Depression in mothers is real

By Viv Kissane, Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness

Depression in mothers is real. In fact, it’s all around us. But it is hidden behind so much stigma and judgment that it’s very hard to speak up and own it. As a society, we put so many labels on people. It seems as though the label of “bad mother” is one of the worst anybody could wear.

There was a time in my life when I became an expert at hiding what was truly going on in my life, at pretending. My labour, birth and the immediate weeks after having my third baby are a blurry memory. I only seem to be able to recall windows in time, but somehow all of those windows mesh into one another to cover a time span of three and a half years.

The things I do remember?

I remember holding my baby close, loving her while I cried. There was a lot of crying. I remember not wanting people to come over to visit me. I remember feeling despair at my failure to function, at not being able to get things like a basic phone call done. I remember that sitting in the corner of my wardrobe was comforting, as was completely covering myself under the doona.

I remember feeling like I was always late, running behind and never catching up. I remember the sleepless nights – lying awake even as my baby slept. I remember not being able to eat for most of the day, and then eating a whole block of chocolate and hating myself, then not eating again for the rest of the day. I remember the anguish at not being able to communicate with my husband, my frustration that he didn’t understand what was going on with me. I remember the disengagement with my two elder children, and screaming at them with rage that seemed to suddenly overcome me, as though someone had flipped a switch. But most of all, I remember the voice. The voice that didn’t go away, that was always telling me I was failing, that life was too hard and I was useless. It was there when I woke up in the morning, when I was driving in the car, when I was in the shower, when I was talking to people. I didn’t tell anyone about the voice or how it bullied me into pieces.

I think the hardest part of having postnatal depression was the fact I had to hide so much of it. Sure, I shared bits and pieces, but I was never able to show on a day-to-day basis just how much I was hurting on the inside. And, unfortunately for me, I believe that prolonged period of not speaking up and not getting help meant I had more obstacles and a longer road to travel towards wellness.

I can’t help but wonder what that journey would have been like if I had reached out for help sooner.

Pregnancy and early parenthood are the most high risk times in a woman’s life for developing depression. If you are pregnant or have young children and you are unsure whether what you are feeling is within the realm of “normal motherhood”, you’re not alone. Reach out to a friend or family member and ask them to help you visit a GP to discuss the mental illness that is depression and the many different faces it wears. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will be on your journey to a better place.

Pregnancy and early parenthood are times of great change. It’s normal to feel emotional or overwhelmed from time to time, but if you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor or another health professional.

  • Feeling empty/teary/exhausted/overwhelmed
  • Feeling guilty and inadequate
  • Diminished pleasure and/or interest in activities (particularly those that you used to enjoy)
  • Loss of confidence and self esteem
  • Inability to cope
  • Sleep disturbance unrelated to baby’s needs
  • Negative obsessive thoughts
  • Change in appetite
  • Fear of being alone
  • Worrying about harming self or children
  • Wanting to be alone, withdrawing from social circle
  • Loss of concentration and memory
  • Difficulty with decision making
  • Crying for no reason
  • Being irritable and moody
  • Feeling negative all the time
  • Thoughts of suicide or wanting to escape

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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