Did you know that 1 in 7 new mums and 1 in 10 new dads will suffer postnatal depression (PND). And that’s just the ones doctors know about. So many struggle through it daily, not getting the help they need. And my word, it’s a significant struggle.
At its worst it’s like a big fat black thunder cloud has descended around you and you’re wearing it like a belt. It’s with you everywhere. When you feed your baby, shower, sit and stare and the wall, lie in your bed while your house sleeps. You name it, it’s there with you. And it hurts. It wraps around your stomach corsette-like so you don’t feel like eating or drinking. It clamps around your chest front to back so you can only take little breaths once in a while. It’s wandering dew descending down you limbs and squeezing so they quiver and bounce as the tears fall. It covers your eyes in a smoke haze that stings and penetrates your mind. So that all you see is a canvas. No matter what landscape you are looking at, it’s not real. Either that or you’re not real, you’re not sure. It just hurts less if you make yourself just see a canvas. There is no point in talking, trying, smiling, greeting, phoning, eating, walking. All you feel is hollow. All you see when you look at your beautiful child is pain. All you hear is silence, except for the rambling mind. All you feel in your heart is black, hard, wrenching, dry reaching pain. You’re doing time. You can’t do this. They’ve got the wrong person for this gig. You can’t do anything. Your child seems better off without you. And as little as that infant is, in their eyes, they know their mum is sad. You can see it sometimes, if you dare look them in the eye.
There’s a perception about those brave souls who can utter the words ‘I had postnatal depression’. I can’t put my finger on it. But people make judgements I think. Thoughts run across people’s faces, whether they mean to or not, when you mention the topic. They used to run across mine I’m sure. Maybe it’s because society is of the view that motherhood isn’t hard. Do people make the same judgements if a person were to say ‘I had depression’? Is it the depression part that is judged or the depression in motherhood part? I don’t know. But I do know a person paralyzed by fear and self loathing are being judged enough by themselves, so rather than needing any more of that they need kindness, understanding and help.
The medical community don’t know what triggers it – hormones, genetics, environment, it could even just be certain circumstances. They just don’t know. The messages the mind sends can also be different for each person – it might be ‘I don’t deserve this glorious child, they deserve better’, or ‘this is bollocks I didn’t sign up for this, they deserve better’, or even ‘I am so worried that this child must have the best, they deserve better’.
What they do know is that postnatal depression treatment has a very high success rate. Doctors, good doctors, take it seriously. Mothers (or fathers) struggling just need to ask for help. I realise that some people find it super hard to say ‘I think I have depression can you please help me’. Maybe instead it’d be easier to just start a conversation with a doctor . . .
- I’ve been crying a lot;
- I don’t sleep at all;
- I don’t think I’m coping;
- I’m really struggling and it’s not like me; or
- I’ve been having some pretty distressing thoughts that won’t stop.
I was doing some research on PND and discovered that 18 – 24 November 2012 is PND awareness week . The aim if this initiative is to spread the word about recognising the signs so that if we see them in someone we can encourage them to seek the help they are entitled to and which they need.
That’s the least we can do I think. They’re not just mothers and fathers that are meant to be strong and stoic and battle through, it is after all ‘their choice to have children’ (how many times have we heard that!). They are neighbours, friends, colleagues struggling with more than just moody blues, its a chemical imbalance. It’s a chemical imbalance on no sleep, on no sustenance, with the responsibility for this little thing who quite possibly will not sleep and will not stop crying no matter what they’ve tried and how much love they give. Postnatal depression can ruin lives. It can ruin their relationship. It can ruin their bond with their child. And it’s generally temporary when they get help.
There are some awesome resources available for sufferers:
The Black Dog Institute explains what it is and the signs plus heaps more.
PANDA has heaps of fact sheets and a help line to call.
And BeyondBlue has heaps of resources too including other people’s stories and a phone line where you can speak to someone and be referred or get more info.
Most importantly, if you are reading this and thinking ‘that’s me, I feel hollow, I cry all the time’ please start a conversation with someone you trust.
‘. . . knowing how way leads onto way’ . . . Robert frost