Sometimes I need a filter between my brain and my mouth.
This is not the way to get one.

Monday, 14 November 2011

It's PND Awareness Week...

What is it about becoming a parent that means you forget about realistic expectations for yourself, and decide that being "perfect-super-champion-parent" is the only option.

What is it about becoming a parent that means we think asking for help is a failure on our part? Some of us wouldn't even ask for help if we had a full body cast - "Oh, it's fine, I've not broken my pinky finger so I can still cook and change nappies. My hair is fine too, so I can mop while I drag myself along the floor!"
"Images of "celebrity mums" gazing lovingly at their new-borns (hair and make-up perfect, of course) abound in women's magazines. Unfortunately, these snapshots have more to do with the myths of motherhood than the reality. They perpetuate the idea that motherhood is a natural and instinctive thing and the duties of motherhood are all joy and bliss - no matter how little sleep has been had.
Out of every seven women who give birth in Australia, one will be affected by postnatal depression. For such a common affliction, it is hardly talked about. Unfortunately, depression is too commonly viewed as a personal weakness or inadequacy, as opposed to an illness which - like any other illness - requires support and effective treatment." ~ Quote from the Article on Postnatal Depression - published by the Queensland Women's Health Network 
We live in the 21st Century, and yet there are still antiquated ideas floating around about mental health. We have iEverything, we have dishwashers, we have robotic vacuum cleaners. Life is scarily convenient.

Why is it that people are too embarrassed to admit when something's not right? Is it because life is so 'simple' these days, we feel that there's really nothing to complain about. That our feelings are irrational and silly given we live in a first world country, our children are healthy and we have a roof over our heads?

Even when the Black Dog is biting at their heels, people shove the feelings down. Go through the motions. Do whatever it takes to appear 'normal'.

But what the hell is 'normal', anyway? Where is this magical yard stick by which we should all be measuring ourselves? Do they hand it to you, with your baby, at delivery?

Everyone has their own shit to deal with. I don't care who you are or how glossy the pictures in the magazine are - we all have craptacular days. Days where the picture perfect 1950's home and family just doesn't happen. Days where the dishwasher doesn't get stacked and the washing sits for another day. Days where we wonder why we got out of bed and are waiting for DOCS to knock on the door.

Having a child can challenge everything you thought about life after baby. Usually they arrive and your world becomes the equivalent of a snow globe. Shaken up with shit falling all around you.

Technically it should all settle, and things will develop their own rhythm within the new life you've embarked upon. It's no good looking back - the simple days are long gone and you'll not know the joy of doing anything alone for another 18 years.

Everything happens in it's own time, it's true, but PND can be insidious. Before you know it, it's been a long while since you left the house and you can't remember the last time you smiled.

It annoys me when I hear about people who decide enough is enough and come up against idiot doctors who probably still use leeches, and have no idea about PND. When someone goes to the GP in distress and asking for - gasp - help, how can that GP be dismissive?

Maybe they need to take another look at that Hippocratic Oath:
" I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:...I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug...I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick...May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help." ~ Excerpt from the Modern Hippocratic Oath
How can a GP swear by those words and not follow through?

How can people be open and honest about PND if they have no support or care from their GP? A professional 'dismissal' of the situation will only compound the problem. It will only increase the number of people who don't seek help.

Because what's the point of seeing the GP when they tell you it's sleep deprivation. It's part of being a new parent. It'll pass. It's an adjustment. And most patronising of all, "it's just your hormones making you overly emotional."

PND is not 'just your hormones making you overly emotional'. It's not about being a bad parent or a bad person. It's not about being 'crazy' or simply a 'failure'. Parenting is hard - damn hard. Anyone who says they've not had an off day is a lair. But when that shadow is over everything you do and nothing is worthwhile, it's time to Speak Up.

Working with a GP who is understanding, caring and who will listen can make all the difference. It's not asking our GP to solve the problem in the 15min appointment block - it's simply asking to be heard and acknowledged. To feel understood and guided, not judged, shamed or made to feel guilty or 'crazy'.

We need to take away the stigma of PND and mental health in general - we are all so important to the people around us, we're too important not to get help.

It's PND Awareness Week (13-19 November), so now is a good time to take a look around. Gently prod your inner feelings and see if anything bites. We are encouraged to regularly check our breasts and have pap smears - why shouldn't we regularly check our mental health?

Most of all, never be afraid to say something and always remember you are not alone! And if you know someone who you think might need to chat, start a conversation. You don't have to solve the GFC, you just have to listen and be a friend.

Awareness encourages investigation which leads to understanding - all we have to do is Speak Up.

Antenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety - Just Speak Up

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