Friends are there when you need them most, even if they don’t know it themselves. They are there when you need them, picking up where we last left even though it has been months (really where has the months disappeared too).

The first Friday of the month a bunch of girl friends get together over lunch, women of different ages coming together over a common shared interest. We are connected by a volunteer organisation we are all apart of so usually end up chatting about how we are going in each of our groups, sharing ideas and discussing challenges. These women have been a huge part of my life, even knowing me from a young age as some have watched me grow up, or have children themselves the same age as me. These women without knowing themselves have been a huge support to me, particularly after I had my son.

One of these special ladies, a close girl friend of mine, was there for me in my darkest hour during my Postpartum Psychosis episode, and she has a very special place in my heart. This bunch of ladies every month were my safety net as I ventured back into the real world just a few months after my episode, though most did not know the depths of what I had been though. I knew I could go out for lunch with my son tucked up in the stroller and enjoy a hour or so of social chit chat and a laugh in the company of these lovely ladies and feel safe, to be myself.

It has been a few months since I last went out to lunch and it was so great to see everyone’s smiling faces again. I haven’t seen them since my last psychiatrist appointment (that’s another story), since I have lost a big chunk of my weight, and since I have found the strength to acknowledge and speak out more about my journey. Over lunch the conversation twisted and turned and I somehow stumbled onto a conversation with a lady who happens to be a nurse working in a Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Service in a local hospital. As I felt comfortable enough with these ladies I was able to share some of my story with her knowing that she has more of an understanding that most people of what I have been through. She shared her knowledge of the system, of psychiatrists with expertise in perinatal mental health that she recommends, and tips to navigate the hospital system if I were to fall pregnant again.

This lady shared how in the past 18 months NSW Health have put in place SAFE START positions, like a specialised perinatal mental health midwife, to provide comprehensive psychosocial assessments as a component of routine antenatal and postnatal care. As a mother at risk mentally I would routinely have my history reviewed, a care plan would be set up and I be followed up throughout my pregnancy and after birth, which in my case would minimise the change of falling through the cracks in the health care system. Though our conversation I discovered another service Jade House through Karitane for women with perinatal mental health issues. Now I am forearmed with questions I can ask my local hospital mental health service to see if they have a SAFE START clinician as part of the perinatal team. How I wish that more can be done to link together all the health services so that it is easier to navigate the perinatal mental health care system. This lady said to me it was huge step for me just to be able to talk openly about Postpartum Psychosis, and that she knows of a woman recently diagnosed where both herself and her husband were both in denial that she had had an episode previously. It made be realise that I have come a long way in my recovery and acceptance of my episode of Postpartum Psychosis. I am so grateful for this group of girl friends that are part of my life.

This song was playing as I walked back to my car after lunch. It brought a smile to my face and tear to my eye all at the same time.