Anon: Coping with Peri- Natal Depression.

IMG_0530 2So here I am, 33 weeks pregnant. This is supposed to be a magical time of bonding with my unborn baby, smiling a lot as I lovingly fold tiny items of clothing and generally glowing and everything being wonderful. That’s the fantasy. The reality is somewhat different.

First of all let me say I am not a first time mum, this is my second baby. So I kind of knew what I was in for this time, which is why my reaction at seeing the positive pregnancy test was one of horror rather than delight. Some women love being pregnant. I am not one of them.

All the niggles and aches and pains, the nausea and vomiting (that is still going on at this late stage) would be fairly tolerable if not exacerbated by the fact that I have a history of a long-term chronic depressive illness. I cannot control when my mood will violently dip, nor can I control the thoughts and feelings that accompany that time. Under the advice of my doctors, I have remained on my antidepressant throughout this pregnancy, whereas with my first son I weaned myself off them at about 20 weeks. This meant that when my baby was born and the natural ‘baby blues’ set in, I was not medicated and unprepared in every possible sense.

IMG_0528 2I went to pieces. I couldn’t believe that I was responsible for this mewling newborn and I was terrified of doing it wrong. I am not using hyperbole here, I was literally terrified. I couldn’t eat or sleep, I felt crashing waves of terror washing over me every moment. If I was left alone with the baby, I literally counted the minutes until someone else would be there to help me. I dreamt of getting into the shower and cutting my wrists to escape the fear and only the knowledge of the hurt I would cause to others prevented me. I looked at people with older babies and toddlers, 10 months, 18 months etc and I couldn’t imagine physically surviving that long.

Fortunately I have a good family and GP, who immediately put me back on my meds and I had a lot of family support until I was strong enough to manage. My husband was also very understanding. It was, however, the worst time of my life and I still feel a sense of loss that I missed out on my baby’s first few weeks. I was there, but in many ways, I wasn’t.

Naturally, as I approach the birth of baby 2, I have a lot of anxiety that this will happen again, and I can’t control it. Depression is something I have struggled with for nearly 20 years, and I have been medicated for most of that time. Any time I have tried to come off the medication, I have suffered terribly and had to return to it. My depression is not just going to go away, it will be a lifetime illness for me. Recently I have irrationally thought that my babies deserve better than a depressive mother, and I should give them both away to a happier home. I also think frequently of self harm, primarily cutting. I imagine the blades and the blood and I have even mentally designed a sort of miniature guillotine chair that would allow for simultaneous slicing of both arms/wrists. I don’t want to actually DO any of this, I find the thoughts to be extremely disturbing and upsetting, but I can’t make them go away. Couple that with a sick, anxious feeling, headaches, exhaustion, lethargy and general low mood and desire to do nothing, and you have yourself a pretty difficult life before you take into account the massive bump. And that bump brings nausea, back pain, acid reflux and severe pelvic pain, plus occasional loss of bladder control.

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So, where I am I going with this rather cheerless tirade? I want to let people know there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if it seems very faint and very far away. Depression happens. Pregnancy happens. If you are unlucky enough to experience both at the same time, it will be difficult but NOT insurmountable. There is so much help out there, and your first stop should be your GP. And I would urge you to act quickly. As soon as you start to realise that you are not feeling right, get help. Speak out, admit to feeling like you are experiencing difficulty. Nobody can help you if they don’t know that you are in trouble, and untreated depression can lead to serious trouble. I was surprised to learn that there is a peri-natal mood disorder clinic operating from the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast, which suggests that this is not an uncommon issue, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. My experience there was helpful and positive.


As for son number 1, who I felt was so alien and scary in his first weeks, he is 16 months old now and amazing. The love that I feel for him is incredible, and even in my darkest days when I feel like sinking into a pit of despair, I can find tiny pockets of joy in his laugh, his smile or his funny little attitude. Never before has anything been able to break through the depression like the joy he brings me can, even if it is only for a moment. And those moments are precious. I couldn’t then see how I would get to 16 months later, now I can’t imagine life without him. My depression will never go away, but neither will my love for my son, and that is a wonderful thing.

Royal Jubilee Maternity Service: Belfast 028 90632496

The author has chosen to withhold her identity. I would advise that anyone suffering a similar experience should speak to someone immediately and/or contact their doctor.

