ pregnancy, there had been no growth and that I should be prepared to miscarry and to come back in a week. Bye bye and out the door in 5 minutes DH and I were pushed.

To receive news like this when you are full of pregnancy hormones is horrendous enough for any woman. If you add to the mix the chances that person can have a major psychotic episode then it’s pretty devastating. I went home numb. I couldn’t sleep. And I started to hallucinate in the middle of the night, punching my middle as I wanted it ‘out of me’, that this ‘dead foetus’ was spreading intense black all throughout my body. I could feel it skittering over my skin like a million black bugs. It was enveloping me, choking me and I needed it gone. I was scratching at my arms, scratching at my stomach and fortunately hadn’t managed to hit myself that hard in the lower abdomen before sanity in the form of DH stopped me.

Thank my stars that DH woke up and sat with me for the rest of the night. Poor man had to deal with the news himself, as well as the fact that his wife was convinced she had been taken over by seeping black death.

We went back the next day as I wanted a pill to ‘get things going’ and have the black death out of my system. I was convinced the baby was not to be. The doctors refused to see me, said there had been slight growth and everything still looked on track to be fine, it was just too soon to see a heartbeat. I stood there in this reception area in floods of tears, unable to understand why people couldn’t make it all go away. So I refused to go back there and had received my appointment to see the specialist gynaecologists and thyroid experts at 13 weeks. I would wait until then. I managed to see my psychologist that day who calmed me down, and also my regular psychiatrist who both were wonderful and talked me around.

I decided that my body would tell me what was right and wrong. If it was not meant to be then I knew from painful heartbreaking previous experience what would happen. And that my body would take care of it. I hoped I hadn’t harmed it, and was creating elaborate schemes in my head to get back at the stupid consultant who had left me in such turmoil. Equally, if the baby was actually growing, then I would wait and see what my consultant had to say at the next appointment.

In the meantime, my HG kicked in. Massively. My GP whom I wept all over when prescribed my medication, couldn’t understand why I was so worried as they had, he felt, been wrong to scan me so early. The fact that I had such awful symptoms that were getting worse rather than better was, he said brightly, a good sign!

Those six weeks were the darkest things had been for me for a very long time. I had no idea if my baby was ok or what was in me. I could barely move without needing to be sick or experiencing such nausea. I couldn’t sleep properly in case my death demon came to visit me in the night so was exhausted. I had to drag myself into work, and then tell them, well before I was ready to do so as I was so sick. I hated everything, and mainly hated myself. And I didn’t want that negativity to be passed onto my baby. I was worried about my lithium impacting the foetus. I worried my thyroid would fail again and the baby wouldn’t be. Such anti energy. It’s not good for us.

Obviously things turned out fine. I cried the whole time waiting for the doctor and cried when DH explained what happened. Actually I cried all day and it didn’t sink in really that all was ok until I reached my 20 week scan and saw a normal, healthy baby. To this day I can’t look at the scan screen without looking at DH first for him to tell me it is ok.

First trimesters are the worst. They don’t have to be. There are so many women who are just in raptures about their baby and sail through pregnancy. But for us with HG it is a long, long road to nine months and pregnancy is terribly tough. We can’t wait to give birth and get our bodies back. For those of us with bipolar as well, we can’t wait to be able to bring our brains back from the brink. I’ve teetered several times and it is only through the strength of my DH and finding fun things to focus on such as my dog that I’m still here.

Please don’t underestimate the impact of pregnancy sickness on your mental health. Make sure you go armed with information so you can get the medication you need to stop the vomiting. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally when pregnant must be your main focus. If that means stopping work like I did, then do so. Nothing is more important than being very, very nice to yourself. In the wise words of the Hypermesis Support ladies, this shall pass.

Links

Pregnancy Sickness Support

http://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/

Pregnancy Sickness SOS

https://sites.google.com/site/pregnancysicknesssos/

PANDAS for pre and postnatal depression

http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/index.html

The big D and whether to come out or not?

