'I spent five hours a day cleaning because I was convinced my kids were dirty'

A new mum spent hours cleaning everyday because she was convinced her children were ‘dirty’.

Angel Stagg, 25, started experiencing low moods after the birth of her daughter, Evelyn, in February 2020.

Then, after her son, Jackson, was born in May 2021, she developed intrusive thoughts surrounding the cleanliness of her family.

She was convinced that her bathroom was too dirty to use – which meant she went days without washing herself – and believed that her children weren’t clean enough.

This caused intense cleaning sessions – which could last up to five hours a day.

Angel, from Hassocks, West Sussex, said: ‘I always had this feeling that I was dirty, that the kids were dirty, no matter how much I cleaned around the house.

‘I was crying all the time.’

Angel’s mental health issues began after giving birth to her daughter, just before the UK was hit by the COVID pandemic.

She said she would get ‘incredibly anxious’ about the cleanliness of her home, and ‘couldn’t relax.’

She said: ‘This was just before the first lockdown, so I was on my own until after my son was born.

‘I despised the life I had at that point.’

Her relationship with partner, Conor, was also strained.

‘Because it was lockdown, I didn’t have many people to speak to about it, not even Conor – it definitely affected my relationship with him,’ said Angel.

Then, within a few weeks after Jackson’s birth, Angel’s intrusive thoughts worsened. Angel’s cleaning routine was taking up her entire mornings. The situation got so bad, she began to wish that she didn’t have children at all.

‘It was like I had a voice in my head that would say tell me everything was dirty, especially the kids,’ said Angel.

‘I would avoid parts of the house and then do a really big clean – and then would feel guilt for not spending enough time with the kids.’

In June 2021, she finally managed to seek advice from her GP.

Her condition is now being managed with medication, and she decided to set up an Instagram account to help her feel less alone, and connect with other mothers.

For Angel, while her anti-depressants haven’t ‘fixed’ the problem, it has ‘eased’ things.

‘It gives me the ability to get out of bed each morning and face the day,’ she said.

Now, Angel is expecting her third child, due in June 2023, and describes it as a ‘difficult’ pregnancy so far.

‘I’ve had low moods and felt irritable, as well as having intrusive thoughts,’ said.

‘When I’m driving in the car with the kids, I think ‘what if I swerved off the road and hit that tree.’

Now, Angel has been referred to have talking therapy through the NHS Time to Talk scheme.

“It’s impossible to comprehend if it’s not happening to you,’ said Conor, her partner.

‘It’s hard to see how she struggled to get help, it was such a long process to get the help she needed.’

Angel continues to get the message across on social media about maternal mental health through her Instagram account @apparentlyangel.

Angel wants to let other mums struggling with similar symptoms know they are not alone.

‘I would say to not feel like you’re crazy, because you’re not,’ she said.

‘Speak up and ask for help.’

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