Depression during pregnancy
One in ten pregnant women experience mental health problems, and often go undiagnosed until after the baby is born. The pregnancy and parenting charity Tommy’s has produced a video encouraging pregnant women to seek support if they feel anxious or depressed. The short clip follows the story of a woman’s journey through pregnancy as she realises she’s not coping and finds someone to talk to. Around 10-15% of pregnant women experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression [1] but, despite antenatal depression being very similar to postnatal depression, many go undiagnosed and untreated until after the baby is born. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, and losing interest in activities that used to be fun. Most women feel more emotional than usual during pregnancy, but the video urges you to seek help if you notice that you’re unhappy more than half of the time, or if feelings linger for more than a couple of weeks. When you’re pregnant, it might seem like there’s a pressure on you to feel happy all the time, or to be flushed and glowing with the joys of impending motherhood. If this doesn’t describe your experience, it can be quite distressing and you may even feel guilty for not living up to the expectations of those around you. Your midwife or health visitor will understand. Speak to them and let them know that you need support. You partner, family, and friends can also offer support, by talking things through with you and offering practical support. Let them know you’re not feeling yourself and that you might need some extra support. If you can, hand some of your regular chores over to your partner, or ask someone to help out. Friends love to feel like they are helping, but sometimes need to be given specific tasks like popping to the shops or watering your plants when they come over. Try to eat as healthily as possible, take some gentle exercise, and rest whenever you have the opportunity. Getting regular sleep can have a positive impact on your mood. Take time out to focus on yourself and do something you enjoy. Allow yourself a chance to relax and ease some of the pressure. If you are worried about other areas of your life, such as finances, housing, or your relationship, look into the support available for these specific issues. If you can keep external factors under control, you may find it easier to cope with whatever feelings you are juggling. Keep talking to your partner. Help them to understand what you’re going through, what you’re doing to try and make things better, and what kind of support you need at home. References [1] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2014). Clinical guideline 192: Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192 (Accessed July 2018) [2] Howard L.M, Molyneaux E, Dennis C et al (2014).  Non-Psychotic mental disorders in the perinatal period.  Lancet 384: 1775-1788.
Article | pregnancy, depression, postnatal depression
0 2 min read
How addiction affects your relationship
A substance use problem often leads to changes in a person’s behaviour that can be damaging to a relationship. They may be emotional and unpredictable. They may feel ashamed or afraid of the consequences of their addiction being discovered. They will sometimes lie to conceal the true extent of it. If this sounds like your partner, you may wonder what impact it is likely to have on your relationship. Secrecy and deceit can cause a breakdown of trust in the relationship. As the partner of an addicted person, you may feel suspicious of the reasons for your partner’s behaviour. You might also feel confused, scared, or angry at the change in your partner and the unpredictable situation. “The worst thing when I discovered their addiction was that I’d been lied to”. A partner with a substance use problem may have highs and lows – they may be happy and positive one moment, and anxious, irritable, or depressed the next. They may be preoccupied and pay less attention to their partner. This unpredictable behaviour and mood can often cause arguments. If an argument starts every time you try to discuss the problem, both of you may give up trying to talk, leading to a breakdown in communication. A distance can grow between you, and there may be a loss of interest in sex or intimacy. “If I try to explain why I started drinking it turns into a row. It’s easier not to talk to each other at all”. However, problematic substance use is not always hidden. You might know that your partner has a problem but feel like you are walking on eggshells as you try to keep the peace. You might also fear that, if you rock the boat, you will drive you partner further into their addiction. Sometimes, people will take on more responsibility in the home, with childcare and finances, to compensate for their partner becoming unreliable. You might feel you have to take control of everything and even become a ‘parent’ to your partner. Children in the family can also suffer. The parent with the addiction may become withdrawn and lose interest in family activities. The other partner may be distracted because of juggling extra responsibilities. Children are often aware of arguments and tension in the home and feel scared and confused. If they get used to seeing addictive behaviour, they may learn and develop similar behaviour themselves. What to do when dealing with a substance use problem Facing up to a substance use problem can feel hard, as it often makes the problem seem more real. But, in a relationship where one person has a problem, both partners may be in denial. If you both feel powerless to make changes, it can feel easier to pretend nothing is happening. You may feel like you can’t talk to family and friends about the problem. You may blame yourself or just feel embarrassed that outsiders will see your partner or your relationship in a negative way. Your partner may have asked you not to tell anyone. There are then two people feeling very scared, resentful, and lonely within the relationship. Talking to an unbiased person outside of your relationship can feel a real relief and a step toward change. If you are experiencing problems in your relationship as the result of addiction, it may be worth seeking professional help. Online relationship advice such as our listening room, support, information, and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, it may be advisable for you to seek support from a specialist agency. If the problem is long term, involves cutting or physical harm, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling via a specialist agency or your GP. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
0 4 min read
Moving on from addiction as a couple
