'With help, there is light at the end of the tunnel' 

Louise Hudson has two children: Jamie and Alice. She developed postnatal depression around the time of Alice's birth.

"When I had Jamie, I had a really difficult birth, but despite this setback, I enjoyed the whole experience. I was so glad to be a mum and I loved every minute of it. 

"With Alice, it was different. She's the apple of my eye now and she was a lovely, beautiful baby. Although I recall the whole experience of her birth and her first years of life, I also have the feeling that I don't want to remember it. When I look back, it's like I was robbed of those early years.

"My illness started quite late in pregnancy. I was around 34 weeks pregnant and I started suffering from insomnia. I thought it was because the baby was pressing on my bladder and I had to keep going to the lavatory. But I also felt strange in myself; quite detached, like I was there but not involved in what was going on.

"My usual GP was away, so I saw a locum who didn't really understand. He gave me some temazepam and a page of top tips for getting a good night's sleep. It didn't help and even with temazepam, I couldn't get any sleep.

"My husband and my mother both knew there was something wrong. Mum said that I'd gone into myself, that it was like I wasn't there.

"But I didn't care. I just didn't want to live. It was like I was in a bubble and I could see everyone, but they couldn't see me. I knew something was desperately wrong with me, but I didn't know what.

"I went back to the doctor when I was around 37 weeks pregnant and saw my usual GP, who was brilliant. She recognised that I was depressed and prescribed a low-dose antidepressant. Although some people worry about taking medication, those antidepressants gave me back my life. It took three weeks for them to kick in, but they took me from the black into the grey. I wasn't better, but it got me out of the worst depths of depression.

"Throughout this time, I was going through the motions of normal life. The baby was born when Jamie was five, so I was looking after him and the baby. I went on autopilot – I did it all, but there was no heart or enjoyment in it. I knew I had a lovely, beautiful baby, but I couldn't enjoy her.

"My GP had increased the dosage of antidepressants after the baby was born, but no one knew how bad I was feeling. I can't talk now about the thoughts I was having, but they were so frightening. I later learned that a lot of women with postnatal illness have very scary thoughts. I thought I was going mad. I was having these thoughts, I couldn't sleep or eat, I was depressed, tearful and having awful panic attacks. 

"Everyone with postnatal illness has different symptoms and my main symptom was anxiety. I worried about everything and I just couldn't break the cycle. When Alice was around five months old, I started seeing a psychotherapist who helped me understand some of the reasons why I was so anxious. At the same time, I began talking to a counsellor through the Association for Post Natal Illness. With their help, I began to recover very slowly and gradually. 

"It took two to three years for me to feel myself again. There were good days and bad days, and sometimes it felt like I was going backwards. It was easy to do too much and it would set me back again. Some women get better a lot quicker than I did, but this illness is different with everyone.

"I was lucky in some ways. I had a fantastic GP who knew about postnatal depression and picked up on it early, and I was also lucky to find a brilliant counsellor. And I did get better. I've been myself for the last seven years.

"I don't know if it would happen again if I had another baby – I know my chances of getting it again are higher and that thought is a terrifying one. But it's important to understand that although this is a serious illness, you do get better. It takes time but, with help, there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Page last reviewed: 11/02/2016

Next review due: 11/02/2018