Fighting Homophobia

imageI think I have always known that my Grandson was gay. From a very early age he loved to dress up. He hated getting dirty and he didn’t like playing outdoor games. He tended to make friends with girls as he found boys too rough. It was at the back of my mind, as I compared him to his cousin, that he might be gay. His school friends loved the rough and tumble of games. They didn’t care how muddy or dirty they got. And at that young age they hated girls. So it didn’t come as a great surprise when I discovered that my Grandson had announced to his parents that he was gay. He cried as he told them and his parents cried with him. Not because they had any problems with him being gay but because they knew the prejudice he was going to have to deal with as he made his way through life. There was the worry as to whether he would be bullied at school, attacked by homophobes or whether he would be ostracised by relations and so-called friends.

His grandfather and I have no problems with his sexuality and like his parents and close family will love and support him in every way. I’m writing this so that those who say that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice need to think again. My Grandson has not chosen his lifestyle.  Christians who condem homosexualitiy as a sin should consider that if you do believe in God, then you obviously believe that he is a caring and loving God.  Who are you to judge? I seem to remember a quote from the bible which says ” Judge not, lest you be judged” So when you spout your anti gay rants in future, or you vote for conversion therapy, remember young adults like my Grandson may be listening. What you may say, could, through his naïevite, affect the way he feels, and could scar him for life.

Please also tell your children not to taunt or bully anyone  who is different. He/she may not have come to terms with their sexuality and are confused. Please don’t make it worse for them. I am asking this as a fellow parent and grandparent and more importantly as a fellow human being. So we will love our Grandson, we will treat him as we treat his his cousins and we will try to protect him from narrow-minded religious bigots who live in this country and from the religious fundamentalists who unfortunately still hold power in Northern Ireland.

Author’s name has been withheld to protect identity.

Áine McGrath: NI is No Place to be Gay

Posted on January 5, 2015 by


There’s nothing that goes down a storm in Northern Ireland quite like an all-out political ding-dong on the airwaves. Day and daily we can rely on our local broadcast media to provide a platform for people of all stripes to have their say – be they politicians, pundits or the public. Divisive issues are a favourite with producers and presenters of course, as they’re sure to guarantee a reaction and be a ratings hit – but at what cost?

Such was my line of thinking recently when yet another segment on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback show was dedicated to discussing marriage equality. I turned my car radio off when a caller began “This is a sad day for Scotland…”, a reference to Holyrood’s decision to make marriage available to same sex couples. I’m all for healthy debate, particularly so when members of the public are given the opportunity to have their say, however, I’m fearful now that Northern Ireland’s broadcast media fraternity isn’t fully aware of the wider implications of so frequently relying on such discussions, often to fill up airtime.

Let’s be very frank about this: Northern Ireland is no place to be gay. Insular thinking, religious fundamentalism and regressive attitudes towards sex and sexuality combine to make this a hostile place for anyone who identifies as anything other than heterosexual. Prejudice is in our lexicon, in our government and in our laws. In the past year I witnessed blatant homophobic prejudices being aired in my (now former) workplace by colleagues whom, when challenged, cranked up the rhetoric by shouting “THEY’RE DISGUSTING!” in reference to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. In another case I chose to take my custom elsewhere when the manageress of an establishment I shopped in frequently, wistfully bemoaned the state of the country at the hands of the Westminster government because “They’ve even legalised HO-MO-SEX-U-AL-I-TY!” When I go to work, when I shop and when I turn on my radio I don’t want to have to listen to that sort of thing. How many people turn on their radio or TV to find, yet again, that their lives – their reality – is being thrashed out on a public platform yet again by the empathic, the intolerant and the ignorant? How many people who have heard such broadcasts have struggled for decades to come to terms with their sexuality and continue to live in suicidal shame for fear of coming out? How many young people listening to discussions on radio phone-in shows, or the words of some of Northern Ireland’s politicians, feel that they have no future because of their sexuality? I often wonder how many vulnerable people have been pushed over the edge by things they’ve heard in the course of “healthy debate” facilitated by the broadcast media. We’ll never know.

As a society, we must be mindful that when we are discussing issues such a marriage equality and conscience clauses in a public forum, we are not discussing abstract legal scenarios, paper exercises nor inanimate matter. We are discussing issues of human dignity. Often the manner in which these discussions are conducted, and the language that is used within them, does not reflect what is actually at the heart of the discussion: that is, real people, with real feelings and real emotions – people who are systematically treated less favourably by society and whose life opportunities are restricted simply because of irrational prejudices that belong to others. Yes, we need to challenge those prejudices – and they way to do that is via dialogue. To that end I have always appreciated the virtues of public discussion facilitated by the broadcast media, but now I’m looking at it through a different lens and considering the wider implications of its ethical shortcomings – most notably in the form of responsibilities that are sometimes compromised in the interests of popularity and programme ratings. It gives us all something to think about – and is surely a topic that’s ripe for public discussion in itself.

