Hurrah for Black Dog Tribe. I am proud to be a fully signed-up member. Here’s why…
Ask me the thing I was most worried about in the run-up to becoming a mum for the first time and I’ll tell you: Post-Natal Depression. I have a tendency towards depression and have depression running in both sides of my family. I suspect there’s even been a death relating to depression a couple of generations back, but no-one really talks about it.
Depression has affected me to varying degrees over the years. It hit me big-time in my teens and then again about a year after the end of a long-term relationship. For me, it is triggered by major stressful events. At my lowest point, I had suicidal thoughts. The scariest thing about them was that I knew they were irrational, but I wasn’t sure I could stop myself carrying them out. I sought help, luckily for me with a very understanding and knowledgeable GP. My own recovery involved vowing to myself that if I took anti-depressants, I would use the time whilst on them to sort my head out. I succeeded and haven’t looked back since. One short sentence on this doesn’t really cover the full scale of the sort out, but I feel that’s for another post, as this one is about PND.
So, with my glorious history, I was acutely aware of the dangers of PDN, the way that it can wreak havoc through your life and the life of your precious newborn baby. I was so worried that, after having waited so long to become a mother, all the special times could so easily be snatched away from me – and her. I worried that depression might take me away from my baby, forever. The Post-Natal Depression never did come. I’m not sure how or why I swerved it. But it didn’t come knocking and for that I am eternally grateful.
And now here I am, enjoying being a mummy to my precious daughter, the tinkerous toddler no less. She is a really happy, easy-going little tinker, full of fun, life and laughter. We have our testing times, she is a toddler after all, but so far so good on giving her a healthy, happy start in a warm and loving home environment.
She is much more outgoing than I was at her age; she has a smile and a hello for everyone. She has an inner confidence that is so heartening to see. And yet I fret over her future. Not in a major way, but in the way you would too, if you had such a glittering history of depression in your family back-catalogue. We have on our side the fact that her daddy’s family is incredibly together and stable. But still, her ongoing emotional and mental health is something that I am patently aware of.
In an ideal world, health issues would simply be health issues, whether mental health or physical health issues. We don’t judge harshly someone having to deal with arthritis or a dose of flu (unless of course it is man-flu, sorry, couldn’t resist). But, many of us have a natural inclination to back away from people with mental health issues.
Why can I make such a sweeping statement with such confidence? Because, even though I have suffered from depression, I know I have backed away from others suffering with mental health issues. People with depression are difficult to be around. People with anxiety are difficult to be around. It takes a strong person to really be there for someone with a mental health issue, because we all fear mental illness.
So, it is so reassuring, not just for me, but for future generations, to see a new community site such as Black Dog Tribe come into existence. Finally, there is somewhere people can go, where they can be honest about their state of health, their state of mental health and know that they will be supported and empathised with, rather than being cast adrift to deal with it on their own.
But almost more importantly, finally there is a movement that could help all of us learn to be more tolerant of people suffering with mental health issues and more tolerant of ourselves, if we happen to find ourselves suffering from some form of mental illness. Because Black Dog Tribe stands to make everyone understand that mental health issues are ‘normal’. Yes, normal, the elusive nirvana so many of us seek, but rarely feel we find, being normal.
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