Ciara O’Brien: The Stigma and Perceptions of PND
Ever since I wrote publicly about my struggle with depression, I’ve wondered if people look at me differently. A lot of people told me that “I didn’t seem the type” to have mental health issues. Or that they would have never known what I was dealing with. I started to understand the warped perception society has of people with mental health issues. Yes, on the outside I was a very happy, positive person. But, in actual fact, I was too happy. I wasn’t dealing with my problems, constantly pushing them deeper down, covering them with a forced smile, a slightly manic laugh – all in the hope they would just go away.
But when I had my son, Jamie, all of these deep-rooted issues came to the surface and spilled out in the ugly form of postnatal depression. It was such a confusing and frustrating time and I assaulted myself with constant questions: ‘Why aren’t I as happy as other new mothers?’ ‘Why does life seem so bleak?’ ‘Why am I such a horrible mother that I can’t find the joy?’ ‘What will people think if I tell them how I’m feeling?’. Even after I sought help, I kept the true reality of my condition to myself. If people knew I was on medication and going to therapy, maybe people think I was crazy, weak, lazy, attention seeking…
I still struggle sometimes with the thought that people think I’m seeking attention through this illness. Especially because I need to speak about it, I need to get it out there. Because sharing helps, talking helps, knowing you’re not alone helps bring you back from the brink. And why shouldn’t we speak about it? If I broke my leg, I would talk about it. If You had the flu, would you be ashamed to speak about it?
Because when I did speak out and share my story – although it was very scary – I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I wasn’t carrying around this shameful secret anymore and the truth became clear: I have nothing to be ashamed of. This is a very common illness that many of us deal with. It doesn’t make us weak. In fact, I believe we have the inner strength that allows us to fight against our demons and seek help so we can cope with day-to-day life that, for some reason, we find harder to do than others.
Like anything, there will always be people who don’t understand and therefore judge. If reading my story – or indeed tweets or quotes that I post when I’m having a bad day – make you feel uncomfortable, well, lucky you. You should count yourself fortunate that you simply feel discomfort and don’t have to live with these feelings and constant battles against your own mind.
For me, speaking out about these feelings normalises it and it becomes less daunting for me to try to overcome. I believe that keeping your bad feelings and thoughts to yourself only make them more toxic.Because, now that my friends and family know my struggles, I have a huge amount of support. Even if you feel like those around you are not supportive, there are a lot of us online that are there to listen and let you know that you are not alone.
You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not weak. You are not a bad mother, wife, friend. You are strong and you are doing the best you can.
*This is Ciara’s second post on Have you seen that girl? She’s shared her journey with PND in this post which you should read too. Thanks again, Ciara, for speaking out!