How has PP changed you? Reflecting on strengths and vulnerabilities

Been thinking about this quite a lot recently as I face a new season of recovery in my own life after a relapse of depression. I began my PP recovery journey 8 years ago with a sense of huge relief, and renewed confidence in my own strength; if I could make it through that then I could make it through anything! After baby #2 I felt a bit more knocked about by life, and I think I had more questions about 'why me'? PP has definitely changed me for the better, I'm much more open about mental health, less afraid that it shows a weakness in me, and I have a new passion to support other families going through PP. But it's also left some vulnerabilities; I still need building up in my confidence as a mum and I'm wary of taking on big challenges, especially with my work/career... but sometimes I wonder if that's just motherhood with all its associated guilt and juggling! Would love to hear how others are making their way through this journey of change and recovery after PP.

30 Replies

  • Although on one hand PP was the worst experience of my life I really feel it has made me a much stronger person and also the person I am today. I am certainly not the person I was 4 years ago, being ill made me face up to traumas that I had kept buried for a very long time and seek counselling for the first time in my life and I felt this empowered me to 'dump the junk' I cut contact with several toxic people in my life and I really think if I hadn't been ill I would never have found the strength to do this. I feel that my relationship with my husband is stronger as a result of PP and think or hope if we can survive that we can survive anything. I feel that after being so ill I really value life and everyday pleasures more, I was always a my cup is half empty kind of girl and would often look on the negative side of life whereas now I try and grab every opportunity that comes my way and feel very lucky. I think it took me a good 18 months to be able to feel like this and I remember feeling that I would never feel like me again. I'm not saying I'm a new improved version but I am definitely a much more confident version of my pre PP self. I definitely think that PP aside motherhood changes you and makes you question yourself and your abilities.

  • I absolutely feel the same way, completely head on. I had buried so many traumas and hardships that were thrown at me at such young ages. For the first time in my life, I had to address them and learn to heal. I also feel more grateful and full of life..Cheers!!

  • Thanks for replying hel21200

    It's great that you were able to seek counselling during your recovery from PP - I think so many people on the forum too have found that this was a lifeline. Well done for emerging as a glass half full girl!

    Like you, I too feel that my marriage is so much stronger and this is something to be incredibly thankful for. We certainly tested out the vows 'in sickness and in health'!

    Really encouraging to hear that PP has given you a new sense of confidence in yourself, and I'm sure this will really help other mums too who are still in that hard time of the first year to 18 months.

    Naomi x

  • Hi Naomi,

    What a wonderful question to reflect upon, and like you I often think about how my PP (6 years ago) has changed me. I love your expression "knocked about by life" because I can really identify with that, particularly after I too had a relapse over the last year and am still recovering from that. I'm slowly learning that mental health recovery can be a bumpy journey, and we do need to take pit stops to take care of ourselves. Maybe that is a vulnerability that the PP has left me with - a recovery road of peaks and troughs to navigate, knowing when I need to pit stop or to forge ahead?

    When I'm in a good place (on a peak), I take a lot of strength from surviving PP and feel like I can get through anything, which was pretty much how my recovery journey started too. But since my second baby was born (gosh, almost 4 years ago now!), my journey has seen a few more troughs - a more reflective wrestling stage trying to make sense of what happened, trying to process the PP. There's anger there too, not an easy thing to admit to, but it's a change that PP has brought about. My personality now has harder edges because of the horrors I endured in my mind during the PP, but at the same time I feel I'm more open minded than before and I hope that makes me a better person. I also feel I'm less inclined to judge others - enduring an illness that is fought in the mind has made me acutely aware of how what we see on the outside can only ever tell a tiny part of the story.

