Having a baby is supposed to be one of the most joyous and uplifting times in a person’s life. That’s why it can be so heartbreaking to discover that, after giving birth, you do not feel the way society expects you to. No matter how excited you were before having your baby, postnatal depression can deeply affect your mood and your relationship with your newborn child, and with the rest of your family. Not only is the illness itself debilitating, but it also plants the seeds of guilt, shame, fear and an unwillingness to see friends and family. Depression is a difficult illness to approach due to its unique manifestations in individuals, and this equally applies to postnatal depression. Not everyone experiences it in the same way, but there are some overall methods which can help to ease the pain and aid long-term recovery. Here are some useful tips to help you through this stressful illness and ensure the safety of you and your baby.
One: Don’t Be Ashamed
It is understandable that the realization that you might have postnatal depression can bring on feelings of shame and guilt. People expect a new mother to be overjoyed at the arrival of her baby and it can create an unpleasant emotional friction to learn that you could be missing this feeling. Admitting to yourself, let alone other people, that you are not able to muster positivity during a supposedly happy time can make you feel disjointed and isolated. Just because you are expected to find happiness in the birth of your child does not disqualify you from having your own individual reaction, and postnatal depression does not make you a bad mother. It is simply an illness caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain and is most certainly not a reason to be ashamed. While it may be hard to believe when you’re in the midst of it, you are not alone. Here are some statistics that demonstrate how many mothers experience this illness and, although knowing that others are suffering is not a comfort, be assured that there is a wealth of knowledge out there to help people in your situation.
Two: Seek Professional Advice
Giving birth is not something people tend to do on their own. Family, friends, and usually various professionals are there to provide advice, assistance, and care during and after your pregnancy. This includes therapists who deal with symptoms of postnatal depression, should you need them. It is extremely traumatic to feel alone when surrounded by loved ones, but it is helpful to understand the reality that you have people there to support you, even if you feel uncomfortable sharing your depression with your family. Keeping it a complete secret, even from qualified personnel, can lead to destructive behaviors such as turning to alcohol and drugs for a short-lived respite from a low mood. Depression that causes a person to start abusing alcohol and drugs is dangerous enough, but for a mother with a new baby to care for, it risks two lives instead of one. You can find drug rehab near you to protect yourself and your baby from the dangers of addiction.
Three: Find Support
If you don’t want to contact a therapist for whatever reason, although it is highly advised, it is still important that you find someone you can trust to inform them of your emotional state. Depression is much more difficult to tackle on your own and with the help of a close relative or a friend it can make the process of recovery much smoother. If your family has been excited about the arrival of the new baby, it can feel almost impossible to let them know that you don’t share their happiness. You might anticipate reactions of judgment and offense, but your health is more important than their opinion. If you don’t think you can approach a family member, it can sometimes be helpful to speak to a stranger who has no personal stake in the matter. There are many organizations which are set up to listen to your problems and help you feel more in control of your situation. Take advantage of them when you would prefer not to speak to friends or family.
Four: Create a Checklist
When it comes to postnatal depression, there are two people whose health and safety is at stake. Babies require round-the-clock care for feeding, cleaning, sleeping, and learning while the mother’s need for care is just as important. When a mother is experiencing trouble getting out of bed in the morning or feeding herself, it can be even more of a trial to care for a dependent baby. Create a list of essential activities that must be performed for your baby in as much detail as you need. This takes away the pressure of doubting yourself or procrastinating while caring for the infant. Stick to the list rigidly to give you structure, and you’ll start to notice how little effort it takes to follow prewritten instructions rather than forcing yourself to plan for each day. If you can tick off essential activities like preparing food for yourself, feeding the baby, and maintaining hygiene, then you can physically see your progress throughout the day, giving a sense of satisfaction even when you are feeling low.
Five: Aim for Recovery
When imagined as a graph of high points and low points, depression represents a dip in happiness and fulfillment. It can feel impossible to climb out of that dip and back to emotional well-being, but the truth is that recovery is very real and achievable. Hopelessness is a common feeling for people dealing with depression, and this can trick the mind into believing that you will not feel positive in the future. As difficult as it might sound, do your best to ignore this voice and realize that it is incorrect. It may take some time and assistance to bring your mood back up, but no matter how low you feel, there is always hope for recovery.