How postnatal depression became part of our lives
Posted Tuesday 15 January 2013
My name is Mark and I set up Fathers Reaching Out because at 30 years of age I knew nothing about depression, but after the birth of my lovely son, my wife became a totally different person and suddenly depression was part of our lives.
When my son was born, Michelle became withdrawn, she couldn't sleep and her confidence was shattered. After a while, our health visitor old us she may have postnatal depression. At first, I couldn't believe that she had depression. All I could think was that we had everything going for us. That's how uneducated I felt about mental health.
Our life became a bubble, I couldn't tell anyone due to the stigma of mental health. Michelle would tell me not to tell anyone, not even the family, which made us even more isolated. Michelle went through things she had never been through before and could not understand why this was happening to her. I could have won the lottery, it wouldn't have mattered. While looking after Michelle I also had to look after my son, Ethan, Michelle was still a amazing mother but she needed my help.
I had to give up work for six months, which meant we had money worries. The household was all new to me as well, I had to sort out things like the bills, which Michelle had always taken care of before. But the isolation was the worse, that was unbearable because I was used to having lots of people in my life and this seemed to be changing.
Since setting up Fathers Reaching Out, I've found a lot of men struggle with the isolation and the worry of social services getting involved. I urge families to talk about it and not to worry about social services, because they are here to help. In my experience, the last thing they want is to take children away from families unless they absolutely have to.
Postnatal depression effects so many people and I think if we can break this stigma surrounding it, more women will seek help quicker. Due to Michelle's postnatal depression, I struggled with depression myself. I had battled the black dog for many years. I was drinking, overspending, constantly changing jobs, my moods were up and down.
I was always putting a brave face on for my family, but inside I was crying. Then in October 2011, after losing my grandfather, my mother having cancer and and me having problems at work, I fell to he ground. I sat in the car outside my workplace crying my heart out. It was then that I picked up the phone, and phoned Health Matters Wales.
My life has changed since that phone call in October and it changed for he better. I went to my GP and he gave me a small dose of medication. I also had CBT, which I found amazing. I came from a Welsh valley where people where lots of people were into rugby and I worried about how people would react to me talking about my depression. As it turned out, my family and friends were so supportive and I lost that fear.
Since I spoke out, my life is going forward. In one year I have been on Radio 4 Wales, Real Radio and lots of local radio stations. I've written a book, been featured in a documentary, set up a support group and now work in a hospital as a support worker.
Speaking out was the best thing I could have done. I believe everything happens for a reason and we all have the chance to turn a negative into a positive. The biggest thrill I get is when I get a nice email from someone telling me that something I've said or done has made a difference. The real hero in all this is my wife, who battled her postnatal depression and came out the other side. We got through it together and want to help others to do the same. The biggest piece of advice we can give is not to hide away. Talk about things and it will make the world of difference.
If you or someone you know is struggling with postnatal depression, there is help available. Contact your local Mind for support.
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