‘I didn’t want to be here anymore after having a baby. I went to the darkest place I’ve been in my life.’
Kate Lawler has recently admitted she had postnatal depression.
As she said in the DailyMail article, ‘the first year of motherhood was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I didn’t enjoy every aspect of it. For a lot of those early newborn days, I was struggling everyday. I had terrible thoughts about what I might do to myself and Noa.’
Reading her story inevitable pulled me back to the times when I struggled with depression myself (you can read more about my experience with postnatal depression in my book Motherhood – The Unspoken).
It took me back to the times when I went to the darkest and scariest place in my life.
When I’d felt like a useless failure and all I wanted to do was cry.
When I’d longed to have my old life back and envied everyone who didn’t have children.
Postnatal depression is real but sadly, many people have zero or only a poor knowledge about it – unless they have a personal reason to look more information up.
I was no exception.
I knew about postnatal depression before I became a mum. I knew it could happen to anyone, I knew famous people had it, I knew it impacted 1 in 7 new mothers.
And yet, it felt so distant.
A logical part of my brain knew it could happen to me. But the emotional part of my brain was like: ‘Nah, this doesn’t concern you, you will LOVE being a mum.’
I think THIS is the problem: Unrealistic expectations about motherhood and about our feelings in early motherhood.
Most mums-to-be are familiar with postnatal depression only on a theoretical level but have no idea how it REALLY feels, how to lower the risks, how to spot the symptoms, or how to recover.
Some people even consider it a ‘new age’ disease.
(To which I always say that only because people did not talk about it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.).
Now, the good news is that there’s been an increase in women talking openly about disease.
You see more and more celebrities on TV and in magazines talking about their experience with postnatal depression, including Adele, Alanis Morisette, Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Celine Dion, Angelina Jolie, or recently Kate Lawler.
I find these ladies’ honesty incredibly brave. Reading about their experiences brought back my own memories of the darkest moments of my life when I didn’t see the point in anything and was convinced that my family would have been better off without me.
Every time I read a story like this, it only reassures me how badly we need to break the stigma around postnatal mental health.
But the question is: Does famous people talking about postnatal depression help to achieve this?
Personally, I don’t think so.
Much as I admire Kate’s (and other celebrities who spoke up) honesty, I am convinced that the majority of future parents reading the article would sympathise but still think ‘this does not concern me.’
Talking about postnatal depression (regardless of whether it’s famous people or not) is not enough.
If we really want to stop the stigma it needs to be general knowledge that motherhood is not all joy and happiness, as often portrayed on (social) media.
We need future parents to have clear expectations and simply KNOW that feeling sad, regretful, desperate and tearful are totally normal and common feelings of a new mum. (I talk more about how we can achieve it in this article.)
Until we make this a general knowledge, talking about postnatal depression will – in a way – feel like describing colours to blind people.
What are YOUR thoughts on this subject? Let me know in the comments! xx