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Postnatal depression can be scary, confusing and painful. Feeling like you are incompetent, a failure, feeling like a bad parent or that someone else could do a better job, and being highly critical of yourself can be common with a PND sufferer.
Feeling this way can progress to feeling resentment towards your child/ren (‘I’ve made a mistake becoming a parent’), irrational thoughts of you or your child dying, actually imagining you or someone else hurting your child and sometimes even wanting something to happen to them at some level, are all common too.
Often feeling immensely guilty for having these thoughts and wondering why you are having these thoughts when you don’t really mean them, can lead to further confusion. Along with the guilt, comes more self-criticism and possibly even self-hatred.
Questions like, “Why me?” “Why am I thinking like this?” “What is wrong with me?” are constantly rolling around in your mind as you desperately seek the answers that will stop this pain you feel and the affects you see it having on your family and children.
The first thing I want you to know is that I have felt your pain. I have sat where you are right now and I am proof that you can change too. One thing I will promise you is that I am going to give you the answers to all of those questions. By the end of this program, you will feel relieved that you have found the answers to stopping your postnatal depression!! This is my personal promise to you.
The intention of this first week’s lesson is to really give you a thorough understanding of your PND. The reason why I say ‘your’ PND, is because everybody experiences this illness in different ways. Even why you have PND is different for every individual. The Postnatal Depression Recovery Program (known herein as PNDRP) is going to help you to finally understand what has caused your PND, but more importantly give you the tools to stop it.
Please know that this program is not just for mums with PND, it’s for dad’s too. In today’s society it is becoming more and more evident that men too can suffer from PND, so this program has been designed with both mums and dads in mind.
One of the primary things that I’d like you to understand in today’s lesson, is that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you. There is often a stigma associated with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety that implies that you are somewhat broken; that there is something wrong with your brain because it’s not working properly. While sometimes this is the case when talking about very severe cases of mental illnesses, in many cases this is not the case at all.
The Parental Stress Centre does not dispute or disregard the chemical imbalance in the brain that is present in PND, however, have you ever wondered why all of a sudden your brain has stopped functioning properly when it has always been okay in the past? Or for those of you who have had depression as part of your life on and off for years, have you ever wondered why your brain has this chemical imbalance sometimes, but not others?
Have you ever wondered, if the brain is not functioning correctly and is producing chemicals that are out of balance, why people all of a sudden get better? Why does the brain (usually in most cases of PND) eventually start balancing the chemicals again, with or without medication?
Have you ever wondered, if the problem is a physical malfunction in the brain, why therapists and counsellors can often be of help?
Well before I answer that last question for you, let’s consider a little scenario:
What would your reaction be if you saw a spider crawl down the wall right beside where you were sitting? Would you freak out, scream, run a mile, refuse to go back into that room until it was dead? Would you feel very scared with loads of adrenaline running through your body? Or would you calmly get up, grab a glass jar, catch him and take him back outside with very little adrenalin created at all?
What do you think causes one person to respond to the spider in one way and another person to respond in the exact opposite way? It’s the same event, yet we have two different reactions, with two different chemical reactions in the body (being the levels of adrenaline produced).
The reason is because when you saw the spider, there was a story that was activated in your brain about spiders. This story contained the beliefs you hold in your mind about spiders. “Spiders are scary”. “Spiders can hurt you.” Your brain can even unconsciously activate a memory of that time when you were a kid when you went camping and a spider crawled over your face, or perhaps as a child you saw a movie about spiders and you learnt to be terrified by them.
In this scenario, it is easy to see that it is not the spider that causes you to feel fear, it is the story you tell yourself about the spider that caused your fear. This is why another person may be quite calm about spiders – because he/she holds different beliefs about spiders.
What we can determine from this example is that it is not events that cause us to feel any sort of stress it is how we perceive those events in our minds which comes from what we believe.
Furthermore, in the spider situation there was a very physical bodily response to that feeling of fear and that was the adrenaline that coursed through your body. Again it was not the spider that caused the adrenaline reaction, it was your beliefs about spiders that caused the adrenaline to be present.
Consider for a moment applying this same rationale to postnatal depression. What if there is nothing ‘wrong’ with your brain? What if your brain is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing – which is responding in accordance with the beliefs you hold about life? What if it is your beliefs that are causing you to have the chemical imbalance in the brain, which is known as postnatal depression?
All of a sudden you are looking at things from an entirely different perspective. You start to realise you are not broken. Your brain is not malfunctioning. It is doing exactly what it has been designed to do – responding chemically and emotionally to your perception of life’s events.
The problem is not the chemical imbalance. The problem is the beliefs that were formed before the chemical imbalance. This also answers the question posed earlier about why therapists are often helpful. They are helping you with your belief systems and teaching you how to look at life in a different way.
Find and change the limiting beliefs and you will stop the depression!!
This is exactly what this program is going to teach YOU to do. I emphasise the word YOU because one of the things that the Parental Stress Centre is committed to doing, is teaching you how to help yourself. Many of you have spent many hours already in your therapists office, or have poured through book after book, perhaps feeling momentarily great about what you’ve learned, yet finding that nothing changes, or nothing long lasts.