Ann Allan : There is no shame in being depressed.


Many people refuse to talk about how they are feeling for fear of being considered ‘loopy’ or ‘nuts’ or some other derogatory term. So is it any wonder when things start going downhill many try to keep it a secret.

I kept my depression hidden for some time . After a traumatic event in my life it took a couple of years to develop. It started very slowly. I was able to function, able to carry out the day to day activities and able to drag myself into work in the mornings. I appeared happy and could be the life and soul of any party. However on some occasions the mask slipped and on one occasion as I chaired a meeting, tears came from nowhere and I dissolved into uncontrollable sobs. My embarrassed colleagues were unsure what to do. On other occasions while sitting at my desk I would start to cry for no reason. I remember sitting with clients and a voice in my head saying ‘ I don’t want to be here, why am I here?’ I felt afraid and my heart started pounding and that is when I decided to see a doctor. My blood pressure was through the roof and he signed me off work. He recommended anti depressants but I refused. I came home and went to bed and that is mostly where I stayed over the next six months.

The panic attacks became more frequent and more debilitating. I refused to speak to friends on the phone. My family lived a long way off and appeared to be unaware what I was going through.  I barely held the home together and if it hadn’t been for someone coming into clean a couple of days a week we would never have managed. I lay in bed most days. My husband went to work and I just lay there. My thoughts were dark and confused. On a number of occasions I heard voices in my head. I reached the stage where the bang of a door or a sudden loud noise hurt. That is hard to explain but it was as if every nerve end was so sensitive that they reacted to noise. I was having two or three panic attacks every day and I couldn’t see a future. I was so desperate on one occasion that I tried the anti depressants but they made me violently ill and I decided I didn’t need that on top of what I was already suffering. I needed to see my doctor again in order to get a certificate for work.

I was very lucky that I made that appointment. It was a locum and he suggested that he should refer me to a counsellor. I could wait for an appointment or I could go privately and be seen relatively quickly, which I did. After 3 or 4 sessions I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I felt my mood beginning to lift and I followed his advice to set myself a project. My project, strange though it may seem, was to strip the pine woodwork in the hall removing all the white paint. At first I thought I can’t do this but by the third morning I couldn’t wait to get up and start work. It took me weeks but I loved it and everyday I could see the fruits of my labour. Gradually the black mist was lifting and I was beginning to feel normal again. The panic attacks had disappeared. My only medication was a beta blocker to help keep my blood pressure under control. Of course I can’t say this therapy will work for everyone but it worked for me.

My advice, however, would be to talk to someone as soon as you begin to feel that something is not quite right. Don’t let it take you over. Talk to a counsellor, talk to the Samaritans or talk to your doctor. There is no shame in being depressed and help is out there.

@amhNI Lifeline 0808 808 8000 or the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

Out of the Adoption Box by Anon.

“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness”.

– Alex Haley

I entered this world in late 1971, born to a single mother in her early twenties. I was given up for adoption and placed with my adoptive parents in early 1972. I don’t remember at what age I was told that I was adopted but I do remember being read a story from a book that was used at that time for adoptive parents. The book was used to explain to adopted children why they were “chosen”, “special” etc and how they as a family all lived “happily ever after…”

My family consists of my mother, father and an older brother and sister who were also adopted. The three of us were from different birth mothers.

During my childhood I was made to feel different because my family members bore no physical resemblance to one another. When out and about meeting new people we were constantly reminded of this. People would say things like ” oh, you couldn’t be related, sure you don’t look alike…” These comments continued through primary and grammar school and my sister and I were told the same by friends and teachers. Consequently, from quite a young age I felt “different” and was always embarrassed that we stood out so much as a family.

Apart from that, I would describe my early childhood as happy enough, doing the normal things that children do with their families and friends. Thinking of my natural mother is not something that I remember during those early years.
As I grew into adolescence and early adulthood, I started thinking about my natural mother more and more. She was always on my mind. Every birthday and at various times over the following years I would go through periods of wanting to find her. I would often picture our reunion in my head and what it would be like for both of us. Equally, there were a lot of times when I was angry with her and wondered why I would want to meet her when she had given me away. Surely if she really wanted to keep me she would have found a way.

The main reasons that hold adoptee adults back from finding their natural mother is the fear of rejection again and that in most cases she will have married and have had a family.  Chances are they may never told anyone about you,  although, their parents and siblings would have been told at the time of pregnancy. As a result, you think that they are not going to want you upsetting their lives. The other big factor is the huge guilt that you bear for your adoptive parents. These two people have given you everything in life and yet deep in your heart all you want is your “mummy”.

