As most of you will know, I struggle a bit with PND and anxiety. Since roughly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience PND to some degree, I’m far from alone.
While we often know something isn’t quite right, it’s very common to do what I did for a long time and try to ignore or deny the issue; and it’s also very normal when we’re in the middle of it to not realise it at all. The early signs can be quite broad: being overly tired or lethargic, losing appetite, insomnia, not finding joy in things you normally do, being overly emotional, being numb to emotion, crying lots, getting angry overly quickly… These are all things we often try to “explain away”, but we should actually pay close attention, as they can be signs that we perhaps aren’t coping as well as we could be. It sometimes takes a gentle hint (or two or three… or twenty) from a loved one to give us that wee nudge to go and seek help and start our journey back to wellness.
It’s so hard to watch someone you love struggle. I’ve been on both sides of it, so I understand. You just want to scoop them up and give their soul a hug and say “MY GOD DON’T YOU KNOW HOW AMAZING YOU ARE???”. You wish they could see themselves the way you see them, and you wish you could just wave a magic wand and take their pain away – to be honest, they probably wish you could too.
It can also be difficult, if you know someone close to you is struggling, to figure out how to address it with them. You might worry that they’ll feel offended or like you’re accusing them of failing, or you might feel that asking “are you OK?” is a bit awkward or forward or confrontational.
Sometimes you just don’t know what to say, so you may be tempted to say nothing instead of risking saying the wrong thing. Please don’t be afraid to offer support; none of us say the right thing all the time, but if we at least let our loved ones know we’re here for them, that’s far better than ignoring the issue.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with straight out asking if someone’s OK but sometimes it’s helpful or feels more comfortable to use different phrasing. To help, a friend of mine who is a Childbirth Educator helped me compile a list of different ways to ask your loved one if they’re OK or to let them know you’re there to support them. Most of these aren’t exclusively for people who may have PND either; they could also be helpful conversation starters if your loved one has recently suffered a loss and is grieving, or if they’re going through stressful times.
Here are some things you could say:
- “What can I do to help you out?”
- “How about I *do the dishes, do the laundry, vacuum, etc* so you can have a bit of a break?”
- “You’re doing so well, parenting is such hard work. How do you feel you’re coping?”
- “I’d like to drop a meal off to you. What day would suit?”
- “I’m grabbing a coffee. Are you up for a visitor if I bribe you with caffeine and treats?”
- “Let’s go for a walk – I could use some fresh air and would love your company.”
- “Shall I take the kids out for a bit so you can catch up on some sleep?”
- “I’m at the supermarket, do you need anything? I’m happy to drop off on my way home.”
- “I really struggled in those first few months and sometimes felt a bit *low, isolated, overwhelmed*, how have you been feeling? Really feeling?”
- “Do you feel like you’re getting enough support?”
- “If you start feeling a bit low, don’t hesitate to call me – any time.”
- “It wouldn’t hurt to have a chat to your GP about how you’re feeling – here, I’ll hold the baby while you call and make an appointment.”
- “Don’t worry about the washing, I’ll pop round and give you a hand with it.”
- “How are you doing? I’ve noticed you don’t seem quite yourself lately.”
- “How often are you having bad days? Do you think it might be time to go have a chat with someone about it?”
- “Jumping from one child to two (or three or four) takes quite a bit of adjustment! How are you feeling about it all?”
- “Have you had any time to yourself lately?”
- “Let’s set a time each week to catch up and reflect on how you’re feeling.”
- “You mentioned a while ago that you were struggling a bit – how are you feeling now?”
- “Have you eaten today?”
- “It’s super normal to find these early days tough, but if you don’t feel like you’re coping please let me know.”
- “Hey, was just thinking about you. Keen for a catch up and chat about life?”
- “What are you finding hard at the moment? Is the bad outweighing the good, do you think?”
- “I’ve noticed you’ve told me all about the baby/the baby’s day… How about you? How has your day been?”
- “When you’re feeling rough, what do you need from me? Do you need a hug or do you just need some space?”
If at first they assure you that everything’s fine, they very well may be – but keep an eye on how they’re coping, keep supporting them as best you can, and ask again regularly if they seem to still be struggling. I’m sure you can appreciate how difficult it can be to talk – I definitely found it hard to talk about it, even to those closest to me. In fact, especially them, because I felt like I was letting them down. So a bit of regular encouragement (especially from my partner) was definitely a crucial part of my recovery.
After I shared my post about my own PND a while back, I was so touched at how much support came out of the woodwork. If you’re going through it, or even think you might be but aren’t sure, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you’ve been waiting for a sign, let this be it!
I hope this is helpful. Caring for someone who is having a rough time can be tough, so please make sure to look after yourself as well ❤ Just as you should treat others the way you’d want to be treated, you should also treat yourself the way you’d want your loved ones to be treated.