There are SO many myths and misconceptions that I want to de-mystify…or ‘debunk’ from the inside out.
It is why I chose to embark upon this whole journey of sharing my experience and insights, as I felt like there was no understanding from me and those closest to me prior to falling ill…and I saw that in the faces of so many people that I spoke with.
I feel almost as if, because of the ‘taboo’ and ‘stigma’ that surrounds mental health, that there is an aspect of ‘hiding’ or ‘not speaking’ about it, almost like it is being cast-aside in the shunned corner of shame, silence and embarrassment.
It was because of this I feel that whilst I knew the symptoms of post natal depression ‘in theory’ as a pharmacist, when it came pounding in my body 5 days after delivering my two beautiful boys…I was completely blindsided about what was happening.
It was the silence of it all, the ‘mystery’ and uncertainty of what was unfolding, that prompted me to completely strip this condition apart and to smash through all of the myths…
So what are the biggest ones to work through?
The first would definitely be this concept or perception that post natal depression is quite simply the inability to ‘cope’ with motherhood.
Feelings like mothers affected are lazy, unable to handle pressure or high amounts of stress. Comparison to other mothers and statements such as ‘she had 1, 2, 3, 4 (insert number here) kids and could handle it, why can’t she handle it’.
The truth is, post natal depression is a condition, just like gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia that happens; and the resulting effect to the biochemistry within the mother’s brain is what causes these feelings of not being able to function, think clearly or the feelings of being able to cope. Had she not had PND, then she would be able to go about her day just as effortlessly as she could have prior to pregnancy (if perinatal) or giving birth.
Once the biochemistry is corrected and any underlying trauma or layers that need attending to by trained health professionals, then this mother re-emerges into being able to handle what motherhood brings to her (of course motherhood is filled with difficult and frustrating moments, but in a completely different realm of feelings associated with it than post natal depression).
The second, is that women can ‘snap’ out of it or can control how it is they feel. To me, this makes it seem like people believe that the mother can ‘switch’ her anxiety and depression ‘on and off’ like a switch; and biochemistry does not work this way! She is not doing any of this on purpose, nor is it something that she can turn off and on like a tap…
I went from 100 to 0 in 24 hours flat and nothing had changed except the course of time and I had disappeared from life and I could not ‘switch’ it off until I spoke up about how I was feeling and stopped being in denial about it and sought the treatment that my body desperately needed.
The third would be, the myth that it exists! Pretending like your partner is not the same during pregnancy (perinatal) or post-delivery, is like putting your head under the sand! It does exist and if it is happening in your home; you are not alone! It may feel ‘foreign’ and ‘unique’, but I genuinely feel like this seems the case because no one is honest about their situation!
Following this, the myth that it will ‘get better’ on its own without taking any action, is what may keep one trapped or stuck in the condition for much longer than necessary. Hence my passion in speaking up and raising awareness on this, so that no one remains silent feeling ‘embarrassed’ or trapped within any guilt or shame, and to walk towards the recovery that all women and their families deserve!
The fourth would be, the myth that having a mental health condition is a sign of weakness. This is not the case at all! It is a heart-breaking condition that affects more people than I can even believe, yet it does not make them weak. It requires so much strength to pull through each day when your head is in a thick fog, cannot think clearly, riddled with anxiety and cannot sleep (amongst so many other symptoms too!). It is too easy to label someone in that way, and these are the myths that keep people across so many cultures silent in speaking out…because of what it may look like to ‘others’.
This is also the reason I am raising awareness, so that I can help to smash through the cultural stigma and taboo that surrounds mental health conditions. As an Australian-born Indian woman, I can appreciate the extra layers of cultural conditioning that are present within our society and I am here to say that it is outdated!
Especially in a world post-Covid pandemic, where numbers of mental health conditions are rising rapidly, changing the conversation and landscape is critical in evoking true change to be able to walk forward without any cultural chains holding any one back!
Remove the ‘people pleasing’ aspect and the fear of what others may think or say, and just be honest, authentic and true to how you feel and remember how deserving you are to feel your best self again.
Nothing you have done has caused this to happen, and you deserve so much compassion and support in encouraging your wellness journey.
The final myth, would be to also de-bunk the ‘stigma’ and misconceptions that surround treatment; whether it be medication and/or psychological therapy intervention. The multitude of views surrounding these need to be de-bunked; they are therapeutically appropriate in correcting any biochemical imbalance, they are not addictive and can be weaned off once you have recovered. Any ‘hang-ups’ that are associated with therapy, are not helpful nor ones that need any weight in today’s world.
I see both medication and therapy (should your medical team it appropriate) as ‘armour’ and tools to give you the help that you need during an illness that may require it; just like a physiotherapist when you have a broken foot…no greater weight or baggage is needed in considering these options; so the same should be applied in mental health conditions!
My hope by Shining The Light on PND, is that all women and men know what can happen and for there to be no more ambiguity or secrecy around it, and for everyone to understand it in its entirety.
This is my wish moving forward.