Every person has a mental health and studies show that two-thirds of us have experienced some form of mental health illness in our life.
Mental health illnesses can range from anxiety to eating disorders, depression and forms of psychosis.
Today I’m going to focus on mental health illnesses in pregnant women, those who are postpartum, and new fathers who are struggling with pre or postnatal depression.
Speaking to my partner, Dylan, he told me what it was like for him through the pregnancy and afterwards.
“When I first found out I was going to be a father, so many thoughts ran through my mind and none of them positive. I was 20 years old and at University. I viewed myself continuing the party lifestyle I had created for myself during my first year at uni, well into my final year. Selfish, I know. But I was 20. I had only just learned to cook and clean and now I had a million new responsibilities.
After going to the doctors a few days later to confirm the pregnancy, we felt like we were being pushed and pulled in all different directions by others, on a decision that was ours. Sam and I talked for hours, ignoring everything that was recommended to us. We wanted to keep our baby.
I knew I had to make a career for myself with Leo’s arrival getting closer and closer. I managed to get an internship over summer in London, thanks to my cousin working there. But soon summer was over and my second year of uni was starting.
I wanted to dedicate myself to my uni work as much as I could until February instead of going out drinking so that I could have the best possible chance of getting a good grade before the sleepless nights started.
I didn’t find too much time for going out, I spent a lot of it behind a book or with Samantha – but living with friends helped a lot.
It sounds strange to say but the bond I had with my unborn son was so strong, and it grew with every kick and wiggle he made. Nights were spent falling asleep on Sam’s stomach, telling Leo how much I couldn’t wait to meet him.
Despite everything in my head, I managed to get Firsts in all my course modules.
My parents didn’t take the news of Leo well, and this hurt. I felt like I had disappointed my mum, and the slightest things got to me. It was difficult for a long time during the pregnancy. I’d not been myself throughout but I didn’t think anything was wrong.”
“I was with Samantha throughout the entire pregnancy and we experienced the journey together in every way. When Sam finally went into labour, I was genuinely excited – I wanted to meet the little boy who I spoke to every single night before going to bed.
For the 20 hours that Sam was in labour, I felt utterly useless. Seeing her in so much pain and discomfort and all I could do was hold her hand and tell her everything would be okay.
Finally, at 02:45am on the 21st February, Leo announced himself to the world with an almighty cry.
I cried like I have never cried before.
All of the negative feelings and state of mind throughout the pregnancy had disappeared and I was filled with an emotion stronger than anything I have ever felt before.
The first time I held him in my arms is a moment I’ll never forget I just stared and cried and cried. Tears of pure joy. Seeing his tiny eyes looking up at me, I felt the natural instincts to protect and love him as much as I possibly could.
But in hindsight, we maybe should have held off for a little bit? I could see Samantha was struggling.
When Leo was 5 weeks old, everything changed.
I’d been working hard at uni and group deadlines, going to the gym and carrying out fatherhood duties, as well as helping Sam in any way I could.
I suddenly felt an unbearable pain in my chest and immediately, as I so often do, I thought the worst.
I called 111 and they said to get to A&E as it was a chest pain. I was there a couple of hours before I was seen and hooked up to an ECG machine.
Everything with the heart was fine and the nurse asked me to describe my lifestyle and she noticed some issues.
My world stopped, almost as much as when Leo was born. She said it was an anxiety attack.
I was a confident, extroverted individual – I’ve never had anxiety before. What even is anxiety?
The next morning, I couldn’t get out of bed. I tried so hard but I could barely move. It felt as if I had a huge weight on my back and I was cracking hard. I couldn’t communicate and I stopped eating, and it lasted for a couple of weeks.
I dragged myself to uni every day, but I hardly spoke to anyone and I started to isolate myself from people.
I was still there for Leo, but I felt entirely useless.
I noticed I wasn’t the charming, cheerful and affectionate boyfriend I once was, and I wanted to love and care for them both but I couldn’t, and I didn’t know why.
My relationship with Sam was suffering and it was my fault.
I went back to the doctors, and they said something to me that I’d never considered.
She said I was suffering from Post Natal Depression. I thought that was something only women struggled with.
I was prescribed propanol for the anxiety. But talking about what was going on in my mind felt good. Talking to someone I didn’t know, it helped.
I didn’t tell anyone about my ‘diagnosis’. It made me feel less human, and less of a man. Because men ‘don’t struggle’.. do they?
Uni was amazing with us both, and they still are. I didn’t want to get extensions on my deadlines, I just wanted to get the work done and get the firsts I’d studied so hard for.
The pressure was getting to me. I felt like I was in a narrow, never-ending tunnel.
I got really annoyed at myself when I didn’t get above 70% in one module. I felt like I knew I could do better.
I calculated the week before one of my exams that I spent 98 hours in the library that week, 14 hours a day. I felt if I didn’t pass, I’d be a failure to Leo.
After finishing uni, I still felt trapped. Living in a tiny one bed flat with just the 3 of us didn’t help either.
I went back to the Doctors and I was taken off propranolol and prescribed with Anti-Depressants and took me off propanol.
“How can the very person I love more than anything in the world, be the reason for my pain?” I asked myself every single night. But I never blamed Leo.
Once we got home, things pretty much went back to how they were. The tablets left me feeling more depressed than ever.
In the summer, we moved house and things started to change. Moving from putting 1-bed city centre flat into a 3 bedroom and 3-storey house blew a wave of fresh air into my life.
I began doing the things I loved again like hiking and seeing friends again, (I kept all this a secret from my friends).
I turned down a career at global giant’s Enterprise to move into the world of medical recruitment at a local SME and I’m glad I did.
Starting a new job helped more than anything, I felt occupied and busy. The team at work are fantastic, we have a great laugh and it helps.
When I came home I spent all of my time with Leo and it was amazing to begin laughing again. I felt like I mattered and that I was a good father, providing for my son.
It meant more to me than anything.”
“I still have good days and bad days, but mostly good now.
Overcoming and battling depression was/is extremely tiring. It took courage and strength I never knew I had.
It feels good to be getting somewhat back to myself but it’s going to take awhile to get back to that point.
One thing that could never be questioned throughout my battle is my commitment and love for my baby boy.
Seeing him learn and develop into an amazing child fills me with so much love and pride.
I love getting in from work to see Leo smile and crawl over to me demanding a hug. It’s the little things.
It’s hard to describe just how much love and adoration I have for my boy. I must bore people at work with all the photos and videos I show of him, but I can’t help it.
I said I’d get better for him. He’s made me into the person I am today, and although I’m still learning on how to be a young professional in the workplace, I’m building a career for him so I can provide him with all he needs, and I take great pride in doing so.”
Not many people talk about postnatal depression, particularity in men. Depression itself is a matter which people don’t like to talk about.
But we should talk about it.
It’s cliche to say, but a problem shared is a problem halved. It helps to talk. Whether it’s a doctor, a friend, a stranger.
Just remember, grey skies don’t stay grey forever.