17 November 2013

My name is Alison & I was diagnosed with PND

Today is the first day of Post-Natal Depression Awareness week.  I wrote earlier this year about my experience of PND (I'm a mum in a million said millions of mums) and the discombobulation of feeling so bone achingly sad, out of control and generally overwhelmed at a time I had anticipated would be one of the happiest of my life.

Baby 1. My beautiful Chairman Mao
It has been an interesting journey choosing to be open about my experience with PND.  Most people, including some of those closest to me, have never raised it with me and find me discussing it discomfiting. I have found my internal self at war with accepting the diagnosis myself so I get that, however, without wanting to sound too Xena, Warrior Princess about it, if I don't bang on about it - who will?

Until I started telling people that I had PND, I had no idea about how many friends and colleagues had experience with it as well. But they never articulated it because they were worried that people would think that they sucked at the parenting lark. Which I would have said was absolutely daft UNTIL I DID THE SAME THING.

So I decided, for better or worse, to be the person that 'admitted to it' so that any of the many people procreating or planning on procreating would know that they are not an island.  So many lovely people producing adorable bundles of joy.  They are tired, they are exhausted, they are happy, they are deliriously in love and they see any admission of it being different to how they thought it would be as an admission too hard.  They are not all depressed by any means, to feel those things is a completely normal part of having a child, but some are teetering under a greater weight and if purely because I was open about what went on in my own brain they can articulate their own darkness to somebody than that is a good thing.

Baby 2 - My beautiful Flacco
I would like to say that my experience with depression was over and that by acknowledging the diagnosis, taking the medication and going to therapy that my life now is peachy and to be viewed only in rosy hues, with a jaunty soundtrack as accompaniment.  But it is not.  It's been a big three plus years in a number of different ways and one of those is acknowledging that depression may have been a periodic companion for me in the past and may well choose to be a companion moving forward.  Am I happy about that? No.  But did ignoring the professional diagnosis of PND help me?  No.  Sometimes, the facts are a bitch.

While I remain evangelical about the benefits of therapy, my amygdala and I still have not resolved all our issues and an attempt to self wean myself off the medication despite the advice of the professionals didn't go so well. I hate being on it, but I acknowledge that for the moment, peace of mind about parenting and life, is supported by medication. And lots and lots of conversations about how I'm feeling with other people that understand.

PANDA (the only national helpline dedicated to supporting people living with PND) is keen this week to also grow awareness that PND doesn't only affect women.  While it may be more common, there are no stats on this because men generally tell themselves to have a cup of cement and harden up.  But becoming a parent is just as much of an adjustment for men even if they didn't push the wee darling out their very own hoohar.  Their ability to love and self question their parenting is no less.  So my plea for you all is to talk to the 'other halves', whatever gender they are, and make sure that they know that they have your full support also.

And people (even if you are not depressed) it can still be hard to adjust to the demands of a child - whether it is your first, your second, your third, your thirteenth.  Talk to people, let them know how you are feeling and if you are the friend, for god's sake don't JUDGE.  Those of us living with depression know how dreary it is and you not thinking we're 'properly' depressed or those who start a conversation with 'well when I gave birth' need to be slapped in the face with a giant stinking fish.  We know.  WE KNOW.

Babies are without a doubt the most wonderful ways to start people.  And I love my two girls with a ferocity that never ceases to surprise me.  But with love like that comes a great commitment to not fuck them up.  And sometimes, your amygdala and you might get out of sync on this one.  And that's okay too.

But please don't cry alone.  Don't hug the fears and the terror to yourself and give yourself pep talks. Call someone, talk to somebody, verbalise it.  Own it, in whatever small way you can.

It might be different to the plan, you might learn something about yourself you hadn't expected and it may just be that you can never ever again watch an advert with a dog and toilet paper again without dissolving into floods of tears, but it's not just going to go away and you can only run for so long before acknowledging that having depression does not define you. That needing help to sort it out, does not define you.

You are still you.  And you are awesome.


* I am adding this post to a link up at Five Degrees of Chaos as part of Post Natal Depression Week (17-23 November 2013). Take time to check out the other blogs and maybe even share your story.