I am incredibly proud and relieved to tell you that not only did I complete my personal mission of putting these demons to bed I actually managed to light the touch paper underneath every single one of them and watch as they want up in smoke and disappeared forever. You see, what I have come to realise in all its beautiful glory is that my illness and this geographical place are two separate entities that exist independently of each other. It is just a place. I am no longer ill.
A few days ago I overheard a dad tell his little boy "stop crying, you sound like a girl"; it got me thinking about how women are portrayed and, more specifically, what lessons am I teaching my son in my role as a "fit mum"? Here are the things I am striving to ALWAYS tell my son and any other child who knows me and my family:
Postnatal Depression (PND) has been, for me, one of the most difficult things that I have ever had to deal with: the struggle to talk to anyone about it who understood, the stigma which suggests that you are somehow completely incompetent and your baby isn't safe with you and getting out of bed in the morning when all you want to do is cry.
As a new mother, I embraced the chaos that a newborn could bring. I laughed at urine stained bedsheets. I smiled at 2am feeds. I rejoiced at staying in my pyjamas for two weeks in a bubble of bliss. I was a mummy and this tiny, innocent little being was everything I had ever wanted. I was in heaven. As the days went on however, it became harder to cope with daily life.
Was there a time when you were pregnant, or after you gave birth, that you felt so horrendously sh*t and just wanted someone to talk too? But you were either too afraid to say what was on your mind or no one asked you how you were really feeling? If you're nodding yes, you really aren't the only one.
Dealing with any depression or mental health issue during a time of general good cheer and celebration can be markedly more challenging than at other times. The Christmas period, although wonderful, can sometimes be stressful and overwhelming too. Here are my top five tips for reducing symptoms and improving mood.
Providing literature on paternal postnatal depression alongside the information already given to mothers would help raise awareness, and normalise postnatal depression for fathers, reducing shame. We need to realise that having a child is not only about the mother and baby at the exclusion of the father.
For women, this is usually no longer a controversial thing to admit. The highs and lows of adjusting to life as a mother as well as issues like postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis are well documented in the media. But what if it's not the mother who is hit by feelings of being overwhelmed or even postnatal depression itself?