Anna Williamson has opened up about postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorderCredit: Ruth Rose
The Sun’s Christmas Together campaign
THIS Christmas we are teaming up with the Together Campaign, a coalition of community groups and organisations, and Royal Voluntary Service to combat loneliness.
And we want to recruit an army of volunteers to support those feeling cut off, anxious and isolated, this Christmas.
Could YOU reach out to someone who might be struggling and alone?
It might be someone you know in your own life or community who needs support.
Or we can connect you with someone in need through the NHS Volunteer responder programme run by the NHS, Royal Voluntary Service and the GoodSAM app.
Could you give up half an hour to make a call and chat with someone feeling isolated? Or could you volunteer to deliver essential shopping or festive treats?
Go to nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/christmastogether to sign up as a volunteer.
You will then receive an email taking you through the sign up process and be asked to download the responder app which will match you to those in need in your area.
Don’t worry if you don’t get a job straight away, because jobs are matched according to the need local to you. Being ready to help is what really matters.
By the time the TV presenter had second child Eleanora, last December, she was coping with life.
But when lockdown was announced in March, Anna felt a fresh wave of panic over how to handle isolation.
Anna, an agent on E4 show Celebs Go Dating, said: “It is terrific The Sun has got behind how important it is to recognise and support people who are experiencing loneliness — particularly at this time of year.
“Christmas is a time for people to come together, so it is hugely important for people to keep in touch and check in on one another.
When lockdown was announced in March, Anna felt a wave of panic over how to handle isolationCredit: Instagram
“With Enzo, becoming a mother made me feel like I lost my identity, and caused havoc in my marriage.
“I was constantly questioning myself. Here I was, a fairly successful career woman who has travelled the world, and talked on live telly to millions of people, not being able to be left on my own.
“I was terrified of stepping outside. I would stand at the door desperate for my husband to come home from work to take the baby.”
So when the Government advised the nation to “stay at home” earlier this year, Anna, 39, wondered if history was going to repeat itself.
Anna’s traumatic 40-hour labour with son Enzo left her with PTSDCredit: Instagram
She said: “I went into lockdown with a 12-week-old and suddenly felt trapped and claustrophobic.
“Midwives couldn’t come, nor could health visitors. Eleanora didn’t see anybody until September.
“It was very difficult at the beginning and incredibly isolating — as it was for many other families. I didn’t know if I would cope.”
The number of women thinking about suicide or self-harm before and after childbirth has tripled in a decade, according to a study in the US.
Anna is backing The Sun’s Christmas Together campaign after experiencing the pains of loneliness
The pandemic has made the situation worse, with researchers finding depression among expectant and new mums again almost tripling in a few months.
Anna was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder in 2006.
She said: “At times you feel alone with your thoughts, like you are on a desert island, with no one able to understand how you are feeling.
“You could be blessed with 100 people around you but if you feel lonely in your own mind, it is very difficult for people to support you.
Anna, pictured with son Enzo and daughter Eleanora, was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder in 2006
“The only way through it was talking and opening up to someone.
“Talking to a doctor who understood what I was dealing with massively helped and took the weight off.
“Some people don’t like labels. But for me, it was cathartic to be diagnosed, as I felt like there was a real reason why I was feeling the way I was feeling.”
Anna, married to fitness coach and property developer Alex Di Pasquale, 32, added: “Back then, it carried a heavy stigma and so it was something that took me time to manage.
Anna is married to fitness coach and property developer Alex Di PasqualeCredit: ANNA WILLIAMSON / INSTAGRAM
“Talking therapy and taking antidepressants helps.
“But in 2016, when I fell pregnant with my son, I was terrified. Everyone gets excited because what is more lovely than a baby? But I felt fear.”
When Anna was eight weeks pregnant, her doctor advised her to stop taking her antidepressants due to the possible risk to her unborn baby.
She said: “The mental health of a mother was never weighed up with the risk of the medication. I went cold turkey and never knew you should be weaned off the medication.
Anna was advised her to stop taking her antidepressants when she was first pregnantCredit: Instagram
“It left me highly anxious and I overthought the whole pregnancy.”
The traumatic 40-hour labour, which ended with a forceps delivery, left her with PTSD.
She said: “The birth, typically, ended up being the worst in the history of mankind. It was a long and brutal intervention, at the end of which I had severe blood loss.
“I struggled the first couple of weeks, terribly.
After a calm pregnancy with Eleanora, Anna settled well into second-time motherhoodCredit: ANNA WILLIAMSON / INSTAGRAM
Loneliness by numbers
1 in 5 people fear they won’t see anyone over Christmas
37% people know someone who will be spending Christmas alone
16% Brits said they were ‘dreading’ Christmas
52% said they have helped a vulnerable person during the pandemic
4.2 million adults always or often felt lonely during the second national lockdown
16 to 29-year-olds are twice as likely as the over-70s to be experiencing loneliness in the pandemic
£5.9m marked by Government pilot to tackle loneliness
“I thought I was rubbish at bonding, at giving birth. It made me feel like the worst mother in the world.
“I was terrified to leave the house, let alone have a baby in the car. I remember sitting watching Lorraine, in my dressing gown, thinking, ‘That’s a TV network I work on’ — and how far removed I felt from it.
“I felt that the old Anna had gone. I feel sorry for lockdown mums now.
“What helped me cope was getting to the shop and pushing myself to get out. I eventually started my antidepressants again as well. It was a struggle but the gloom lifted.”
Anna asked for a caesarean to avoid any potential trauma with EleanoraCredit: Instagram
Then Anna became pregnant with Eleanora in April 2019.
She said: “I was terrified of it all happening again but I couldn’t fall apart because I was a mum now.
“This time I had a very robust support team.
“I asked for a caesarean as I didn’t want that potential trauma hanging over me.”
Lockdown has made Anna and her husband closerCredit: ANNA WILLIAMSON / INSTAGRAM
After a calm pregnancy — during which she continued taking anti- depressants — and a trauma-free birth, Anna settled well into second-time motherhood.
To stop her anxiety spiralling, Anna slept when the baby did and exercised outside once a day.
She said: “Eleanora is a lockdown baby. She has never interacted with another baby and she hasn’t been cuddled by anyone else.
“That does make me worry for her.”
Anna continues to manage her mental health issues, rather than seeking an overnight cureCredit: Instagram
Thankfully, lockdown has made Anna and her husband closer.
She said: “We’ve gone through a rollercoaster but we are a strong unit. Mental health problems can put a strain on your relationship.
“I have learnt how to co-habit with my husband. We have our downs but the next week we are madly in love, and talking about renewing our wedding vows.”
Anna continues to manage her mental health issues, rather than seeking an overnight cure.
Anna says you have to be ‘proud’ of who you are as a parentCredit: Instagram
She said: “It’s important to recognise the signs and know what to do when it happens.
“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. You just have to be good enough. You have to be proud of who you are as a parent.
“I have learnt there are ups and downs, but that’s life. My kids are loved, and they know it.”
How to help
READ more about our Christmas Together campaign and how you can get involved at thesun.co.uk/christmastogether.
If you or someone you know is struggling, contact Samaritans’ free 24-hour helpline on 116 123.
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