This program is going to help you to learn a specific process for you to follow that will work for any situation that causes you stress.
However, unlike many traditional helping fields, I am going to teach you a method for changing your beliefs that does not require you to continually ‘roll in the mud’. By rolling in the mud, I simply mean rehashing the stories of your past over and over again and continually talking about how you feel all the time.
Sure there will be times where you are required to look at your past for understanding, but you will find that you are looking at these events from a completely different perspective.
Once you understand the method taught in this program and begin using it you will quickly see that it is not necessary to spend a lot of time on what is causing your stress. That story has rolled around in your head for long enough. This program focuses more on how to change that story so that a new, more reality-based story becomes your new habitual thinking.
Before I continue I’d like to draw your attention to the awareness that what you are reading is addressing a readership at different levels and stages of PND. Some of you are very new to the PND experience and this may be your first encounter with any sort of help and for others, you’ve come to this program after trying many different strategies, including seeing many different psychologists or counsellors for PND. Also between the two sexes of male and female, the core thinking can be slightly different too.
I understand that some of you are already aware that your beliefs are causing your PND and may be feeling a little frustrated and worried that I may be going to teach you the same information that you already know. I urge you to continue reading, as I know that you will be getting additional new learning from this program that has proven to help even the most long term depression sufferer.
If I have repeated what you already know so far, please bare with me because I have to start with the fundamentals so everyone can understand what’s happening in their brain and the real cause of Postnatal depression.
So let’s begin by answering those ‘why me’, ‘how did I end up with PND’ questions because this week is all about understanding your PND. It is my intention that by the end of this week you are completely clear on exactly what has caused you to feel the way you do and why it makes complete sense that you have PND.
The first part of understanding begins where you began – your childhood.
From the time you were born you were exposed to your environment which consisted of your parents, siblings, family, friends, media, education, religion and culture. You observed and experienced this environment and started to form what is your belief system – that is, the way you look at life.
You watched how your parents interpreted life and their reactions, you observed how they handled life’s challenges and you learnt to adopt their way of thinking. Sometimes you can be born to be genetically wired to think like your parents, however this thinking is confirmed as you experience life as a child.
In some cases you may have even learnt to resist your parent’s way of thinking and be determined to go the other way. The way your parents interacted with you and your siblings taught you how to behave, taught you what was ‘right’ and what was ‘wrong’ and taught you how to value yourself, or rate your self-worth.
This way of thinking is often referred to as a meme. Here is a definition from www.urbandictionary.com:
1 : an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)
2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable
As I mentioned these memes can be either be passed down to you genetically or handed down to you through your experiences as a child. This explains why depression seems to be hereditary in families. The family is thinking with the same mindset and passing that mindset down through generations.
As you experienced more of life as a child, what you observed began to reinforce these new beliefs (memes) and your view of life became strengthened until it became habitual to think like this. Whenever you were faced with a situation, your learnt, habitual thinking was triggered and is likely to be the same pattern of thinking that has followed you into adulthood and is the number one factor contributing to your depression or anxiety.
Sometimes these memes can lay dormant inside your mind and not cause any problems until certain events or a series of events trigger these beliefs and bring them to the surface. This can occur with major life changes that occur in one’s life, like for example, parenthood.
For example, perhaps your mother had a view that women are meant to hold the family together. She cooks, cleans, runs a tight ship, her children are the centre of her world, she barely let dad lift a finger and from your perception as a child, she seemed to have everything under control at all times. You formed the belief that this is the way a mother is supposed to behave, because that was your experience.
Fast forward to now where perhaps you are not doing some of those things and you are likely to be feeling like you are not being a very good mother. Perhaps though, you don’t see that there are different circumstances now that weren’t in your mother’s life, or perhaps what you perceived as a child isn’t actually the reality of what happened. Perhaps your mum didn’t have it all under control, but that was your perception of it. Regardless of the reality though, all you see is you failing at something that ‘should’ be effortless because that is what you have learnt to believe.
Or for Dads, perhaps your experience of a father was someone with a very strong work ethic – you must support the family and take responsibility for bringing in plenty of money to provide for their needs – being the primary message. However, perhaps you are conflicted between this and the fact that you don’t like your job but can’t see any other option, that you don’t want to work so many hours because you want to hang out with your kids, or perhaps you are experiencing a situation where you can’t be that provider.
Another situation that causes dads stress is their own temperament. Perhaps you experienced a father who was aggressive, impatient or disengaged and you swore you would never do that to your kids, having experienced how that felt. However as the days push on you find yourself getting more and more irritated when interacting with the children and find yourself resorting to anger, leaving you feeling like a failing parent too.
Not being able to live up to this expectation you have perceived as being ‘the right way’ to be a dad, can be contributing to your depression
It is likely you have carried specific beliefs about parenthood around all your life, however they haven’t caused you any problems up until now – that is up until you became a parent yourself. Your beliefs about how a parent ‘should’ be puts you under pressure to meet this expectation and leaves you feeling stressed when you don’t feel like you ‘fit that mold’.
