Jill's Story

Jill Edwards had to cope on her own with post natal depression in the 1960’s.

Jill had a poor experience of childbirth with her first child, Gareth being a heavy baby at 10lbs which was delivered naturally – Jill feels in hindsight a caesarean would have been desirable.

Jill didn’t initially ask a GP, or a health professional for any support, in hindsight she might well have asked for help. Having relocated to the midlands for her husband’s work prior to her first child’s birth in 1963 she then felt isolated from her London friends. Jack, her husband is now a retired civil engineer, and back then he was building major motorways.

When talking about her struggle, she said.

“I was quite a long way from my friends in London who might have been able to help, but of course that meant they couldn’t.”

“I felt isolated, I just needed somebody to tell how I felt and not judge me”. Jill’s parents weren’t in a position to help, except financially, her mother and father then had their own lives to lead and left it to her to bring up her own children.

"I didn't see it as depression, I saw it as a fearful failure on may part. I felt different from the other mums, they all seemed to be having agreat time."

Jill felt that at the time, this form of depression wasn’t acknowledged, which meant she felt she couldn’t talk about it, and couldn’t ask for help.

The people around her, thought she should just put up with it, and she was lucky to have a healthy child – they said; “He’s fine, two arms and legs and healthy so if he cries, so what”.

She felt she just wasn’t allowed, or able to have negative feelings about him.

“I didn’t feel I was justified in feeling anything else but very happy with my baby, even though I was desperately depressed as a new mother. I felt very isolated”.

People around Jill told her she’d be an excellent mother, she was a successful speech tutor and coped with everything else that life threw at her in post war Britain. “I felt a social pressure to be a great mother, many people had said I would be a great mother because I was a successful speech tutor”.

Gareth was such a struggle for Jill, that at her lowest mood she really felt that she wanted to be free of his continuous crying, and felt he was the root cause of all her stress, and anxiety. He just couldn’t be calmed, and settled.

“Gareth just seemed to scream, whether you picked him up, put him down or anything” Socially, it was hard to join in to anything happening locally, as she didn’t know anyone and got the impression everyone else was having such a great time with their babies, so there must be something wrong with her, if she was struggling herself.

“I couldn’t share how I felt, I just couldn’t cope. I couldn’t share other people’s delight in their children, why did it have to be me that was feeling this way? Being around other people’s children, with my own just seemed to magnify the problem so it felt hard to join in”.

She remembers having an operation about 3-4 months after Gareth’s birth, and the nurse said “I bet you’re missing him” – but she was happy to have the break from Gareth.

”I was relieved I was there, and someone was looking after me”.
Jill felt that it was a struggle to bond with Gareth, he cried often, and for long periods adding to her own depression. At her lowest point, she even didn’t want to be alone with him, in case she did anything to harm his health.

When he was screaming and the rest of it, she felt; “I’m actually going to harm this child” When Jill could get any free time, and listen to the radio she was relieved to be able to take a break from looking after him. At this point, everyone was focusing on the baby, and she felt no one was looking out for her welfare, and her mental health.

“I just wanted to speak to someone to help, who would listen and not judge.”

One of her friends, who was an only child and had recently experienced both her parents die of cancer within a year of each other, encouraged her to consider trying for another child. Her friend said: “Don’t leave him an only child, I was that to my parents and felt that terrible burden on me. Give him a brother or sister.”

Jill became pregnant with her second child, Sian in 1967 and instantly panicked; “Oh my goodness, I can’t go through all that again, I cannot cope with this” she said. When she contemplated terminating the pregnancy, she was referred to a psychiatrist. Jill recalls in those days you needed two signatures to have an abortion.

The experience of bringing up Gareth, led Jill to question whether or not to continue with the pregnancy of her daughter, Sian. Jill said: “I just can’t cope with this”, which added to her sense of failure, which was a struggle for Jill, as she was well regarded in her professional life, as a speech tutor.

“I’m useless with babies, I just can’t cope with them.”

Her psychiatrist was very honest with her, and said that a termination couldn’t guarantee her good mental wellbeing, and no one could know how she’d then feel, and how she might deal with any regret after taking that decision. He said to her: “If you’re worried about this, don’t kid yourself that you’ll avoid depression after this”.

“I went ahead, had her and of course she was one of those babies that smiled all the time, no trouble at all” Fortunately, Sian was all smiles. Jill was worried Gareth would be jealous of his sister, he only began to feel jealous when Sian was about two and he grew out of this fairly soon. Jill feels the climate in the 1960’s was that of hiding the truth around mental health problems, and not admitting to people that there was a problem.

It was only when Gareth developed his speech, and personality, that Jill felt she could truly relate to him. One of her friends said that even if she didn’t seem to relate to him, that she defended him like a tiger when there was a small tussle on the beach whilst he was playing with some other youngsters.

“Gradually it all came right”.

The advice Jill would pass on to anyone going through what she had to cope with is that there are people who you can talk to, they will listen to you, and then not judge. “Recognising the way that you feel, and that negative feelings can be helpful is important”.

Coping with PND is the only mental health issue Jill has needed to cope with. She used a lot of her experience to help others when volunteering for Relate. Some couples she met benefitted from having some time just to themselves, once a month when they had a child minder to call on.

“There is very likely, a solution – there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things will improve”. I think Mind is going a great job, but there is always more to be done, and more people to reach”.

“The gift in my will, is going to help Mind provide any type of programme that helps people and reduces the stigma labelled to people with a mental health problem”.

