Since I started it, my blog has evolved. It started as a diary/mood journal for me to manage my own continued recovery but in the few months that I’ve been writing it, it has slowly become more than that. I’ve been inspired by some very brave people online to share my story and help raise awareness of a greatly stigmatised illness. In some of the chats that I’m involved with online talk we’ve discussed how not enough support is given to Dad’s and extended families. I’ve hoped previously that my own story would help other sufferers which gets me to think maybe my husband’s story could help others too.
I’m fully aware that I put my husband through hell whilst I was ill and I’m eternally grateful that he stood by me. I can’t even begin to imagine how it feels to be treated the way I treated him by someone you love. But he knows and in this interview style post, I ask him to try and help me understand that. The questions in this post have been worded by me however, the answer are in his words, I have not edited them in anyway – other than maybe the odd typo!! ;0)
When did you realise that I was ill?
The first indication was that the whole change in routine and attitude, coming in from work and finding that the washing up from breakfast hadn’t been done,snapping at me when i wanted to help, like you wanted to do everything yourself also the fact that you hadn’t had a shower or when asked what you had done that day and the answer was nothing (which was not like you at all) then alarm bells started to ring that something was wrong, But as i looked on you listen to the HV or Midwife and they tell you that there your hormones are still all over the place after the birth and can take time to settle, so as a spouse or partner you take it as gospel that these changes are a result of this, as you look for a simple answer to it. But you don’t realise that the problem is a bit more deep seated until you are told
How many times did you try to reach me?
I must have tried about 4 maybe 5 times to get you to come round to tell me what was wrong,but when approached you would get angry and get upset. I remember one night after a night feed that you where tired grumpy and yet still wouldn’t share what tell me what it was, it took every bit of strength not to get angry and shout at you to just bloody tell me what was wrong, Then it came out at about 4 am in the morning what you felt about J and your feelings and emotions towards him
What does PND look like to a loved one looking in?
I guess when I have read blogs and twitter accounts regarding PND that it only really gives you a perspective from the sufferer, and that it can manifest itself in different ways. The biggest effect on me was that you see the person you love completely change in front of your eyes. Not knowing why was the heartbreaking thing about it, approaching the subject was done gingerly as the reaction was like banging your head against a brick wall and not getting an answer why you were feeling that and not being able to help was heart breaking and also effects your work life.
How does it feel not being able to help?
Heartbreaking, Frustrating. You feel helpless and angry sometimes as it doesn’t matter what you do (good or bad) flowers, shopping or simply taking the child out for a walk to give you some peace sometimes got the same reaction, This was so frustrating. thought of possible reasons of what was happening were going around my head , what, where, how,what can I do, what do I do, who can I speak to about this, (as a bloke it’s just not one of those subjects you can bring up in conversation with the lads, she was just on time of the month or ‘off on one’) i didn’t really think of looking on the internet as I didn’t know what to look for. so you kind of keep it to yourself, and that can really effect you your work and your relationship.
Did you feel pressure to “fix me”?
I would not call it pressure as i didn’t know what it was I was trying to solve, but I felt that you needed help but every turn I made to help yourself was met with resistance, you need to get to the doctor as it was not just a natural effect of having a child.
Did you ever feel like we wouldn’t come out of the other side?
It was hard, thoughts like that, I won’t lie it did cross my mind, Just to walk away and not come back but it would have broke my heart and not seeing my little man would have killed me inside so it wasn’t a option i had to see this through ,Its really bad to put on a front while out in public while behind closed doors you would sit apart in a 10 ft square room and barely speak two words to each other. Sometimes I would wait until you were asleep go upstairs to the nursery and wait for him to wake so I could take him so you got your rest, i would just sit there and sometimes cry to myself as I felt so useless not knowing what to do or say, trying to avoid confrontation on trying to get you to admit there was a problem, but what to say?, how to say it?, all this was going through my head. I didn’t see an end to it i just needed to get it sorted but I wasn’t giving up I just wanted the woman i fell in love with back again and to help me enjoy our little man.
What coping mechanisms for you did you engage in order to be able to support me?
I didn’t really have a conscious mechanism but looking back it was the time on my own, I work about 4 miles from where we lived so I walked there and back to just listen to music on the Ipod and power walk to get the frustration out of me, but this gave me the clarity to think of ways i could help you admit there was a problem.
But all I tried to do was be as helpful as i could and just be there to try and take as much of the burden off you so you could help yourself relax.
In your experience do you feel that there is enough support for father’s and/or extended family?
As I didn’t really know what the problem was until it was diagnosed, I went looking for what I could do and or find anyone that had gone through this. I could not go to any of my other family as I knew they didn’t know what was going on or know how to deal with it as they had not gone through this, felt really alone. It really was a taboo, PND? Does it really only happen to women? How does it effect men? Who do you talk to? How do you deal with it? So many questions yet nothing out there to help you understand.
I’ve talked previously about how the HV inadvertently drove a wedge between us with some “clumsy” remarks aimed at helping us. How did that episode make you feel?
The HV really really made me mad, I would do everything knowing it would help you out, washing, bathing, feeding , cleaning and shopping. It was totally unbelievable that she could say that, basically i would leave you to just look after the child and relax.
It was as if she was saying that all this was because of me WHAT THE HELL! Where did she get this from? It was as if that she hadn’t listened to anything we had said and that she was pointing the finger at, yes you guessed it the Father! As it seemed to be the past history thing or she had seen or been taught. The thing she did say to help us was to give me a list of things to do to help you out? Patronise me why not? iI just couldn’t believe what you told me when i came home from work, I admit I did the wrong thing and argued with you about it, but it wasn’t you, just unbelievable what this ‘health professional’ had suggested, at this point I had lost the plot with the whole thing.
When I started to recover you must’ve been pleased? What went through your mind when I relapsed?
When you finally got diagnosed it was such a relief, it sounds terrible, but it was an answer, and at this point something that could be treated and not just a stab in the dark which was what I felt with the HV remarks.
When it came back to the relapse I saw the problem rise its head early and this time the conversation was different and a lot more amicable. Knowing the symptoms seeing the signs, it was a hell of a lot easier to deal with looking at blogs and twitter real can help, but there is still a lot that still can be done through learning and sharing.
If there was one thing you could tell us back then to help us cope, what would it be?
Talk, share and be open with what you are feeling with each other. From the point of view of a father its really being observant, helpful as possible and get in the routine of what the mother and baby needs. Seeing little changes in your partners behaviour and using open questions to get to the root of the problem (it might have been the fact that the coffee cup you used you didn’t rinse and put in the dishwasher) but try and stay level headed, remember that having a baby is a life changing experience, and from a father’s point of view cherish the time you have with your child as they do grow up so fast and it’s time you will miss when you go to work and if you are like me its time away from the family that can be the hardest, The best advice i can give is that just enjoy the experience and enjoy the time regardless of how hard it can get at times (lack of sleep, teething ,etc) talk, spend some quality time with each other when you get the chance.
So I final word from “mum”. There are things in here that I did not know, as I said above I knew I put him through hell but no idea what that hell actually looked like. I’ve actually been in tears reading some of these answers but I appreciate the honesty as being honest is the only way to share experience constructively. I don’t expect that sharing our experience will magically cure anyone else’s situation but it’s important that you know you’re not alone. It’s hard, at times soul-destroying but we are proof that you can get through it.