“It’s so terrifying, what you have been through.”
“I don’t know how you’ve managed to get through it.”
“You should be so proud of yourself.”
“You are an inspiration.”
All comments said to me during my recovery from postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. All comments I was incredibly grateful to receive (after hearing nothing but negative abuse from the demons in my mind). And, all comments that even if I felt uncomfortable hearing — i.e., “You’re an inspiration” — were all true in some shape or form.
It’s true; it was terrifying seeing demons around my home threatening to kill my baby girl (as a result of my postpartum psychosis). It’s true; looking back at the darkness I went through, from the debilitating depression to the terrifying visions, I also sometimes wonder how I managed to get through it. It’s taken a long time; however, it’s true that I am (now) proud of myself for doing so. And even though I’m still uncomfortable with the idea I’m an “inspiration,” if sharing what I’ve been through can inspire others going through it to know they can make it through and reclaim their lives, then I am also feeling more comfortable with this.
However, amongst all the supportive comments, praise and acknowledgments, there is one thing missing and one thing I am not comfortable with. You see, there is one person who missed out on the help and recognition (despite being the other person who struggled at the hands of the illness). This person took care of me through the darkest of days and kept our little family together. Therefore, this someone also needs to be recognized, as the things he witnessed, lived through and overcame is an inspiration. This someone is my husband.
Unfortunately, like the majority of partners (regardless of gender) living with and supporting a loved one through their mental health struggles, they and their experiences often go unnoticed and unrecognized. Their stories are left unspoken and unheard. And the support they (like their partners) so desperately need, to help get them through the most difficult time of their lives, goes unadministered.
The knock-on effect of partners supporting partners through a postpartum disorder or mental illness, and not getting the right support and advice, can be devastating. I know from personal experience and through talking to other couples with experience of mental illness, that the negative effect the experience can have on their partner’s mental health and general day-to-day quality of life is one we all need to be aware of. It’s one we all need to acknowledge and treat with the importance it deserves.
Living with and overcoming a postpartum disorder or other mental illness takes an army of support. I know, for me, it was the mix and balance of the right help from my doctor, medication, regular therapy and the continued support of my husband. However, the lack of support my husband received, and lack of thought that he needed any, to begin with, is truly terrifying. It chills my very soul when I think of the effect my illness had on him. It took a toll on his own mental well-being. If he had received the right support and advice from the moment I was diagnosed, then maybe the aftereffects of the illness and all the dark times we went through in the aftermath of it would not have been so dark. They would not have lasted for so long, and our quality of life as individuals, as a couple and as a family would have been better sooner.
It’s hard to acknowledge that your illness can have a knock-on effect on someone you love dearly. To acknowledge that the person who helped you overcome your demons is now struggling with their own as a result of it all. However, as bitter a pill as this is to swallow, it is something we all need to be aware of to ensure everyone fighting a battle with any type of mental illness — those diagnosed with an illness and those supporting them through it — all get the acknowledgment, help and support they need and the recognition they deserve.
Olivia Siegl is the author of the bestselling book “Bonkers — A Real Mum’s Hilariously Honest Tales of Motherhood, Mayhem and Mental Health” (available on Amazon) and founder of the Every Mum Movement.
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Author: Olivia Siegl