Rachel: Postnatal Depression
Posted on 24th January 2018 at 16:40
“Sometimes you can just feel mediocre about your child. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them, it’s just that you’re ill. You should recognise that you’re not a monster.”
Postnatal depression affects more than one in every ten women after pregnancy, making it a common problem. The effects of the illness can start at any time within the first year after giving birth. It can also affect men as well. It is considered normal to feel anxious or down after pregnancy; this is commonly referred to as the “baby blues” and should last no more than two weeks. However, if the sad and tearful feelings continue after two weeks, it is often recognised as postnatal depression.
image source: Tina Franklin / Flickr
The NHS website lists the symptoms of postnatal depression as:
• a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
• lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
• lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
• trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
• difficulty bonding with your baby
• withdrawing from contact with other people
• problems concentrating and making decisions
• frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby
I sat down with Rachel at her house. The furniture was a mixture of red and black, but the walls were painted with a contrasting whiteness. It was as if you could piece together her story just by looking around the room. The story was a mixture of pain and darkness, but wrapped in positivity and overcoming. It was as if all the dark objects had centred the room and been covered by a fresh new beginning.
Rachel spoke with confidence and strength. Her words were not stuttered but rolled off her tongue, showing her control and surety of herself. Her story is a classic story of Jekyll and Hyde. She believed that her depression created a dark version of herself, which didn’t match her identity.
“For me, it was a fight between me and this other person who I could recognise wasn’t me and I just didn’t want to be that person.”
Rachel has three kids, however she only experienced postnatal depression after the birth of her second child. It is important to note that if you have suffered from postnatal depression once, it does not mean it will re-occur, although some women can experience it multiple times. It can be brought on by a number of different factors, such as:
• a history of mental health problems, particularly depression, earlier in life
• a history of mental health problems during pregnancy
• having no close family or friends to support you
• a poor relationship with your partner
• recent stressful life events, such as a bereavement
• experiencing the "baby blues"
“It was so different to the first pregnancy. With the first baby, the emotions were so high. With the second one, I didn’t hate him, but I didn’t feel overly wowed about the baby. I think I was just more engrossed in how I was feeling. I was so numb with the depression that I wasn’t registering the complete love.”
Although today postnatal depression is more widely talked about, when Rachel was going through it, some twenty years ago, she wasn’t able to identify what she was going through. This made her feel alone and left her with no one to talk to.
“I didn’t turn to anyone because I didn’t know what it was. I was new in England then as I’d only been here for a year, so there wasn’t really anyone I could turn to. I felt that I couldn’t really go to the doctors because I didn’t know what it was. I hadn’t heard of it a lot in the past so I couldn’t link the two together. It wasn’t until years later that I realised it was postnatal depression.”
“I don’t think it was talked about as much as it is now. Now, it’s more open. I don’t think at that point I would have even met anyone who would tell me they had suffered from postnatal depression, because it wasn’t talked about so much. Years later, I met someone that was going through it, but for them, it was extreme. They were experiencing psychosis, but for me it never got to that.”
Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental illness. It affects around 1 in 1,000 women after giving birth. Women who have this illness experience hallucinations and delusions, which can severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotions and behaviour. Medical professionals believe that the condition may be caused by underlying mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, or a family trait of psychosis. However, it can be treated with medication.
Today there are many support services in place to help people going through depression. If you find yourself experiencing postnatal depression, it is important that you seek medical attention or join an independent group or support programme. Rachel believes that if she knew these forms of help were in place when she was experiencing it then it would have helped her, unfortunately she had to recover by herself.
“I recovered with time, and through fighting with myself, I just came through slowly. But, I personally think that the fact that I kept reminding myself that this wasn’t me meant that even if I couldn’t shake it off, it made me want to hang onto who I was.
“Maybe my belief in God helped as well as it kept my morals stable and allowed me to battle with my dark self. With time, you get to the other side. You get busy, I had to take the kids to school and see family and I had to be nice to them. So I was getting on with life. I think it’s important to keep busy, because if I sat down and cried all the time, which I did do sometimes, I would have just entertained the fact that I was just feeling so bad and maybe it would have gotten worse.”
Rachel paused as to motion that she had finished talking. I began to slowly open my mouth to finish the interview, but she rushed to intervene with her closing statement. The energy within her voice and her willingness to talk highlighted how much she wanted to inform others of the issue.
“I would say for people who may be going through it now to seek medical attention and don’t blame yourself. It’s not something you can just shake off. A lot of people will tell you to shake it off, but you can’t shake off depression. Talk to someone. Talk to family or talk to friends. Accept support. Talk about how you’re feeling. Don’t suffer alone. There’s a lot of help nowadays, so with all that help, there’s a good chance that you will fully recover.”
For more information about Postnatal Depression visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/
Article written by Lisa Woods (BreakForth's Social Media and Communications Coordinator)
Note: We have used the name Rachel in the article in place of the real name of the woman we spoke to in order to keep anonymity. All quotes and all parts of the story are true.
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