Life ad­vice

With two beau­ti­ful daugh­ters and a lov­ing hus­band, the jour­nal­ist’s life looks pic­ture per­fect. But her bout with crip­pling post­na­tal de­pres­sion left last­ing ef­fects that she is now shar­ing with oth­ers

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Adri­enne Tam

Jour­nal­ist An­toinette Lat­touf on cop­ing with post­na­tal de­pres­sion.

“You’re so lucky.” “Just try to get a good night’s sleep.” “Your life is won­der­ful.” These are some of the com­ments well-mean­ing fam­ily and friends said to me when I was di­ag­nosed with post­na­tal de­pres­sion (PND). Yet all these re­marks did was com­pound the guilt and sad­ness I was feel­ing.

When I had my first daugh­ter, I strug­gled in the days af­ter her birth to feel a bond. I put it down to baby blues, hor­mones and tired­ness – yet the feel­ing con­tin­ued for weeks. In hind­sight, my anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion with my first daugh­ter was mild. It wasn’t fun by any means, but I en­dured it. It wasn’t un­til two weeks af­ter I gave birth to my sec­ond daugh­ter that I re­alised I was ter­ri­bly un­well. I couldn’t sleep or stop mor­bid sce­nar­ios play­ing in my mind, and that in­cluded think­ing about ways my child and I were go­ing to die. That’s not to say I was plot­ting to kill my­self or my child, but I couldn’t stop think­ing about death. Based on the work I’d done as a jour­nal­ist on men­tal health, I was able to tick off the symp­toms in my head. I knew I had PND and needed help. I was for­tu­nate to have a GP who helped me.

It can be really dif­fi­cult to broach the sub­ject of PND with fam­ily and friends, es­pe­cially when you are from par­tic­u­lar eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties or cul­tural back­grounds. Com­ing from a Mid­dle Eastern com­mu­nity, where fam­ily is revered, it’s an ex­pec­ta­tion that moth­er­hood is some­thing you will really love and be good at. When I told rel­a­tives about my PND, they tended to say, “We escaped war. We saw death and mur­der. You have no rea­son to cry.”

There was also scep­ti­cism be­cause PND is an in­vis­i­ble dis­ease. I looked fit and young, so there wasn’t as much em­pa­thy as I would have liked.

Peo­ple have asked me how I feel about be­ing so open about PND, in­clud­ing the fact that I didn’t love my chil­dren im­me­di­ately and it took a while to form a bond. At first I was ap­pre­hen­sive, but I think my chil­dren will be proud that I was brave enough to talk about some­thing that isn’t glam­orous. I think it is im­por­tant to share my ex­pe­ri­ence with oth­ers so they know that they, too, can turn their life around. An­toinette Lat­touf is an am­bas­sador for the Gid­get Foun­da­tion, which pro­vides sup­port for ex­pec­tant and new par­ents; gid­get­foun­da­ Peri­na­tal De­pres­sion & Anx­i­ety Aware­ness Week is Novem­ber 12–18.

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