Today i am linking up with Rhonda's ‘On my Mind' feature and thinking about postnatal depression and how it effects families everywhere.
This photo of my family had me thinking last night……
Why aren't i just so happy with this beautiful family that i have? The answer is that i have postnatal depression and i am working everyday to be mindful of the wonderful things in my life and the cloud that sometimes overtakes me.
I had severe postnatal depression when my now teen was born 15 years ago, it went undiagnosed for 18 months and by then i had convvinced myself that i was the worst mother ever. I was also coping with a marriage breakdown, emotional abuse, single parenthood and money issues and the stigma of ‘perfect parenting'.
This time around as i had my beautiful twins i was more aware of the signs to look for and the knowledge that it was ok to reach out for help rather than hiding my feelings behind a mask for fear of being labelled a ‘bad Mum'. I was more prepared this time as the last few years i had coordinated a postnatal depression awareness and support program for our region. I worked with a psychologist to develop resources and therapeutic support groups for mum's and dad's. My program received funding from the government to help support parents to bond with their babies and i felt (and still do) very strongly about getting information out there about postnatal depression and lessening the stigma in our society so that families will feel safe to ask for help.
We organised a conference bringing speakers who are experts in this field from across Australia to our local area. The conference (for parents and health and community workers) was held in Byron Bay and titled ‘Preventing the Bough from Breaking'. I think it helped many workers go back to the families they were working with with a greater understanding of PND and strategies to use to support them. Our local media were really supportive of the community awareness campaign.
I wrote a self help type workbook based on our support group so that those who didn't feel comfortable coming to a group or were isolated were able to use the book (and accompanying DVD)at home or with a counsellor or supportive friend or family member. We received funding to distribute these workbooks throughout the local region free of charge to parents we deemed at risk.
I'm proud of the supports i was able to put in place as i wanted to make sure that mum's, dad's and concerned friends and family memebers had somewhere to go to seek information and advice. I'm not ashamed to say i have used some of those very same supports since i have left work and had my twins. Just because i was prepared doesn't mean it hasn't been a very tough first year. I am beginning to feel better now but it has been a lot of work and very hard on my older daughter and wonderfully patient partner.
Part of writing this blog was to help me practice mindfulness techniques and remind myself of the small things i am achieving each day even if they seem insignificant or not worthy. I am a perfectionist and very hard on myself which is a high risk trait for any new mum! My little family has been so very supportive and i still get enormous feelings of guilt after i have snapped at them or am in tears when they return home from school or work. I am still trying to work through that and i try to appreciate them and find that happy, positive partner/mother/woman that i know is still inside me. It really is hard on your support people….i had many father's and grandparents come to see me when i was at work, seeking help for their loved one…who often wouldn't acknowledge how they were feeling.
It is a hard thing as a parent to admit you are not coping….the media and society have built parenthood up into this magical thing…..and parts of it are of course, but it is bloody hard work too and it is ok to feel overwhelmed. I believe there is a higher incidence of PND today because we often no longer have our extended family support systems close by. I know this is a huge factor for us…..my partner's parents have both passed away and my parents live in a different state as do my grandparents. Many i saw coming through our program were in similar circumstances…..there was no one to provide a shoulder to cry on or respite to spend some time on self or with a partner. I know my partner and i have lost a little of our relationship as we just never get alone time together as a couple anymore.
People often ask me why i am ok to talk about my personal journey with postnatal depression…do i feel embarassed? NO…the reason why i talk about it candidly is that i know there is always someone listening who knows a sister, partner, wife or loved one that is perhaps showing the same signs….they don't always speak up but i hope that the word gets out and little by little the stigma is lessened. If you are reading this and feel you might be suffering PND or know someone that perhaps is…i encourage you to visit 2 of my favourite websites that are just bursting with resources and information.
They both have excellent downloadable resources and tips on how to approach loved ones you might be concerned about.
Postnatal Depression Awareness Week here in Australia is November 13-19th so next time you see that person who has just had a baby….ask how things are going and really listen….dig a little if you have to because we women are so good at putting on a brave front for others!
As for me…i am going to keep blogging as it is helping i think and keep loving my family and i know i will come out the other side ok.
Thanks for reading….i know it was a long one but hopefully my words may have reached out to one person who is feeling overwhelmed and wondering where to turn…you don't have to feel this way and you don't have to do it alone.