The common narrative of the online world is of the horrific bullying, abuse and trolling.
It’s a nasty place where people are shamed and forced to silence themselves.
Women and men from around the nation have rallied around this incredible woman who not only put her marriage on national TV in an effort to fix it, but also published her deepest internal battle.
In her beautiful and tear-jerking article, Michelle bravely wrote, “The girl you see on Seven Year Switch is me at my worst, my darkest. It’s a woman losing her battle with PND.”
“I was sad, I cried a lot. I couldn’t sleep even if Elijah was, I was beyond tired. I found myself cleaning my house madly, and suffering from anxiety,” Michelle wrote.
Jess Rowe has previously spoken to Mamamia about PND, and it is heartbreaking. (Post continues after video.)
“I couldn’t slow down. I started to worry about things that weren’t even there.
“I was becoming resentful of Jason for seemingly having not changed much at all since becoming parents.”
It took Michelle 12 months to finally be diagnosed by her doctor with PND.
“So the girl you see on Seven Year Switch is me at my worst, my darkest. It’s a woman losing her battle with PND. It’s a woman who is lost and feeling alone. It’s a woman that some days just wanted to run away. I was a woman too scared to admit that she needed something more than just counselling.”
In reading the comments, so many people send their support. There are lots of loves, kisses and hugs.
But, there are also hundreds of people saying: “We knew from the beginning that she had PND.”
It becomes a common thread that other women and men who have suffered or are suffering PND found the condition instantly recognisable in Michelle.
One person wrote, “One of the first things I said when watching you [Michelle] on the show was, ‘I think she has Post Natal Depression.’ Having been through it myself I completely related to the things you were saying.”
Another said, “I, too, recognised the signs in you [Michelle] straight way. And I just wanted to reach out through the television and help you. PND loved me, too. And I endured it with both of my precious babes.”
Scroll through to see all the people who just ‘knew’. (Post continues after gallery.)
All of these people reaching out, supporting Michelle, and confirming they knew from the minute the show started she was silently suffering.
But, from my eye – from someone with no children, who has not experienced PND – I didn’t see it.
Many people described her as harsh, brutal, and even a bitch.
That was the horrible part of this whole story.
It was so easy to attach labels and names to a woman we barely knew, when underneath it all it wasn’t just her marriage that was falling apart.
It has made me wonder, as someone how as previously quite oblivious to PND, how can I be aware of mothers and fathers who are suffering?
In her article, Michelle writes that the PND meant she couldn’t ever sleep. She was constantly sad and cried all the time. She developed anxiety and developed resentment towards Jason, the man she loved “so much and entirely”.
He was the man Michelle loved so much. Image via Channel 7.
These types of behaviours are often symptomatic for individuals who are experiencing PND.
According to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Autralia) symptoms include:
- Persistent fear and worry, particularly around the health of the baby
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep problems (not related to the baby's needs)
- Physically and emotionally not able to cope with the needs of the baby
- Ongoing sadness and crying
- Emotional and physical withdrawal from friends and family
- Fear of being left alone with the baby
- Thoughts of harm to the baby or oneself
- Unpredictable moods
- Decreased sex drive
The PNDSA (Postnatal Depression Support Association) writes that a sufferer may feel completely trapped in their own world.
"The depressed parent is in state of helplessness, isolation and confusion, and those close to them will probably be experiencing these feelings too. The family is living with a parent who is irrational, weepy, often-bad tempered, and ungracious accepting help...often feels too guilty to thank those who try to assist.
"[They] may perceive their partner and their family and friends as uncaring and unsupportive. They may resent the fact that the baby's other parent's life is continuing as usual, apparently unaffected by the birth. Their attempts to help them may be unacceptable rejected."
Watch the Seven Year Switch reunion episode.
What's imperative to recognise is that PND is not simply the "baby blues". It is not just being tired or feeling sad after the baby doesn't go to sleep. It is a mental health condition that nobody chooses.
Whether you're a mother, father, partner, brother, sister, partner, friend, or even work colleague, it is your responsibility to ensure a new parent is okay.
If you think that someone you know may be suffered from PND, giving them time to heal is not the way forward.
Here is what you can do:
Be there for them. Let them talk about all their feelings and anxieties. Don't judge them if they seem irrational or don't make sense for you.
Don't swipe it off as "just a phase".
Strongly encourage them to see a health worker and talk to them. If they need your support, you can go with them or find someone who would suit them.
Practically help them, even if they say they feel guilty about. Maybe clean the house, cook meals, or mind the child(ren).
Offer to go out with her. It could be a walk in the park or a quiet coffee, with or without the baby. But, don't pressure them if they say no.
Give them space, but don't let them go.
If they don't feel like talking in person, send a text.
Know when you can't handle it alone, and ask for more help.
Michelle has opened my eyes to the private world of PND.
It's painful and heartbreaking, but hopefully, through sharing her story, more people can be aware of this condition and not just ignore it.
If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, contact PANDA or call their helpline - 1300 726 306.