I'd like to tell you somethin' about me and maternal mental health awareness week...
(read the title to the tune of 50 Cent - P.I.M.P and you'll get the rhythm intended, I'm trying to ignore the inappropriateness of the song content as it wasn't chosen for that)
Maternal mental health awareness week is this week and it's a subject that is not only extremely sensitive but it's also one that people are very wary of and probably not as well informed about as they think (this includes me). The official "dads" day was yesterday (link - https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/news/uk-maternal-mental-health-matters-awareness-week-support-for-all/), but genetically speaking my boy was born a week late for a reason... #takingmytime
It's been a long time since I have posted on my blog and the reasons will become very apparent in this entry. A big part was working up both the courage and will to simply write this down, the other was to find the right tone. I want to keep it light but without making light of the issues addressed. Mission Impossible...well, lets hope not!
(I realise I put too many gifs in but that one just summed how I feel writing this...)
A few months ago I took my wife into hospital as she had been up all night. She was visibly shaken and upset, telling me that she could no longer cope with how she was feeling. Thoughts of running away and suicide had made her realise that something was very wrong. I was numb... It didn't feel real in a way and I certainly wasn't prepared to deal with it, I mean she has always been the strong one whilst I am the mess! I of course tried to support/reassure her as best I could and we went to the emergency room. A surreal day if ever there was one, feeling so out of place and almost like imposters. Is this an emergency? We have all our limbs and we can breath okay! I can tell you now, you should never doubt the seriousness of it for a second and if anybody you know feels like this, GO IMMEDIATELY.
I fell apart like a McDonald's happy meal toy... or a manchild with the emotional maturity of a child who throws said toy on the floor because it's the wrong one! At least that's how it felt. I panicked and desperately looked for a way to take care of our family, feeling that my switch to stay-at-home dad instead of equal breadwinner had somehow triggered worries about money that had snowballed. I fell into a deep depression myself and for the second time in my life tried to play poker at stakes I could ill afford, simply to find a way to repair the damage I thought I had done. Fortunately I was aware enough after the first incident exert more control than previously and my wife knew the signs.
The last 6 months or so have probably been the hardest of our lives. We've spent more time with mental health professionals than Tony Soprano and probably more time self-reflecting with our inner monologues than JD in Scrubs! We have both been put on anti-depressants and referred for therapy. My wife has been given a diagnosis of post-natal depression and after a course of cognitive behavioural therapy and several counselling sessions is starting to feel more herself again. I am starting to feel more motivated and am currently looking to train to be a teacher. We are both looking to focus on more positive changes in the near future.
I WOULDN'T CHANGE A THING. I am immensely proud of my wife, who is a fantastic mother and as caring person as you could hope to meet. Her strength and I am hoping my own too, mean that thankfully our children are doing fantastic. Both are happy and healthy, seemingly in blissful ignorance of our struggles. We're far from there but we are seeking the help we need and are supporting each other through. It's hard (that's what she said) and I have particularly struggled in the last few weeks with my temper and patience. Life applies constant pressure and it's only amplified when you have others who rely on you.
So talk to somebody if you can, don't wait for others to notice as it may never happen. If you pretend to be fine then other people will reassure themselves that you are. It's not always easy to realise and although negative feelings are a part of life, if those kinds of thoughts prevail/dominate then something is not right. Also, be vigilant and probe deeper (that's what she...nevermind), take the extra time to talk to somebody and actually give a damn. It's genuinely tough to connect with others and converse about the difficult and sensitive subjects, but it's worth doing.
Take care, show kindness and be aware that mental health matters.