It is mental health awareness week 2017 #MHAW17. I never thought I would be writing about depression, but here I am.
My wife has health anxiety and has suffered from depression in the past prior to having children. I don’t fully understand depression and can’t empathise with anybody who has suffered from depression because I have never been depressed. However, I don’t just brush the subject under the carpet. I’m open-minded and willing to learn.
During my life before children (my god life has changed), I would always do what I can to support my wife during bad times, but I have always felt useless because I never knew exactly what to do. I pretty much encourage her to do what she wished and been there behind her. I thought this was good enough and it seemed to have worked.
Recently, my wife has informed me that she has Postnatal depression. This genuinely took me by surprise. How on earth didn’t I know this? How did I not see the ‘signs’ that google or others tell you?
This news really made me feel like crap! Like, proper crap because I should be doing more to help her. Have I been too wrapped up in my work? Too busy concentrating on the kids? Either way, this isn’t about me, it is about helping my wife. I will be taking more notice of it and doing what I can. Whatever that involves, I am yet to work it out.
It doesn’t surprise me that some women get Postnatal depression. When you have a baby, your cosy life gets absolutely ripped from under you. And anyone who has only one young child and thinks they have no time to breathe, has no idea what it is like to have two! God only knows what it is like to have 3 or more, or twins! I don’t know how anybody copes, but I suppose you just do. You get on with how you need to and just make things work. You have no choice.
Having a new baby more or less stuck to your chest for more hours a day than there is day light, every day is tough. Not to mention negotiating a demanding and emotional toddler! I have the luxury of going to work. My job is pretty stressful and very busy, but it is a breeze compared to when I come home to what I call the night shift. It is a pleasure to drive my vehicle alone without a screaming child, but my wife rarely has the same opportunity. I am happy to have my weekend dictated to me whilst we have a baby and toddler because Poppy deserves whatever she wants to do more than me because although I am the bread-winner in our house, Poppy has the much harder job. I have been talking to a few other dad bloggers lately, many are SAHD’s stay-at-home-dads. I honestly don’t think I could do it and applaud anyone who can. I don’t think I have the patience!
When you become parents for the first time, there is a lot of adjusting to do. I strongly advise to both parents that you take time to look at the others perspective. You may think your job is the toughest job in the world, but think what your partner may be going through day in day out, particularly if they are the stay-at-home-parent.
This works both ways for both parents but I personally feel in our household, Poppy’s job is harder than mine. Maybe our situation is just particularly difficult, but even when we just had toddler Taormina, my role was still the easy one. People don’t always believe me when I say that, but it is true!
It is no surprise I have witnessed people I know break up shortly after having children. You both have to be on the same wave length with adjusting to parental life. Your time with the other half is massively reduced. The attention you once had can become almost non-existent. You have to get over it and push on with what is important, however you also need to make time for each other and relish the rare moments you may have.
The period we are going through at the moment is seriously tough. We have a 2 1/2 year old and a 5 month old. What doesn’t help is the lack of sleep that occurs in our household. Even I, at times wish I could disappear for a day or two but I know my responsibilities. Fortunately I’m the type of person who could have the most terrible day, but go to bed and wake up refreshed forgetting all of yesterday’s gloom.
My philosophy is simple “learn from the past, concentrate on the present and aim for the future”
The lead up to having a baby can also be incredibly stressful. Although the NHS sends strong messages out about the support towards anyone with mental health issues, in practise from experience this is far from the truth. Poppy specifically went to a midwife appointment early on in pregnancy and told the midwife she was concerned she will become depressed. The midwife actually turned around and said to Poppy “well… you aren’t bipolar or suicidal, so… I will refer you but there isn’t much that can be done”. I cannot tell you how furious I was. I wasn’t at this appointment but made a point of going to the next few because that particular midwife clearly missed the NHS mental health memo! I’m not slating all midwives though, this was an individual who I feel really needs to be reviewed because she made my wife feel like complete crap! Most others we have dealt with do an absolutely fantastic job. This highlights the importance of having close ones around you who can emotionally support you.
Poppy is the first one to be there for family and friends when they are having a hard time and it has taught me to look at the bigger picture. When you may think someone close is acting a little off or different. Ask yourself, why are they doing that? There’s usually a genuine reason and instead of acting in the same manner and give the cold shoulder, it doesn’t hurt to ask that person if something is up.
I once foolishly said to my mother in law that I didn’t think I could become depressed – she really shot me down. She doesn’t mix her words and said anybody could suffer from depression. She’s absolutely right! Maybe my pig ignorance is the reason I didn’t know my wife was suffering, but it has made me stop and think I should be doing much more because what I was doing clearly wasn’t enough.
I hope others can learn from my mistake and ensure you are there for your loved ones as much as possible. You may be the structure that keeps the building standing.
I have mentioned many negative points regarding becoming parents in this post, but believe me, being a parent is the best thing in the world! The journey you start is incredible and will make you, who you are. I wouldn’t change it for anything!!!
I claim to be no expert on mental health at all. In fact I am quite the opposite. For further info on mental heath, please visit the mental health foundation.