In combination with your beliefs about parenthood and how it ‘should’ look, we have also been taught unrealistic beliefs that we need to get life right and be happy all of the time. You only have to go to the movies to catch a glimpse of this ‘happily ever after’ concept to see where this conditioning came from. You only have to turn on your TV to see all of the advertisements for products that will help you to be happier and supposedly get your life to run ‘better’. You only have to read magazines or newspapers that emphasise and exploit people who got life wrong and to tell you how you ‘should’ be living your life. All of these influences are also contributing to the memes you hold about life.
By being alive in this world at this time, you have learnt from a very young age that you must get life right in order for you to be successful, valuable, accepted, approved of and above all, worthy. This concept lies at the core of all stress, depression or anxiety.
Now I’m sure you will logically agree that this ‘get life your life right 100% of the time’ idea is not realistic. I mean after all tell me anyone whose life has gone to plan every single time. Yet we still expect things to turn out that way and if it doesn’t then we believe there something is wrong with us or our lives.
If you take this concept into parenthood and think about what you expected when you first envisaged being a mother/father and you will most likely find that you expected to bring your baby home and play happy families. I’m sure you probably expected some challenges, but certainly not in the way you are now experiencing them.
All of a sudden (and don’t mind the fact that you cannot control this child’s behaviour, both you and your partner are going through a HUGE life change and things are never going to be the same as they used to be) you expect that you are going to know exactly what to do ‘instinctively’ and know exactly how to handle every situation parenthood throws at you.
However, once you get home with your new bundle of joy, you find that life is nothing like you’d planned. Your perfect, Hollywood-style, Huggies-ad picture from your mind has been smashed into pieces among the piles of dirty laundry, the messy house, very little or no sleep, conflict with your partner, breastfeeding problems, feeling like you’re not bonding with your child straight away, feeling bored, isolated or lonely. You feel like a slave, your body feels saggy, you dress like a dag, you barely get a chance to wash or even brush your hair and suddenly you seem so far away from your desired picture, you start to feel like something is very wrong.
For dads who are the primary earner, having to deal with working life and a new family, not being able to be selfish and just relax after work, having to deal with the cranky stay-at-home other half and the tired kids after a full on day with the boss breathing down your neck, the pressures of earning enough money to survive, losing the connection with your partner because all you seem to be now is ‘the help that walks through the door’ and a practically non existent sex or social life, seems to take its toll on you.
You start to blame yourself, feeling like you are a failure and like you are not being a good enough parent. You start to compare yourself to others and think that they are happier and more organised than you. You may even start to feel regret for having children, blaming your child for you feeling this way. You sink further and further into depression feeling like a failure and maybe even feel like the family is better off without you.
All of these feelings have come about as a result of holding a simple unrealistic belief and expectation that ‘I was going to be a great parent’ and ‘this’ (my picture) was how it was going to look because that is how I have been taught it ‘should’ look.
But this whole view of parenthood was set up when you had absolutely no experiential idea of what it was even going to be like.
Another scenario that is a common link to depression is where having a child wasn’t even in your plan, or at least not now. All of a sudden the picture you held (the expectation) of how your ideal life was supposed to go, is no longer your reality and now you feel like your life has become worth-less (and sometimes it’s normal to feel this way even though you still adore your child).
Look closely at either scenarios and you can see that it is NOT the events that are causing you to feel like your life has failed. Just like the example with the spider, it is the beliefs you have about these events that are causing your stress, depression or anxiety. You had beliefs about how your life should look and you had beliefs about your capabilities. And to top it off you have habitual thinking set up from childhood of how to judge life when it doesn’t go to plan.
Your internal judgments about how bad (or good) you feel about yourself, how to handle life’s ups and downs and what you deem it to mean about you when life doesn’t happen your way have all been largely taught to you through the experiences and observations from your childhood environment. They have caused you to think the way you do now in adulthood and they are the cause of your depression.
Your brain accesses these memes every time you experience a situation and these memes dictate how you see your life and judges how you see yourself.
During the next six days I am going to show you insight into exactly why you have PND in the first place.
Although I promised you when you signed up that you will not be rolling in your muddy past in order to change your future, I believe it is necessary to spend the first week understanding your PND which may require a little digging into your past. However, as I also promised, you will be doing this from a completely different perspective than you may have done before.
This will be an incredibly empowering week for you as you are going to discover that you are not broken. You are about to discover that it makes absolute sense how you came to have PND. I will answer the ‘why me’ questions you have and the ‘how the hell did I end up here’ questions. This will help you to, not only detach from your PND, but also feel inspired and motivated to make those changes required to start moving you away from feeling the way that you do.
I am so excited to present this program to you and teach you how to stop doing postnatal depression for good because I know how you feel, and I also know how it feels to recover from postnatal depression.
Remember, throughout this whole program, please log onto our private member’s forum with any questions you may have. I realise there is a whole range in severity of PND, so it is very difficult to cover every issue that may come up for you personally.
I want to be able to answer your questions, so please ask your question on the forum so others can see the answers too, or if you require privacy or have a sensitive question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org