Yvette Mystakas from She is Sacred is a post natal depression (PND) survivor. We asked her to share what we can do when a friend is also suffering from PND. This is a must read for all of us.
I cannot even begin to envisage what my friends experienced when they saw me suffering from post natal depression. Oblivious to everyone and anyones feelings, and opinions, my mind and soul was consumed, absorbed, and violated by PND.
In collaboration with my PND and myself, we created a reality where I was too occupied to connect with the outside world. If I braved and ventured out into the world, I would place my mask on my face, and project only “happy”, and “normal” behaviours. When my PND peaked, all was revealed – the blackness, the murkiness, the lack of my Self. It was all dispersed and twisted in a lost world, all laid out for everyone to observe, and question. To this day, my friends are still finding out the hell I went through – the journey has been very long. As I am learning, PND affects mothers in various ways, each situation differs to the next. In spite of that, my friends have helped me so much to get through this traumatic, dark, sad experience.
Below, are some ways, from a personal view, what my friends have done to help me through my PND.
Message or call once in a while.
Even if you do not receive a text back from me. I am not ignoring you, in fact I greatly appreciate for you contacting me. I physically and mentally cannot respond or answer the call. My world at the time of my PND was so desolate, that I could not break out of that mode. If I do not message back, please do not persist. It gets too overwhelming at times, and then I am ridden with guilt because I have not responded. However, in my own time I will respond. It may not be that day. It may not be tomorrow. It will be soon. Please, be patient with me.
Organize a girly get together.
They say laughter is the best medicine. And, laughter and friends go hand in hand. I am ever grateful for the catch ups. As we get older, we find partners and have children, so time is consumed with family and relationship life. It is so important to have catch up with friends – the balance of married life, mother life and social life is crucial as sometimes we can get caught too much with one of these elements. I may be however quieter, distant, not as engaged at these catch ups. PND pre-occupies me, I am constantly thinking a million miles an hour. I may I have to leave early. I may not always be capable of attending either, because I am in bed in an absolute mess. These moments I have with my friends mean a lot, even if I do not reveal it.
Some of my friends have been there to listen to me.
That is all I want. Someone to listen. No opinions, no should or could. Listen. Even if I cannot articulate it. I may cry. Please, be there. That is all a PND sufferer may just want. Someone all ears, with no judgement, no expectations. It is hard enough to open up to a friend about PND. It is like keeping a big dirty secret, a hidden relationship, as PND becomes like a toxic partner and it is too shameful to reveal to anyone about it. The stigma of PND is so apparent in Australia. Therefore, to have a friend to even listen aids to breakdown the stigma of this debilitating mental disease.
Be there for their Partner too.
The partner of a PND sufferer can carry the foremost of burdens. My husband has had to not only look after my son and myself, but also me, the mother of his child deteriorating from PND. It has been exhausting mentally and physically for him. Yet, he too needs support. During the climax of my PND, he had support from his friends, as well my friends. Partners need this more than anything, they need get togethers, they need someone to listen to them, someone to call and text if they are ok. If there is none of this support, then the partner crumbles too.
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If you are struggling or know someone who is, please seek help. You can call the PANDA’s National Perinatal Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306, Mon to Fri, 10am – 5pm AEST.
Funded by the Australian and Victorian Governments, the helpline provides vital support, information, referral and counselling to thousands of Australian parents and their families. Callers do not need to have a diagnosis of antenatal or postnatal depression to make contact with the Helpline, PANDA is keen to support any new parent struggling during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby, as well as their partner, family and friends.