Today I had a day where I really felt I had come full circle. Sat in a zoom meeting holding back tears of joy as Juno, often what I like to refer to as my 3rd baby, discussed our collaboration with established perinatal mental health support service crossreach.
To give context as to why this meeting felt so monumental I need to go back 8 years. To a darker time in my life. But a time that everyone had told me I should be feeling my happiest and should be so grateful for this tiny bundle of joy which had arrived in my life on the last day in March 2013. But I was not happy. My days were spent feeling flat and grey, of having an anxious knot in my stomach and having constant intrusive thoughts that my children were going to die, there was nothing I could do to stop that, I just knew that they would and I had to prepare myself for the day that it happened.
As someone who had not experienced mental health difficulties before I found all these thoughts and feeling so hard to deal with. I was basically a walking checklist of post natal depression, feeling sad, apathetic, absolutely exhausted but unable to sleep at night, unable to make the simplest decisions (down to being unable to work out what I needed from the supermarket), guilt at not ‘loving every minute’ and wishing I could get a break from caring for 2 children under the age of 2 but at the same time feeling so anxious about leaving them I felt physically sick with worry, and absolute lowest thinking ‘at least if I was not here I would not feel like this anymore’.
I remember finally opening up to my health visitor and feeling like the absolute worst Mum ever as everyone else seemed to be coping and I was not. On paper I had everything I ever wanted, a loving husband, the most supportive family and friends, a beautiful house and 2 happy healthy children. My health visitor and GP both reassured me that whilst it was not ‘normal’ to feel this way PND was a very common condition and with the right support I could, and would get better. But if it was so common where were all the other Mums who felt like this? Why was no one talking about it and how difficult it was being a Mum? About how the days felt long and lonely and all I ever done was worry that I was getting everything wrong? Where were the open conversations?
My health visitor recommended I get in touch with ‘Crossreach’ who could offer counselling and support sessions. I remember them contacting me over the phone and inviting me in for an initial assessment. I was crying so hard over the phone I could barely get the words out. And when I arrived for my session the note on the front of my details said VERY (underline) tearful. I can laugh about that now but I remember feeling so broken at the time.
Crossreach said I could have a spot in their counselling service but the wait could be anything up to six months. I remember panicking thinking ‘I can’t feel like this for six months’. Absolutely no criticism of this amazing service, but I just couldn’t believe as a Mum who was feeling so unwell there was next to no support, and the support I was offered I would have to wait 6 moths for. I did eventually get my spot at crossreach and opted for group counselling as all I wanted was to speak to another Mum who felt the same as me and ‘got it’. Which I did. And I will always be so grateful to Crossreach for facilitating that.
Even through that time, and although I was so unwell I had a clear thought in my head that a Mum having to wait six months for support, feeling isolated and so unwell, should never happen again. I wanted support that was available straight away, that any Mum could drop into, connect with other Mums who were going through the same thing, or even better a Mum who had been through it and come out the other side. Stories of hope. Juno was born from that idea and remains a grassroots movement, Mums supporting Mums, Women supporting Women and I could not be prouder to say that we are still here providing peer support 7 years on, and even more than that we are now collaborating with the organisation who were a massive part of my recovery and helped me ‘give birth’ to the idea of Juno, my 3rd baby.
I have written this post to try and express my gratitude to all of the Juno volunteers and supporters who helped us get here, to this massive milestone of this collaboration. I have also written it for the Mums out there who are feeling like I did 8 years ago so the message continues to get out that you CAN and WILL get better. Reading this back now I hardly recognise the description I’ve given of myself from 8 years ago. My children give me so much joy and they are without doubt the best thing that ever happened to me. If I had stayed silent about my illness and hoped it would ‘go away’ I cannot say where I would be today or how I would feel. There were times when I was unwell that I thought ‘Why me?’ but 8 years on I am so grateful for the experiences I have had. Coming through maternal mental illness showed me strength, compassion and empathy that I never knew that I had and taught me that we can all do hard things. Please speak up, look for support, I promise it is out there, it feels like such a massive step but it will help your recovery. And if you feel you have nowhere else to turn you always have Juno, online every Monday night and I am delighted to say, from 14th June in person collaborating with crossreach. You’ve got this Mama.
Lauren Knight, Juno co-founder
The group starts on Monday the 14th of June 2021.
Please see below for more details: