Words by Jane Faulkner
My friend recently got diagnosed with Post Natal Depression, her baby was nearly one and she had had a massive year. Anyway, she knew something wasn’t right and she went to her GP and got help.
When she told me, I felt myself shrink inside – not because of her diagnosis, but because I too had known she wasn’t okay and yet I had not done anything. I could feel she wasn’t okay and I had spoken to my husband about it, yet my own feelings of helplessness in the situation I think kept me silent. My tank of inner resources was empty and I couldn’t get time off to see her. I was also scared to offend her. I didn’t want to ask if she wasn’t coping and yet she was dropping huge hints all of the time and still I didn’t know what to do.
It was like there was an unspoken contract of ‘we both know something is not ok, but if we struggle through it, we’ll be fine’. We are strong, independent women and to be a mum was what she had been yearning for. It was like we colluded to keep the fantasy of motherhood alive.
I am so proud of her for breaking through all of the taboos and the ‘I am coping crap’ and getting help. I think I had PND and I didn’t get help. I just threw myself into keeping up appearances and trying to be the perfect Mum and wife for my new family.
Having a baby, it’s amazing, right? This beautiful being in front of you, all gorgeousness and vulnerability, totally reliant on you for all of their needs. For me, it was also overwhelming, exhausting and depressing. Some days I felt like my soul was dying, I couldn’t feel happy about anything and I felt wrong.
I had a healthy, happy baby, supportive husband, the birth was fine, ya,ya,ya. I should have been ecstatic, instead, I felt lost. Who was I now? I had built a career that I had loved and now it felt like I was worth nothing and I had nothing to offer. Any sense of self I had had before, was gone. I felt like I was a wife and mother now and not a separate person in my own right.
I was also isolated. When I fell pregnant we moved away from my family and friends, and when my baby came, the thought of driving for an hour to see anyone was overwhelming. I was exhausted and even though I knew getting out would be a good thing, I didn’t have the internal resources to get myself out.
My life-raft during this time was my studies. I was studying Gestalt Psychotherapy and we had a group every 2nd Tuesday night. I could take my baby and rediscover or rather uncover me again. I could freely talk about not coping and how much I was struggling with my husband and being in a relationship that had dropped to a whole new level of authenticity and commitment.
You see before I had my baby, I had avoided showing my husband my unsavory feelings like anger, sadness and frustration. I could go out with friends have a good bitch, get it off my chest and come home clear. With a new baby, there was no escape, I had to learn to voice things as they upset me and we had to learn how to communicate and relate to one another.
I think becoming a parent is massive for most people. When I speak to a lot of my friends now, I am amazed at how common feeling depressed postpartum is. It is so common and yet it still is so unacknowledged in our community. I remember being at a swimming lesson, my first-born would have been about 7months old. He wasn’t a great sleeper. I shared how I wasn’t coping so well and two of the other mums picked up their stuff and moved it to the other side of the room. I felt totally unsupported and like a total failure.
This is something about women I will never understand- why don’t we back each other? Why do we pretend everything is ok when it’s not? Why do we gloat when we see someone else struggle rather than reach out and ask what we can do to help?
This journey taught me many things, the biggest one being to never judge another, and that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. It’s also taught me how important it is to ask “Are you okay?” Did you know that 1 in 7 Mums are likely to suffer from PND and 1 in 20 Dad’s?
Some helpful resources if you aren’t OK…
Lifeline – Phone 13 11 14
PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association) – Phone 1300 726 306
Beyond Blue – Phone 1300 22 4636
Breastfeeding Association – Phone 1800 686 286
Jane is a mum, partner, psychotherapist in private practice, yoga teacher, group facilitator at Gwinganna Health Retreat and nurse. To connect with Jane, visit her fabulous website.
Love for you to share your experiences if you’d like in the comments below…
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