The author of this list wishes to remain anonymous, but what they have done by opening about male mental health is brave and brilliant and will, no doubt, help many. Especially in light of the fact that as as many as 1 in 10 men suffer Paternal Post Natal Depression.
Although Dad’s do not go through the physically or hormonal changes of a becoming a parent, the impact of a new baby is colossal for everyone.
- Right…. So where do I start?
- I’m a young dad, with a beautiful wife & gorgeous little boy
- I have no history of mental health issues
- I probably tick every box for a standard middle class guy; public school, rugby playing, university educated & career focussed
- Loving family, albeit dysfunctional; parents, brother and sisters, all beautiful and unique
- I have no history of mental health issues
- So what else? I have a business, which on days near kills me, and a 2-5hr commute each day which can sometimes be challenging, but its ok because I can handle it as I have no history of mental health issues.
- Until I did.
- The days after I found out my gorgeous wife was pregnant was a mix of emotions ranging from;
- Am I ready?
- Am I mature enough?
- Do I earn enough money?
- Am I stable enough?
- Will I be the dad I want to be?
- Can I be everything he needs me to be?
- But that’s standard right? Sure it is. But this is about the limit of most peoples consideration for the male thought process. Once we’ve got over the initial shock / surprise / excitement & brick sh!tting nerves, it’s commonly assumed that dads are fine.
- Throughout the pregnancy, mums are asked “how are you?”, even to the point where fathers are often asked to leave the room so the midwives can discuss mental health and domestic abuse. How much more of a symbolic gesture could there be sending fathers away to discuss mental health in privately with the mummy to be.
- On the NHS website the following is stated:
- During pregnancy, you can talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor at any time if you’re worried about your mental health.
- Some women worry about telling healthcare professionals how they’re feeling because they fear they’ll be judged as a parent, or their child will be taken away from their care.
- In reality, healthcare professionals work really hard to get mums well so they can continue to look after their children.
- During pregnancy and after your baby is born, your midwife or health visitor should also ask if you have ever had problems with your mental health in the past, and whether you have been bothered by feeling down, hopeless or unable to enjoy things lately.
- WHAT ABOUT US DADS?
- Now, I must be very careful at this point, and say that the incredible work done by Midwives and Doctors around the UK to protect against Maternal Postnatal Depression is unequivocal. There are women across the UK who owe so much to the care taken during, and following pregnancy for their successful management and “recovery” from this vicious illness. I cannot express just how Impressed I was throughout the antenatal process by the care and attention my wife received. I think neither of us could say there was ever a time when she didn’t feel supported by the NHS and the framework in place to protect new mums.
- However, not once throughout the process was I asked how I was. But it’s ok, because I have no history of mental health issues and I’m a bloke.
- Now, back to our story.
- Summer came and went, we enjoyed a beautiful holiday, and the excitement built and built
- Then, suddenly (or not so suddenly) it all happened. We went into Hospital, my wife put in a truly heroic effort, and a little while later my beautiful son was born.
- In that moment, covered in things we pretend we don’t remember, suddenly there is this bundle of opportunity and potential in your arms. You feel such a strong sense of indestructible love for this little dude you’ve only just met and yet known his whole life.
- That moment will stay with me forever. I sat there, watching my brave wife recover and holding my new little boy having a little cry and whispering sweet nothings to my him giving it my best Only Fools and Horses impression; “I wanted to do things, be someone, but I never had what it took. But you, you’re different. You’re gonna live my dreams for me. You’re gonna do all the things I wanted to do, and you’re gonna come back and tell me if they’re as good as I though they would be…” or whatever, I can’t remember my exact words.
- In the coming days and weeks the whirlwind of poop, tears, feeding & desire for boobies is overwhelming… I can only imagine how my son felt.
- The new challenge gives you energy unavailable through any legal means. The sense of purpose, pride & unity is so powerful you feel on top of the world
- But then… out of nowhere, and overwhelmingly the creep begins, but it’s ok, because I have no history of mental health issues and this must just be a “Sad Dads” phase.
- For me, it was I think stemmed from a sense of uselessness. I don’t know how much of this my wife knows, but out of desperation to help I found myself drifting from being useful:
- If he cried: Mummy
- If he was hungry: Mummy
- Tired: Mummy
- Happy: Mummy
- So where does that leave Daddy? Helping mummy wherever you can of course, but very little interaction with the new child you want desperately to connect with.
- And of course daddy is back to work at this point… In our experience particularly, my son was a delight by day and a terrorist by night (still is!), and when was my only opportunity to see him? Witching hour – which meant I only ever knew him as well…, miserable.
- So a crack begins to open, turning to a gap, and before you know it there is a gulf between you and this little creature you want to love.
- You turn to work, to drink, to other naughty things, and you tell yourself it’s all ok – its not you, its him (he’s 8 weeks old at this point!). But then you realise, and this is a f*cking sledgehammer of a realisation; its not them, it’s you.
