Have you told anyone, or would you tell anyone if you had post-natal depression? I had it and I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband. I’d like to discuss why.
As my triplets approached four, and I have started to feel some resemblance of ‘normal,’ I have used this milestone as something of a ‘coming out’ for me. Many of my friends didn’t even know. As I have begun to discuss it more openly and reference the illness in passing and in general conversation, I have been privileged with people I know approaching me with their stories of ‘me too.’
Post natal depression. Weak. Attention seeking. A tad unstable. A bit nuts, really. That’s what I thought about post natal depression before I was diagnosed myself, nearly 12 months in to my first year of being a Mum to triplets in 2009.
I have become frustrated and even angered that women, including me, isolate themselves so much when they are in their most significant time of need. Why?
The immature and uneducated generalisations above might have something to do with it. I’d like to think I was the only fool that made these judgemental assertions. Sadly, I don’t think this is the case. The perception of mental illness is crippling to the course of recovery and treatment, even today.
I was also ashamed. Yes, I had triplets and it was hard work but I thought I should be able to do it. Plenty of other people had triplets or more children to deal with. They coped, even thrived. I felt like a failure that I wasn’t one of those Mum’s publically declaring my utter bliss and joy of being a mother.
I was so, so lonely.
I felt like a burden and a drain on my husband, my Mum and those around me that were already helping so much. My Mum and Dad were coming to the house every day, if not twice a day to help, all the while running their own business. I was extremely close to them but yet couldn’t admit to my own mother how my mental health had deteriorated. It was my husband that told my family about my condition and I am so glad he did.
I know, now, that post natal depression should be regarded just like any other side effect of pregnancy. Mastitis, swollen legs, heart burn, morning sickness and post natal depression. Sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t.
I can say, for me, post natal depression didn’t make me a very likable person. I was negative, unenthused and guarded. It is hard for even your closest comrades to help you when you are in this state.
So, what do we do about this disabling condition that many suffer alone and without treatment?
Let’s get some facts straight, first. Post natal depression is caused by a biochemical change in brain function. Would we deprive an asthmatic of their puffer in a wheat field? No. Would you deprive treatment of a curable cancer? No.
Let’s start talking about it. Let’s get the facts clear and let’s start supporting each other.
I believe preparation is key. We go the pre-natal classes. Why doesn’t anyone tell us the ‘bad bits’ about pregnancy and motherhood? Or do they? Are we seeing the (parenting) world with rose coloured glasses? Do we have selective hearing? Perhaps that’s a whole other issue…
By the time I was diagnosed, my GP told me I ticked every box for symptoms and had severe post natal depression. Why did it get to this point? Lack of education and information, I feel. Both Mothers and their support networks need to be aware of the warning signs and the symptoms. Beyond Blue offer comprehensive information, something we should look at as part of our pre-natal preparation, but you should always consult a doctor.
Maybe we could all lower the bar a bit? Pressure on ourselves and each other doesn’t help. I’d like to see more honesty from parents and carers sharing the hard yards with each other. When the time comes that your daughter or best friend needs help, wouldn’t you like to feel as though they could reach out to you?
R U OK? website has a catchphrase: “A conversation could change a life”. Try to remember that. It changed mine.
Jodi McAlary is the Founder and Managing Director of emerging kid’s activities and entertainment guide for NSW and ACT, www.todokids.com.au
Mother of naturally conceived (accidental!) 4 year old identical triplet girls, Jodi experienced a period of post natal depression after the birth of her gorgeous babies and is now an advocate for open and wide discussion of
the dark journey experienced by herself and others. Find Jodi on Facebook here