I asked my husband today, when was the moment he realised I had postnatal depression and anxiety, he responded with
“I think I started to realise when I saw your enhanced maternal child Health nurse starting to come around more often (my beautiful angel ‘Pollie’), but it really sunk in when I saw you go into the mother baby unit. I realised then you needed help, and I didn’t know it was that bad or what I could do to help.”
“What depression feels like” via https://goo.gl/images/U4qjnk
The reason I asked was because the most common thing I hear from people suffering from depression and women suffering from postnatal depression, is trying to make other people understand. I hear “how do I make my husband/wife understand what I’m going through?”
On the flip side, much like my hubby; partners (men and/or women) often respond with that they didn’t know what they could do, or they didn’t realise what their partner was going through.
Anxiety and depression is like a tug of war against yourself, and what you want so badly is for your family, your loved ones, your friends, to understand your struggle by being there for you unconditionally. To hold you in your weakest moments and show you they are on your side to fight with you in your battle against this illness – and that’s what it is, an illness. If mental illness could be a baseball game, you want to know that you have someone there to bat for you and give you a home run.
Postnatal depression, anxiety, depression, it feels like you’re drowning in the constant verge of tears.
Your boat has a hole in it, but you forgot to bring a life jacket.
It feels like the future is uncertain but the certainty might be doom
It’s like feeling excited but feeling like you shouldn’t, or can’t or don’t deserve to.
It’s like feeling the only acceptable feeling is guilt, and you don’t know why you feel guilty
Like a balloon bursting in your face.
It’s feeling like everyone has it together, but you.
Like you’re a clown who makes tricks for laughs but no one can see your tears behind your mask.
And sometimes it’s like feeling like nothing at all.
From the prospective of a stay at home parent, we think ‘my partner can go to work, (s)he can leave whenever he wants, (s)he can socialise with other adults, (s)he can go to the toilet, drive with the music loud, drink a hot coffee, not worry about the responsibilities of the kids during the day, (s)he expects a clean house and cooked dinner all while I’m trying to cope with the thoughts in my head. The sadness, the anxiety. It’s exhausting”
From the prospective of someone with depression or anxiety, we think “how can I explain that I need help? When I don’t understand what it is that’s wrong? I’m hurting, I feel alone and I just need someone there. It’s not an attack on them, it’s me, I feel these things.”
And then on the other side you have the person on the other side of your depression and anxiety. “What can I do to help? I feel helpless. Is it my fault (s)he feels this way? I feel like a failure, does she think I’m a failure? Why is parenting good for me and not he(r)? Why can’t (s)he just be happy? “
One thing I’ve learnt about my depression journey is that the more support you have, the better you feel and the quicker you recover. Research has also shown this. Having support is imperative to recovery. Your family, your friends, your partner, they can be the key to your recovery, and help you breathe again. Dads, wives, hubbies, mums – you can help your loved one get better by being there and being that key.
My husband did want to help me. He wanted to see me smile again and to be happy, but he couldn’t do it without me. He needed to know what to do and how to do it without feeing like I was blaming him. I invited him into a therapy session, I talked to him, I found my voice. I told him when I felt frustrated, angry, anxious, worried, scared. I told him all the things that went through my brain. I still do, and now he understands what I’m feeling when I feel it.
Ways you can help others to understand your mental illness
- Ask for support, what do you want from your partner. (Example; when you help me in the mornings and get everyone fed, I feel a lot lighter. Thank you.) Think deeply about the support you need,and explain to your partner how they can help.
- Invite them to your therapy sessions
- Verbalise, your voice is important. Use it. Find the emotions and ways of things that overwhelm you, are you both scared? Talk about how you can support each other in that.
- Write a letter, tell them the ways you love them, what they do to make you feel fulfilled and ways they can help you when you need help filling your emotional cup.
How to help someone with a mental illness or postnatal depression
- Encourage sleep. Sleep fixes a lot. Take the reigns and allow them to sleep. You may feel exhausted too, but you can take turns. Exhaustion feeds anxiety. Sleep helps.
- Encourage therapy, and go along with your partner.
- Encourage socialising and others to socialise with your partner. Depression and anxiety can bring in isolation, ensuring that family and friends know what the person is going through and making sure they will still be there is extremely helpful
Depression and anxiety is a symptom and a feeling of a problem. Problems can be fixed and you both can be in this together and you both will be in that happy place once again with full cups. Good luck! X