I did do my yoga DVD yesterday which was fab. But again something that has been on my mind a huge amount (namely losing out to a job I KNOW I should have had) prompts me to write about this issue. I’ve pondered this a lot over the last few months since finding out I was pregnant. My bipolar diagnosis is relatively new to me, having only had around a year and a half to figure it out in my brain. Pregnancy and having a family are still in this day and age viewed with suspicion and mistrust by employers, with women so often having to play a game of do I tell, don’t I tell.

I’m an inherently honest person. I am crap at politics at work because if I don’t like someone or if I think something is not working I’ll say so. I’m no good at brown-nosing managers who suck just to get myself ahead. Fortunately it’s not often I have found myself in organisations that have those types of culture but where I have worked in them, I have struggled. If that’s they way you want to do things, then all power to you but it isn’t my way. I have found that people often don’t want to be upfront. Smoke and mirrors give me a headache. It’s not like that everywhere and I think it’s the norm to prove yourself with work rather than who you can flatter, but hey it takes all sorts to make the world go round. I’ve thrived in teams where managers and senior management have been upfront and willing to engage in good debate and take on board different views and opinions.

I’m very glad to date that I haven’t spoken out about my bipolar to previous employers though. I’ve developed a suspicion and mistrust which will take a while to be overcome, hopefully by being able to focus on what I’m good at as opposed to slaving away for peanuts just to make ends met. As for being pregnant, hyperemesis didn’t leave me with the opportunity. I had to say something as I was spending most of my time in the toilet.

To what D am I referring to then? it is, of course, DISCRIMINATION.

Personal stuff

I try very hard not to discriminate. I happily employed a pregnant lady as she was far and away the best at the job. I’d rather have someone brilliant for six months who will achieve so much than someone useless who will cost me money in the long run as they sit in that job for the next 10 years doing nothing. I try my hardest to be understanding about people who are under pressure and need time. Don’t take me for a ride and yes, there are business needs that should be met, but at the end of the day an understanding and supportive employer goes a long way to a happy employee who won’t take the piss. The majority of people are fab, let’s not forget this.

But oh boy, there are some awful attitudes out there.

My friend was asked whilst walking into an interview how many children she had and was she planning on getting pregnant. Another removed her wedding ring after one interviewer pointed at her finger saying she’d be off having babies soon (she’d already had two children!). Yet another dear friend continually had her bump referred to by her manager disparagingly and was excluded from projects throughout her pregnancy despite them supposedly coming under her team.

I am discriminated against because I am pregnant and no one wants to employ a pregnant woman. I could be discriminated against if I disclosed my bipolar disorder. I had never experienced much discrimination in the workplace or in life generally, aside from age perhaps a couple of times. Until I had my latest crash, where I was told I was suffering from depression pending a further psychiatric review. I was having a vile time at work with no support and when I told my boss I was diagnosed with depression and might need to take it easy for a bit, two weeks later I was out the door with a four month payout to make me stay away for good.

More recently, I knew my contract was coming to an end and wasn’t sure I wanted to carry on with the company anyway. I interviewed for, and got offered, another job. Because of my hyperemesis, combined with the fact that at that stage we didn’t know if the pregnancy was viable, I felt honour-bound to say I was 11 weeks pregnant but I wanted to accept the job. The job offer got withdrawn but I was told ‘well at least you know you were first choice but we can’t deal with the team upheaval’.

You’d think as well that women might be more supportive and understanding. But nope, just the examples listed above are a pretty even split between male and female.

Goes to show you can legislate as much as you like but it makes no difference.

It knocked my confidence to bits, particularly trying to be open about not being very well and then being taken to pieces and made out to be awful at what I did. The reality was they just didn’t want to deal with someone being mentally unstable or pregnant. It’s taken me to this point to recover from that and will take me a long time to trust again which is a bit sad. Maybe if we all trusted each other more then we wouldn’t be in such crisis.

