I don’t do exercise. And I definitely do not run. In fact, I saw a great t-shirt online that summed up my entire attitude to exercise in one sweet sentence: “If you ever see me running, you should run too because something is probably chasing me.”
I want that t-shirt.
Consequently, it’ll come as no surprise that I won’t be telling you how many star-jumps are required daily for optimum fitness or how many bicep curls are necessary to eliminate bingo wings. It just ain’t my thing. However, if you were to ask me about mental health, that would be a different kettle of fish altogether. Why, I could write a whole encyclopaedia on that topic – especially the dreaded postnatal depression.
And I’m not talking about the kind that results in psychosis or an inability to bond with your child, although that kind certainly exists. I’m talking about the less-talked-about type that isn’t so obvious yet still takes a toll – what I like to call the “creeps up on you and hangs around like a bad smell” variety – because that’s the one that spent a whole lot of time with me in the early weeks, months, OK, I admit it, years of The Motherhood. Which wasn’t at all helpful and was about as welcome as an early-morning run. Or any kind of run, for that matter.
So what makes this sort of PND different? For starters, it’s not debilitating in the way most depressions are. You can achieve at quite a high level whilst under its influence. You can:
- Take care of all of a baby’s needs
- Care about your appearance
- Have a relationship
You can do all of the things that would normally floor you if any other kind of depression even thought about coming your way. See? So sneaky.
It’s also deviously clever in how it seeps in. It knows you’re distracted by this new phase of your life and that it’s your first time experiencing this thing called Motherhood. So, hey, maybe you’ll just think it’s part and parcel of it. Maybe you’ll be a bit surprised at how emotionally challenging it is, but you’ll probably simply accept that this is how parenting is. Super-sly.
So, how is a new mum ever supposed to know that she is dealing with a very tricky PND at a very tricky time? Easy. Just ask yourself if you’re enjoying anything, because I guarantee you, the one thing you will have no connection to is joy.
Of any kind.
And that, my friends, along with some gentle nudging from two very persistent, very good friends, was how I realised that something was up.
Nothing gave me a deep sense of joy. Planning a holiday? Nothing. A full weekend all to myself? Nada. Family visiting from afar? Zilch. Don’t get me wrong: I liked all these things but I didn’t enjoy them, which was a subtle but big difference.
The good news, however, is that despite the complexity of the issue and the duration of time you can be affected by it, the solution is exceedingly simple.
Ask for help.
Having PND does not mean you are a bad mother, or an inadequate mother, or a terrible one. It just means you have PND. There is a world of help at your fingertips if you simply ask. I deserved it. You deserve it. And the joy that bursts back onto the scene is, frankly, too good to miss. So if you think you’ve fallen prey to this devious, underhanded, super-sly trickster, do the one thing it doesn’t expect you to do: Simply ask for help.