I worry about spiralling back into depression
Simply talking to someone who listens and who is supportive can make a big difference. photograph: getty images
Q I am a mother to two children aged three and seven months. They are lovely children but I am finding it hard to cope. The long days get to me and I find myself at 9am, having been up for three hours already, wondering how I am going to get through the rest of the day.
My husband is supportive, though he is under great pressure in his work and can only do so much. I did suffer from depression on the birth of my first child, but this time I thought things were going better. However, in recent weeks I find myself getting down again and I worry about spiralling back into depression.
I feel really guilty about how my mood might be affecting the children. My older son has started in Montessori four days a week and I thought that would make a difference but I still find it hard.
This makes me feel doubly guilty as I should be coping with only one child. Every little thing just feels so hard.
A Though the most valuable job you might undertake, parenting can also be the most stressful and it can take its toll on your mental health. More than 50 per cent of new mothers report having a bout of the “baby blues” during their pregnancy or after the birth and a smaller number (10-15 per cent) report more significant symptoms of postnatal depression such as low mood, negative feelings about self, finding simple tasks difficult, and so on.
Sadly, like yourself, many mothers blame themselves for their depression or believe it is due to the fact that they are not coping well and this only makes things worse. The key to dealing with postnatal depression is to recognise that you are not alone, that your feelings are normal and to seek help. Contact your GP or your public health nurse to get support. There are also some good resources online for parents who might be suffering from depression such as Post-Natal Depression Ireland, pnd.ie, or Aware, tel: 1890-303-302, aware.ie. In the meantime, here are some practical steps that could make a difference:
Acknowledge and accept your feelings and upset
The first step to overcoming depression is to acknowledge and accept your feelings. Feeling guilty or adding in self-criticisms that “I should be coping better” are not only untrue but make things a lot worse.
Accepting that you might be depressed can be a very helpful way of understanding what is going on for you and for talking to others close to you about what is happening (in a way that does not blame them or you for how you are feeling).
A little bit of self-compassion goes a long way.
Seek support and get practical help
Simply talking to someone who listens and who is supportive can make a big difference. It is great that your husband is supportive and the two of you should sit down and plan how you are going to improve things together.
He might be able to put some boundaries around work and/or the two of you might be able to establish a better routine for you during the day. It could help if he could commit to a regular time during the day when he is exclusively in charge of the children.