Disclaimer: First off, I just want to start off by saying I don’t have experience with PND but I do have a lot of experience with Depression. And I know it’s different (in fact all depression is different with its multitude of factors and triggers). However:
Dads with depression, (whenever and however that may manifest itself), I say this to you.
There’s no shame admitting to struggling with depression and asking for help. I won’t lie. Some people don’t ‘get it’ but lazy stereotypes and stigma will only persist if we stay hidden. Our depression will continue to cause problems while we hide it. It won’t be easy, but it’s not easy now is it? Get help, you’ll find a world of support out there. I know you’re scared about people who will be cruel, but f@CK ‘EM’ !!
When it comes to PND, for far too long men have been stuck in a gender stereotype that they have to suck up any changes in their lives that may be concerning them (no matter how welcome). We’ve been told that PND can only affect women since it is a hormonal change that causes it. While I’ve no doubt that this plays a large part for women, it’s only common sense that life experience and rapid changes to lifestyle can also cause depression or anxiety and that will of course impact on both men and women.
New parents are facing a massive change to change to their lifestyle, not to mention the awesome and new responsibility of caring for a new life, juggling new work routines, while not eating properly, suddenly not getting any sleep and so on. Where you could deal with a few of those things, as a total sum it’s a shock to the system. Add to that a loss of community help, where we are so busy to relax or take time to process and unwind, have little job security etc, no wonder some people ( men and women) can’t cope. It’s common bloody sense that people can break in these circumstances, so why is it seen as shameful or hidden? Everybody EVERYBODY will go through a period of mental distress whether they acknowledge it or not. No man is an island and yet there are times in life when we feel like we are carrying an unmanageable burden alone. To ME, that is the crux of depression.
Help, support and acknowledgement is crucial to lifting the fears, negative thoughts and genuine struggle. It doesn’t mean you are putting your feelings above others or that you need help at the expense of your partner or child. Or that women’s struggles aren’t as equal to or even at times worse. It’s not a competition. We need to get out of that mentality. We all need to help each other.
You can still help and care for others while seeking help for yourself !
So how do I deal with my own depression?
Sometimes not at all. However, I’ve had to come to terms that in my life there will always be people who will be unhelpful, mean, false and contribute to your depression. You can’t avoid it, but they are part of the problem and not the solution. Put those people to one side and look to those who help you. It’s unfair but ultimately their issue if they want to be like that. You can’t change them. Don’t let them make your life worse.
I’ve also had to realise that you have to take time to help yourself, no matter how small those steps may be.
Sleep is important.
Experts will always tell you to get a good night’s sleep without realising that is the problem and it’s not always in your control (especially with kids). You need to come to an agreement with your partner on how to deal with this. A rota? If it’s your day off the next day, then maybe that’s your turn to do the night runs? Likewise if you are working and your partner is at home, maybe you need the sleep and they can nap during the day or vice versa.
Alone time versus company.
You really do need both but not so much of one that it negatively impacts on the other.
Write it down.
Blogging or journaling really does work. Also from a practical point of view. My wife doesn’t like to discuss emotional things so I find it really hard to discuss my feelings with her as she’s too practically minded. She finds it hard to deal or give time to emotions that she doesn’t understand from her own logical point of view. I’m the opposite and when feeling overwhelmed this can really hurt. Therefore to beat the frustration I’ve started writing things down. It’s cathartic for me but also, sooner or later she will read it and mull it over. It may not feel like it at the time but I see her taking it on board. If you have somebody you’re struggling to communicate your depression to, then I highly recommend this.
Like with sleep, exercise is important but I’m not going to be one of those people who tells you how much to do or what type. It really is down to the individual. It’s proven to be mentally and physically helpful. Do what you can, even if it’s just sitting in the garden and going to the shop.
Not massive goals but small improvement goals and then build upon them with another small goal. It helps to look back and see improvement. It gives you strength to go forward. An example? Sometimes I just can’t even do the dishes due to exhaustion and brain fog. I know this is unfair on both myself (since clutter makes me anxious and it adds to it) and my wife who already does a lot. Instead of beating myself up, or being unrealistic and telling myself I’ll do all the dishes, I set a small goal, maybe to just do some of them before needing to sit down and then a few days later I may do all the dishes and then I’ll challenge myself to do all of them two days running. THESE AREN’T MASSIVE GOALS and may be scoffed at by people who don’t understand but they are achievable to YOU.
If you NEED to step out, then step out for a moment (and allow your partner to do the same).
So that’s my thoughts on depression as it’s impacted me over the past 20 years. I hope it’s been of some slim help. If you want to chat, come see me at askyerfather.com. My door is always open. Above all, I just want to say, don’t suffer in silence. It’s the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life.