Post-natal depression hit me hard, seeking help turned my life around
A mother who battled post-natal depression has told how she was lost in a sea of unhappiness until getting help brought the colour back into her life.
Jenny Thompson (35), from Belfast, bravely shared her experience of becoming overwhelmed by feelings of isolation, guilt and helplessness after the birth of her second son Isaac.
The mum-of-two - now recovered - said she was speaking out to raise awareness about the crippling condition and to encourage other mothers to seek help.
Jenny explained how she immediately felt "something was not right" after Isaac was born in 2010 compared to when she had first son Sam (8).
"With Sam, we bonded right away, but with Isaac we didn't have that magic moment," she said. "I felt guilty about not being with Sam. I missed being with him. Everybody around me thought: 'Well, she has done it before, she'll be fine'. But I felt isolated. They assumed it was all okay, but everything just felt grey.
"The day I had Isaac I had trouble feeding him. An auxiliary nurse came in and I just remember her - not in an uncaring way - but she asked: 'Is this your second? Then you are fine', and away she went. Inside I was screaming, I needed help."
Jenny is one of a number of mums sharing their experiences as Sport Relief launches a series of short films about maternal mental health in a project supported by TV presenter Fern Britton.
The films will be shared on Sport Relief's Twitter feed @SportRelief to help reduce stigma around the issue. The public are also encouraged to share their stories online using #MumTalk.
Jenny, whose mother also had post-natal depression, said when you are at your lowest it is hard to take that step and ask for help. "I had to be with this baby, who was screaming (and who) I didn't know. It sounds bad, but that was how I felt," she said.
"I felt guilt: guilt that I wasn't happy with Isaac, not in that place as a mother, and guilt with Sam."
It was when a close friend finally asked if she was suffering from depression that Jenny decided to seek help."She just turned round and asked: 'Jenny, are you depressed?' Somebody coming out and saying it was what I needed," the now happy mum added.
Jenny was supported by her health visitor, who recommended that she go back to her doctor and go on a cognitive behavioural therapy course.
Her GP consulted with her and after a short period of time recommended she take medication.
"I remember walking down the street, wrestling with the idea of taking them," Jenny said. "My GP told me: 'Look, if you had diabetes you would get treated and take medication'.
"That is why I want to talk about my experience. It is just a normal illness. You owe it to yourself to get treated, just like anything else."
The treatment started to work quickly and Jenny soon felt positivity coming back into her life.
"I could see the blue in the sky and the green grass, instead of seeing everything as grey," she said. "It really felt that it brought the colour back in."
Soon she was feeling so confident she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a self-employed child minder.
"Help is there if you ask for it, but there needs to be more support," Jenny said.
"If someone out there is reading this and is feeling depressed, what I would say to them is to change one thing today - tell someone how you are feeling.
"Saying that one thing is the first step to recovery."
TV presenter Britton, who experienced "horrible" post-natal depression, added: "Everyone tells you that having a baby is going to be perfect, so you try to be the perfect mother.
"However, you're not blooming at all - you're blooming awful.
"I was lonely and frightened. I felt lost, like a failure. I couldn't identify with who I was any more.
"When the doctor told me what I was feeling was post-natal depression, it was so liberating."
Money raised by Sport Relief helps people like Jenny and others all over Northern Ireland.
To get involved, sign up to Sport Relief Flagship Games at Custom House Square on March 20. Visit sportrelief.com/Belfast