The first step to moving on from a substance use problem is facing up to things together. When substance use is a problem in your relationship, you both need to take the same first step – you and your partner have to be honest with yourselves and each other that the problem is there. If it feels like the behaviour is just beginning to get out of hand, like drinking too much every Friday night, it may still be possible for the person responsible to try to cut down, particularly with support from their partner. However, if it feels like you are past the ‘take it or leave it’ stage, or communication between you has broken down, it may be time to seek professional advice, information, or counselling. It is often valuable for both partners to seek support. If you are not the partner with the problem, you may wonder why you need counselling. Living with an addicted partner can cause personal stresses and strains. You may have bottled things up, worried that you might upset your partner or make things worse. Counselling provides a safe, confidential space to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Attending counselling as a couple can be a great step forward. It can allow space and time for you to be honest with each other about your thoughts and feelings and to deal with problems that may have arisen in your relationship through the addictive behaviour. The counsellor will make sure you both have space to say what you need to say, and will support you in improving communication with each other. Often, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome after a substance use problem is the betrayal of trust. As the partner of an addicted person, you may have been on the receiving end of broken promises before. You may wonder, ‘How can I be certain this time it will be different?’. If the problem was hidden, it may feel harder to trust your partner, and you fear a relapse being kept from you. The partner who has stopped their behaviour may feel frustrated at the lack of trust, wondering, “Will I ever be treated as a responsible adult again?”. It may take time, but you can work together to rebuild trust. Every relationship is different. You should only try these suggestions if you think they might be right for you. Online advice, support, information and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. Sharing your story with the Click community may help you feel less isolated. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, it would be advisable to seek support from a specialist agency. If the addiction problem is long term or involves drugs, alcohol, cutting or physically harming yourself, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling from a specialist agency or via your GP. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
0 3 min read
Letting go of other people’s stress
You may have experienced days at work when your colleagues have been stressed, and you’ve started to feel that way too. This can also happen at home when your partner gets stressed. When people around you have strong feelings, it’s easy to soak them up and take them on as your own. You might even unconsciously adopt the body language and tone of voice from people close to you. If your partner is tense and agitated, you may become more inclined to dwell on your own troubles. This second-hand stress can make it harder for you both to relax and you might start arguing more. Long-term stress, when not addressed, can lead to greater problems like depression and relationship breakdown. So, what can you do when a partner, friend or colleague is making you feel stressed and exhausted? Take a mental step back. Breathe deeply and try to separate their stress from your feelings. You’ll find it becomes easier to recognise and acknowledge their stress without taking it onboard yourself. Walk away. Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from the situation until you feel more able to help. Leave the room, make a cup of tea, look out of the window, or even take a short walk until you feel calmer yourself. Offer support. If your partner is stressed, listen to what they have to say. Try to remember that a comforting ear may be more useful than offering practical solutions. Your partner may just need some stress relief before they get to a place where they can solve their own problems. Look for the positives. Remind your partner that they can lean on you for support and try to help them see the positives. Bring the topic of conversation back to something more light-hearted and personal, like planning something fun to do at the weekend or remembering a nice experience you recently shared. Stay calm. There’s no value in getting wound up or shouting at your partner if they are stressed. The calmer you are, the more easier it will be for them to see a way through to letting go of their own stress. Do something soothing. If you do feel yourself catching your partner’s stress, do something comforting like taking a bath, reading a book or listening to some relaxing music. This can help clear your head so you can support your partner better. Do you think stress is ‘catching’? Do you find it easy to keep your own feelings separate, or have you found yourself exhausted by your partner or colleague’s stress?
Article | stress
1 2 min read
Christmas time is jolly, but never easy
We all have different expectations of Christmas. Some people love it, and some people dread it. Others might try really hard to make it special, only to find it doesn’t live up to their expectations. The family tries to have a wonderful time, basking in the tradition and magic of the day, all the while side-stepping difficult moments and awkward family clashes. If you’re a family with a disabled child, you might find Christmas carries some additional challenges. For example, if your child relies on fixed routines (common for children with ASD for example), then the whirlwind of Christmas can feel like a big disruption to them. Even decorated rooms and the presence of a large tree in the room can be a hard adjustment as it’s such a break from the norm. Regular outings and planned events may also go out the window, which can be upsetting. Disabled children who struggle with communicating might find that, due to the number of people in a large family gathering, they don’t feel as heard or given the usual attention. This can be difficult, especially in noisy rooms full of people chatting.   You can help your child to cope with this by preparing a few things in advance, and talking them through what’s going to be happening on the day. If you’re putting up decorations, consider doing it gradually, or just putting up the tree on Christmas eve without making too big a deal of it. If you’ve got family coming over, set up a quiet room with some of your child’s favourite things so they can retreat if things get a bit much. If you are parents trying to make these preparations for their child and make time for one another, you might be struggling at this time of year. But you’re not alone. Even those without those extra challenges struggle through the festive season. Almost a third say they do not look forward to Christmas and a quarter admit to arguing more at this time of year than any other. These extra stresses can lead to pressure on your relationship with your partner. Lots of breakups and plans for divorce are at their highest during the weeks approaching Christmas day.So what can you do to help the situation? You may already be very aware of the ways to help your child cope with the changes and the excitement of Christmas day. If you’re not sure, it might be an idea to get in touch with your local support group or Carers’ Centre, where you can swap tips with other parents on how they do Christmas. You might hear some ideas you hadn’t thought of, and there may even be some community parties where your child can let off a bit of steam. It could be helpful to discuss with your partner which festive traditions are supporting your situation, and which ones are hindering it. For example, if having a huge meet-up with all the family puts too much stress on you, or if you struggle to divide your attention, you might choose to have a smaller, more intimate Christmas with just your immediate family. We’re often nostalgically connected to traditions, but remember; you’re free to make new traditions as well. We also recommend that you and your partner find a quiet moment for yourselves, just to remember that you love and support each other. It may be that you’ve only got the time and energy for a quick cuddle and a smile and an “I love you”, but the little moments can make a big difference. By reminding yourselves and each other of your mutual love and support, you’ll be building on the core relationship, and in a stronger position to tackle other challenges.  
Article | christmas, stress, parenting, disability
0 3 min read