Why didn’t I appeal which I could have done (particularly with the withdrawn job offer and just to say Dutch law is even stricter on this than UK law)? Because I don’t want to work somewhere like that in that kind of environment. I don’t want to be with people like that. I didn’t have the energy or the time or the inclination. Because I believe in a dignified silence and leaving on good terms. What good does it do me or my illness or my baby to get angry? My life is worth more than that. I also believe there are other ways of changing attitudes. Wider things I could be doing that are more positive. My health and keeping in balance are more important to me than dealing with these petty people. I also think their lives are all the poorer for it and a big believer in karma. She can be a real bitch sometimes. What goes around comes around.

And I am actually the most content and happiest I have ever been in my life right now.

Numbers

So, what are the statistics? Apparently in 2006 discrimination in the workplace against pregnant women amounted to 6.5% of all cases in the US. There are some stories that make my jaw drop such as http://www.nwlc.org/tags/pregnancy-discrimination-act and http://www.nwlc.org/our-blog/pregnancy-discrimination-far-thing-past from the National Women’s Law Center in the USA. In the UK the charity Maternity Action estimates that as many as 30,000 women are pushed out of work each year with a further 200,000 facing unfair treatment. Just for having a baby. Which surely must be the most natural thing in the world and kind of essential for survival of our species.

Let’s combine that with statistics of people living with a mental health illness. The fantastic campaign, Time to Change, in the UK, states that 1 in 4 people will have some form of mental illness in any given year. It’s not far off the 1 in 3 statistic for cancer. It’s a HUGE amount of people who experience some form of depression, illness or something else.

And 9 out of 10 people with a mental illness experience discrimination. 9 out of 10. Holy shit. I didn’t even realise it was that high.

So yes, the point of this thread – we face discrimination as pregnant ladies and we face discrimination because we all should be in the loony bin and are incapable of working. No matter all it needs is a bit of compassion, understanding and flexibility. I hate to say it but there it is. We’ve got a double whammy going here.

So what do I DO about it then!

And we wonder why people don’t talk about it. Reading those numbers kind of makes me a bit mad. Who knows about my bipolar disorder? My family and close friends. I’ve never ‘come out’ about it. I feel a bit of a fraud and I’m working up to just being able to link this blog on Facebook.

Another part of me wonders why the hell I should. I am me, I’m not a patient. It is no-one else’s business apart from mine and why should it matter? It is an intensely personal issue, actually, as is the matter of pregnancy and starting a family. But I don’t think as a society we are there yet.

When economics comes into the equation, however, this is where things get skewed. I could write all day about how much money and finances and the way our world is structured is responsible for so much social evil today but that’s a whole different blog let alone post! Let’s just leave it at some people only see numbers and the bottom line whilst others see beyond that to the potential. Bit like oil and water when I’ve encountered this at work.

I think all we can do, and I am only at the start of this journey, is to be open and up front. Write about it, educate people about it. Education is key to changing attitudes. I don’t really have the answer but I know I want to do more to change attitudes. I LOVE Stephen Fry, for example, for being so open and making such candid programmes about bipolar disorder. I don’t think people realise how much it costs him to talk about these things sometimes and he is my hero for doing so.

I will revisit this again when I get more inspiration. But there are lots of wonderful people out there doing their best to change attitudes. I will make a list soon to share. Let’s take heat that it isn’t all doom and gloom either. Lots of people are fantastic and lovely and wonderful.

You may well see me soon out and proud. I think I  might judiciously prune some people from Facebook and share this blog.

Links

Maternity Action

http://www.maternityaction.org.uk/wp/2013/12/overdue-a-plan-of-action-to-tackle-pregnancy-discrimination-now/

MIND

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/ and I am wondering about finding out some more about the Dutch stats too (just need to get a translator aka DH!).

Time to Change campaign

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

‘Self-care can be first step in #mentalhealth care’

demonicdivas:

This. I need to write about this some more as well (I’m getting such a list of things to write about now). If we don’t take charge of ourselves then what choices do we have left?

Originally posted on Mentally Wealthy:

When seeking care for a mental health concern, doctors at Baylor College of Medicine say there are important steps you can take even before your consultation.

According to Dr. Sanjay Mathew…… (read on)

https://www.bcm.edu/news/psychiatry-and-behavior/self-care-can-be-first-step-in-mental-health

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