Return to work: Hi all, i had PPP in... - Action on Postpar...

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Return to work

benedicte profile image

Hi all, i had PPP in March and was discharged from the MBU in June. Tomorrow i go back to work (3 days a week) and i am a little anxious about it as I lack confidence in myself and I have been struggling with depression (i am no longer taking Olanzapine but still taking Lithium). One side of me wants to be open to colleagues about me having had PPP but my partner thinks i should keep it quiet as it could hurt my career (I work in finance in the defence and security industry). Besides i don't want to relive the story all the time and have to explain what PPP is.

Would love to hear advice from other's on how open they were at work and generally about getting back into the corporate world.

Many thanks

16 Replies
Lilybeth profile image

Hello benedicte

Thank you so much for coming to the forum and sharing. There will be lots of mums here with helpful advice .....

I'm really amazed that you have recovered so quickly, probably the care in the MBU helped. I had PP twice many years ago and it's good to hear how much improved treatment and recovery is. Well done for coping so well to the point that you are going back to work. My recovery (in and out of general psychiatric care) took a little over two years before I felt able to cope. I was very lucky that I didn't return to permanent work until my sons were four years old so I did temporary agency work to build my confidence and settle back into the world of work.

I'm sorry to hear you are struggling with depression which can be very draining. I had depression following PP after my second son which seemed never ending. Eventually though with good medical and family support I recovered.

It's a bit daunting first day back isn't it but I'm sure you will be fine. I suppose it depends on whether your colleagues are acquaintances or friends. Mental illness has come out of the closet but still has a way to go. Strange to say I didn't know I had PP until later in life and when I returned to work it was for a completely different employer so I didn't have any friends there at the time. I thought I had PND so wrongly felt ashamed and kept myself to myself. In fact at one stage I was the sole employee for a Solicitor, which suited me as I wasn't very confident at interacting at the time although I coped for two years. However, as my confidence in the home and at work increased I ventured further afield and found my place.

Has your GP given you the all clear to return to work? I suppose your anxiety will be increased on the first day. Is it a phased return or are you just working part-time for now? Looking after yourself, your family and returning to work will be exhausting at first. I would give yourself time to settle back into your routine at work before you worry about what to say and to whom about your absence.

There are many 'newer' mums than I here, able to give more up to date experiences. I wish you all the best .... make sure to structure tea or coffee breaks into your day. PP mums are amazing so be very proud of yourself. Well done for coping in the midst of depression and anxiety.

Take very good care of yourself. We will all be thinking of you.

Lilybeth profile image
LilybethVolunteer in reply to Lilybeth

Hello benedicte

Hope all goes well for you today.

Take care.

Ellie_at_APP profile image

HI Benedicte

Thanks for your post and question. I was wondering how your first day went today? I hope that it was OK?

It is a huge milestone getting back to work, and I think each mum is completely different in that they are going back to different jobs, and feel at different stages of recovery. I do hope though that others will share their experiences on here and you will find it supportive.

I had PP 4 years ago, and went back to work after 9 months. I have a potentially very stressful job working for a charity as a Registered Manager for four care homes for people with learning disabilities. However, on the plus side, the culture was very caring and promotes and encourages sharing how we are feeling, and our personal stories etc. Because of this I was very open about the illness, and I did generally receive a lot of support and understanding from colleagues. Perhaps you could choose one or two people you trust, who you feel close to at work, who you could confide in, just so you have some support? How is it with your supervisor? Would you feel able to tell them? Do you feel they would be supportive?

I have to say, like you, I was still on an anti depressant when I went back to work, and still really struggling with depression. Some days I would have to struggle through the day, and felt I just couldn't cope. However, somehow I did muddle through. I found meeting with my psychologist for CBT really helped (talking through my day, practically what I needed to do, trying to help me feel that it wasn't unmanageable etc). It did take time but I did recover very well, and going back to work was a big step in that recovery.

Thinking of you, and hope it went well today X

Jenny_at_APP profile image

Hi benedicte,

I too hope today went ok for you. It's a big and daunting step getting back to work.

I went back to work full time after about 10 and a half months. I would say I felt pretty much fully recovered at that stage though was still on medication for another few months. My manager was very supportive and knew what had happened, as was the colleague I shared an office with at the time (I work for the NHS on the admin side of things, not exactly the 'corporate world'!). They were both a great support and always happy to listen if I wanted to talk about anything / checking everything was ok. I did tell some other people if it came up - how much I divulged varied but I was very keen to raise awareness of PP if it seemed appropriate and they were interested.

I told more people at work recently when APP were campaigning and found out others were aware that I'd been unwell after having my son but had assumed I had postnatal depression.

