It should not be up to new mothers to self diagnose and recognize the symptoms they are suffering as Post Natal Depression. A new mum is told many times over how hard it is when bub arrives, to expect sleepless nights, long bouts of crying, never a moment to yourself and all those other wonderful things. It’s part of motherhood. Many mothers survived before you and many will survive after you. It’s what you were born to do. It is the most natural thing in the world. So what you are feeling now is normal – isn’t it? I’m just tired, lack of sleep, just a little anxious, it will be alright – wont it? I can do this! I want this! I can’t fail! I can’t!
“Hey, congratulations! How’s it all going?”
(Big Smile for all to see) and you say “everything is fine!” But inside you are dying and silently crying for help. Please, please see through it, please notice me, please show me what to do. Please tell me I’m not going crazy. Please tell me I’m not alone, here in this big black hole, with no escape in sight. Please help!
You are now working on automatic. You can only let your guard down at home, so your partner cops it. How dare he get to go out and have time alone, live a normal life. Nothing has changed for him – has it? He still gets to carry on as normal. What pressure could he possibly be feeling? He doesn’t understand. How could he?
Only those who have gone through Post Natal Depression or truly been touched by it can possibly know what it is like. This is why we MUST SPEAK UP!!!! Tell your story to help those after you. Believe me it will help. Just knowing you aren’t alone. Just knowing someone else felt the same way and knowing that even though you aren’t there yet – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will smile again – for real! It is also just as important for partners to tell their story and other family members too. How it affected you, and all you went through, how you helped will also help other partners and family members going through it now to understand and comprehend the magnitude of this condition.
So this is me speaking up. It has been more than 20 years and it still brings tears to my eyes. And seeing another mother suffer in silence hurts even more. It wasn’t until my baby was nine months old before I was diagnosed. By then, I was truly a wreck. We were about to head off on holidays to the big city and hubby said, “please you need help, or I do!” So I went to a doctor in the city and her first words were – “and what can I do for you?” I just stood there and cried – “I don’t know.” From that moment on, I have never looked back. It was one of the worst and one of the best moments of my life. It was the day I got my life back. A combination of medication, counseling and information to educate others around me what was happening, (That it wasn’t all in my mind) and I was on the road to recovery. Within two short weeks I could smile for real and gee it felt good!
Why did I wait so long before I got help? Well I had obviously been showing symptoms for some time. Quite a while actually and twice before this time I had reached out, unsure of what was happening but knew something was wrong. The first time was to my GP, when bub was about three months old, and he said, “It could be a thing called post natal depression which is caused by a chemical imbalance and I can give you medication BUT if it’s not that then the medication won’t work, and you are breastfeeding”. And he asked – “Do you think it’s that?” Well I was unsure, how do I know if its that or not. So he said, “let’s see how you go for now without it”. “Ok.”
A couple of months went by, with me ‘coping’ when one day it all came to a head. Words can’t describe what I felt that day but it was like I was ready to explode or implode. I was scared to be around bub as I didn’t want my emotions to affect her. In absolute desperation I called the doctors surgery. “I’m desperate, I need help, I need to see the doctor urgently please!” “Are you going to harm the baby?” “No!” “Are you going to harm yourself?” “No!” “Well then it’s not urgent, we can make an appointment for next week.” I was devastated. It took so much of myself to make that call, to reach out for help, to admit I needed help, to only have it thrown back at me. I felt totally deflated. I got in the car and just drove and drove and drove. And nothing more was done until finally my hubby spoke up.
At the time I didn’t understand what I was going through, all the emotions I was feeling. All the turmoil inside. I was trying to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect housekeeper, because this is what I wanted. And to admit defeat, that I couldn’t do it, like my mother before me, and her mother before her and every other mother besides me, then I must be a failure. I hate failure and avoid at all costs. What I realize now, that by admitting that I couldn’t cope, and by seeking help, this was the bravest thing I ever did!