    The greatest change for me that PP has brought about is how my faith has been shaken, sadly because many of the delusions I experienced drew upon religious themes (in a bad way!). But I have hope that I'll come out the other side stronger in my faith, but for now I am still very much trying to reconcile what happened with a faith that had been rock solid before. I now have far more unanswerable questions than I'd like! And yet, despite the pain it causes, I'm still holding firmly on to that faith even if it looks different on the outside to those around me. PP has changed me, but it has not taken away who I am fundamentally, although in those early days of illness that is exactly how it felt. Has it changed me for the better? I can't answer that because I'm still in the middle of the restoration work ( :-) ), but I have a feeling that the answer is up to me. Sometimes the stages of recovery are flippin' hard work, but I know it's worth it!

    Building confidence as a mother - now there's a topic I can identify with! I do wonder if that is an area many mums (PP or no PP) experience. But perhaps having to recover from mental illness does give our confidence more of a beating, I know it has mine. I certainly question how good a mum I'm being to my boys more often than perhaps is good for me, particularly if my mental wellbeing needs attention. It's tricky to explain to a 6 and 3 year old that "mummy's thinking brain" is poorly and to ask for their patience.

    For those of you who had PP after there first child (so no benchmark to compare to), do you ever wonder how to distinguish the changes that first-time motherhood brought about from the changes that came about as a result of having PP? I would love to know what kind of mother I would have been had I never had PP. But I know one thing for sure and that is how I can never take for granted the relationships I have with my boys, and the moments of joy I have with them, the milestones we reach are all the sweeter for coming through PP. Sometimes I just take a few extra precious minutes of bedtime snuggles because I am reminded of what we came through. Anyone else consciously do that?

    N x

  • Hi N

    I can really identify with so much of what you've expressed here. Thank you for replying. Yes, the question of faith and PP is a huge one for me too, and I still wrestle with very big 'why' questions... yet similarly to you there's a determination to hold onto a faith that works in the midst of suffering and illness. It's made me much less likely to offer simple answers and platitudes to other friends who are living with long terms illness such as M.E. - in a way I think it's made me more able to walk a journey of no easy answers with them, and I'm learning from them that hope can exist and joy can be experienced even when there is no quick fix.

    And yes - the sweetness of simple moments with our kids! Recently I took our youngest to the beach and she was recounting all the little details to me at bedtime (her speech has been quite delayed so this is extra special). It made my heart lift that eating a satsuma, finding a star fish, and paddling her feet in the sea all gave her such unfettered joy.

    What a good way to explain to your boys those times of vulnerability - 'mummy's thinking brain is a bit poorly'. One thing I feel grateful for is that our children will all grow up with much more understanding mental health and looking after their own mental health.

    N xx

  • Hi Naomi, I think it does make you a stronger person and every now and again I think it's normal to have a wobble, I know I do sometimes and I feel guilty about being hospitalised and not being able to cope but then it's not something you choose and there isn't any control over it and if you have a loving strong support around you I think it helps massively, well done for coming through it and helping others and I hope you get stronger and stronger and more confident as a mum as I think everyone feels the same at times, take care, all the best :) x

  • Thank you so much Vbajic - yes I can really identify with those moments of guilt over being in hospital and spending time away from my girls. You are so right though - it's so important for all of us to know that our illness was not our fault. I really appreciate your kind words.

    Naomi x

  • Hi All

    Really good topic, thanks for posting Naomi!

    Well it's been nearly 3 years (in August) after my episode of PP and yes, it was hell, and awful but like many others have said (and I think I have said on the forum on other threads as well) that it has in some weird way been an amazing journey, changed me forever - and for the better perhaps. I am filled with joy in my son, my family, my friends, in life. As others have said I am amazed by my own strength, and everything I fought through, and achieved in getting better. It's affected my faith (as you have said HopeafterPP) - I would say in a general positive way- I felt very close to God, and that God was with me through it all.

    I have just attended as well a volunteering day with APP, and feel so excited about that as well as I feel it's another step on my recovery journey. I have found this forum so healing, to be able to express my journey, and also to hear others and know we are not alone, and how amazing we all are in what we have been through...

    As others have said its also given me insight and understanding of mental health, increased empathy for others who are struggling in different situations, and a desire to want to support others (hence volunteering with APP).

