Lots of information and awareness has been raised recently regarding mental illness, and how it is portrayed in the media. It has got me thinking about my own experiences with this.
After the birth of my 3rd baby I went to see my GP as I could feel myself slipping back into depression. My thoughts were becoming irrational again and I was feeling that blackness, which I’d got to know so well, overcoming me. I knew it was PND and I knew it was time to get some help. The local perinatal emotional wellbeing team in my area had already come to see me at my request. They agreed my anxiety was high and that I would benefit from seeing the GP to be prescribed antidepressants again. They sent a fax to my doctor as the appointment was booked for the next day advising them that I should be put back on my tablets.
I walked into that appointment, knowing my PND symptoms were becoming stronger, and was greeted with the doctor reading the fax and stating ‘I’m surprised reading this….you don’t look depressed’ I wasn’t quite sure how she expected me to respond, she continued ‘you obviously hide it quite well then?’
This is unfortunately where the portrayal of mental health is so wrong. What was she expecting, me to come crawling in on my hands and knees, constantly sobbing through a tissue? Maybe that I wouldn’t have put my make up on, brushed my hair, not greeted her with a polite smile? Those comments made me feel like a fraud and that I had to somehow prove to her that I really was suffering. If a GP had this opinion what would everyone else think?
Earlier that day I’d happen to have a separate appointment for my daughter, with this same doctor. In that appointment I was me being Mum – trying to control my two toddlers running about asking ‘oohhhh what’s this’ and concentrating on the appointment for my baby. When I’m around my children and especially in public I put on that front. I smile, I laugh, because I don’t want anyone, especially my children, picking up on it – I work damn hard to keep it from them – and because when you are depressed you aren’t a constant blubbering mess holding your head in your hands. You put on that front to the world that everything is fine.
My point to all this is, yes I have postnatal depression, anxiety and no most people in my life don’t know, they’re only just finding out as I’m becoming more open about it. I’ve hidden it so well that only 5 people knew for the past 3 years. You can’t judge someone by the image they put out to the world because behind that smile and the ‘I’m fine’ responses they may be struggling with difficult personal battles. The image of mental illness needs to change.