By SIMON BRIGGS
While most personal stories about the impact of PND tend to be from the perspective of the sufferer, I’ve been asked to give you a glimpse of what it was like for me to support my wife, Anna, through her illness and the enormous impact it had.
Like any parents-to-be we were thrilled at the prospect of starting our new family. We’d been to the ante-natal classes, baby-proofed the house, bought the pram. And when Sam was born I was thrilled.
I remember those first days it all being a bit surreal. Especially when we took Sam home, walked in the front door and then Anna and I looked at each other and joked ‘ok, we have a tiny person in our house – what the hell do we do now?’
But overall, it was a joyous time for me and the sickly sweet paternal feelings more than made up for the lack of sleep, the crying and those horrific smells and substances that became a constant in my life.
I think the real impact, which the ante-natal classes can never prepare you for, are the fundamental changes in life and relationships that comes from having a new person in your world. It’s the little things – a trip to the corner shop had to be planned with military precision and social events transformed from unplanned random nights to specific catch ups at specific times.
In some respects you lose a bit of who you are and while I found this transition manageable, Anna really seemed to be struggling. I initially put it down to a general lack of sleep and baby blues and hoped that it would pass. But it didn’t. Over the first month or so, while to the outside world Anna kept up the pretense of being in control and happy, I saw my lovely vibrant wife steadily become more withdrawn and upset.
The calls to my work with Anna in tears started almost as soon as I returned after paternity leave and these became more and more frequent. It quickly got to a point that when I saw our home number flash up on the phone I had a sense of dread over how bad it would be. There were days Anna would be crying so hard she couldn’t speak so I just had to drop everything and get home.
This got steadily worse until we got help and Anna was admitted to hospital. I think even though we got to this point and it was diagnosed as PND it was still really difficult for me to understand why she couldn’t just snap out of it – we had everything going for us. I know in hindsight that sounds awful, but there’s still a huge amount of ignorance and stigma surrounding mental illness and I certainly fitted right into the ignorant category. Mental health issues had just never touched me before.