This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, the partners & people supporting us with PND. How is this experience for them, and what help do they have or wish they had? During my recovery I’ve been reflecting a lot about the past 3 years, and having conversations with my husband about our experiences. Only now has he started to open up about how my PND had affected him, not wanting to put pressure on me he had kept all his feelings to himself. So I wrote some questions and asked my husband John to answer them, here’s what he had to say…
What were the first differences/changes you noticed?
You were less happy than before, you weren’t laughing or joking as much, you had a short fuse, irritable and easily annoyed. Things that wouldn’t have bothered you before would make you really irritated. You would get upset a lot – nothing obvious would happen and you would be upset and crying. Eventually I picked up on the fact that you didn’t want to get up or do anything, not even going to the shops. You avoided all situations.
How did it impact on family life and your relationship?
It meant that as a family we didn’t go anywhere, the only family time we had was indoors, sometimes I thought going for a walk or to the park would help but you didn’t even want to do that. As a family we would be invited to events but you never felt up to going so we didn’t really do much. As a couple we always prioritised the kids, obvious, but we never made time as a couple which has an impact. If we had then we would have had time as a couple rather than parents. We argued a lot, it was difficult, things were tense, on both parts. I felt like I was worried about what to say incase I upset you, I found it very frustrating as in my mind all I wanted to do was help you but I felt that I couldn’t do anything that would help. I would try and do things which I thought may help but sometimes they would upset you or cause an argument which I found difficult.
How did this make you feel?
If I had to describe it in two words I would say frustrated & helpless. Everything I tried to do to help would have an opposite effect and upset you, but all I could do was to keep trying to help and just be there for you.
Did you have anyone to support you?
Not really. I didn’t feel I could talk to my parents about it, I didn’t feel this was something I could talk to them about, the only person I could speak to it about really was my best friend but I didn’t as I wasn’t sure he would understand how I felt.
What was most difficult part of supporting your partner during PND?
A couple of things. One was trying to stay as positive as I could when you were at your lowest, it’s hard to not be affected by it too. When things were really bad and you felt you weren’t sure if we should be together anymore and you blamed me for some of your PND. I felt I should have supported you but I didn’t know whether it was depression magnifying those feelings or whether you truly meant you didn’t know if we should be together anymore. I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was.
Do you think there’s enough support for partners of people experiencing PND?
No, one of the things I found difficult was when things were bad I didn’t know how much of what you were saying was the depression talking. If there was something where partners could speak to each other, not feel so alone in the experience and maybe support each other it would be beneficial. I didn’t feel there was anyone I could talk to about the situation even if I had wanted to talk about it.
What advice would you give to other people supporting someone with PND?
Always be there, don’t leave, it’s the hardest time but it is when that person needs you most. It is hard for you to support them because of the arguments, tension etc but it’s harder for them going through it. If they do want to talk just listen, don’t say I understand because that doesn’t help and it isn’t true.
If there is someone that you can talk to then do it, because otherwise you end up as the supporting person having everything bottled up and weighing you down and it helps if you can offload and share your feelings with someone.
When I wrote these questions I asked him to be honest, and he has been. It’s hard to hear how hard it was for him too, and I’m glad things are now getting better. I’m so grateful to him for his patience & kindness. Sometimes the supporting partner is forgotten, I can completely understand why but there should be some support system for them too. After all PND affects both partners, it’s a difficult time for a couple and partners also need help, if they’re supported then they can better support us.