I’ve been thinking about postnatal depression and how it is often called the baby blues. That makes it sound like an interlude of melancholy between bouts of normal parenting. Postnatal depression is so far from this: it can be terrifying, bleak and overwhelming, and all the more so for it being such a hard thing to talk to others about.
I read the blog of a young women suffering from postnatal depression who described how she’s terrified to talk about it, but at the same time, she wants others to know what she’s going through. For her postnatal depression isn’t about the bond someone has with their baby and their ability to parent, or the inability to cope with a huge life change. For her it’s about her fear that she’s a terrible mother. She worries that her baby doesn’t like her, and these thoughts keep her up at night. She feels detached from the world; that she’s failing her child. At her absolute worst, she thinks about harming her baby, and then about taking her own life.
Being able to talk to others about feelings like that is enormously daunting, particularly when facing the fear that you might be seen as an risk to your own child or even have your baby taken away. When postnatal depression is discussed, people’s ignorance and judgemental attitudes sometimes come out. This young woman had friends tell her that post natal depression ‘is just tiredness’, that those suffering ‘just need to snap out of it’, ‘need to realise how lucky they are’, and, the absolute worst, ‘some people don’t deserve to be parents’.
I’m reminded again of how much we can fear other people’s mental anguish. When it’s hard to understand it’s so much easier to just condemn or dismiss. We need to always remember that no one with post natal depression is suffering through choice, no one wants post natal depression. And that those suffering can be helped through their suffering: what they will need is the compassion, acceptance and kindness of those they love and the help and understanding of professionals.