I have shared before that I’m angry at PND because it’s a thief and a liar –
“PND has lied to me. It has caused me to believe all sorts of untruths about myself, my abilities and who I am as a mum. Before my little son was even one minute old, it had me questioning how and if he actually belonged to me – despite having carried him for 9 months. That was not a fleeting feeling, it tortured me for months on end, almost to breaking point. It had me believe that I did not love him, that I was incapable of ever loving him and nothing would ever change no matter how hard I tried...” more here
There are many myths, or lies, that surround mental illness and specifically Postnatal Depression.
There are times when the media or even social media does nothing but perpetuate them.
For example, you can read my Open Letter to the Spectator regarding their story of a mum & PND.
However, I do hope we are all getting better at tackling the myths and the stigma which is great!
Before Reuben was born, I now realise, I carried around many myths about maternal mental illness. I guess, to begin with I really didn’t know what it was – so that was never going to inform my belief system well. But if you had asked me I would have told you “It would happen to someone else”, i.e not me!
I just assumed I’d be fine – I had the love and support of my husband and family and this was a wanted baby – what could ever go wrong?! If you pushed me, I’d probably of admitted that I believed someone who had more difficult circumstances to deal with was more likely to fall victim. Hmm…wrong. There is no one reason that a mum (or dad) get’s PND. There is no formula that predicts who will and who won’t – ANYONE can suffer and many times there is ‘no reason’ to tag onto it.
I think I also believed the myth that it meant you cried all the time, didn’t/couldn’t get out of bed or refused to practically care for your baby – none of which were my reality, in the first few months.
The truth is PND can present in many different forms and us mums learn how to hide it well, put everyone else first and do what is needed, to the detriment of ourselves.
As the months went on and my cries for help were dismissed, by HCP’s, I bought into many lies about the illness which I was suffering from. Remember, I didn’t know, at this point, that I was mentally un well. Instead, I convinced myself that this was my fault; that I deserved to feel this way; that I internally flawed; that I had missed the ‘mum gene’; that I was a failure; better off out of life altogether; that things were always going to be this way and this hard. I bought into the belief that I should be blamed and should feel very ashamed. None of these were, or are, true. It’s taken me a year in recovery to be able to ‘let go’ of many of those lies that tormented me every day.
I put out a call on my social media, a few months ago, for you to share your myths too.
Thanks to all of you who have sent me your ideas and thoughts, it’s great to be able to bust them together!
Here’s what some of you came up with :
“PND is something that you can control yourself without professional help” – Natalie
“That only first time mums get PND. That you’re not able to function, that you’re a danger to yourself/ little one” – Zoe
“I’m all alone, no one has been here before me. I very much recall being in this zone for a loooong time. I honestly did not know what was wrong with me. I was naïve to mental health issues to the degree that PND wasn’t even on my radar. I just assumed I was the first woman in the world to feel ‘low’ after having a baby. It’s crazy but it’s true! Feeling like I was the ‘only one’ made me so much more reluctant to talk. Now that I’m out the other end, so to speak, I’m starting to believe that PND is so prevalent it is almost to be expected to some degree or another. Even the smallest amount of baby blues shouldn’t be swept under a rug. Let’s promise to make others feel less alone by owning up to our struggles.” – Sarah
“That it means you’re a rubbish mum” – Reebs
“That your child will automatically be removed from you, that you can’t possibly be a good mum if you have a mental health difficulty, that there is no support for mothers out there with mental health difficulties to help them manage their illness & parent well, that your child will ‘issues’…” – Laura
“That is it something you can snap out of and miraculously “be better”, if you just put your mind to it. That if you have PND you don’t love/have bonded with your baby” – Maddy
“I just need to snap out of it! If you could just ‘snap out of it’, believe me, you would! This myth sometimes gets perpetuated by non-sufferers too, and as a result can be even more damaging. The only thing worse than you believing you can snap out of it, is someone telling you to. Snapping out of a broken brain is no less ridiculous then snapping out of a broken bone. Bones take a long time to heal and sadly the mind can take a lot longer still.” – Sarah
“You shouldn’t cry in front of your children” – ‘Mumgineer’
“That if you tell the DR they might think you are mad and take your children away” – Fionnuala
“I felt my PND was ‘real’ because I was functioning. Like with most MH issues it has to be extreme to be ‘real'” – ‘Cigarettes & Calpol’
“Myth around PND: There is a time-limit. It can in fact take years to recover and blend into other depression” – Louise
“That it’s only experienced by women & is caused by hormones” – Partners to Parents
So, what’s the truth?
- PND is an illness – no one is to blame and we should not feel ashamed.
- Dads can suffer with PND too.
- PND issues can begin in pregnancy (Antenatal Depression) and include anxiety, OCD and PTSD too.
- It doesn’t mean you are a bad parent – far from it.
- You can recover from this – you can get better.
- There is help available and there is support, you just need to find what is right for you (check out my ‘Help for PND’ pages for more info).
- You are not alone.
- The bad days are crap but slowly you will have more good than bad.
- Relapse and set backs happen – that’s just part of the journey of recovery. I’ve been there too, read about it here.
- It’s okay to not be ok. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to speak up about how you are. It’s okay to be a mum (or dad) with PND. You will be ok.