Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Baby Blues, PND And Mental Illness During Parenthood

Baby blues & PND

Some statistics suggest that as many as 1 in 5 women suffer with post-natal depression (PND) at some point, although it's not exclusive to the mothers of newborns. Dads can get PND too. Depression can strike at any point during parenthood to any one of us. Anyone who believes that it shows weakness is not stronger than one who suffers, merely fortunate that they haven't themselves suffered before.

We want you parents to know that, if you are struck by depression, it doesn't make you a bad person, or a bad parent. You are not weak, or pathetic. Like the flu, it can make you feel lousy for a while. It can feel like a huge physical weight, and can make you tired and unmotivated. It can feel awful while it lasts, and it can drag and feel like you won't ever feel normal again, and like it won't ever pass. But it will. 

What can you do about it?

Reach out to family and friends for help. None of us like to admit that we're struggling, and a lot of us are too proud to ask for help, but it is okay to reach out. Lots of people like to be asked for help. Even if it's just asking a friend to sit with your child for a couple of hours while you have a bubbly bath in peace, or catch up on some sleep. Nobody should judge you, because more of us than we like to admit know exactly what it's like.

Speak with your Health Visitor. Health Visitors generally make a limited amount of visits in the early weeks of your child's life to check weights and sizes of babies, before disappearing rarely to be seen again, but this isn't all that they're there for. They are an invaluable source of support and information, and often see parents not coping as well as they'd like to. They can arrange to visit you more frequently, and offer you more support. Sometimes, they might put you in touch with a family support worker, who will happily visit you, at your convenience, just for a cup of tea and a chat about how everything's going. They're never judgmental, and offer a listening ear to offload on.

Speak to your doctor. This is often the bravest, but most positive step you can take. Doctors deal with mental illness possibly as often as they do coughs and colds. Contrary to what some believe, mental illness is not dissimilar to physical illness. In fact, it can be just as debilitating. You won't be laughed out of the doctor's office to say that you're feeling weepy, angry, excessively emotional or are being troubled by bad thoughts, and you certainly won't be wasting their time. It's what they're there for! They might offer you some form of therapy, or even some medication to lift your mood, and there is no shame in taking it. 

Embrace it. Understand that changes in mood are just the nature of human emotion. Negative emotions are normal. Sadness, anxiety and anger, they're just feelings, and feelings can change and be changed. It's really unpleasant to be stuck in a low mood, with negative emotions and thought patterns. Just ride the wave, and hold on tight. Seek support, and wait for it to pass. It will.

Eat well, and exercise. This is often easier said than done. When the weight of your sadness sits heavily on you and you can hardly bring yourself to move from the sofa, and you crave fatty, sugary carbs for comfort, diet and exercise are the absolute last thing on your mind, but hear me out. Low moods can be brought on by something as simple as a vitamin deficiency. Increase your intake of B vitamins, zinc, iron and omega 3 oils, which can help to boost your brain health. Perhaps speak to your pharmacist about taking supplements. If you can bring yourself to even just go for a brisk walk with your pushchair as a short workout, not only will the fresh air do you and your little one the world of good, but it'll release those feel-good endorphins. 

Get some rest. This isn't always entirely possible with children. You can't always "sleep when they sleep" like they recommend. When babies are sleeping it's your only opportunity to catch up on your you-time. You can find yourself restless and unable to settle. It's normal. But overtiredness can cause us to think and act in ways we wouldn't if our minds and bodies were well rested. Don't be fearful of sounding weak for telling someone that you need some sleep. We all need sleep, to restore and repair and replenish ourselves. Sleep is a basic human need. Don't be worried to tell someone close to you that you need them to watch your small one while you catch up on some shut-eye. They'll understand. Really, they will. Particularly when you remind them what sleep deprivation feels like! 

Don't be ashamed. The Time To Change campaign, as well as plenty of individuals who struggle with their mental health, are working towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. Struggling with your mental health isn't a crime, it's not a weakness. Speak out and fight the stigma too. Hold your head high and be proud. You can win the battle.

Just keep telling yourself and have faith that it will get easier. Take that from someone who has been there.

Skibz, Supporting Time To Change and Mums With Mental Health Issues

For further information, here are some links that may be of use to you:

No comments:

Post a Comment