Without a doubt I was very unhappy after my daughters birth, I was lonely, overwhelmed, with a history of mental health (teen depression), I felt like I was losing control of my life again and had a very small mummy network to help me stay focused and keep moving forward in through this time in my life. It took me a while to bounce back.

When I read a recent article in Forbes about mums who have used their own postnatal mental health issues to help others and the journey of Hannah Hardy-Jones jumped out at me, so I am very excited to be interviewing her to see how she turned her own challenges into a great opportunity to help others.

Hi Hannah, welcome to No Mum Is An Island. I am a great believer that no mum (or dad) should have to do everything herself, we can’t possibly know it all, and we need all the support we can get, there is a wealth of information out there to help us upgrade our parenting experience, to make our lives easier and this website is a hub for just that!  We love that you have upgraded your life by taking a very challenging mental health experience and making into something that will help others.

You were diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder, can you tell us a bit about that?

I had my first baby (Alice) almost six years ago and I went into that birth feeling so confident and calm about motherhood. I had been working in a high pressure role in HR so felt like it would be a breeze compared to that!

I unfortunately had a really traumatic birth so it wasn’t the easiest start. We were really mindful of the signs of baby blues and postnatal depression, so when my mood started to become really elevated and high no one was too concerned at first. After ten days I was barely sleeping, was talking at a high speed, was distracted and unfocused and unable to concentrate on my new baby. I had also been on some extravagant shopping trips (7 days postpartum!) and was hugely focused on my appearance- believing I looked like a model. Thankfully my obstetrician saw the signs and referred me to the maternal mental health team. I was having an acute manic episode and required 24 hour in home care to keep me safe. I was extremely unwell and unable to care for Alice for 6 weeks while my psychiatrist tried to find the most suitable medication. Sleep was essential during this time and I was therefore also on a high dose of sleeping pills.

At the end of this manic phase I was told that I was being diagnosed with bipolar disorder- and that a manic episode is always followed by a depressive episode. I didn’t want to believe it but within two weeks I suffered the most crippling depression- and it was so extreme that we again needed some in home support. I was unable to function, let alone look after my beautiful baby. I had another two periods of this depression in a three month period, until finally my mental health started to stabilise. Although I lived with pretty significant anxiety for the following year, I was able to start getting back to my day to day life and be a mum for the first time.

My bipolar is thankfully well managed and we ended up having another baby a few years later (Henry is now 3.5)- thankfully with no relapse.

You had a huge response when you shared your personal journey on your blog, what has been the most inspiring feedback that has kept you sharing.

I was amazed at the feedback. There were people in our wider network who had no idea what we had been through so when I shared that first blog chapter I was really nervous. I have thankfully never had anything other than overwhelming support from what I have shared.

Early on I had a message from a wonderful mum in South Africa who was currently experiencing postpartum bipolar. Whilst I can obviously never give any medical advice, she just felt like she wasn’t alone anymore which was always the main reason I shared my story. To give women hope and to make them feel less alone.

I have had so many messages from women all over the world who have suffered from postnatal mental health struggles, or from friends of women who are. I’ve also had a number of messages from mothers who have seen their daughters go through this, and one email was from a husband who thanked me for putting into words what depression feels like. All of these messages inspire me to keep sharing.

What are the biggest sacrifices and adjustments you have had to make to stay well.

Sleep and routine are two of the most effective strategies to staying well (and for me personally so is medication). I am careful not to have too many late nights in a row and keep as much structure to my day as possible, as stress can be a trigger. However this has now become part of my everyday life and it’s not too much of a sacrifice. I also drink very little alcohol, particularly as it doesn’t mix well with my medication.

The decision to have another baby was extremely hard, as we weren’t willing to risk a relapse. We sadly felt we were only going to be able to have one child. However we had moved cities and we had a wonderful unit dedicated to mothers and babies, as a supportive team who helped us through this.

Mental Health - Postpartum Bipolar.

The outcome of this challenging time in your life has been pretty impressive. You have created the world’s first personal development app for mums. The Kite Program. Can you tell us more?

The Kite Program was inspired by my mental health journey, and the fact that the most useful parts of my therapy was when I had practical ideas I could implement. Combined with my HR experience in coaching and leadership development I wanted to create an amazing resource for mothers to help them with the everyday challenges they faced.

After surveying several hundred mothers it became clear that most mums are time poor and often financially constrained- so an app was the perfect choice as a vehicle for a program such as this.

The app is based around 14 mini programs (Kites) and also an on the go mindfulness button for really quick practical ways to practice mindfulness on the spot. Beauty is a key part of the experience and the app has been designed to look more like a beautiful book rather than an app.

Kite launched 18 months ago into 144 countries and has been extremely well received. I am based in New Zealand so the majority of users are from here and in Australia- however we also have mums in Honduras, Egypt, USA, Canada, Dubai and Switzerland!

Mental Health - Postpartum Bipolar.

How exactly do the Kites work?

Each Kite ranges from 14 days- 30 days. One bite sized activity is available each day, however the program will wait for you and the activities won’t back up if you don’t open the app. The idea with the activities is that you try each one- some will resonate and some won’t. The aim is that at the end of each Kite that the user has at least 4 or 5 ideas or techniques that they implement- and if that is the case then some amazing changes have happened.

Kite topics include dealing with mum guilt, coping with the juggle, reconnecting with your partner, sleeping better, stress management, coping with sleep deprivation.

What has been the biggest feedback mum’s have given you from their experience of the app?

The most common remark when people see it for the first time is just how pretty it is! We have some lovely reviews on the app store and google play about how respectful and helpful it is. I frequently receive messages from women when they have finished a particular kite telling me how much they enjoyed it- which is so rewarding! The fact that it is making a difference to women is wonderful.

Mental Health - Postpartum Bipolar.

Finally what advice to other mothers who feel they may have postnatal disorder.

Firstly you aren’t alone. 1 in 4 women suffer from a postnatal mental health condition. Secondly go and see your GP or doctor if you don’t feel well. Don’t wait for it to get really bad before you make an appointment. It’s so much easier to get on top of it if it is identified early. Thirdly- no matter how awful you feel always remember that this is just temporary and you won’t always feel this way. Just keep talking and reaching out for help (and accepting it!)- whatever that may look like.

If you would like to read more about Hannah’s journey visit www.thekiteprogram.com/blog or follow her on Instagram. Readers can search The Kite Program in the app store or google play to trial Kite.

 ↓  Need some inspiration take a look at our book suggestions for Upgrading Your Mental Health ↓