Positive Profile: Sandi Thom on being a mum and beating post-natal depression

Scottish singer/songwriter Sandi Thom has been quiet on the music front lately – until now. The I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker singer released her latest single, Tightrope, on Mother’s Day,  with all profits going towards Pandas Foundation, one of the main charities in the UK that deals with pre- and post-natal depression. It is a condition that is close to her heart after she suffered post-natal depression badly after the birth of her son in 2016, and the emotionally charged track captures her inner turmoil for six months. The multi-platinum selling artist now lives in Bahrain with her husband, Matt, and their son Logan.

Are you a naturally positive person?

About 50% of the time. I also have the tendency to be introverted and deep – that isn’t a negative thing necessarily. But I don’t always get out of bed with a skip in my step.

Tell us a bit about your single Tightrope….was it cathartic to make?

It was definitely cathartic to write and it was quite difficult to record it actually. I wrote the song on my experience of post-natal depression – that was the inspiration behind it, and I found it quite difficult to put into words so it was quite challenging to write. But when I shared it with people, and other people heard it, it seemed to me that we should do something with it, to put it to good use. That’s when I started looking for organisations that offered support because for me, during my own experience, I never looked for a support group, so I was unaware of who was out there who offered that support.

Pandas was the most well-known UK-based organisation, but there are so many others that deal with the subject. When we got in touch with them, they heard the song and it immediately connected with the people there because they are all people who have themselves experienced post-natal depression. So, I think when they heard it being put into words – which is one of the most difficult things with any kind of mental illness like that, to put it into words  – they just really connected with it and were delighted to have us help promote their organisation. For me, it has been great because it is a good thing that has come from not such a great time.

You’ve publicly said during your post-natal depression you reached some very low points, and even contemplated suicide…how did you get out of that dark place?

First of all, I think it is a different experience for everyone, people have totally different feelings than others. Some people find it really hard to bond with their child, especially women who have had a very traumatic birth experience as they sometimes see the child as the source of the trauma.

For me, even though I did have a traumatic birth experience, I think the one thing that was like an anchor to me, that helped me get through those moments, was actually Logan, because I did bond with him and he was really the thing that was keeping me going and helping me to pull myself out of these places, to make sure I could basically be there for him and be the best version of myself possible for his sake, so I suppose I was fortunate in a way that I had that, to pull me through.

When do you think your post-natal depression started and what do you think triggered it?

I guess it started about 10-12 weeks into his life…I was six months in the thick of it…and he was eight or nine months old was when I really started to come away from it. The thing is, I have had a long history of anxiety and chronic anxiety since I was about 19, so I am not a stranger to it. I am a person who would be a likely candidate for post-natal depression because of the fact I am predisposed to that type of what a doctor would call a “mood disorder”.  For me, my struggle has been going on for a long, long time, from the perspective of having anxiety. But I’ve gone from the beginning, when it was very very bad, to managing to control it, to giving birth and it all came back again.

But I didn’t really seek help, because there are certain things that go through your mind – you don’t want people to realise that you are struggling and you don’t want to really open up about the things that are going on inside your head because you think: “I don’t want to be put in an asylum and I don’t want someone to take my child away from me.”

And you don’t want to appear weak, or at least for me I didn’t want to appear like that because I am quite good at putting on a happy face if you like, so I didn’t want to let people down and I didn’t want to disappoint. I am a performer by trade, that’s what I do, I entertain people and perform and put on a show, so to a certain extent I just suffered through it, and pretended everything was OK, except for with the closest people to me, like my husband and my mother, who also suffered from post natal depression with my elder brother.

How you were diagnosed?

I never sought help until I got to the moments where I realised that even the coping mechanisms that I had learned over the years from hypnotherapists and counsellors and whatever were not going to work, when I couldn’t actually maintain control. That’s when I decided to go to the doctor and that’s when I had to take medication, which is not ideal but it’s not also something that I think anybody should be ashamed of because no one should have to go through these things when there is help there.

So that’s when I went to see my doctor and he told me I was an idiot for not coming to see him before then, and that’s when I really started to get some respite from it, and it just gives you a moment of peace to regain your focus and get your calm.

I am pretty much 100% ok now, but I still take medication so I don’t really know how much of my genuine happiness, contentment and peace and calm is because of that or because that’s actually how I feel. But I have definitely come away from the worst of it all.

Are you hoping that by making this single it will help women in a similar situation seek help and not feel bad about talking about it openly?

Definitely, because it’s not even something that’s just about post-natal depression – I have had people messaging me personally who suffer from depression itself or have struggled through things in their life and listened to the song and felt like that connected with them – I never really thought about that aspect, but that’s great if it’s reaching an even broader amount of people.

I don’t know how much of an impact it will create or how much it will be shared out there but I hope that lots of people will share it and I hope that it will create an impact, because I think it’s a subject that is quite often misunderstood. A lot of people do go through it and don’t really know that they are going through it – they are undiagnosed.

There’s a cutting of corners as far as the healthcare system is concerned and I doubt anyone is going to be putting money in. An organisation like Pandas is really important because it fills that gap that you can’t get from the NHS or if you can’t afford private healthcare or you just don’t know what to do. It can be very, very confusing, and when you are in that moment you don’t know your arse from your elbow, let alone know how to self-diagnose something like that, so I really hope it will spread out there. Fingers crossed.

How old is Logan now?

He just turned a year old in March. We had a birthday party with a  mammoth amount of children. It was good fun because he has never been with that many babies before. He is walking all over the place and really coming on in leaps and bounds. He is a massive baby – he was a big baby when he was born so he is a big lad. He’s lovely, he’s just adorable.

How are you finding juggling motherhood and working?

I think I am pretty good at it so far, I’ve done the gigs where I drove home after every night to get back to my son. It is tiring being a working musician and a full-time mum but it’s great and I know I can do it, I’m pretty proud of myself. Logan and I fly all over the place on our own and he’s great. He’s already been to god knows how many places and he’s only one  – we do good.

When is your new album out?

It has not got a confirmed date yet but it will be the last quarter of this year, closer to Christmas time.

Will you be touring and will you be coming to Scotland?

We are touring the UK in October and have two shows in Scotland, one at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen and one at Oran Mor in Glasgow.

Do you come back to Scotland often?

I do, I come back loads. I was just there recently to do a couple of shows and I took Logan to see my granny because she has not seen him since he was 10 weeks old, and I saw my Dad and my cousins. I go back a lot. It’s not far. For the most part I lived before this in LA and that was 11 hours away, and this is only seven hours away, so I’m actually getting closer (laughs).

Are there any special parts of Scotland that you like to visit when you come home?

There is a drive around where my mum lives, called Cairn O’Mount. It’s an awesome drive right up the glen and over the mountain. You can see the Forth Road Bridge and all the way down the coast, it’s beautiful. Or any couthy little pub with a fireplace and a Sunday lunch – I miss those things.

What are your top three things that make you happy and why?

Sharing smiles with my son – when he smiles at me it lights me up; seeing my little dog happy because he was a rescue dog and was miserable when I got him, so giving him a good life and seeing him happy and content makes me chuffed; sitting with my husband at night having a cuddle and a glass of wine.

Is there anything else in the pipeline for 2017?

My album and my tour and there is a live DVD I filmed in Scotland that I am going to release at some point. And with me there is always a surprise around the corner!

For more information on Sandi, go here

For more information on Pandas, go here

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