Card Therapy was born during a period of mental illness when crafting became a positive distraction from negative thoughts. The therapy for me is within the creative process, learning new skills, the quiet time at my desk, the satisfaction with the end-product, and the response from the recipient.
Postnatal depression (PND) is such a wicked illness with devastating effects on the whole family unit. At the very heart of PND there is a desperate mother, a stressed partner (if there is one), and a child/children at risk emotionally. The world outside expects the arrival of a new baby to be the happiest time of your life, whilst the reality of becoming a mother whether for the first time or fifth can be a shock physically, psychologically and practically. There is no single cause of PND, it is multifaceted and can affect anyone.
My personal experience of PND following the birth of my second child in April 2011 was nothing short of terrifying. It had begun antenatally at the beginning of my pregnancy with continued sleep deprivation from our then 9 month old, a back injury requiring hospitalisation, and some very difficult social circumstances, which were then further compounded postnatally with physical complications from the birth, a house move to a new county, a decision to end my much loved career to become a SAHM, an eighteen month old that understandably didn’t appreciate not being his mother’s top priority all day, every day, and even more sleep deprivation. Looking at it like that, it seems obvious: surely no-one could cope with that much on their plate without cracking? In the midst of it all however, it isn’t so clear. It’s very foggy in fact. It was five months before I could even acknowledge that perhaps something wasn’t quite right – struggling to get up, crying all the time, not sleeping even when everyone else was, not leaving the house, and repeatedly phoning my husband at work saying I couldn’t cope. But all the signs weren’t enough, even as a former midwife, to realise that it was illness and not just ‘this is how my life is now’. Things continued to deteriorate until eventually I could not care for our children or be left alone, never mind construct a sentence or complete a task; whilst self-harming and suicidal fantasies became my maladaptive coping mechanisms. Seven months after my son’s birth (November) I was lucky enough to be thrown a lifeline and admitted to a Mother and Baby Mental Health Unit. The early days were almost impossible to bear with the overwhelming feelings of worthlessness every waking moment and every single task (right down to getting milk to put on cereal) feeling insurmountable. Two weeks later, surrounded by the comfort blanket of being an inpatient alongside being commenced on the right antidepressant for me, and the fog began to lift. I came home in the New Year and just a few weeks after that slowly but surely I was able to care for both my children on my own again. The process of recovery took much longer than I thought it would, a good year of slowly rebuilding self-confidence and adjusting my own expectations of myself. I have purposely omitted the situation as it was for my husband and children, it is not my place to talk for them. But this does not detract from the fact that their experience was very difficult and painful too. The sadness I feel about this will never leave me. As a family unit though, we have emerged on the other side and I am very glad to see that my sons are happy, confident little boys, and my husband and I are closer than ever.
This was my beautiful boy and my public face at a wedding in the midst of my postnatal depression. I was still determined at this point that if I could just get myself into gear, I could get on top of things. I had a major meltdown the morning after this was taken!
Despite the dreadfulness of living through PND, there are many positives I have taken from it. Firstly the experience itself which has increased my knowledge and understanding of mental illness, and with that, comes greater compassion for others. It will always be a significant episode in my life and I do believe ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger’ (Friedrich Nietzsche). I already previously felt I was a strong person, but have come through this period of my life with a greater respect for my own strength of character. I am very grateful for the psychological therapy I was able to access as a result of my illness, because exploring issues arising from childhood has been immensely helpful in enabling me to understand myself and challenge who I am and why I feel the way I do sometimes. It has also further cemented my love for my husband as he fully supported me throughout and never once blamed me for how things were. I know not everyone has the capacity to support someone through a mental health crisis and that’s okay. Lastly, it has led me down a new path, the one which I am travelling along now and which I am enjoying very much.
I have always loved crafting, having previously enjoyed drawing, embroidery, pottery and scrapbooking. Now papercrafting is my new love and specifically card-making. It has reignited my love of creating handmade items and feeling the sense of accomplishment it provides. My boys are very enthusiastic reviewers of my creations, and love nothing more than having a go themselves – they are both pretty good at paper punching and my eldest is better at stamping than me! Now I can add blogging to my new ventures, yet another therapeutic outlet as I love writing. The purpose of my blog is to share my continued experiences and thoughts about mental health issues, and combine this with sharing my crafty pursuits. Naturally my parenting experiences, current diet challenge, midwifery passions and day-to-day life also feature. My hope would be that readers can get something from my website, whether that is to identify with something mentioned, a laugh, learn something or just to enjoy reading it, and hopefully in the future perhaps even purchase a card!
Thank you for reading, and don’t be shy please leave a comment if you stop by!