Talking about depression or mental health is really tough, the first time you talk about it emotions can take over, or fear of judgement can stop you. If you feel strong enough to keep talking eventually you start to care less about what people think and then the first time someone says they’ve felt the same or they understand it starts to click; the more people who open up the less we feel ashamed.
If I know I’m struggling I often think of Mr Chartwell, Rebecca Hunt’s brilliantly conceived of metaphor for Churchill’s depression, creeping Black Pat. She captures the weightyness so well:
‘I understand that we share a wicked union, and I know the goblin bell which summons you comes from a tomb in my heart. And I will honour my principles, labouring against the shadows you herald. I don’t blench from my burden, but -’ here he let out a deep breath, laying the glasses down gently – ‘it’s so demanding; it leaves me so very tired. It would be some small comfort to me if I could ask how long I must endure this visit. Please, when do you leave?’
“It’s hard to explain. With Churchill we know each other’s movements, so we have a routine, I guess. I like to be there when he wakes up in the morning. Sometimes I drape across his chest. That slows him down for a bit. And then I like to lie around in the corner of the room, crying out like I have terrible injuries. Sometimes I’ll burst out at him from behind some furniture and bark in his face. During meals I’ll squat near his plate and breathe over his food. I might lean on him too when he’s standing up, or hang off him in some way. I also make an effort to block out the sunlight whenever I can.”
See, heavy, painful, emotional.
I had this poster up in my old office, that stat 1 in 4 is an important one, it would be nice to see the ‘many more’ reduced.
This week I took another step in ‘talking about it’ – specifically my experience of postnatal depression and anxiety.
First off Hannah from Mumsdays blogged my two part birth story, then I was interviewed for BBC Radio Newcastle talking about PND and how men are affected (podcast here, I’m 37 minutes in) and the next day Metro Radio called me to ask me to give another interview which goes out tomorrow about the Support Group I’m setting up affilated with PANDAS foundation.
It wasn’t easy for someone who doesn’t really enjoy public speaking to open up so publicly about my experiences, hearing myself saying ‘I experienced postnatal depression’ and ‘I struggled with early motherhood’ was tough but if it helps just one other person to come to our support group or open up about how they’re feeling then that’s been a conversation worth having.
If you want to start to talk about PND and want somewhere to practice before you do it ‘in real life’ then the weekly #pndchat on twitter could be a really good starting point.
You will get mixed reactions, people might not know what to say, but voicing your feelings is an amazing step towards taking back some power, let’s keep the conversation going!