After the birth of my son I began to become really unwell mentally, physically and felt I wasn’t fitting into any boxes of mental health as I wasn’t depressed for long periods. I didn’t feel I had Bipolar disorder as what I was feeling was coming in waves of emotions and looking back it was linked to my menstrual cycle.
After feeling very suicidal and beginning to believe the emotions and thoughts, I found help in a self-diagnosis from the internet and began to understand that I was living with PMDD.
After getting help and a professional diagnosis, I started to realise that there was not much support locally that I could go to. There were a lot of online support groups etc. but on some days, I wanted to see someone in person and just have a hug and know what I was going through is normal for PMDD and not just me! Also at the groups I did attend, I was fed up of having to constantly explain what PMDD was or what I was going through.
I wanted to make a real difference…
…take what has happened to me and use it for the good to help others and so I set out originally founding Mummy Cycle, to provide groups and peer support for mums who where experiencing PMDD. I soon quickly realised though that we were supporting the whole family and that there was such a need for this support, groups and services that I found just wasn’t available, so we changed our name to Family First to include everyone.
I went out and bought a Gazebo and just held some drop in session and workshops for anyone that wanted to come along and find out about PMDD.
We had many posters, useful tools and practised relaxation techniques as well as sign posting to relevant services and organisations. It was a great opportunity for people to just know that they weren’t alone, that we were there to help the best we could and that we understood.
In Family First we have a small team of us that help with groups and peer support, but we are hoping to have more volunteers and grow as a whole.
Since August we have grown in Bristol supporting over 48 women, who have actively self-referred to us from seeing the posters. We have helped 15 men who are supporting loved ones and had 24 children and 2 teenagers come along to our groups that are there for their family.
Family First are now also receiving referrals from services after working closely with them to help their staff identify PMDD.
We have a big demand not just in Bristol but also outside areas and are looking over the next year or so to expand on this. We are also actively fund raising for a Family First bus to travel around and provide drop in sessions for PMDD, as well as securing an allotment to run for regular groups.
There is also a men’s club and teenage hub we are in the process of starting. We would love to support others to set up a Family First coffee group/support group in their area, to help us reach the areas we cannot physically.
We have so many amazing things in our vision line at Family First, but some of the great things we do now are:
- Magic in the woods Local/Wild walks, with the aim to build confidence, quality time with family, to be in nature and have fun.
- Heard – a support group that focuses on supporting women/AFAB individuals with PMDD, Peer support and 1:1 Support.
- We also have a Family First film production, looking at creative videos to offer support and raise awareness of PMDD.
What I initially set out with Family First has grown beyond what I could have dreamed of and to see the great work locally as well as nationally is incredible. To know the difference, no matter how small, it is worth every bit of work I have put into Family First!