Postnatal depression – a lived-experience
*Based on my Lived Experience Learnings*
Just knowing what the “postnatal depression signs” are, before having a baby, I feel, means nothing. The fact is, when you have a baby, you completely lose yourself (from my personal experience that is).
It is Perinatal Mental Health Week. And I am a huge, huge advocate for sharing the realities of parenthood, motherhood, all the hoods. Completely honest and open here because I feel in order for us to make a difference in mental health, in postnatal depression, in perinatal mental health, we need to start sharing lived experienced stories and honest realities of life. Because in order for us to support the next generation, to support ourselves, our own generation, we need to paint the real picture of life.
And life is up and down. It’s a roller coaster. It’ll always be a roller coaster. And so if we can better equip our children and ourselves and the upcoming parents of the world, if we can equip them by painting the reality of what it’s like, and it’s not about being negative, it’s just reality.
And so today I actually stumbled across a post that I wrote when I was deep in new parent life with baby number two. And oh man, I’m so glad I wrote this because it was real. It was so real. And anyway, I’m going to read it out to you.
So it starts.
Keeping it real. This week has been fucking hard. Do I, don’t I post? What value are you even adding Lou? People don’t want to hear the rant that you have about how fucking hard it’s been, but what runs through my head is the respect I have for all those single parents out there. The FIFO mums, the ones with very little or no support. Like fuck me, give me your tips.
The other thing is all the fake, I have my shit together accounts and posts, which give a false sense to new parents about how you should be and how you should feel.
Well, I’m going to paint a picture called reality. I want to send a message to the new moms and dads to show that you do not have to conform to the stigma that is so strongly attached to parenthood and sprayed all over social media, which I think I already paint a good picture because I’m as real and as raw as you get it.
This week I’ve cried a lot. I haven’t been able to find 30 every day. I haven’t been able to leave the house much apart from getting a drive through coffee two times a day so that I can get through. I haven’t been able to do anything for myself, the stuff that lights me up. I get to 3:00 PM and realize I haven’t even fucking eaten anything. I’ve gone through at least three boxes of wipes, sorry environment, wiping off snot, shit and vomit from every part of the house.
I’ve cried some more. We haven’t slept more than four hours a night. I think I’ve changed the beds eight times, done at least three loads of washing a day, watched my two and a half year old scream at the window for hours asking for daddy, because obviously he’s the fun one at the moment. And I can’t really hold two crying kids.
My back aches from holding … God, I’m getting emotional because this, I just remember how hard it was. My back aches from holding a clinging, nine kilo, seven month old for hours. Hubby’s been working like a dog through the virus, coming home and joining me in the shit fight at home. The relentlessness of dishes, packing and unpacking toys, picking up shit constantly. I think you get the picture.
So yeah, just having a rant and I know there are ups and downs and I know we will all get through it obviously. I know people have it worse off. I know all the things. I know. I just want to show up as an authentic mom, as an honest mum, to send the message. Send a message to all the moms and dads who may have been thinking they aren’t doing a good job or they aren’t coping or are comparing themselves to the stigma shit or just need to know that they aren’t alone. I’m sharing this to say this is parenthood. And sometimes it really fucking sucks.
It is really fucking hard, but God damn, you get really good at coping in whatever that looks like for you. So if you’re drinking 18 coffees a day, crying uncontrollably, drinking build wine, I think I’m meant to say bulk wine, kids having screen time, whatever it is that you need to do, fucking do it. And we are here right beside you.
written SEPTEMBER 2019
God, that really fucking hits home doesn’t it?
And so I think with postnatal depression, with postnatal anxiety, with the mental health struggles that come with parenthood, whether it’s your first baby, second baby, third baby, fourth baby, it doesn’t matter. Because every single time is different.
You’ve got a whole new environment with more people, with more emotions, with more needs, needing to be met. And I think a lot of the time as a mum or a dad, as a parent, we are looking after everyone. We are getting all our shit drained out of us. And it’s just like, who’s looking after that mum? Who’s looking after her?
And what I’ve learnt is that as mums, as a community of mums, as a society, we need to look after each other and do you know how we can do that the best?
What I feel will make a difference, is sharing this real shit. Sharing it. When someone says, how are you going, not masking it up and saying, “Oh yeah, I’m okay.”
What I’ve learnt is by getting vulnerable, the vulnerabilities that I’ve shared about parenthood and about my mental illnesses, that saved people’s lives because they feel less alone.
Because it’s like it gives them permission to be like, oh fuck, okay. We can say that we’re struggling. Of course you’re struggling.
And struggling isn’t a bad word. It’s not a negative thing.
But because we’ve been brought up in a world and a society and the different generational kind of impacts, we’ve attached it to if you’re struggling, you’re failing.
If you’re struggling, you fucking don’t have your shit together.
I want you to know, no, one’s got their shit together.
It is hard.
It is so hard and things being hard isn’t a bad thing.
But what we need to learn and realize is that together by sharing the truths, by sharing realities, we can support each other. We can help each other by doing that, by being fucking honest.
I think when I wrote this, this was in September 2019, so two years ago, something like this needs to be shared constantly because it’s the truth for a lot of people. And yes, I understand that people have different experiences and that’s what we need to accept and acknowledge that just because little Sally is holding her shit together or pretending or whatever it is, we need to not compare our own situations to others. Try not to anyway. I know it’s fucking hard not to do that because when you’re a mum, that’s what you do. You’re like, well, do I do this or don’t I do that? Or is that, am I doing it right? Or is this because I did this? Is that because I? It’s absolutely constant.
The fact is there is not one same point by point experience in any motherhood journey. This is an important reminder
So, today I want to share 3️⃣ lessons I learnt through the mess that can be, postnatal depression & anxiety;
1️⃣ As mums, as a community of mums, as a society, we need to look after each other and do you know how we can do that the best? What I feel will make a difference, is sharing the real shit. The real feelings. Sharing all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly. When someone says, “How are you going?”, not masking it up and saying, “Oh yeah, I’m okay.” Actually opening up and getting vulnerable. Vulnerability doesn’t kill people, it saves people!
2️⃣ Getting vulnerable creates stronger, more authentic connections, creates more space to support each other, getting vulnerable reduces judgement and the amount of fucks you give. It helps mums feel less alone, and that shit is powerful!
3️⃣ Asking questions and asking questions from a place of genuine education, from Genuine interest. Not to put yourself down, not to validate, because every single one of us is different. Get honest about your intention behind your questions.
Be kind to yourself, start sharing your Truth to help yourself and to help break the cycle of increasing postnatal depression.