Here goes…. I’m not a massive fan of toddler groups. I know it’s a shocking revelation for a mum who is mainly at home with her babies but please read on. I should be a tot group loving, cake baking domestic goddess right? WRONG! I’m an individual (ie I will do this my way) and I sometimes bake and occasionally its successful, would rather do other things than clean and can’t wait to leave tots groups… but hear me out.
Me and a friend used to joke about ‘the pit’ at one of our groups where the chairs were round the outside and the children were in ‘the pit’ in the middle going nuts! I have always gone to these groups though as they are something of a lifeline as a break out of the house, potential for a not quite cold brew whilst having a few half conversations with adults and maybe even a biscuit or crumpet! When I’m struggling, the noise and chaos can be hard for my brain to process but I know that getting out of the house and wearing the kiddies out is good! I often feel like Mrs Fotheringill (Ben and Holly) when I leave hence the pic!
One day a while after I became ok with sharing my diagnosis of PND someone suggested I found a support group for mums in a similar position. WHAT?!? Essentially a tots group but with a group of mums who are depressed… Woop woop that sounds like a hoot. Anyone else share my feelings or am I the only one? HOWEVER this idea stuck with me and eventually I did the sensible thing and googled it! PANDAS came up and I found a local group meeting in a cafe near me, tea and beautiful cake sounded like a bonus and after a little chat with the group leader of Facebook messenger I was lured in!
Well it turns out that this sort of group is not such a bad idea after all even for someone who is not a huge fan of tots groups! The first day I went it was a bit terrifying and I wasn’t sure how I would feel but actually the overwhelming feeling was relief. I know that everyone in this room knows a little or a lot of what I have been feeling. I’m not on my own, a lie that depression loves to tell you. I’m not the only one who has had overwhelming anxiety about their babies, been unable to function because of the brain fog or felt like this will never go away. WOW. Also as you begin to talk with others your experience adds to the conversation and you begin to see that you being in this group could actually now and again help or provide some insight to someone else. For me this was a big help as it gave some purpose to the pain. I continued to go to this group and found some wonderful mums who’d I’d now definitely call friends. Over time it became my favourite thing in the week. It became somewhere to offload a bit and somewhere I felt I could completely be myself and gave me more courage to share my story not just in the group but also elsewhere. It reduced the stigma for me as I realised this could happen to anyone and does happen to lots. The physical space and the Facebook group became one of my safe places.
For me this has gone one step further too. I was travelling a little way to this group so have now set up a group in my local area which will be affiliated with PANDAS soon. I love meeting the new mums and giving them a safe space too. I guess this is a post to encourage anyone who thinks a group like this isn’t for them to give it a try. Don’t get me wrong, the first time is still a bit scary but it could potentially become a really positive, safe space and a extra tool to help you towards recovery.
If you are in Stockport or South Manchester, click here for the group I’ve set up (don’t worry other people do the baking for our group!) and if you are anywhere else in the country check out the PANDAS website for groups local to you.