Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or a doctor. This post just reflects my experience and observations as a mother who experienced postnatal depression. If you’re worried about anything, please do contact your doctor.Like numerous other women, I looked forward to becoming a mother. I had my favourite names picked out before I even got pregnant. I had been in a relationship for ten years -- I was prepared, excited, and ready to start a family with my husband. When we finally got pregnant I was thrilled, buying adorable but completely unnecessary baby items, chatting to other parents in online parenting groups, and generally be prepared for motherhood. I had no idea that I’d end up being one of the 15% of women who would go on to develop postnatal depression after the birth of my baby.
I loved my son instantly and immeasurably, but motherhood was so much more intense than I had ever anticipated. I couldn’t handle the extreme emotions, the exhaustion, the expectations, or the mood swings. Pretty soon, I felt completely helpless, hopeless, and entirely alone, despite the many family members and friends that surrounded me.
The thing is, postnatal depression is incredibly hard to live through. At a time when all I wanted was to feel complete joy and enjoy my brand new baby, I felt immeasurably sad and detached. And to top it all off, I felt guilty for feeling this way. But as bad as postnatal depression is, what can make everything so much worse are the many misconceptions about postnatal depression. Even today, there are so many damaging myths circulating that need debunking. Postnatal depression needs to be talked about more often so that other women will feel less alone. They need to be more supported, and better able to speak out and ask for help.
Misconception #1: Postnatal Depression Begins With Birth
Postnatal depression can start as late as a year after birth. It can also start before birth. In most cases, postnatal depression is diagnosed a few months after birth. Personally, I felt my mental health begin to suffer during early pregnancy, although initially, I attributed it all to hormones. I began having panic attacks for the first time in my life and I began feeling apathetic about mostly everything. Everyone’s story is different.
Misconception #2: Women With Postnatal Depression Are Always in Floods of Tears
Personally, I cried a lot as a new mother, and for months afterwards -- often for no apparent reason. But that was almost always behind closed doors. I became a great actress. To meet me, you’d never know I was depressed. I learned how to smile and laugh and convince others that yes, I was completely fine, when really I was suffering. You can let go of negative thoughts for a while and be happy
Postnatal depression isn’t easy to spot. Many of the signs are less visible, like low mood, anxiety, disrupted sleep, guilt, and feelings of being constantly overwhelmed. Some mothers might just feel completely numb, while others are uncontrollably angry. No two cases will be exactly alike.
Misconception #3: Postnatal Depression Will Just Go Away in Time
Postnatal depression is a serious illness. It requires professional help. You can't (and shouldn't be expected) to just snap out of it, or to somehow 'rise above it'. People with this condition need help and treatment in the form of medication or therapy.
Misconception #4: Women With Postnatal Depression Are a Danger to Their Babies
This misconception greatly affected me. I was so worried people would think that I would harm my baby. The reality is, most women with postnatal depression don't harm their kids. In fact, they're much more likely to hurt themselves.
Personally, I was incredibly protective of my son. I had no problem bonding with him. Like many mothers, my postnatal depression, was more about me than it was about my baby.
Misconception #5: It Can Be Prevented
Depression isn't something that can be prevented. It's terrible, but you either get it or you don't. It's not something you can choose. The only thing you can do is take control over the situation, to the best of your ability, when you are diagnosed. The first step is asking for help.
Personally, asking for help was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It felt like I’d failed somehow. But making that first appointment really could be the lifeline you need -- you wouldn’t grin and bear it if you broke your leg, so please reach out if you feel you’re not coping mentally. And remember, you’re not alone. There are a lot of women out there like you, and we’re here to share our stories.
About the Author: Sam Lyon is a digital marketer and owner of Yet Another Mummy Blog, a parenting hub for articles relating to parenting, mental health, and marketing.