Postnatal Depression (PND) is what I call Crazy Mummy Syndrome. It is a dark feeling that you are not coping as a parent. That everything you are doing as a mother is incorrect. And that everyone is going to think that you are a bad mother because you think you are.
Sometimes we hide our feelings from the people we love. Our partners, our family, our friends because we don’t want them to see us as weak. And the monsters in your head whisper, Everyone else can do this parent-thing, so why can’t I?
What am I doing that is so different?
When you are feeling low, you hide yourself at home, you don’t go out, you don’t meet up with friends, or even invite them to visit. To the outside world, you are just consumed with what it takes to look after a new baby.
But in your mind, you are failing.
For some mothers, it takes them to breaking point. For me, it took me a very serious breakdown at home, in front of my entire family, to give me that push to seek help. To start telling people how overwhelmed I was feeling being a mum. And that no-one told me it was going to be this hard.
So what can you do to help someone who is suffering from post natal depression and anxiety?
Don’t offer to help… tell the person suffering postnatal depresson that you are helping so they can’t say no.
When I was dealing with postnatal depression, I was so used to thinking I had to do it all myself, that if anyone offered to help me I would just so ‘No, that’s ok.’ So when my family just starting telling me they were going to look after the kids on a certain day, and told me to go have a sleep, I couldn’t back out. I didn’t get a chance to refuse.
It was tough to start with, because I found it hard to relinquish control, and I was also missing out on my kids. Though after a few days I realised that the little naps, and restful hours, allowed me to feel better in myself.
Deliver the essentials if they feel they can’t leave the house.
Milk, bread, chocolate, tea, coffee, biscuits (preferable Kingstons….), tomatoes, cheese, fruit, toilet paper, chocolate – did I say that already? Oh well, you can never have enough. There will be times where the thought of leaving the house gets too much. Even for something as simple as milk & bread. So delivering these, or phoning on your way over to see if they need anything from the shops is a great help.
Make a meal for them
The worst time of the day for me was always between 3.00pm and 6.00pm. It was the ‘witching hour’. The kids would be grumpy, I would be tired, throw in that it is the time you need to get dinner ready and that the kids would normally choose this time to want to be held, it was nightmare stuff.
Dropping over a home cooked meal that can be reheated for dinner, or even a few frozen meals like lasagne, for those crazier afternoons, is perfect to reduce the anxiety levels in the afternoon.
Connect with them in person
Whilst phone calls and text messages are good, I know when I am at my worst, I hate having to pick up the phone and answer it. Especially if the kids are screaming, or, I am. The ease of being able to ignore the phone when having a bad day makes dropping in to see them face to face a much better option.
Remember to make them a cup of tea, and sit with them for however long it takes. Listen to them. Sympathise. And tell them that they are doing a great job.
Everyday won’t be their best, but if you show them that you are taking the time to care, this will help them ‘reconnect’ as depression can be a very lonely road.
Encourage them to get outside
The sun provides us with vitamin D which is essential for good brain health and mood. So even if it is just to the backyard, or a walk around the block, getting outside can be very helpful. If it is raining, put your raincoats and gum boots on. Pick up the umbrella, cover the pram in the plastic rain cover, and go for a walk anyway. Have you taken the time to look and see how beautiful it is when it is raining? Not only does the rain cleanse the ground, but it can also wash away negative feelings.
After all, it is only water.
If you, or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline 13 11 14, or PANDA’s free National Perinatal Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306
Note: Postnatal depression is the most prevalent mood disorder associated with childbirth and affects up to 15% of childbearing women. This can have long-tem consequences for women, their partners, the infant and other children. It is therefore important to discriminate between difficult marital and parenting adjustments in the early postnatal period and the symptoms of clinical depression. Source: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/wh29-wh30