(originally published by Poynton PANDAS)
I had no idea why I was feeling like I was feeling. Our daughter was very happy and healthy and my wife embraced her new role as a mother. I attributed my feelings to a lack of sleep and dealing with the momentous change that happened when our daughter was born. I had read articles that “love” between a father and his child can take some time to develop so I wasn’t too worried.
I’ve never really felt comfortable around kids. Growing up my brothers would interact with the baby cousins and I just could never find myself “googooing” and “gagaing” and doing that kind of stuff. However, I figured when my own child was born I would have no choice and it would come naturally to me. Anyway, after my daughter was born I did what I could in terms of looking after her so I jumped in with the baths and changing and feeding occasionally. My wife breastfed so I would do an occasional bottle feed to give my wife a break.
After a few months of doing the dad thing, I found myself not feeling right. I was very irritable and generally being a bit of an asshole. Evidence of this is in the swear jar that had something like 200 pounds in it after 3 months (1 pound a swear in front of my daughter). I remember grudgingly doing things that my daughter needed. I hated feeding her, dressing her, hearing her cry, everything. It was bad but I attributed it to lack of sleep or something. After all, I wasn’t aware that paternal postnatal depression was a thing. As part of my embracing of my new role as a dad, I started following various social media sites to read articles about fatherhood/parenthood and maybe laugh at some of the unfortunate incidents around diaper changes! Anyway, one of the sites I followed posted a clickbait article that was titled something along the lines of “we need to talk about a condition affecting dads.” You’ve seen the type of headline so I figured it’d be something about exercise or getting enough sleep. It was actually about some of the symptoms of paternal postnatal depression and it was like reading a diary of my recent life. It was very eye opening and it prompted me to do some further research. Being me, I like to be sure about things before going further with any formal treatment. While I had my various browser windows open, my wife saw what I was looking at and we talked about what I was looking at. To be honest, I would have rather it was various “specialist” websites that she caught me looking at instead of one pertaining to mental health. I felt slightly better after talking about it so I put off my trip to the GP for a while.
After a few weeks from my “self discovery” things hadn’t gotten better so I went to the GP where I was prescribed a course of Citalopram, an antidepressant. The potential side effects and what not scared the b’jesus out of me so I was hesitant but ultimately decided to go ahead. I’m so glad I did. The effects weren’t immediate but after several weeks I was starting to feel like my old self again. At the height of my depression I would have shuddered at the thought of spending any extended length of time with my daughter but since starting treatment, we’ve had several father/daughter days out. We recently had a family trip back to the U.S. and I even contemplated just a father/daughter trip there!
I’m very optimistic about the future and I think I’ve kicked this thing. My antidepressant course is due to end shortly so we’ll see in few months whether I’m in the clear.
My husband has post-natal depression. It’s easy to say it out loud and talk about it now but when he first told me five months ago that he thought he may need some help, it’s fair to say I was at a complete loss as to what to do or say.
Our beautiful baby girl, Alice, is now nine months old. My pregnancy was as straightforward as they come, the birth was textbook and so far, touch wood, we’ve not had any problems that every new parent doesn’t experience at some stage. In short, there were no red flags that one of us may be at risk of post-natal depression. That’s one of the reasons it came as such a shock to me when Steve said he was struggling. Yes, he had not been himself for a couple of months. He had been more distant; wasn’t engaging with Alice; he had a shorter fuse with pretty much everyone and everything; and all-in-all he had not been very fun to live with. The idea that he had post-natal depression though was a real shock to me.
For a start, I had no idea men could have post-natal depression. It’s no surprise really, given the enormous impact having a baby has on life, but I’ll admit it had never occurred to me. I wanted to do anything and everything I could to support and help Steve, and I told him so, but had no idea how to do that. If I am honest though my very first reaction, at least privately, was fear. What did this mean for us? Would we would end up separating? What if he never bonded with Alice? She was turning into an amazing little person and I was terrified he was missing it. I have past experience of living with people with depression but this only made me more fearful now. I know what a long-road it can be and how difficult it is. I was scared and although rationally I was sure we would be fine, I couldn’t help but think of worst case scenarios.
A lovely lady from Poynton PANDAS had attended our local postnatal class. I’d not given it a second thought until now but wasn’t sure whether they could or would help me, so I got in touch online. Their response was immediate and so reassuring. I went along to their next group, not sure what to expect, and I am so glad that I did. Just talking to other people who had experienced similar problems helped. I knew instantly it was a safe place to voice all of the worries I had, even the ones I knew were a little on the ridiculous side, and to answer the many many questions I had. I left that day with a much better idea of what Steve was going through and how I could support him.
Steve went to talk to our GP, who was really supportive, and he’s now on a course of anti-depressants. It would be wrong to say that things are perfect, but they are much better now that we’ve both found help and support. Post-natal depression is no longer something that hangs over us like a black cloud and I no longer worry it will define Alice’s early life.
If you need support with maternal or paternal ante- or post-natal illness contact Poynton PANDAS at firstname.lastname@example.org or via facebook www.facebook.com/PoyntonPANDAS
To find a support group near you check out PANDAS Support Group page http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/how-we-can-help/support-groups.html#.VUjmiJMYFQI