A Dear Dads journey through Post Natal Depression…..

At the bird enclosure

It has been just over 2 years since I last saw the signs of PND in my wife. It ruled her world and by default ruled mine. It almost got the better of us. I remember the day my youngest and my wife came home from the hospital, it was such a joyous occasion. There was no parties or extended family around it was just the four of us. It was such a nice day, and after my wife being in hospital 2 weeks post labour it was nice to feel like a complete family again. We settled back into our old routine with the exception of the adjustments we made for our new born. I was content, things were panning out just as we had planned or so I thought. It didn’t happen immediately, but slowly over the next month something else showed up.

I couldn’t put my finger on it right away, but I couldn’t get anything right. I wasn’t holding our new born right, I wasn’t stacking the dish washer right, I was working to much, I was starting to withdraw from the world and I wasn’t communicating enough with my wife. In her eyes I was doing everything wrong….It was like a dark heavy sheet being pulled over my world, things that used to be fun became a chore, hanging out at home which always made me feel warm and secure started to feel cold and foreign. The world that I knew was slowly slipping through my fingers. I was watching it play out on the big screen like in the movies. I could see it going on around me but didn’t know how to call out for help. I was lost in a world of breastfeeding, nappy changes, work and sleep. I didn’t go out any more, I stopped seeing friends, I basically became a robot with the old me inside screaming, banging against the tough exterior, crying out for someone to free me. My best friend wasn’t around to help……. She was gone. The one person who always was there for me to help me ride out the stressful days and celebrate the good times. I wasn’t sure what day she left, as it happened slowly over a few weeks. In body she was still there, herself a robot just going through the motions, following the programming of a thousand years of evolution. I remember watching her one day, it was a nice sunny day outside, myself and BB was in good spirits but my wife was just a shell, no emotion, happiness or sadness, anger or laughter…. Nothing. As I said my best friend was gone and I was alone.

I was for the first time in a long time truly alone. There were people I could call, but I didn’t want too.. How could I explain the catastrophic destruction of my world, I couldn’t work it out in my own head let alone explain it to anyone else. So I just continued on, part of a marriage but in my own cold world.

It took a long time for me to realise that the dark heavy cloak that had blanketed my world that I tried so hard to lift, was not my doing, it wasn’t even my wife’s doing, it was Post Natal Depression. I wouldn’t face the music that something had stolen my wife’s personality and replaced it with a brick wall, it wasn’t till I thought of walking away that I had a moment of clarity that showed me that I needed to shred my cloak of darkness if my wife was to ever stand a chance. I googled what PND was as I thought it only happens to “other people”. I read all about it, what caused it, how it was treated. I decided one day when we were out for one of our long drives to confront the sad shell that sat beside me. My poor wife who was already feeling terrible without knowing why had her world come crashing around her. She was also in denial and her best friend was now attacking her about being miserable all the time. We drove for a long time, we talked as the miles came and went. At times it was heated, at times it was cold, at times it was silent. But in that conversation I saw it….

A small glimmer, a tiny ray of light bursting through the darkness. I saw my best friend, it was only for a second but I knew she was in there. I started to cry, all was not lost. The love of my life was still there, I just didn’t know how to get her out. We drove till the sun came down and darkness enveloped the car. We were both exhausted, mentally emotionally and physically. The roads lead us home and for the first time in months we sat on the couch, holding each other’s hand in the soft light of the lounge room just talking. We both admitted we had let something beat us. Something we had never seen before, something that we had never expected. It was PND, but we both had it. My wife the sufferer and myself by default. I explained what I had read and mention that I was not keen on the drug treatment, but would do what ever it took to get my best friend back. My wife agreed she didn’t want drugs. She wanted to beat it mentally. We read that exercise was a good way to combat it and both decided to make the effort to walk everyday.

It wasn’t easy and for a while after our chat I didn’t see my best friend outside of our walks. When we walked we talked, the depressing cloak was gone for 45 mins and we were free, and each time the cloak came back it was a little less heavy. My wife found a personal trainer who turned her world around. It was amazing to watch her beautiful light break through the cold hard shell that had so quickly covered her amazing soul. I also found myself returning to my happy self. My own insecurities dropping off me like water in a rain storm. I supported my wife while she powered through her personal discovery, exercising her depression away. She focused on what made her happy and I did what I could to get the roadblocks out of the way. One day without realising it I found my best friend walking beside me. She was back. My world had returned to normal. Together we made it. Her smile shone through and was the brightest light in my world. Looking back it was a crap journey, not something I would wish on anyone.

While PND is such a hard thing to get past and tragically some don’t make it, I like to now think we both beat it. We both helped each other at our low point and today are stronger for it. My best friend is here right by my side, helping me be the best dad I can be.

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