Mum-of-two, Andrea Allan tells us about Out of the Blues – a brand new support group for mothers in Dubai which is helping them cope with post-natal illness.
How did Out of the Blues come about?
I suffered with post natal illness a couple of years ago. I was diagnosed six months after the birth of my second child, and when I went to see the doctor to discuss options for treatment, I discovered that there was very little out there for mothers who were going through this. There were no support groups and very few counselors who knew what they were talking about. I didn’t just want to be medicated. I wanted to find a way through this. But I also didn’t feel as though I could do it on my own. I was really lucky, because I got onto Expatwoman.com that day and found another lady who was suffering the same things I was. She and I got together, and we slowly but surely picked up another three girls, so there were five of us altogether. We have supported each other through the past two years of having post natal illness. Then, in January of this year, we all began talking about how much better we were feeling a lot better. I’m not medicated anymore and a couple of the other girls are almost drug free now. We all felt that as we were in such a good place, that we should start doing something for others in the same position.
How’s it going so far?
We started in January, and we’ve been completely overwhelmed. It’s astonishing how many people out there are really finding it hard right now. The trouble is, there’s very little support network here in terms of family. If you were at home, you’d call your best friend, or your sister or your mum, and you’d say; ‘I’m exhausted – I’m physically and mentally drained. Please come and take the children for an hour just so I can have a bath and a cup of tea or something.’ Here, that doesn’t exist.
Is it difficult to be honest about what you’re going through here?
You really just need to talk to other people who know exactly how you are feeling. Being able to say to someone, ‘I feel like a useless parent’, or ‘I have no joy in my day and I feel really guilty about not enjoying my children,’ are not things that can be told easily to people who’ve never suffered from PNI. They wouldn’t understand – and might look at you and think ‘what’s wrong with you? What do you mean you don’t enjoy your children? Don’t you love them?’ And that’s a completely different thing entirely. Of course you love your children. But you’re ill and you need a certain type of help and support.
Are there lots of women suffering from PNI here?
Statistics say the numbers are around one in 10 – but from my experience, I’m pretty sure it’s more than that here. Because of the lack of support from extended families in the expat environment, the numbers, I am sure, are much higher.
What’s the main cause of PNI?
If you look at any new mum, they are physically and mentally exhausted, overwhelmed by what they are doing, and they are filled with anxiety because they’ve left the hospital with this tiny baby, and they’ve barely been shown who to change a nappy. Every new mum is automatically anxious and wants to do the best by their child. You add to that to a lack of support and hormones all over the place, and you don’t really stand a chance.
The meetings are very private. Why is that?
The reason we’ve gone for private meetings is so that it’s only appropriate that the ladies have a private space in which they can be comfortable and safe, so they can cry if they want to. They can be as honest as they like, and they won’t be judged or looked at – and they’ll be listened to by people who understand.
Can people get through PNI with just support, or do they always need medication?
It depends on the degree with which they are suffering. Some women experience more baby blues than a real deep depression. Other women I’ve spoken to are just about hanging on to their sanity and their willingness to be here. For those women, they need support from us, they need professional counseling and also medication. For others, just knowing we’re here and they can talk to us, is enough to get them through it. There is no written rule for any one person. Some women don’t want to come to the meetings, for whatever reason, so they either call or email instead.
Tell us about the phone line
We take it in turns on a rota to take any calls that are coming in so that there is always someone who to talk to and be supportive. It’s busy, and we’re getting lots of emails. For lots of people, just knowing we are here helps them. For others, simply coming forward for help is a really big step. They have to do it when they are ready. As time goes on, it will become busier, I am sure.
What would your advice be to someone who is reading this, and thinks they might have PNI?
If they want someone to talk to who is not going to judge them, drop us an email or give us a call. We can recommend really good non judgmental GPs, psychiatrists and counselors who can help get these women the support and treatment they really need.
Out of the Blues meet twice a month; once for coffee a morning and once for an evening support session. You can also join their closed online forum. For more information visit www.bigtent.com/groups/outoftheblue, or email email@example.com