    At the moment I feel quite confident in my mental 'health' and I had been convinced that I'll never be 'ill' again , that this was a one time thing (psychosis or depression) but actually I am coming to terms with the fact that maybe I will need to be careful, and take care of my stress levels. A couple of weeks ago I had several hours of 'anxiety' related to stress in personal life, and work, and it brought me right back to the time in the MBU when the anxiety (which lead to the depression) was like a train I couldn't felt the same. and it was a bit of a wake up call. But luckily just talking things through with my partner / colleagues etc it didn't linger. But I did realise it was something to look out for.

    I don't believe in 'fate' exactly but I do believe things 'happen for a reason' (without wanting to sound trite) and that it sets you on a new and different path - and I see my PP as like that - something that of course had a lot of darkness in it but there is a lot of light too...

    For some reason 2 words that come to mind when I think of what I received from PP are humility (I am not invulnerable, I am not always strong etc - how I used to view myself I think, I looked after people - I didn't need 'looking after' (my job is supporting people with learning disabilities)), and acceptance (of weakness, of everything that happened to accept it, own it, and make it into something that can be positive).


  • Wow Ellie what an encouraging reply - thank you.

    I love your two words that you can be thankful for after coming through the experience of PP, humility and acceptance. I think for me I'm going through almost a deeper stage of finding acceptance and it's been really useful for me to have some more counselling recently. I think a lot about my two girls and what it might be like if I need to support them through challenges in their mental health in the future, maybe even PP when they have their own babies. Like you I'm so incredibly grateful for this forum as a space to talk to others and share our journeys.

    So pleased to hear of your journey so far - you should be incredibly proud of the recovery you are making and thank you for now being here to support others.

    Naomi x

  • Hello Naomi,

    I'm sorry you had a relapse and hope you feel stronger soon. You are so reassuring to everyone on the forum and my anchor if I need advice.

    As you probably know (and especially after seeing me at the Volunteer day!) I am much older than many here. I had PP twice over thirty years ago although I didn't know at the time. In those days there was so much stigma attached to mental illness that it became a family secret. I have 'pockets' of memories about my very frightening psychoses and delusions but no one to fill in the blanks. For years I felt ashamed of myself as I didn't know what had happened and that I was a bad mother.

    Like you, I felt more vulnerable second time around (six years after my first son) whether that was because of more ECT treatment I'm not sure. I did question "Why me?" as I tried so hard not to 'go under' but then I answered "Why not?" as I wouldn't wish that time in my life on anyone.

    There is so much hope ...... all these years on APP has made such a difference. I'm no longer ashamed, I had no choice. I missed the very early days of my newborn sons but have been privileged to hold my treasured grandchildren in my arms.

    So in a way my PP journey is far behind me but I've been touched by all those people I've met and thank heavens for my mum who spoke up for me when I couldn't speak for myself.

    Take good care.


  • Aw Val thank you so much for your kind words! It was last year that I had my relapse of depression, so I guess this is just another phase of deeper recovery. I am so glad that APP has been a space for you to throw off the shame and stigma which was so much part of your experience. We are incredibly fortunate that mental health is now just beginning to be talked about openly in society, long may this continue. We value your hopefulness and encouragement on this forum so much, and I love to hear how precious it's been for you now to hold your grandchildren.


  • Hi Naomi,

    Thank you so much for taking time out to reply. I think eventually we emerge much stronger from life events which try to hold us back, although depression is a game-changer and a huge challenge.

    It's amazing how such a small ad in the local paper led to me finding APP. I'm even quite emotional now thinking of the relief it was that I hadn't been a 'bad mother' all those years ago when my sons were born; I had no choice.

    In time I hope that APP is recognised and understood as I do worry about my grandaughters, although they are only tiny treasures at the moment. Perhaps if there was more funding there could be an APP Day where everyone could buy a purple ribbon and raise awareness, so that women no longer suffer in silence.