I think I've been lucky in not experiencing any negative reactions, more often I'd find people would open up about their own postnatal issues / experiences (women about themselves, some men about their partners). Working in the health service I do work with a lot of health professionals and people you would hope are a bit more aware and understanding of health issues but you may find there's a lot of shared experience and empathy where you least expect it.

I'd see how you feel - you don't have to share anything you're not comfortable with. Hopefully you'll have at least one person you can confide in and who will look out for you though as it's really important to have support.

I hope it all goes well x

Hannah_at_APP profile image

Hi Benedicte,

I hope your first day back went OK and if you're there again today, that also goes well. I had PP in 2009 and also took Olanzapine (for a year) and Lithium (for 3 years) - when I went back, I was on a reduced dose of Olanzapine and then obviously the Litihium still too. I found it pretty tough to concentrate at work as the Olanzapine made me sleepy and kind of numb. I had a phased return and did a few mornings one week, then a few afternoons, then a mix of half and full days and went back full time by about 4-6 weeks. I had another child in 2013 and now work 4 days a week, which although hard going is nice to have some time in the week which is not taken up with work. I was completely adamant about going back as planned after the PP though, which was hard going, but in hindsight worthwhile.

It was tough and I would come home exhausted in the early days if I'm honest. I also went back to a different job where I felt I was behind because things had changed and I was struggling enough through the meds fog and a complete lack of confidence. But I was stubborn and stuck at it and gradually it became easier. If you can, try not to dwell on work at home and plan nice things to do on days off, whether with your baby just the 2 of you, as a family, or with friends. It helped me to blow off steam with good friends so I didn't have non-work time as doing all the baby things, I could also just have a bit of a moan about work and the challenges of being a working mum really!

My manager knew I'd had PP and I was referred to Occ Health, which I had been dreading. I saw someone before I went back and looking back I think she had to declare me as fit, although she never said as much. She was an ex-midwife and had known PP before so congratulated me on getting through and sitting there talking to her, which was a massive boost. Not all Occ Health may be as helpful, but if it's available it could be useful for you. My manager and colleagues had no idea what PP was - mostly they thought I'd had bad PND, which can be a useful starting point for it I suppose, but as I was mostly manic, psychotic, lost touch with reality and have no memory of my early days being ill, with not much heavy depression after (aside from the complete loss of confidence and feeling a bit low and fed up) there was no real link aside from mental illness after having a baby.

It will likely depend who you are talking to at work and how much you know them, and their life outside work. For example, some fellow mums may be sympathetic but equally I found other mums who were the least helpful and thought I should be "over it", as they were fine with working, they "struggled too you know, you just have to get on with it" was said to me. Not helpful... You will find your own way, and I did just nod and smile when the "severe form of PND" came up. After some time, I could then share some "humorous" (looking back) stories of screaming at others that there was nothing wrong with me and they weren't real anyway, throwing plates of food whilst in hospital (the food wasn't that bad, surely?!) and thinking that I'd sat on my baby so had to stand on other people's feet.... It's not funny of course, but I can see now how erratic the behaviour was and how ill I'd been.

Most people I work with had no experience of mental illness, let alone something as severe and frankly scary as PP. Over time, I do talk more about it, and with the voluntary work I do with APP, this has also started more conversations. I am not in a corporate environment, but in a similar "industry" to sunnyandwild which can be very busy and stressful. So I am mindful that I have to leave work at work wherever possible and get as much balance in my life. And the odd glass of something nice at the end of the week is still much needed!

I think you have to do what feels right for you and be conscious of other people, yet also try not to be too worried about if that makes sense. You will find your place again, and just know that we are all thinking of you and wishing you well. Going back to work can be hard but it's also, I believe, an important step in recovery and rebuilding life after PP. Feel free to come back and let us know how you're getting on and ask any more questions. Take care, all the best with it, xx


I hope your return to work has gone OK?

I returned to work in a big corporate PT a year after having PPP and found it quite daunting adjusting back and coping with the anxiety attacks I would have. I was given Clonazepan to take as I needed it which helped and I eventually found I was relaxing into it and not taking any.

I only ever told my line manager about the PPP and told my colleagues only that I had been "very ill" on maternity leave and fortunately they never pryed into this. Everybody is different though and circumstances vary so you have to do what feels right.

I did have it documented on my Occupational Health report as I decided I wanted to cover myself should anything happen which ended up being a really good thing as the employer has certain liabilities as technically you are classified as 'disabled' - a horrible label but means you have certain legal rights. They have a legal responsibility to look after you and ensure your stress levels/workload are manageable for example and make 'reasonable adjustments' if you need it. My employer is fortunately incredibly flexible and agreed to a change of job, working from home whenever I want and flexible hours.

