It’s no secret that postnatal depression can affect dads too.
In the past few years, more and more fathers have spoken up and admitted they suffered from mental health issues after becoming parents.
Fathers have to adjust to an array of new and demanding roles and tasks during the early stages of parenthood too.
But did you know that the postpartum period can affect different people in different ways regardless of their sex and relationship to the baby?
I didn’t either.
Until the day I saw my uncle being depressed after two weeks of staying with our twins.
The boys were about two months old when my sister and her husband Marek came to stay with us and help us – then new parents.
At first, it was great!
Despite our demanding boys, we all coped well and even managed to have some fun.
However, after a few days, I noticed that this new ‘lifestyle’ had got to my brother-in-law, Marek.
“I know I was not a parent and was only helping to look after the boys for a limited time. However, it really got to me,” he says.
“For a little while, I got to experience what it takes to be a new parent.
“The first days were ok, but after a while, my brain burnt out and I completely lost track of time.
“It gets to you all the more if you are not used to the lifestyle and routine of a new parent. Especially the challenging nights – getting up, changing the baby, putting them back… Over and over again.
“Even if you manage to get a break, you can easily feel anxious or depressed.”
I totally understand where postnatal depression comes from
Marek works as an interior designer and whenever he happened to be near London (where we lived at the time), he never missed an opportunity to visit art galleries.
It wasn’t different this time around.
A few days into their stay, Marek took a ‘day off”‘ to visit a gallery that he was especially looking forward to seeing.
Whenever he had visited a gallery before, he would come back excited and he would not sop talking about what he saw and how it inspired him.
Bu this time, it was different.
When he got back, he looked shattered and empty.
I immediately knew something was not right.
(After all, I suffered from postnatal depression myself.)
I had never seen him in such a poor state as he was that day.
Normally jolly and energetic Marek suddenly turned into an empty shell.
As he says:
“I was really looking forward to this break.
“But as soon as I got to the gallery, I was overwhelmed by a sudden wave of anxiety.
“I sat down in the coffee shop and mentally wasn’t able to sense anything, let alone any art.
“I remember I wasn’t able to think clearly, and not sense things around me like I normally would.
“It was extremely tiring.
“Mentally, not physically.
“Up until then, I had only heard stories from other fathers joking about staying late at work to avoid the madness at home.
But after those two weeks, I got to understand these things on a deeper level.
It was only a short time for me but I don’t understand how parents can cope with this on a daily basis.
I totally understand where postnatal depression comes from and it is totally understandable if a mother or father suffers from it.
It is a lot to take in at once.”
“I didn’t understand how Ivana as a mother and Yaw as a father could do this.
“I also didn’t know how my wife could deal with everything so well.
“Literally everyone was managing, but me,”
Marek’s experience is a great example of how looking after a baby can really affect anyone and in different ways.
Marek was not even a father at the time he experienced this overwhelming anxiety, and still, looking after his little nephews got to him.
Remember – (postnatal) depression is not limited to mothers.
Anyone who spends a longer period of time with a small baby can get depressed.
That is why it’s important to take this mental illness seriously and learn to recognise early signs of depression.
Recognising Signs of (Postnatal) Depression in a Loved One
Every person will experience (postnatal) depression differently but the symptoms can be similar to those found amongst new parents and can include:
- Feeling very low, or despondent
- Feeling tired and very lethargic
- Not wanting to do anything or take an interest in the outside world
- A sense of inadequacy or unable to cope
- Feeling guilty about not coping, or about not loving their baby enough
- Being unusually irritable
- Wanting to cry/crying a lot or even constantly
- Having obsessive and irrational thoughts which can be very scary
If your loved one shows any of these symptoms, you should take this very seriously.
Talking with them often and asking how they’re feeling will help you both be aware of any changes.
If the emotional changes in your loved one go on for longer than two weeks and get in the way of daily life, you need to help them get professional advice.
Now, I’d love to know:
Have you ever spotted signs of postnatal depression in a loved one?
Or have a friend or family member spotted signs of depression in YOU?
Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your story!
PS. If you want to get real insights into the life of a new mum and understand what postnatal depression really feels like & what you can do to recover FAST, I invite you to check out my book Motherhood – The Unspoken.