Saturday 14 June 2014

101 things (#3): deliver a presentation to a conference

In my previous life (as city economist and management consultant) I would have had few qualms about delivering a presentation to 100 delegates.  I would have created an informative PowerPoint presentation, full of facts and figures and graphs and assertions.  I would have delivered it confidently, and answered questions willingly.

Five years on, however, PowerPoint seems like some sort of alien device.  I'm more used to "That's Not My Dragon!" and lift-the-flaps than pie charts and laser pointers.  And while I will happily chat to anyone who'll listen about The Boy's latest achievements, the idea of talking about a grown-up subject such as maternal mental health, in front of an audience of health professionals and charities, scared me half to death.

But I booted up The Husband's old laptop (I don't even own a PC these days) and re-entered PowerPoint land.  I promptly remembered what drove me out of the corporate world in the first place.  But I persevered and produced something midway between a formal presentation and a family slide show.

Postpartum Psychosis: My Journey Through Motherhood & Madness

I had been invited to speak at Dr Andy Mayers' "Festival of Learning" event at Bournemouth University. The day-long conference was called "maternal mental illness - managing the risk factors" and had attracted a wide audience of health care workers, charities, and people just like me.  I was speaking just after PANDAS, BipolarUK and APP: providing a "lived experience" perspective.  Later, senior staff from Bournemouth's perinatal psychiatry team were to provide a more formal overview of illnesses and treatments.  So I knew my slot was an opportunity to give the audience a first-hand account of what psychosis was like: how it came about, what it felt like, what admission to an MBU meant to me and my family, and how recovery happened.  The Husband kindly agreed to share our extremely private (and precious) photos from the first three months of The Boy's life, so that I could illustrate my talk.

My (very loose) "speaking notes"!

In action, although the speaking notes soon got forgotten:

This slide was quite popular:

As was this one, where I tried to illustrate all the very many different people who helped in my recovery:

It was hard to portray psychosis in a PowerPoint.  How can I possibly explain it?  Psychosis isn't just a series of "thoughts".  No, what happened to me was very very real: the experiences (being suffocated, my stomach about to explode, causing the end of the world, not knowing who I or anyone was, being strapped on a gurney and taken to a crematorium) happened to me.  They just happened within the confines of my brain.

The other speakers - notably Diana Wilson from @MaternalOCD,  Rachel Dobson from @PANDAS_UK, Clare Dolman from @BipolarUK & @ActionOnPP, @JodiMBrown and Helen Hutchings from @TeaAndTalking - were incredible.  I still cannot believe I shared the stage with such inspirational speakers!  I would love to write-up the whole event, but I fear I could not do it justice.

Throughout the day we tweeted live updates using the hashtag #MaternalMH.  It's worth taking a read from 10 June, there was so much activity and enthusiasm!  Here is a short selection:

@pixiegirle: @katgrant30 : presents all the ppl who helped her & her family to recover from postpartum psychosis #MaternalMH

@teaandtalking: Media image of motherhood is false says @katgrant30 - so true!! #maternalmh

@JodiMBrown: It's so valuable to hear both sides of the #maternalMH experience from @teaandtalking & @PaulMentalNurse #BUFest14

@BestBMMH: @JodiMBrown telling it like it is, warts and all.... Definitely a risk worth taking! Thanks #MaternalMH

@BipolarUK: Check out #MaternalMH for sll the goings on at today's Maternal Mental Health conference. Lots of interesting info there.

@JodiMBrown: Health Visiting students from @bournemouthuni have told me that they wish all their cohort were here for such valuable learning #MaternalMH

@JodiMBrown: A beautiful, honest & moving account of her journey through #MaternalMH @katgrant30 @ActionOnPP > thank you so much x

@BirthROCKSLondn: #MaternalMH #BUFest14 @katgrant30 Breakthrough: Session with child psychologist - shown how to make baby smile, then saw him as a real baby

@DrAndyMayers: Powerful description of recovery journey @katgrant30 #MaternalMH #BUFest14 @BUFestivals

@katgrant30: @teaandtalking @PaulMentalNurse Helen & Paul I'm listening to your incredible story & my heart is in mouth.. Just awe-inspiring #MaternalMH

@katgrant30: Heart-breaking & incredibly illuminating description of perinatal anxiety & intrusive thoughts by @maternalocd #MaternalMH

Best of all - on the day, I got to meet many lovely PANDAS colleagues in real life!


  1. We'll done. I don't think I could do that anymore even though I've given presentations to up to 1500 people. Post Natal Depression is so bad.

  2. Your talk was powerful and emotional.It was so important that we had the lived experience angle, as well as talks from health professionals and charity support groups. Thank you for contributing to such as successful day.