A couple weeks ago I finally shared a post about my journey with postnatal distress (PND). Although it was hard and bloody scary to actually put it out there, I am so glad I did, because doing so was both healing and empowering. I didn’t share for pity or to make others feel bad or to say I have it worse than anyone else. I shared because I wanted to raise awareness, I wanted to add my voice and support to the other brave women (and men) who have spoken up before me, but mostly, I wanted to help. I wanted to help anyone who might be struggling to realise that they are capable of – and deserve to – feel so much better. I wanted to encourage others to get help and support if they needed it. And I wanted everyone to know, they are not alone. Not even slightly.
Since sharing my story I was inundated with messages and comments of support and comfort, as well as a multitude of women – some who I know personally, others who stumbled across my post – who could relate. The response was far greater (and more positive) than I expected, and for that I am truly grateful. I’ve learnt a few things since admitting to myself and others that I have PND, and I thought I’d share.
1. PND does not discriminate.
I had always thought, slightly naïvely, that PND only occurred in women who either had little to no support, had high needs babies, or had suffered depression or anxiety in the past. This odd idea in my head was partly why I denied that I had a problem for so long, and why I felt so much guilt once I finally came to terms with it. Sure, lack of support can increase the risk, but in reality, anyone can get PND – dads too. I have amazing support, my baby is, in the grand scheme of things, not particularly “high needs”, and I didn’t get it when I had my first and was much younger, so I told myself I couldn’t possibly have it because I don’t fit the “PND criteria”. I also told myself I was basically dishonouring my partner for having PND, that I was letting him down and making him look bad – yeah, that wasn’t the real me talking there, it was the nasty inner cow me. I’m working on evicting her.
2. Having PND does not mean you’ve failed – or that anyone else has.
As I said above, anyone can get PND. And although you can take steps to try to avoid or alleviate it, there isn’t necessarily anything you can do to completely erase the risk. I felt so guilty after posting because I got messages from people apologising to me for not checking in enough, not supporting enough, not realising, and so on. But actually, part of my issue was that I started purposely avoiding talking to people, I isolated myself out of fear, and got really good at putting on a brave face because I didn’t want to let anyone know I was hurting. So this isn’t anyone’s fault – or mine. It’s just the illness; it’s just what happened. It was hard for me to accept that I hadn’t failed myself by allowing this thing to happen, but once I did, it was like a huge sack of shitty guilt had just been taken off my shoulders.
3. Talking about it feels really good. Really, really good.
I’m kicking myself in hindsight for resisting talking about it openly for so long, because honestly, it feels so much better letting it all out. Trying to hide my struggles is physically exhausting. You know when you were a kid and held your breath through the tunnels and by the end of a particularly long tunnel you felt like your chest was going to explode? That’s how it feels sometimes trying to act like you have it all together when inside you’re stressing about everything. And actually, once you let the words out, quite often whatever your problem is, it loses a lot of power. I should have known this; my partner and I purposely talk about all the little things so they don’t get bottled up and turn into big things. You just sometimes need a reminder to walk the walk and take your own advice. Or I do, at least. Plus, talking about it opened the conversation and gave others an opportunity to start talking about it too, and honestly, that is just the best feeling.
4. Even though I am a new blogger I have influence.
It’s hard starting a blog and seeing your stats look rather measly compared to bigger, established bloggers. It’s also hard to know whether it’s worth putting the effort in considering the huge number of mum bloggers out there – there isn’t exactly a huge gap in the market! But seeing that post reach so many people was so encouraging (and just a touch overwhelming). I said to my partner before I published it, “if I help even one person find the strength to get help, it’ll be worth it.” And by the looks of it, I achieved that (small but realistic and achievable!) goal. I am so glad that my story helped someone; that makes the work, the terror, the stress – all the elements that go into starting and building a blog – all worth it.
5. People won’t judge you, but they might treat you differently – but this is OK.
I was a bit worried pre-post that people would start treating me like I was broken or diseased, or like I was an attention seeker or a fake. But actually, everyone was really supportive, albeit somewhat surprised. The really lovely thing was that people understood, they either understood what it’s like because they’d experienced similar, or they understood what I was trying to achieve by putting my raw, vulnerable self on a public platform. And anyone who didn’t understand was kind and tactful enough to not let me know 😉. As I feared, though, many people did start treating me differently; but not in the way I expected. People began checking in on me more, and in particular I noticed my family start to watch me closer and step in to reassure me before I even had time to stop and register that I was stressed or anxious. There is a little stubborn part of me that initially got irritated and offended that I was being handled like glass, but once I gave myself a bit of a kick up the ass I realised that all of that was them helping me, that was them caring about me and for me. That was them showing their support and love – which is definitely OK with me. And to be honest, when I found out people close to me were struggling, I started treating them differently too – because I cared. So I can definitely understand people treating me differently; it’s actually a good thing.
So those are a few of the things I’ve learnt. I’m so glad I had the support and encouragement to start talking about this. I now know that I can and will get through this and can get back to living, rather than just existing! If you’re like me and on the road to better and brighter things, what are some things you’ve learnt? Let me know below or on my Facebook page.
Until next time ❤