Jill thinks even today, in wider society, and perhaps through employers it is still hard to talk openly about a mental health problem. Being open, could be seen as a risk, and she’s worried people won’t always open up and talk about this.

If all the discrimination and stigma goes, Jill would “feel like magic” – “I think there’s still a streak of - I didn’t have it easy, and why should anyone else do”. But, Jill’s gift will help us change attitudes, and reach out to anyone coping with a mental health problem.

“If my gift provides some services for a person that otherwise wouldn’t have this chance, that will be great – widening access for all will be marvellous”.

Jill had two nephews, who both experienced some mental health problems, one tried to take his own life. Jill recalls no one talked openly about mental health problems in in the 1960’s. She feels people worried about seeking help, because they were in fear of where they might be sent.

 

Jill very kindly has been part of our DVD.

Find out more on post natal depression.

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Douglas's Story

My brother Robert was a brilliant person, really generous with his time and enthusiasm for others. It was cruel, when he coped with a mental illness throughout 2006 which unfortunately resulted in him taking his own life early in 2007.

We grew up as a family of six, I was one of four boys. My early memories of Robert were walking to school together in the winter, wrapped up in massive duffle coats that our mother had got for us. I used to say I could recognise him in a blizzard, because of his coat.

Robert was a fairly reserved child, and did very well at school. He was a good cricketer, and played football for his university. He was popular at university, and studied Chemistry before going on to do a PHD before working in industry in Manchester.

I remember coming back in to the UK after an extended period of travel and my mother said she was worried about him. When I saw him at Easter, he was withdrawn and not his normal self. He didn’t take any joy in his sports, or his work and although his friends were really close to him, he wasn’t able to enjoy their company like he normally would.

We as a family were able to get some help for him locally whilst he was staying with us. He spent a bit of time back at his home in Manchester, because at that point he was away from work. The professionals around him, did as good a job as they could but I think the severity of his anxiety and the state of his health were worrying. I went up to visit him, as did my family members and he gave the impression of battling through this,
but in hindsight he wasn’t OK in himself.

I was at home with my mother when we heard the news, and it was devastating.

At the funeral a great many people came, and this gave our family a lot of comfort. It was anguish at the time, though I feel I have adapted and learned to live with this shocking event. I don’t think it is selfish to say that life goes on, but we as family really didn’t have any choice.

We planned a cricket match in 2008, as this was one of his favourite sports. Actually it rained, we couldn’t play and I think he would have laughed at that! In the end, we had a quiz prepared and some food laid on, so everyone that came could relax. I remember his friends sharing some great memories, about his life and their stories made us all smile
which was a good way to remember him.

I also cycled the London to Brighton ride for Mind in 2014. I felt it would be a positive way to remember him. The hardest but the most thrilling part of the ride was going up the Ditching Beacon near Brighton. I had cycled around parts of Dorset in August that year to help, and this prepared me for the challenge. Having trained, and raised money
beforehand, I then rode down in to Brighton satisfied with my efforts, both on and off the bike.

I made my will a few years after his death, and included a gift to Mind well before I started working for them. I can tell you, even if I didn’t work for Mind now, this is the number one charity I would trust to use any gift made wisely, and to impact on as many people’s lives as possible.

Making a will has given me peace of mind, and now I just get on with things because I know I can update it as and when various important events occur, like my marriage in 2015.

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Myrtle's Story

Without Mind and the kind people like you who support them, my Curtis
might not be here today.

Now Curtis is not only here, but he’s happy – and proudly telling
everyone ‘I’m living in my own flat!' I wouldn’t have believed it when I
first turned to Mind 25 years ago.

Bringing up Curtis was a struggle from day one. I almost lost him as a
baby, then when he began having fits as a toddler, my husband blamed
me and our marriage broke up. Neighbours were prejudiced against us
and I was really frightened for Curtis. At fourteen he developed an eating
disorder and shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Curtis went to a children’s centre next, but was really unhappy there. His medication gave him fits and he was paranoid. In the end they sent him home.

We were at rock bottom. Curtis was traumatised and wouldn’t go out. My health got so bad my doctor said I was no longer fit enough to work. Then Mind came into our lives and things began to get better.

I remember meeting a solicitor from Mind’s legal team, he came to do a talk at our carers support group, and what he told me that day was invaluable.

I learned about my rights, and he gave me a book on mental health law too. All this helped my confidence. He really did help me go about things in the right way, and care for myself.

I have left things in place for Curtis and I’m happy I’ve secured his future. But I want to make sure everyone who needs it can access Mind’s wonderful help and support. That’s why I’ve left Mind a gift in my will. I trust Mind and I feel good that I’m able to leave something to people with mental health problems.

My dream for the future is that everyone is treated as a whole person, from recognising signs and symptoms, to their treatment and care. People should be signposted to the services and information, to help them on their journey – just as Curtis and I have been helped by Mind.

We need to give people with mental health problems, and their families, respect, dignity, care and love. I believe that leaving a gift to Mind in my will is going to help make that dream come true.

Myself and Curtis want to thank you all, including Mind in Cambridgeshire for your support. We want to thank also my sister Sonia, brother Rodney, my good friends Margaret, Barry, Nina, plus Maureen and Richard and Cardinal Kelvin Felix who have been so helpful to us both.

 


Mind works together in partnership with our network of local Minds. Each local Mind is an independent charity and is responsible for their own funding and services. If you would like your gift to fund a local Mind please contact that charity directly.

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