Four years ago aged 39, I reached the stage where I had a real desire to make contact with my natural mother. My identity and heritage started to mean more to me, which I think is probably something that comes with getting older. I also needed to know if there was any medical conditions of a genetically inherited nature that I should know about.
I made contact with Social Services, found out my mother’s name, age at birth, where she had come from and where I was born. This was the only information that I was given.

Deciding what to do caused me huge anxiety. I had all sorts of thoughts going through my head, I was afraid of upsetting my birth mother’s life and also that of my adoptive parents. I knew that if I found my birth mother and all went well, than my relationship with my parents would never be the same again and they could be deeply hurt. I had also read about cases where adoptee adults had got in touch with their natural mother only to find out several months down the line that they didn’t connect and didn’t want to keep in touch. Added to this was the fact that my sister had not had a successful reunion with her birth mother who rejected her again. My brother was in a similar situation. After a lot of thought I felt that perhaps this was something that for all concerned was best left in a “box” unopened.

However, I knew this wasn’t really what I wanted so I continued to look for her on and off through Internet searches. I was hoping to find even a photograph. On my last birthday I looked her up again on the Internet only to find her obituary. You can imagine the distress and upset this caused me. The final realisation that I would never get to meet my mummy opened up the “box” that I had kept all my feelings in for a long number of years. This has resulted in me needing counselling and medication to help me cope emotionally with the huge loss. In fact I have suffered from mild depression for a number of years, which I now realise, has been linked to my adoption. Because of the stigma of mental illness I have never talked to anyone about this except my husband. I just battled on keeping it in its “box”.

You see, for me as an adoptee adult, it is not only the loss of never having had the mummy that I should have had, but of a whole life with the extended family with whom I should have been brought up. People who I would have looked like, shared personality with, shared mannerisms, had things in common with, all those simple things that “normal” families take for granted. I am left at 43 years of age with adoptive parents who whilst they raised me very well and have always loved me, I do not feel a connection. Through counselling I understand that there would be no connection, as such, because I am not theirs in that sense and so therefore can’t have any of their personality etc. It has also been explained to me that it is a bit of a lottery as to who adopts you and what type of people they are. There are people who are adopted and have a very happy life with their adoptive parents and never feel the need to look for their natural mother. We are not a close family and have never been, though my parents would think we are. I did try over the years to do things with my adoptive mother but gave up about ten years ago because we have  nothing in common and we are completely different people. For many years now my biggest regret is the loss of having a lovely Mum that I could go for coffee with, have a day out at a spa, go shopping and have fun, like lots of other mother/daughter relationships. That includes my own relationship with my daughter. I appreciate that there may be people reading this who have their natural mums and don’t get on with them, but at least they are your mums, I never got that chance.

I will be forever grateful to my parents for all they have done for me. However my adoption was never right and should never have happened simply because my mummy became pregnant at a time when it was frowned upon by the Catholic Church.

I do support adoption in cases were people are not fit to raise children or where they have been abused. However my mummy would have been perfectly able. It was just in those days it was an embarrassment to families for their daughters to be pregnant. This makes the whole thing so sad. I am happy that in modern adoptions there is a link maintained in some form with the natural mother.

On a happier note, I have now been reunited with my natural Aunt who is the most amazing person to come into my life and we connected immediately. They are, as a family, extremely sorry for what happened and acknowledge that my adoption should never have happened. I have found out lots of things about my mummy, my grandparents and extended family. I have an album of the most beautiful photographs of her and most special of all is that I have some of her jewellery and several handwritten letters. My mummy wrote these at the time of the adoption when she was trying so hard to find ways of keeping me. I have also met a cousin, his wife and children and there are plans to meet other uncles and cousins over the Spring/Summer. It is so good to finally see someone who I resemble and my daughter who will soon be twenty-five is very like my mummy. It is wonderful to finally know my heritage and for my daughter and some day my grandchildren to know theirs. I can now be who I am. What I find so sad is that my mummy did go on to marry but had no more children. I can’t imagine how she got through her life living with the fact that her only child had to be given up for adoption simply because it was an embarrassment.

What I want to say to any adoptee adults out there like myself is: Please, if you want to find your mummy stop thinking and worrying about it and just do it now. Please stop feeling guilty about your adoptive parents. Don’t feel that you are doing something wrong in hurting them. Put yourself first because this was never your fault. I can’t promise that it will be a happy reunion but at least you will have tried. My failure to do so will be the biggest regret of my life and I am struggling to come to terms with that.

