I’ll be honest, this one is the most important suggestion I’m going to make, and really should have been number one on the list. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where it is on the list, it’s just important that it’s here.
For me, I’m in a position where talking about my mental health with my wife is almost second nature to me. It doesn’t really take any effort to bring the subject up, and usually when I do, it immediately starts to help. But for others, you might not be used to having that open dialogue. It’s not something we developed overnight, it took us time to get to a point where we’re as open as we are. And even in recent years, there has been the odd thing I’ve tried to keep from Rachel in order to protect her. But it doesn’t work. It’s much better that she knows everything, not just what I want her to know.
Labelling, and Not Judging Emotions
When it comes to talking about how you feel, it’s important that you start by simply labelling the emotions you are feeling. Just saying “I feel stressed” can start the ball rolling and get you talking about where you may feel that stress is coming from, and how you can go about addressing the issue. If you want a simple way of putting it, just go with this: Name it to tame it.
As you label these emotions, you have to make sure that you never judge them. You didn’t decide to have whatever emotion it is that you’re feeling, so there is absolutely no reason to judge it. If you feel sad in a moment when you should be happy, or if you randomly sense that you are feeling angry then that’s ok. You can’t control the feelings that are coming up, you can only observe them. And no matter how bad they are, the same person still exists behind them. You are still you, you’re just having strong, overwhelming feelings.
If you want a video to give you a great analogy for what I’m talking about, then here’s Headspace:
The problem with postnatal depression is the guilt that can easily come with it. I’ve been there. I felt incredibly guilty for having such negative feelings towards Isabelle, but ultimately, I realised that the more I opened up and talked about them, the more I found the thoughts would go. To use the analogy in the video about, talking about my feelings help poke holes in the dark clouds above. It helped me see the blue sky that lay behind them. And the more I talked, the more those holes began to open, and before long, the blue sky had returned. That’s what talking can do for you.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you talk to. It can be your partner, a doctor, or even a bunch of people on Twitter (every Wednesday between 8-9pm) for #PNDHour. Or people on the Postnatal Depression Awareness and Support Group. It’s just important that you find someone that will listen, and not judge how you are feeling. Research even shows that talking therapies can be as effective as medication when it comes to alleviating depression. It can be difficult at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will be with it, and the more in tune you will be with your own mind.
When we keep problems bottled up we tend to have a nasty habit of escalating and exacerbating them to unreasonable heights. When we release these feelings in a controlled, talked out manner, we keep everything in check.
If you want other suggestions to try to go alongside this, then feel free to check out the Toolkit I’ve made.