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PND - A Husband's Eye View

July 03, 2017

As someone who has never suffered from depression, it can be hard to spot the signs. Unfortunately, in many respects, I am a bit of a typical bloke – I don’t get too upset or emotional about life and don’t experience huge highs and lows from day to day. Although I consider myself to be fairly observant, and even quite attuned to the needs of my family, being able to recognise post-natal depression was a skill far beyond me.

You do get a sense that something is not quite right, but conversations about ‘talking to someone’ or ‘getting help’ seem to be just token or glazed over as the person suffering continues to internalise every problem and blaming themselves for not being able to force themselves into feeling better. New problems seem to crop up daily, with each more severe than the last. They can manifest as physical issues or even sometimes just overreactions to the smallest happenings around the house. Exacerbated by financial or other home pressures, everything just blends together to become a bit of a ‘hard life’. Although I always recognised this struggle, I was luckily able to focus on the other end and always maintain a little perspective.

"even the kids that you love entirely can feel like the enemy sometimes, as they poke and prod at your frayed ends"

For the sufferer (Ash in this case), though, this ‘hard life’ became the new normal and the lines between what is understandable and what might be exaggerated gets increasingly blurry, making it very hard to know how to accurately judge your own emotions, and also the emotions and motivations of those around you. Even the kids that you love entirely can feel like the enemy sometimes, as they poke and prod at your frayed ends.

As a father in these times you’re often experiencing many of the same sleepless nights and other battles that come along with raising small kids, but it’s quite likely that you underestimate the time you get away from the house, whether it is in a work environment or out with your friends, just how much of a stabilising impact it can have on your frame of mind. This stabilising impact can make it difficult to empathise with the ladies in your life and I have heard many men refer to the fact that their wives have it lucky at home. My experience is quite the opposite – although Mums are definitely lucky to be spending these precious times with your children, the daily struggle is a lot more nuanced and complicated than we can give it credit for. As men we need to recognise this fact and play our part.

I have had numerous discussions with many friends and my beautiful wife about the potential impact of Mums building up their entire sense of self-worth around the kids and family environment. I firmly believe that for many women this can have an extremely damaging impact on their mental health. When 100% of your world is wrapped up between the same four walls each and every day, it’s easy to lose perspective and begin to feel isolated as the so-called ‘real world’ passes you by at a million miles an hour.

"to all the Mums out there, this is a bit of a thankyou"

Two, three… five years can pass in a blur of broken sleep, coffee, wine and dirty nappies and before you know it, your kids are becoming their own human beings and certainly aren’t thanking you for the dedication you put in. Well from me to Ash and from Dads & Kids to all the Mums out there, this is a bit of a thankyou. Insofar as I can speak for all other Dads at any rate.

On top of the feelings of isolation and inanity, the infiltration of social media into every facet of modern life is, I believe, both a small blessing and an absolute cancer for Mums at home. On the one hand social media holds the promise of connecting us with our peer group - in a practical sense it can mean Mums with the same issues and experiences can communicate with each other (or anyone else) constantly. This creates a great feeling of support and can help to mitigate the feelings of isolation and loneliness that many understandably feel as they navigate the path between the whiteware and the vacuum cleaner for the 50th time this week.

On the other hand, though, social media opens us up to the carefully curated world of the perfect digital life – dreams of expensive holidays, new houses or cars, or perhaps the once loved party life that is now left behind. Perfect celebrities living easy lives or even other Mums who appear to be ‘killing it’ while you struggle at home changing your baby’s vomit soaked sheets for the third time this week. Mum bloggers making millions posting Instagram and YouTube vids or building an army of followers by simply being themselves – no doubt making it seem easy for everyone.

Social media, though, is just an end game for some cultural seeds that have been planted much earlier on for the modern Mum. The ideal (impossible) standards of having to be the perfect Mum, the house wife, bikini model and career woman are born out and showed off daily with minor success or tidbits of life posted for all to see but in reality continue to contribute to the supposedly perfect life that we all strive for but never seem to achieve.

We live in a world where good mental health is becoming increasingly scarce

I think it’s important to understand where and how these types of issues can arise. The knowledge of where the immense feelings of pressure and external comparison come from can help us connect with others and understand that many of the problems of depression and anxiety are created or at least framed culturally and imposed on us externally rather than it being some kind of internal flaw that we beat ourselves up about.

As the (step) father of a teenage girl I worry about these pressures and her inability to comprehend the damage that hours spent on social media, watching the E! Channel or flicking the pages of the latest gossip rag are having on her brain. The constant barrage of messages aimed at everyone to consume, to fit in and to succeed are intensified even further on the minds of young women in our western culture. Celebrities are glorified for doing nothing and set a false ideal for young people that they can achieve without hard work, and the value of perseverance is increasingly lost. Immediate gratification and consuming “stuff” just leads to further feelings of emptiness and a lack of real happiness and a connection to the world around us.

