Helping a PND sufferer – and taking care of yourself
Listening and being there is the best that you can do.
Hopefully you are close enough to the woman (whether she is a friend, a sister, a play-group member, a work colleague, a niece, a grand-daughter or whatever) for her to be able to tell you if she is still feeling this way in a couple of weeks - which is also why you need to stick close to her.
At the same time, she is going through a huge process of grief (grieving for the life she had before, if control has ever been important to her she will take some time to feel OK about being out of control all the time, non stop for weeks and weeks) and needs time to just be in that space, hear from you, receive your support and assurances that she is doing a good job – remember she doesn’t know whether she is or not because she hasn’t done this before etc.
If it's more than a few weeks since you first suspected that she is suffering from depression, then a trip to the doctor is necessary.
You can also encourage her to go online and fill out a PND assessment (see links on this site) which will help her ask herself the questions and realise what the signals are for PND so that she is then able to "see" what she needs to look out for in herself. The document contains all sorts of information about PND – so you might find some benefit in reading it too.
She needs to hear that:
- she is doing well,
- she needs to take care of herself or she wont be able to take care of the baby,
- she needs to get help if she doesn’t feel better so that she and the baby can grow healthy together, that
- she is not alone - there are 1000s of other mothers experiencing similar feelings etc,
- her partner (husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, lover) loves her and doesn’t think she is crazy,
- everyone is not talking about her out of spite and judgement but because they love and care for her
She doesn’t need to hear that:
- she needs to "get over it",
- "it will pass don't worry about it",
- she seems crazy,
- she is not doing a good job,
- anyone "understands or knows what its like" (cos no one can know what its like specifically for her) - instead say "I don’t know what you are going through, I can only imagine from what you have told me and what I experienced - but I want to help and listen and be there and I want to know what its like for you" (opening the way for her to share her thoughts and feelings without the sense that she is complaining or sounding like a nutter).
Have confidence in your ability to help her and say the things she needs to hear (or more importantly say very little and just listen) because we all know what it’s like when people speak carelessly without thought for its impact or empathy for the individual.
We know what it’s like when people don’t listen to what we are really saying or hear what we want to scream but can barely utter.
Try to understand what it’s like as a new mother. What is most difficult about those first weeks and months? How tough is it trying to pretend that all is well and lovely and pink and fluffy when it’s not?
Go with her to the doctor if it helps. Encourage her to find a support group and so on. Even better, find one for her and provide her with the details … offering to go along with her to the first meeting if she wants support.
A Vicious cycle
I remember not even knowing what I wanted, what could make a difference to how I was feeling - and on top of feeling like that, feeling stupid that I couldn’t help myself and that I was making others feel bad because they didn’t know how to help me (guilt which lead to resentment and anger) and so on in a vicious cycle which lead to wanting not to be a burden on anyone ...
Your presence and silence and constancy will let her know that you are there no matter what, that she is not a burden and that she will get through it.
You – the carer
That feeling of helplessness is sure something huh?
You can’t do anything that seems to help, can’t think of what to do except call, don’t know what to say or do etc… this is something you need to consider and sit with for a while - mainly because it will calm you (as you accept that feeling of discomfort) and therefore calm her when she is with you.
Sometimes, verbalising it to her will help you both: that you don’t really know what to do or how to help but you are there and you don’t mind tears or sadness, that she doesn’t need to talk if she doesn’t want to, that what is most important to you is that she doesn’t feel like she is alone because she is not.