  • Dear Naomi,

    This is such an interesting question. I'm a bit further behind you in my "journey" (18 months and going strong!) but I feel like a different person in many ways. I'm different to my psychotic self (clearly!) but I'm also different to my pre-baby self.

    Like Ellie said, humility has been a big part of this. And faith. And hope.

    I am humbled firstly by my incredie son and husband. The love tht binds us as a family is so strong, and I have never experienced anything like it. I will never know if this is down to PP, but I know I would never want to change things, as its given me the family that I have. I am humbled too by the care and compassion that was given to me - by health professionals, yes, but also charities such as APP and (when I was starting to reemerge) wider friends and family.

    I have a sense of "what's the worse that can happen to me now?" I lost my mind, but it came back. I'm proud of my recovery, and just wish that mental health was given more resources and less stigma. I'm really enjoying doing all that I can in my little corner of the world to change things for the better.

    I could go on and on, but I think you all get the gist! It's brilliant to find so many like minded souls here...

    Kat x

  • Thank you so much for your reply Kat

    You should be incredibly proud of your recovery! It's been a privilege to share some of your journey here on the forum. Yes, I agree like you I was so grateful and humbled by the deep unconditional love of my family, the strength of my husband and the excellent care I received from nurses who had never before seen PP in a general psychiatric ward. It's amazing actually, 8 years on I had the chance to deliver some training to one of my most wonderful nurses from the ward as she's now part of the specialist perinatal mental health team in Devon. That felt like a very special moment of what I've been able to do in my corner of the world...

    Sending much love your way

    Naomi x

  • That's such a brilliant turn of events Naomi - that you inspired one of your nurses to become a perinatal specialist. Amazing! Much love back to you, really hoping as you say that the period of deep depression was a part of your deeper recovery. Kx

  • Hi kat, inspiring words, it was great to read your post

  • Thanks S&W - it was so great to meet you at the volunteers day! Kx

  • Although I'm newly recovered, already its made me more confident, more self aware of what I need, more assertive to get me time and more honest. I've started asking people I know with kids to meet up, started my own Facebook group for mums of my area and I'm much happy in myself, I don't take things for granted.

  • It's really great to hear all of these ways that going through PP has helped you to learn new ways of being. Thanks for posting your reflections raspberries, very encouraging x

  • Hi all

    I've really enjoyed reading this thread, it's very moving.

    It's very moving to hear all your stories.

    Val I can't believe you didn't get a diagnosis until recently, its so wonderful you now know what happened to you and that must be so liberating, but its sad that yes you had to suffer in silence, and feel so much shame and pain, that you felt for years that you were a bad mother etc. Your story is so important to hear.

    Thanks so much everyone for sharing

  • Hello Ellie

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I often wonder whether now so much has changed for the better that my input is very dated, although I can well remember what frightening times they were and relate to many here on the forum.

    It's been a number of years since Dr Jones and someone from his team came to visit me. I remember feeling quite anxious and ashamed recounting the little I had been told over the years. My sister was there at the time (she kindly agreed to have a blood test as part of the research). That was such a life-changing meeting for me ..... I was reassured that with sight of my medical notes I had probably suffered PP twice. I'm so thankful to the APP team for lifting me from the shadows and I hope to do the same for anyone I can help on the forum.


  • Hi Val, I would say I think your input is really important, as you say you remember well your experience of PP so you can support people going through it, and I hope that we have seen lots of improvements though from some stories I hear I'm not so sure... its important to hear people's stories where they didn't get the correct diagnosis, and the devastating effect of that... and you are a great voice to say about the important work of APP... I really value your input on the forum and it was so wonderful to meet you in person at the volunteer day!


  • I think it was a very traumatic experience not being someone who has been ill like this before, I was lucky to receive the treatment I needed and quickly. I find I am much more aware of mental illness as a whole now in society, when I read about tragedies like mothers driving into oceans or stabbing their kids I have a lot more empathy for them and understanding whereas when I was younger, I would judge them as much as I hate to say that. I would always think, "Who could do such a thing?" And now, I know...

