Recently my husband wrote a guest blog with a couple of tips for partners supporting a new mum through postnatal depression. Following on from that I sat down and chatted with my mum about what it was like from her perspective. I didn’t realise I was unwell for the first 6 months, then I hid my illness from everyone except my husband. Eventually I told my parents and then two closest friends. Over 3 years only 5 people knew I was struggling.
These were the points my mum spoke about now looking back and reflecting on what we had all been through. And I say we because it had an impact on my family and those close to me, the illness had changed me and I wasn’t the usual Sarah they all knew.
What differences did you notice in me?
You were less willing to do anything; for example, go out or socialise, you would make excuses.
You were more sensitive and were worrying over your baby excessively, most new mums worry but yours was on a whole different level.
I didn’t notice the lack of confidence really at first because you didn’t go anywhere, you hid it really well.
You were less smiley, you weren’t as happy or as bubbly as you were before, your mood was always low. You just seemed fed up.
What was the most difficult part for you?
I just didn’t know what to do, I felt I said the wrong things but I didn’t know what the best thing was to do, I’d never known anyone with depression before.
Practical things I could do and that helped but I couldn’t do anything to help with the PND. I didn’t know how to help you.
Looking back I felt I should have seen the signs earlier, but you hid it so well, I wish you had told me because I would have tried to do more.
How did it make you feel?
Awful; awful that I hadn’t helped more, and awful I hadn’t seen the signs.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I’d done more, I’d help anyone so to think I hadn’t helped my own child felt terrible.
What advice would you give a mum or relative supporting their daughter?
To be more watchful, and aware of how they’re feeling after they’ve had their baby.
Offer more emotional support as well as the practical support.
Spend as much time as you can with her so she’s not lonely and she has support.
It is difficult if you think a mum possibly has postnatal depression etc and if she’s denying it/or unaware you need to be sensitive, it can be hard to approach someone.
Have that conversation about how they’re feeling, tell them it is ok to say they’re struggling and tired, this isn’t how they expected it to be. Tell your daughter it’s ok to admit it isn’t all singing all dancing being a mum, especially if you have a baby who cries a lot or doesn’t sleep. Then she can hopefully feel more ok about opening up.
Help encourage them to see a GP and get professional counselling/support sooner.
It was interesting to hear my mums perspective. I knew she struggled with understanding what I was going through because she’s never experienced a mental illness herself or known anyone who has.
To me my mum was supermum – I thought I had to be like her to be a good mum. Now though I know I’m a great mum, I’m a different parent to what my mum was to me but I’m the best parent for my children. I know that I can’t be like her because I’m not her. Now I’m happy to be me and as I said in a previous blog post – I’ve learnt to love the new me.
I think it’s been quite a learning experience for us as a family and I am grateful for the things she did do to try and help.
If you think you or someone you know could be struggling please encourage them to speak to their GP, health visitor or midwife. I have a list of the common symptoms on this previous blog post.
If you need someone to talk to you can call Samaritans (UK) on 116 123 calls are free and they’re available 24/7.
Thanks to my mum for being so honest and offering her views 💗