To anyone who is judging me because of my feelings towards my adoptive parents, I would say it’s not as simple as two people raising you and loving you all your life. Remember they chose to adopt and always knew that their children had a heritage of their own and some day would want to find their natural families. We have a right and a need to do so. My parents are not the type who ever talked about the adoption, nor did they actively encourage us later in life to find our natural mothers. I understand this is because of their fear of loss but I feel this is selfish on their part. Please think how you would feel if you had been sent off to another family. Babies deserve to be brought up by their mummy.

And finally to any families who have fallen out. Life’s too short. Make amends and be thankful that you all have each other. What I would give to have had the family in my life that I should have had.

Name has being withheld to protect families involved. For help and advice contact:




Denise O’Neill: Let’s Celebrate Getting Older

Let’s celebrate getting older – it’s a normal part of living!

What is happening to the human species?

Is there a human disease or illness called ‘ageing’, a condition that must be eradicated at all costs? How do we cure this horrible disease/illness? Never fear—we have been informed that there are many treatments available to eliminate and prevent it happening to us: face/neck lift, brow lift, eye bag removal, fillers, Botox injections, micro dermabrasion, laser treatment, chemical peel, lip plumping and, not forgetting, lotions and creams. So we are OK and all is well with the world.

But, wait a minute … isn’t ageing a normal and natural process? We all get wrinkles, jowls, laughter lines, baggy eyes, etc, as time goes on. We all age differently depending on our genes, sun or cold weather exposure, lack of sleep, cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol, stress and illness. But, we all age—a fact of life.

Let’s look at faces and how we perceive ourselves. When we study ourselves in the mirror or look at photographs what we see are two-dimensional images and we tend to judge ourselves quite harshly. All we see are the lines, blemishes and loose and saggy skin. But, we don’t see ourselves the way others see us. We don’t see the three-dimensional, all-encompassing us—our characteristics, our movements, how we communicate. We communicate with our faces more than we ever realise to show all sorts of emotions including happiness, love, elation, shock, worry and sadness. When we fill the lines and wrinkles and tighten up the sagging skin, we take away the facial communication. Faces become puffed, frozen, expressionless, alien-like and that special factor unique to each one of us, known as character, disappears.

So, we have a situation now in society where we have been brainwashed into thinking that we must strive to look young in order to be happy and successful. We are bombarded with images in all forms of media that have been ‘photoshopped’ to the max. What we see are not real images of real people. This is leading to many opting for the ‘cures’ stated above which is a growing and, in my view, a worrying trend. And, what is more worrying is the fact that younger people are having ‘work’ done.

What angers me is that many in the booming cosmetic procedures industry are making mega bucks from people falling for their promises that life will be wonderful if they were to look 10 years younger. And, for those who pretend not to have had procedures, we are not fools—we can tell who has had work done. It’s as plain as the nose on your face (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). We also don’t know, from a medical and psychological point of view, what the long-term effects of these procedures are.

If people wish to avail of the processes to eliminate the signs of ageing, that is their choice. But what we really need is a revolution that says ageing is positive. We need a change of mind-set to get back to celebrating the beauty of getting older. Let’s see images in the media of real people, with real wrinkles, jowls and laughter lines. Our faces belong to each of us and the characteristics we have developed are evidence that we have lived, that we are continuing to evolve, that we are wiser, and that life is good to the very end.

I am also passionate about grey as a choice for women but that is another story…Check out

Photo by Catherine McIlkenny.

Ann Allan: NHS Lack of Communication?

Sunday saw me sitting in our local out of hours department. I had been in agony all weekend with a strained shoulder blade. My blood pressure was also extremely high and I thought it prudent to seek medical advice. An appointment was made for 2pm by a doctor who had phoned me to find out what was wrong.
After waiting about a half an hour I was seen by a different doctor. I explained my symptoms once again and was examined. My BP was still ridiculously high and the Doctor requested permission to access my medical records. I agreed.  She was efficient, thorough and caring despite having a large number of patients waiting. After being prescribed a short course of medication I was advised to see my own doctor the next day in order to have a long term prescription filled out. Imagine my surprise when I attended my own doctors surgery on Monday only to find that the computer system only works one way. The out of hours doctors could assess my information but my own doctors couldn’t assess what the out of hours doctors had added to my notes. They had to wait for a written report. What sort of a system is this and how much of the out of hours doctor’s time is involved in writing out reports? Does it leave room for errors and a delay in following up patients who have presented to the out of hours doctors?