What I found quite hard was adjusting to all the inappropriate use of language that colleagues use such as "look at that weather, it makes me feel depressed", "it's manic in here sometimes, it drives you mad", "this project is crazy" and the worst (which I pulled my boss up on last week), "X retailer's customers are schitzofrenic" (meaning they have lots of different types of shoppers). This kind of talk goes on all around me and I've had to learn to adjust and not become paranoid that they are taking the mickey out of me!

Going back as a new Mum with additional responsibilities at home is hard enough so well done you for managing to do this - that takes courage.

Take care.

Sarah x

Belated thanks to everyone for your wonderful messages! My first week at work last week went alright, i felt very nervous the first morning but the nervousness went away. Thankfully I didn't get too much work thrown at me, in fact my boss seems to be wanting me to take it easy which is nice. My main concern some time ago was that I would struggle to stay awake a whole day, but now that I am no longer taking Olanzapine I am no longer so tired thankfully. In fact I keep waking at night which worries me slightly but hopefully that will pass.

I decided to be open about my PPP and told quite a few people and so far I don't regret it. I had never heard of PPP before I had it so not surprised that the people I told were unfamiliar with PPP. I feel that it's good to raise awareness.

I'm doing a phased return to work and for now i am working mondays, thursdays and fridays because those were the days offered by the nursery. HR wants to review this end of November but I doubt I will feel ready to do any more days for a while. Anyway I just wanted to say thanks again to everyone who replied to my post.

Ellie_at_APP profile image

Hi Benedicte

I don't think I replied to your original post but I did read it. It's wonderful to hear your first week back has been good, and that your boss is being very understanding. And that's amazing and brave of you to be open about it with colleagues etc and that you have no regrets about this as well. I am sure that will help your return to work, and your recovery generally.

Never hesitate to continue writing on here as and when you need to

Take care

Hannah_at_APP profile image

Hi again Benedicte,

Great to hear your recent update and that things are going well at work. I hope you're managing to find the time to relax and continue to enjoy both work and home life - it can be a tricky balance at times but one I find to be very rewarding.

It's also really positive to hear that you've had good experience of telling people about your PP, I too have found this and it does feel good to raise awareness. Something nice to come out of something so awful is a blessing in a way.

I hope all continues to go well for you, take care, xx

I had PP Sept 2014. Was on olanzapine for 6 months before being weaned off. I was completely off medication before returning to work June 2015.

My work were fully aware what happened to me. My director even visited me in hospital! I know that all companies r different but I work as a manager in a small family run company.

I returned to work 3 days a week and it's working well for me.

benedicte profile image
benedicte in reply to lucinda123

Great to hear. I am still taking Lithium, but since December I think I am now fully recovered, and am going to start working 4 days a week from February.

All the best!

Hannah_at_APP profile image

Hi Lucinda123 and welcome to the forum, it's great to hear that your return to work went well. Being off medication must be a big plus, I was still on Olanzapine when I went back (my posts are above) and it was a real struggle at times. You are doing amazingly only a year and a bit on from PP, I'm glad to hear that things are going well for you, take care, xx

Lilybeth profile image

Hello benedicte

Good to hear your update ........ you have done so well to recover and return to work in such a short space of time. I think treatment and care have changed so much for the better. Your boss sounds very thoughtful .... don't forget to take all your breaks so that you're not too tired. Sometimes we are so eager to let others see we have 'recovered' and can push ourselves too much.

Best wishes for the future ..... we are all here anytime you would like to chat.

benedicte profile image
benedicte in reply to Lilybeth

Thank you for your advice, Lilybeth. i asked to work from home 1 day a week and i will stick to 4 days a week for a while so i don't get too exhausted like you say. i am trying not to put too much pressure on myself, but i feel i ought to do some exercise. I had thought about joining the gym and going at lunchtime the 3 days i work, but then i thought that might be too stressful and that it would be better to have a proper lunchbreak going out for fresh air and taking my time to eat. My psychiatrist says exercise would be really beneficial. But i just dont know where i am meant to find the time. Before i returned to work i did some pilates and park fitness classes where i would bring my daughter along, but back then she was so young she didnt move about much, now she is 11 months and walking i dont see how i could take her along.. So for now walks in the park will have to suffice i guess...

Lilybeth profile image

Hello Benedicte

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I think it's better if you can have a proper lunch break and take in the fresh air rather than being closed in a gym tiring yourself out.

Now your daughter has found her feet, she won't be still for long, so it is hard to find time to exercise. Mind you, I think trying to keep up with her will be exercise in itself ..... running up and down the stairs is good exercise too if you can find the energy!! Walking in the park now the weather's improving sounds like a good idea.

Hope all goes well at work next month. Don't forget to be good to yourself ......

Lilybeth profile image

Hello Benedicte

I was wondering how you are coping with your first week, working 4 days? I hope you are not too tired and having regular breaks. Needless to say I'm sure your daughter is a welcome sight after a day at work ..........

Take good care of yourself.

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