herald

Tuesday 21 November 2017

The baby blues left me falling to pieces

I was the girl who could cope in any situation, and who always enjoyed going out and having a laugh. I loved my job, and had worked my way up to office manager in a security company after starting out as a temp.

I was also one of the girls who couldn't wait to be a mother, but I was determined to wait until I felt mature enough. By the time Adam arrived when I was 29, five years ago, I was delighted with everything about him.

Looking back, it was a very hard birth, and I required surgery shortly after. I also probably didn't give myself enough time to adjust to motherhood by going back to work seven months after his birth. I had been with my partner six years before Adam was born, so I felt we were set up with his arrival. When I had Lauryn when I was 31, I felt like we had the perfect family package.

I was in terrific form after Lauryn was born. I was exercising regularly, the house was shining, Adam was off to Montessori, and I was enjoying my time at home with Lauryn.

Things began to unravel slowly, and because I had no previous experience of anything like it, I had no idea what was happening to me. I could manage to keep things together during the day, but when night came, I would start crying and couldn't stop.



demands

I can see now that I was overwhelmed by the demands of a young child and a baby but, at the time, I just couldn't work out what was wrong with me. My partner would come home and find me lying in the hallway bawling my heart out.

It was only when Lauryn was six months old that I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. I had a name for the thing that was causing me to lose control and was frightening the life out of me.

One day I was driving with the two children in the car, and I had an anxiety and paranoia attack. I rang the Garda and they asked if a member of my family was anywhere near, and so I drove to my mum's.

My behaviour was terrifying for everyone. My family and partner knew me as a capable and bubbly person, and I was falling apart in front of them.

I withdrew from friends, because I just didn't feel up to answering texts, talking on the phone or meeting up. When the person you are, or feel yourself to be, disappears, you're afraid to take this new person anywhere, because you've lost faith and trust in yourself.

To this day some friends haven't accepted that I had post-natal depression, but my door is open in case any of them ever wants to resume contact.

The people I did speak to were my mum and a nurse in the psychiatric ward I attended as an outpatient. I was prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping tablets, but for me, the thing which really worked, was talking about my fears to the nurse I saw regularly, and who never made me feel ashamed or embarrassed.

She helped put things in perspective, and helped me accept that I was responding the way I was because of the pressures I was under. It was a long battle, and it was 18 months before I felt fully back on my feet again.

Sadly, my illness cost me my relationship because, as much as my partner tried to help, he was dealing with a situation which was outside his experience. I'm really happy that we're spending time together as a family now, and having family dinners together, as it's great for him and, of course, the children love it.

Also, I was made redundant from my job, which was a big disappointment, as I had loved it. But something good has happened on that front as I am now working as a make-up artist and can see a whole new future for myself.



make-up

I did a make-up course while working full time, and am back studying it again at Sallynoggin College. I've worked at various events including the Miss Ireland Pageant, and love the glitz and glamour of helping put together fashion shows.

Post-natal depression came at me from out of nowhere, and I felt as if it was completely taking me over. As a mum with young children, it was hard to diagnose myself as I didn't know what was happening, so going to my GP was essential.

I learnt from trying to go it alone that support is vital. I think what has also helped me hugely is deciding to think positively.

A terrible thing happened to me, but people endure worse and come out the other side. I'm determined to make the most of myself and the children and my new career now that I'm back to myself.

>In conversation with Anna Coogan

Sarah is one of 14 finalists of the John Frieda Transformation Campaign. More information can be found on the award winning haircare brand's Irish facebook page, www.facebook.com/JohnFriedaIreland

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