I am sitting on a couch at my Mums’ Group feeding my baby. My toddler is fighting over a toy with another kid. For the first time – ever- she bends her mouth to his shoulder, and bites.
I feel, predictably, awful. What mother wouldn’t. I very much want to disappear. What is most awful is that I am barely focussed on what has happened at all. I deal with it; stop feeding the baby, crouch down and hug the bitten child until his mum gets there, then attend to my child. My child who is always, it seems, one step ahead in confounding me. I explain, as best I can to a two-year-old, that biting hurts people. We even show the welt, the bruise, on the shoulder, as evidence. I diligently deal with this hiccup, and then attempt to resume feeding my disgruntled baby.
But the predominant feeling, the loudest sounds in my head? The newly-ringing diagnosis of depression, and the consistent realisation that I do not feel like doing my job properly. Ever. The daily recognition that this hard-slog is not going to go away easily or quickly, and the additional knowledge of what that means in practical terms. It means, sometimes, that when my child behaves appallingly, I’m actually distracted – disconnected – to the degree that I actually want to scream, “But what about me? What am I going to do? How am I going to survive this?”
When we had all calmed down, and the bruised child was receiving icy-pole first-aid in the kitchen, the mums, the toddlers, returned to their activities. I sat in self-absorbed silence.
One mum, who knew better than to ignore this, turned to me in a quiet moment and said, “Are you ok?” My relief was extreme. It was like someone had just put aloe on sunburn. I stared straight ahead and answered truthfully, “Not really. I’ve been diagnosed with PND.”
It was such a relief to tell someone. It wasn’t that I was going around pretending that everything was ok. But mothers of young children are pretty constantly in a state of exhaustion and disarray, so struggles can go unrecognised. I was very, very grateful to my friend for noticing, and for asking.
Yeah, ok. Some people do not like to talk about their depression. But honestly, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t value confiding in a friend and sharing their struggles sometimes. This particular friend was able to then confide in me that she had had PND with her first child. That, in itself, was a relief too. It was wonderful to know someone who had been through it, and was better.
The key factor for me that day was that my friend listened to my answer. Carefully. She didn’t pledge to make everything suddenly better. She didn’t fix anything right then and there. But she listened, she cared, she offered simple friendship, and hope.
Thursday September 15 was R U OK? Day. The website explains:
Staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feeling isolated or hopeless can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses, which can ultimately result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.
It’s so simple. In the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.
My friend did that for me. It really helped.
Would you like to read more blogposts about this subject? Click on the link below and you will be taken to a little collection of them, hosted by Gemma at My Big Nutshell.