“Postnatal depression left me broken, numb and hollow”

Rebekah Vardy opening up about postnatal depression was an important step for women suffering in silence. Sally Bunkham tells us her story

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Postnatal depression is an illness that usually occurs within the first year after giving birth. It causes depressive symptoms and is something that affects millions of British women every year. Yet, it is still not widely talked about.

In fact, Rebekah Vardy’s admission on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! that she had suffered from postnatal depression after the birth of her second child, was really important to get the conversation started.

While talking to her fellow campmates on Tuesday night, Rebekah said: “I had really bad postnatal depression with my second, it’s like Pandora’s box opens and when it opens you have to deal with it.”

“It was a knock-on effect after that. I had CBT therapy which changes your brain’s thought process, I had counselling and I was on anti-depressants for a while.

“And then all of a sudden things just started getting better because you learn to deal with things and you need to talk and talk helps you overcome so many things. It is so different now.”

Read more: I’m A Celeb’s Rebekah Vardy reveals how sexual abuse led to suicide attempt

Back in England, Sally Bunkham of Brighton, is a 36-year-old mum of two toddlers, Daisy, three, and Ruby, two. She suffered in silence with postnatal depression for months before seeking help.

Sally tells ED! “I had postnatal depression with my second baby. I was a bit mad, I had my first baby and then we found out I was pregnant again when she was just three months old – it was a bit of a crazy whirlwind period.

“I suffered from postnatal depression but it wasn’t the standard format I assumed postnatal depression took, so I didn’t realise I had it for ages.”

Sally believes she knows what caused it in her case. She says: “My second baby had a really horrible, undiagnosed medical condition.

“She was just incredibly unsettled and upset, most of the time – day and night she’d be crying and we just couldn’t stop her, and nobody knew why, it was relentless.”

“My postnatal depression was brought on by huge sleep deprivation and the fact I couldn’t stop my baby crying, it literally drove me mad.

“And of course I had my other baby as well, I had a one-year-old and another baby and it all got too much for me.

“It wasn’t a feeling of sadness and depression, more massive feelings of anger and frustration, and guilt, because I couldn’t stop my baby crying. It was not good. It took ages for me diagnose it.”

It took intervention from Sally’s husband, Paul, before Sally would seek help. She recalls: “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know where I’d be. It got really really bad, to the point where I couldn’t cope with life.”

“When I was being woken up every hour with the baby, there was a point where I would have to go outside into the night air and scream. I started to self-harm, which was awful.

“I was dragging my nails down my arms in anger and frustration and despair, and Paul saw that and said ‘Right, you have to go to the doctors.’ Actually, he said ‘WE have to go to the doctor, we have to sort this out.’ It was always ‘we’, it was never ‘you’.

“And that trip to the doctor, I couldn’t really have expected how much that would help me. I was so broken by that point, so numb and hollow, I felt like I had nothing to lose so I went expecting there to be no results.”

“But the doctor telling me I had postnatal depression was a revelation for me, having a diagnosis sort of justified how I’d been feeling, it had a label, it had a name.

“I thought OK, if I have a condition, I’m not mad, I’m ill and I can get better. That was a turning point for me.”

One of the hardest parts of dealing with PND, according to Sally, is taking the first step and getting help.

She says: “Society teaches you that you should feel like the luckiest person alive when you have a baby, you’re fed this information of how you’ll have a baby and you’ll be hit with this sudden rush of love.”

“There’s all sorts of things about breastfeeding which really put the pressure on – I just couldn’t get on with it and that really upset me because I was desperate to breastfeed.

“So there’s so much pressure on you for things like that, and if it doesn’t work out the way you expect, or if you feel a bit differently it can be really upsetting. There are feelings of guilt, like you’re a [bleep] mum.

“And then you come across grannies in the supermarket who say ‘Enjoy every minute, enjoy every minute!’ and if you’re hating it it’s terrible!

“It’s hard, I think we do need to discuss it more. Research has shown that nearly half of women have shown symptoms of postnatal depression which go undiagnosed.”

“People just hide it, they wait to get to rock bottom like I did before they do anything about it, whereas if they’d known about it and channels were open to talk about it sooner, and to just get it sorted – it’s very treatable – people wouldn’t get to that point.

“It’s a shame people let it get so bad before they talk about it and seek help. My advice to any new mum feeling this way would be just talk about it, talk about it to friends and family and go to the doctor, and seek help from organisations like the PANDAS [Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support] foundation.

“They’ve got a Facebook group which is what I joined, and they’re fantastic. Just don’t bottle it up, and don’t feel guilty – it’s a normal part of motherhood, and it can get better, and you will get better.”

“I only felt like I could talk to my friends and family after I had my diagnosis. It was such a turning point, and it’s been a domino effect of good stuff since then.”

Sally has now overcome her postnatal depression and is working on her business, Mum’s Back, which provides hampers for new mums to help them re-adjust to life after pregnancy.

She says: “I realised that all the gifts I got as a new mum were very focused on the baby, and there was nothing to recognise the mother’s journey, what she’s gone through.

“Me and my friends were joking that the first thing we were going to do after giving birth would be to have a glass of wine, pate on toast and all that.

“Mum’s Back sells hampers with all that inside, and £1 from each one sold goes to the PANDAS foundation to help with their work, because I used them and their Facebook group, and they really helped me.

“The focus on the business and the PANDAS foundation has really helped my recovery, and helping other women really helps me.”

Nancy Brown
Associate Editor

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