by Carolyn Tate
You know when you used to watch the Brady Bunch or Happy Days and occasionally they would forego their usual levity to communicate a SERIOUS MESSAGE about racism, or child abuse or weird step-sibling relationships?
Well, this post is sort of like that. Imagine I’m Mr Cunningham putting down my paper to have a SERIOUS TALK, Richie. Except today we’re talking about post-natal depression – something that might leave Mr C a little flustered.
So, I got post-natal depression about five months after having my second child. It was such a surprise. But I felt completely disconnected from my son and overwhelmed by the banality of life at home with a baby (no idea why it struck with my second and not with my first – the levels of banality were pretty darn even). I withdrew from my friends and just concentrated on getting through each day.
I hid it pretty well too – and I especially concentrated on keeping it from those closest to me. The day I told my husband was when I’d had enough and had made an appointment to see my GP. He had no idea. And I didn’t want to share it with my friends because I never wanted to feel like they were just making dates to hang out because they were worried about me, rather than because I was a fun person to hang out with (I wasn’t).
So I saw my GP, was referred to a psychologist and prescribed anti-depressants, and started to feel mildly better. By this time I had gone back to work three days a week. When I told my GP they were my favourite days of the week, she suggested I go back to work full-time. This pissed me off, because I really wanted to connect with my son, not avoid him (not suggesting full-time workers are avoiding their children, but that’s what I was using work for at the time). So I found a new GP who understood what I needed and helped me look at some other solutions.
You know what worked for me in the end? Giving up breastfeeding. I stopped nursing my son when he was 12 months and 1 week old. I felt suddenly better two days later and have never looked back. Now, I would never advocate not breastfeeding in case of PND, but this worked for me. My GP said it is not uncommon for that to help – something about hormones blah blah science – but that the Australian Breastfeeding Association will probably be at my door with pitchforks when I publish this.
The point is, different things work for different people, and you need to keep looking until you find the right help for you. Giving up breastfeeding helped me. When I became pregnant with Little Red a few months later, I was terrified of descending down that dark hole again, away from all that I love to a world of numbness and despair.
After doing a lot of reading, I decided to try giving up sugar, which I did when I was about four months pregnant. I wrote about that for The Hoopla earlier this year. Coincidentally, or not, I never had a problem this time around. Flash forward 14 months and I am still breastfeeding that little bloodsucker – and she’s showing no signs of letting me stop any time soon. And I’m happy to let it go on.
Friends that found out after the fact have spoken to me in kind – and often hushed – tones. They say they had no idea. That I should have said something. That they would have liked to help. And if there is one message I would want to share around PND, it is this. If you are suffering from it, I guarantee you know people who want to help if they can. Helping others makes us feel good about ourselves. So do them a favour and let them in. And don’t keep on suffering and hoping you’ll feel better. There is so much help around, and loads of different kinds.
And one more thing. PND is so incredibly common. Can we please talk about it like any other illness, rather than feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed? I am happy to talk about it to anyone that wants to listen, but it’s just another chapter in a busy and full life. I’m better now, and if I ever feel like depression is rearing its head again – postnatal or otherwise – I will be getting help before you can say Happy Days. Just like I would with any other illness.
This week is PND Awareness Week. Let’s talk about PND.
Check out PANDA’s website for loads of helpful info and resources.