  • Thanks for your reply TrishaK yes it's definitely given me more compassion too for others who go through severe mental illness. It also helped me with my own stigma and shame about depression I'd had before the children; it helped me to realise that it was really an illness and not a 'failure to cope' in me.


  • Wow, I agree with all of the above, thanks everyone! It’s a good question Naomi & really interesting reading this thread! There’re a lot of things here that resonate with me & I've been giving it some thought too, here's my list. (sorry, it’s a real essay!)

    I do think PP has changed me in a few ways, but overall it’s with a lot of positive things. In the early years after PP I focused the positives above anything else – I had to, it was a way of getting over the trauma & just getting on & enjoying life again.

    Positively, there's the strength that comes from knowing that I've survived PP so I can survive anything life throws at me. It's empowering to know that when faced with the depths of hell, I'm a fighter & can get through it – I can bear the unbearable.

    I'm more resilient since having PP – due to being aware of my moods & monitoring them pretty much on a daily basis. I can spot the signs that tell me I'm doing too much, getting too anxious or need to rest. They're reminiscent of the very early PP symptoms so I’m very conscious of doing something about them in case they escalate & I don’t feel guilty, selfish or pressured in taking time out for myself.

    I'm calmer, more level & a more appreciative & happier person since PP. When you've been that close to losing everything, you really know what's important to you! I’m more able to see the beauty in the little things – (cheesy I know!) but the things that other mums seem to take for granted that I was deprived of for those first two years, are REALLY special when they happen now. I definitely have more empathy & understanding of what others might be going through even if they look fine on the outside.

    There are a few things that have changed in me in a not so positive way though. These aren't things I dwell on (or try not to) & they definitely don’t affect me daily. The thoughts just bubble to the surface every now & then.

    I’m now fearful of the future - what will happen when I’m older when I don’t have my current support networks around me? What if I don’t have my husband, my family, my sport etc. around to help keep me happy & level? I worry about the menopause or anything that can affect my hormones in any way. PMS strikes more often now when I’d never had it before - don’t know if it’s a PP or childbirth thing, but now I’m careful what I eat beforehand & try to keep my sugar & hormone levels steady.

    Although I’m confident I won’t have another episode under normal circumstances, I do constantly monitor my moods. For the sake of my happiness & so I don’t feel like a ticking time-bomb, I convince myself it was a one off & I won’t have another episode. I panic every time I have a sleepless night in case it’s all starting again.

    I know it’s a long way off but I worry about becoming a Grandmother, not being able to support my son with his children, being able to or even capable of helping with baby care. How can I be a good Grandmother when my only experience with babies was utterly terrifying? Holding a crying baby instantly takes me back to all the fear, sky high anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, inability, despair etc. How can I bond with grandchildren when feeling like that? I realise I've avoided babies for all this time but I know it’s something I need to face at some point.

    I worry that every minor adverse thing in my son’s development could have been caused by my PP & lack of bonding in his first year (thanks to my HV for this for telling me when I was ill that PP affects baby’s development!). I worry that health things in my son could have been caused by the medication I took when breastfeeding. Were his allergies, dyslexia, genetic teeth thing etc. all my fault? Of course they’re not & it’s irrational, he wasn't affected at all & he’s a healthy, delightful little boy!

    So for me the negative ways PP has changed me are mainly all about fear & worry. Occasionally there’s some anger (why me?) & jealousy that creeps in towards women who seem to have it so easy compared to what we went through & sail through that first year – especially if they complain about really minor ailments. I still feel incredibly sad when I see a new mum sat in a café chatting with her friends, happily breast-feeding her newborn – something I was never able to do.

