Thanks for coming along to share Part 2 of my questions list… This part of my journey centers more around the issues I found with the social impact of having Postnatal Depression. Even though I work in this very health area, I still found it extremely difficult to come to terms with the stigma and perceived judgement I felt I would receive about my diagnosis if those around me knew. It’s silly, isn’t it? I speak to new mums all the time about PND and how it has become a very real health condition and how they should not feel any shame at all in getting the support they need from those around them – was it time to practice what I preach? One very important lesson I’ve learned is until you’ve been through a similar experience yourself, you can NEVER completely understand Postnatal Depression and the complexities it brings for those who are effected.
In the lead up to my diagnosis, I had searched for (and fortunately found) a great women’s health therapist who I had visited on and off for counseling sessions before Christmas. When I found Mrs D, my intention was to sort through my feelings about the LM’s birth and the trauma I’d felt in the months following his birth. I also wanted to speak with her about some of the “big” decisions I had made with regard to my family over the previous couple of years – namely, my parents, step-father, brothers, and sister-in-law. Mrs D proved to be a great therapist for my personality, so when my PND diagnosis was made I felt more than comfortable going to her to further explore the events that had led me to this point.
When I say Mrs D was great for my personality, what I mean is: She has a very black-and-white approach to therapy, very blunt and to the point. This approach works extremely well for me as personally I am, and always have been, very much like that. I don’t tolerate fools easily, and certainly find it difficult to wrap things in cotton wool when I feel a more direct approach is required. They always say your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness, and I feel this particular trait of mine highlights the point perfectly! So, when Mrs D explained her counseling approach to me I thought, “Finally! Someone who is just going to tell me like it is!”. I remember feeling both relieved and petrified.
Needless to say, there were many tears, many confronting moments (some of which I will post about another time), and many realisations about myself, and my life, that have helped me enormously. I believe the key to a good therapist, is finding one who relates well to your personality. If you need the blunt approach as I did, ensure you find someone who is willing to speak with you about things this way. If you need the “softly, softly” approach, then be sure you can connect with your therapist in this way before committing to further sessions. Trust is the vital ingredient to the Therapy Cake and if you don’t have it, nothing will bind and you’ll be left feeling unfulfilled and very dissatisfied. Neither of these feelings bode well for a mum experiencing PND as quite often just the courage it takes to attend a therapy session is overwhelming, let alone then having to leave feeling as though nothing was achieved. Please keep searching for the right therapist, one you can trust and connect with. Even if this requires a few false starts and takes you a little while, I promise it will be well worth your effort.
Who will I tell?
Please let me start by saying that my choice to NOT tell many people about my PND diagnosis did not centre entirely around the stigma or judgement I felt I would receive. This was certainly a part of it, but a part I felt I could overcome – as I said above, I needed to start practicing what I preached and I felt relatively comfortable with that. What I did find more difficult however, was the pressure I felt such a confession would place on me personally. A pressure I felt I simply couldn’t handle. One thing I have come to terms with over the past 12 months are my limitations and when to push that comfort zone, and when not to. As it was (and still is), I struggle daily with the pressure my depression weighs on my mind, and to have others know feels like it would be adding to that pressure, not helping it go away. Please remember though, this is my personal experience. I’m not saying my choice has been right or wrong, but what I do know is that it’s been the right choice for me. For others, I’m sure having many more people within their support network is the best option. It really is a personal decision and one I feel you must be truly comfortable with before making. Only we know our strengths and limitations, and some mothers may not even be aware of theirs which only proves to make their journey all that more difficult.
My choice, therefore, was to confide in very few people. Other than telling my HF (of course!), my mother was the first person I told after my visit to Dr J that morning. I couldn’t speak without crying and I knew she felt every bit of my pain. In many ways, I feel like my diagnosis and subsequent vulnerability has brought us closer together in our understanding of life and the way in which these things work. Without her support, I honestly don’t know where I’d be. The only other people I immediately confided in were my two closest girlfriends (each of whom have babes 2 months older than the LM). I couldn’t speak after my conversation with mum, so decided to email them both about what the past couple of months had been for me. Their replies, and our following conversations, were filled with understanding and compassion. One of them, who I’ve been friends with for over 20 years, had tried to bring up the subject of PND with me a couple of months previously. Whilst I hadn’t rejected her comments at the time, I had convinced her (and myself) that the period of negative thoughts I was experiencing would pass and things would be okay again. Needless to say, she was most relieved to know I’d finally sort the help I needed. To this day, both girl’s support has been unwavering. Not overbearing, or underwhelming… But just right! I consider myself truly lucky to have these women (and my HF) in my life and know this journey would not be the same without them.
Oh, dear… I just noticed the word count! I was going to continue with my thoughts about returning to work and what the future now looks like but fear my word count is already horrendously high. So instead, I will add a Part 3 to this little series of questions and not ramble on too much longer. I’m not sure if the information above helps in clarifying the thought process behind these steps in my PND journey so far, so please do share your own questions or thoughts about your experience. I’d really love to hear from you.
Thanks so much as always, and I look forward to sharing the final questions over the coming week. Take care.