Content warning: This post contains mentions of post natal depression and mental health some readers may find triggering.
There is this incredibly false idea out there that every woman on the planet should be a ‘natural’ mum – and that’s just not the case. In fact, up to one in seven mothers in Australia are diagnosed with postnatal depression.
My gorgeous wife Allie has had what she describes as an ongoing “dance with depression and anxiety” all her life.
After the birth of all three of our boys she had three absolutely crippling episodes of postnatal depression, to the point where about nine months after the birth of our third child, Charlie, I was chatting to Allie over dinner and all of a sudden she burst into tears and slid across the table to me the goodbye letters she had written to myself and all three of our boys.
What followed was a pretty brutal conversation with a lot of tears. But it led me to contact the Black Dog Institute, who offered amazing support and eventually led us to the place we’re at now which is just wonderful.
If there’s one thing I have learnt after speaking with over a dozen experts at the Black Dog Institute, it’s that there are many different types of depression and they can’t all be treated the same way.
But there are some strategies I found useful that may help others who are doing their best to be there for their special someone who is going through postnatal depression:
1. Do NOT try to diagnose and ‘fix’ them yourself.
During Allie’s first bout of postnatal depression, I, being a typical male, thought I had a pretty good handle on how life works and could give her a few pointers on how to work her way out of her troubles.
Yeah, don’t do that.
Suggesting that the person you love should try to just “count their blessings”, “look at the gorgeous weather” or “let’s have a glass of champagne and celebrate what’s RIGHT with our life” will get you withering stares, a storm of tears or both.
I discovered the hard way that depression is something bigger and darker than you’ve ever encountered before, so put away the word ‘should’ and realise you only know enough to be dangerous.
Please encourage the person you love to seek professional help. Don’t let your partner struggle through on their own because they’re too
embarrassed, stubborn, naive or even just too down to ask for help. There are incredibly competent and compassionate people you can see who do this week in, week out.
Also, there are many different approaches to treat depression so that – if you and your partner look around – you should be able to find one that suits her personality type, and outlook on life.
One of the best bits of advice that I was given by Professor Gordon Parker, the founder of the Black Dog, was that it’s absolutely okay to try a few different specialists before you settle on one. More importantly, if you’ve been seeing someone for a few months and you’re not getting any better, see someone else.
Quite often it’s just that someone’s methodology, style of communicating or even their personality just doesn’t gel with you and you need to try working with someone new. All the experts I spoke with agreed and said, “This isn’t dating, this is a professional relationship.” If it’s not working, move on; they would never be offended.