    I don’t carry these around with me every day though, far from it. In fact I hardly think of them at all, they just pop up once in a while. I think this is all part of recovery & in time they’ll become less & less until eventually they’re forgotten. I think worry is a normal part of motherhood for anyone, whether they've had PP or not, & having had PP I guess there's just more for us to worry about. The positive ways PP has changed me really do outweigh the negatives by far - it’s made me what I am now & I’m proud of that! :-)

  • Hi Andrea

    It was really good to read your post, inspiring. And I really like your honesty in talking about the difficult things about having PP. It is interesting to read that in the first few years after PP you concentrated a lot on the positives from the illness, and it has got me thinking that this is what I think I am doing at the moment really. Your post has started me thinking of the more negative things, and I think this is good and healthy to do. I do feel grief in missing the first year or so of my son's life really, not being able to appreciate him as a baby. He was really a toddler when I was truly better. And I know exactly the feeling you describe of seeing women happily breastfeeding their babies and just wishing I had had that.

    And I have to admit that I am beginning to grieve not having anymore children. I know others on here have gone on to have other children, but I know that this isn't for me, I have made a decision that I am just not going to go there again, it just feels like th

    the right thing to do. But I am beginning to hear of the 2nd pregnancies of my NCT group, and again like you said the ease at which they are just able to do that without thinking, and how joyful that is for them, is quite hard.

    Thanks so much Naomi for this thread. I've found it really helpful.

  • Hi s&w

    I can so clearly remember that time when all my friends had second babies. You are so right it's important to give yourself permission and space to grieve. In a lot of ways I think I'm only just doing that now, and I can so identify too with what Andrea says about those occasional feelings of 'why me?' I definitely felt that after struggling following baby #2 it just felt so unfair... but the sense of gratitude for the return of love and stability does carry you through. Thanks everyone for sharing so openly on this topic. I'm glad it's been a help to each of us.

    Naomi xxx

  • Hi Andrea

    Thank you; you've expressed so many of the things I have felt too and so thoughtfully. The strength and resilience you have gained through the hard times of PP are so evident in who you are today. Thank you for sharing those vulnerable spots too & it's so reassuring to know that other mums feel that pang of jealousy too sometimes! I'm looking forward to us all supporting each other when we go through that time of becoming grandparents, with the mixture of joy and memories it will bring.

    N x

  • Hello Andrea,

    Well ......who knew? The 'glue' supporting us through thick and thin has worries bubbling under the surface from time to time. This may sound odd but the diagnosis of PP after so many years made me happier ..... to realise I had no choice at those times and I was so relieved I had not been a 'bad mother' after all.

    As I'm further along the road in life's journey than you and many of my virtual friends, I can relate to and dispel some of your worries. I've been through all the hot flushes and a few health problems but they were all manageable, unlike psychosis in my day. I do live alone as my sons have now grown and flown and have treasures of their own (not meant to rhyme!). I find that working part-time now gives me a work life balance, so in a way I'm occupied in my job but still have time to visit my parents a few times during the week and meet up with friends occasionally.

    Rest assured, apart from being a mother, being a Grandmother is such a gift. I'm sure that when you hold your very own grandchild in your arms you will feel so proud and emotional. I can't tell you how much it meant to me when my first grandson stayed with me overnight. All feelings of hopelessness disappear as your motherly instinct from the early days, which was there all the time but suppressed by PP, emerges and it really is and will be an amazing feeling. It was such a privilege to be 'trusted' to look after him. To experience days I should have known with my first son was such a joy which continues with my other treasured grandchildren.

    Throughout my sons' school years I worried that as I didn't know then what had happened to me, it would have an adverse effect on them and I had blighted their career prospects. How wrong I was ........ thankfully my sons both have professional careers and are living the life I hoped they would have. Of course, I can't take the credit for their success as against all the odds they persevered and I'm just their very proud mom.

    I am so grateful that APP lifted the burden I had carried for all those years. I hope to return the 'favour' in some small way by being there for others who may need a helping hand.

    Take care.


  • Aw thanks for your encouraging words everyone, I've only just seen your replies, for some reason my post wan't showing up on my machine. Val, your words bought a tear to my eye, thank you! We've all come such a long way on our PP journeys, it's wonderful to have such a supportive community on here to help us along the way!

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