I liken living with a depressed person to following your favourite car on a thick, foggy drive through a valley. You can see the car in front of you and you know it’s your favourite. You know it’s beautiful but you can’t quite make out the defined edges. You know it handles well but it can’t seem navigate the impossible conditions ahead - occasionally slamming on the breaks or slipping on a tight corner that neither of you saw coming. They try to flick on the high beam lights to help see further into the fog but quickly realise that a brighter light is really no help. There can seem like no way out, the thick fog is way too much for one person to lift or driver to escape by only driving this one road ahead.

It’s not until you realise that the further back you can step back from the fog, the smaller it all seems

A big picture perspective shows that the fog really is just happening in an isolated little place and time on the road, and that in fact the road ahead is long, bright and full of possible directions. To see Ash become empowered to take this step back and get a handle on her day to day life and emotions has been truly inspirational. She is once again the bubbly girl that I met (and tbh the one that she amazingly still managed to present to the world, even through the hardest times), a confident and strong Mum and is growing into her shoes as a businesswoman.

I now know that when someone you love is faced with depression, in this case of the post-natal kind, that not only is it a constant self-fulfilling cycle for them, but also for those around them as we try to reassure, support and guide through tough times. Obviously not being a medical professional, I just tended to deal with each problem one at a time and just try to help resolve any issues as they arose. It never really occurred to me that a specific diagnosis of PND would actually have the stark positive benefits that we saw.

Thankfully there is a medical system here in NZ where our practitioners can identify and care for people who may not even be aware that they were driving on the foggiest of roads. There is most definitely a stigma (still!) against depression and medication, and it can be a tough decision for those looking to take the first step to recovery. I have had the fortune of meeting giant Sir John Kirwan once and hear him speak about his battle with depression, and he said that for him medication is just a tool or stepping stone to help get you up out of your lowest point and allow you to start making healthier decisions and prioritising your own mental wellbeing. I do encourage anyone under any advice to take medication to take the advice seriously as a beginning to recovery.

Once that ball gets rolling it gets easier and easier to move. You can add other tools to your arsenal such as meditation, regular exercise, journaling or whatever helps. Get outside and leave the phone behind for a couple of hours – you may be surprised to know that you can take a walk on the beach… without taking a photo and sharing it. Being present in the moment may not get you as many followers but it will be better for your health.

Finally I’ll sign off with a suggestion to any Mum (or anyone) experiencing these feelings of anxiety, loneliness and what possibly seems like depression should get out and talk to a professional. Go and see the doc, even if it’s just for a chat - they have the tools to help get things back on track. Even if you’re beating yourself up about feeling better or not coping with what seem like normal issues – you needn’t feel alone. Help is out there, the fog will lift, the future is bright.

You can read all about Ash's PND diagnosis & journey here & as always, if you want to chat please email us... we always have an ear, a lot of lol's & a very comfy shoulder. 





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Size Chart

At Eskimo Nell we understand the disappointment of opening up your much anticipated purchase only to find that it is the complete wrong size so to help you avoid that have a squizz at our size chart.

Our tanks, jumpers and baseball tees run a little on the big size so we do suggest going down a size.  If you are unsure just send us an email - we love to help!

TANKS: These are UNISEX!! So please check the measurements!

XS: Width 45cm x Length 69cm

S: Width 48cm x Length 72cm

M: Width 51cm x Length 75cm

L: Width 54cm x Length 78cm

XL: Width 57cm x Length 81cm

XXL: Width 60cm x Length 84cm

*Width is taken 2.5cm from bottom of armhole 

 

JUMPERS: These are also UNISEX and are quite roomy anyway - please check the measurements!

XS: Width 49cm x Length 71cm

S: Width 52cm x Length 73.5cm

M: Width 55cm x Length 76cm

L: Width 58cm x Length 78.5cm

XL: Width 61cm x Length 81cm

*Width is taken 2.5cm from bottom of armhole 

 

BASEBALL TEE: These are also UNISEX  - please check the measurements!

XS: Width 45.5cm x Length 72cm

S: Width 48.5cm x Length 75cm

M: Width 52.5cm x Length 78cm

L: Width 56.5cm x Length 81cm

XL: Width 60.5cm x Length 84cm

XXL: Width 64.5cm x Length 85cm

*Width is taken 2.5cm from bottom of armhole 

 

ROLL-SLEEVE TEES: This is a WOMEN'S FIT - please check the measurements!

S: Width 44cm x Length 63cm

M: Width 47cm x Length 65cm

L: Width 50cm x Length 67cm

XL: Width 53cm x Length 69cm

*Width is taken 2.5cm from bottom of armhole 

 

KIDS TEES: These are UNISEX sizes - please check the measurements!

2: Width 31cm x Length 42cm

4: Width 34cm x Length 46cm

6: Width 37cm x Length 50cm

8: Width 39.5cm x Length 54cm

10: Width 42cm x Length 58cm

12: Width 44.5cm x Length 62cm

14: Width 47cm x Length 66cm

KIDS JUMPERS: These are UNISEX sizes - please check the measurements!

2: Width 32cm x Length 42cm

4: Width 35cm x Length 46cm

6: Width 38cm x Length 50cm

8: Width 41cm x Length 54cm

10: Width 44cm x Length 58cm

12: Width 47cm x Length 62cm

 

 

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