- My darkest day was in November 2017, when I wrote:
- “My wife is angry with me because she feels I’m distant, she’s angry because she feels alone & unsupported. And yet, I feel all the same things and she doesn’t see it… I know I’m not being a good dad at the moment, I know I’m not being the man I should, but with this crushing weight of depression, upset & frustration I feel like half the man I normally am. When my son cries & I’m holding him I don’t feel anything – not good or bad, just nothing but exhaustion & blankness. I can’t help him until someone helps me. The last 8 weeks have been amazing, and watching him grow already is inspirational, but I’m worried that I’m not connecting with him now because depression & anxiety are stopping me. I’ve always thought anxiety was a load of rubbish, but now with the pressure of his arrival I feel a restricting & limiting anxiety which stops me sleeping, makes me angry with no cause, and snap for no reason. I know I need help, and I keep saying I’m struggling, and yet it falls on deaf ears appeal after appeal. My wife can’t support me, because she doesn’t see it hurting me, although when she does it’s a snap reaction or an unnecessary escalation. I hate being this way, but how do I fix it? I don’t want to work, I have no real appetite, I am drinking far too much. I even googled paternal postnatal depression & left it on my phone on the off chance she would see it & ask me about it. But she doesn’t, she just thinks I’m being rude & distant because I want to be. But that’s not fair, I want to be a family, I want to want to be with them – I want to fix this… I’m not sure my body or mind can take much more of this unless something changes – please give me some advice!?”
- Looking back on this its pretty clear right; I do have a mental health issue. How I could deny it for as long as I did was maybe one of the root problems, because I’m a bloke, and mental health is a load of rubbish, and I must be macho
- That dark day I ventured down to the doctors, petrified about being judged, or made to feel inadequate. But instead, as I fought back the tears of anxiety I found someone independent who just listened. I don’t know how long I was there for that first day, I cant even remember what I said, but walking out the doctors I was 1 tonne lighter. Nothing had been resolved or fixed, but I finally acknowledged; I do have a mental health issue, and with the right controls & support I can overcome this
- Change doesn’t happen overnight, and admitting it to yourself, your partner or your doctor isn’t the end.
- I relapsed recently and had a proper ‘dog lead in the forest’ moment.
- I was really scared of what I was capable of that day, or more specifically where the demon of paternal postnatal depression is able to take you. But, having sat there for an hour or so I called my wife, called the doctors, had an appointment scheduled and my wife, my rock, now knowing my condition was able to support me and help me out of that dark place.
- Lad Lad Lad comment coming here chaps; my wife gave me a hug… I cried & explained what had set me off (it was something any other day would have taken in my stride).
- Since then, I’ve been high and low… sometimes a little too high, having had periods of substance abuse & negative thoughts. But, those moments pass, and in the clear light of day, with my beautiful wife, and lunatic son there to provide all the motivation I need I can now begin to make every day a little better, and every low a little shallower.
- My wife snuck a photo into my wallet of us when we were a little younger, on the back of it I’ve written “when things get bad look at this, think of our son & remember why you do it! You will get there!” Take wins where you can, find positives & recognise the little gestures made my those people around you who truly care.
- OK, so that’s me. But if I sat in the pub for you and told you this would you be so truthful? It’s time that men talked.
- Its time we took a little more care of ourselves, and recognised the pregnancy process is mentally challenging on dads too. My story might be common, it might not, but if any part of this story sounds familiar, or if you feel alone, rest assured there is a team of men around you, and we’re here to support you having lived through these same challenges.
- It’s OK to admit you’re having trouble with mental health. The best macho comparison I ever had provided to me was comparing Mental Health and a damaged muscle. When recovering from an injury you take modest steps to recovery with a physio, and each week you add resistance, weights or pressure. Your physio supports you throughout this to ensure you’re doing the right thing for you. Like mental health, the day you ask for help doesn’t fix it, but it’s the start of the recovery process. Overtime the pressures and weights mount, but you’ve taken the time, and done the recovery correctly to ensure your mind, or your muscle, are prepared for whatever challenges its to face next.
- It’s time to talk men – you’ll be a better dads for it. I know I am.
- A personal thank you to my wife. With a young son, and a sometimes mentally juvenile Husband you have been my light, my lifeline, and my rock. I don’t ever know how I can repay you for bringing my son into my life, and saving mine, but I love you more than I’d ever be able to put down in words. Thank you.
How moving it was to read the list about the dad opening up about his fight with Paternal Post Natal Depression.
I really hope it helps raise awareness and encourage men to seek help or even to just talk about how they feel!
Best wishes to the author of this list and his family.
A powerful list, I am so grateful that this has been shared. I hope the author and his family are ok and moving forward. Well done for raising awareness