Really fucking angry. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m incandescent with rage.
I’m going to caveat this post before I begin.
It’s likely to be sweary. Ranty. And maybe, at times, a hard read. So, if you feel you’re not in the mood for something like this today then exit stage left. But maybe return when you’re more amenable to reading something of this nature.
I am sick of ignorance. Pertinently, I’m sick of ignorance with regards to mental illness.
Yes, we’ve made progress with regards to how mental illness is viewed. But trust me when I say that ignorance is still hugely common place. We’ve got a long way to go. And this was made evident by something I stumbled across on Facebook (shock, horror, that’s where all the uneducated, ignorant, small minded morons hang out) recently.
In fact, there’s been 2 incidences of ignorance this week. Bordering on offensive ignorance I might add.
I’ve not long finished reading an article in a Sunday supplement. It takes me ages to get around to catching up on my supplements, but I enjoy reading them as they’re always littered with fashion, celebrity news and some quite interesting interviews with people from all walks of life; not just the celebs.
An article that piqued my interest this week was around male Post Natal Depression.
Yes, men can suffer from Post Natal Depression. No, it’s not a condition that’s just limited to Mothers as, it appears, so many people tend to think it is.
The article in question centred around a Dad’s experience of Post Natal Depression/Anxiety.
Louis, a young Father from Bristol, had taken the very brave step of sharing his incredibly personal story with the readers of Notebook magazine. A supplement that comes with The Mirror on a Sunday.
Reading this article was like being transported back to a very difficult period in my life.
That period was the end of 2013.
I’d just given birth to my son; my first child. It was a very distressing and complicated delivery that had left me shell shocked. I was wracked with anxiety. Overwhelming, completely devastating anxiety. I thought, for want of a better description, that I was losing my mind.
I was found pacing the hospital 2 days post-partum. I’d walked out of the ward I was on, left my newborn with his Dad and I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing but I was walking. Terrified.
Here began the most difficult 14 months of my life.
Now, I’ve set the scene for my story allow me to explain where Louis fits into this. Because the parallels of his story are quite startling.
Shortly after Louis’ son’s birth in 2015, Louis began to experience “scary thoughts”. One of these thoughts, which may be recognisable to some parents was “what if my baby’s blanket suffocates him”.
My experience of Post Natal OCD began here too. Laying in bed during the first night home, exhausted, I looked over to my baby sleeping peacefully in his cot and suddenly a thought entered my head “what if my leg jerks out in the night and knocks him out of his Moses basket and he ends up injured on the floor?”
The anxiety I felt upon experiencing this thought was palpable. I shuffled across the bed terrified to be near my baby.
Louis goes on to explain that soon the thoughts took a more frightening and darker turn.
“Gradually the thoughts became about me being physically violent and of killing this child that I was completely and utterly in love with.”
And it’s at this point I found myself remembering “that place”. That place I knew so devastatingly well.
The thought I’d had on that Friday night regarding my son in his basket was the start of things to come.
Soon, I’d be thinking I was a danger to my son. That one day I might drop him. That one day I might want to drop him. Despite knowing deep down, the very thought of something like that happening was too much to bear.
I’d perform rituals to counteract these thoughts. I’d tell myself that if I completed a task within a certain time frame that I wouldn’t do these things I’d thought of today.
I knew, I knew deep down I wasn’t capable of any of the things that would speed through my head. But why was I thinking them? Why was I so bogged down by these terrifying thoughts and images?
The reason, and it took me a long time to accept this diagnosis was Post-Natal OCD.
Now, I’ve had OCD since I was a child. It was first diagnosed when I had an extreme form of Emetophobia – a fear of being sick. I didn’t recognise what I was experiencing as OCD. This was so far removed from what I knew, that I’d convinced myself I “must be going mad”.
To cut a very long story short. I spent the whole of 2014 blighted by these thoughts. Some days were easier than others. Some days I felt I was in control of the thoughts and I felt stronger than them. Other days, I was exhausted. So exhausted of feeling like this, seeing unwanted images in my head that looking back, I honestly don’t know how I coped.
Louis, having researched Post Natal Depression and the varying degrees and symptoms of the illness, recognised the symptoms he was experiencing as PND. But this didn’t make him feel better. Instead, he felt guilty.
Ah, the guilt. I remember that guilt all too well.
Louis, now completely at the end of his tether and hysterical, walked into A&E at Bristol Royal Infirmary. Many questions were posed to him around whether he’d ever been violent before and once satisfied he didn’t pose a threat, he was prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. A psychiatrist formally diagnosed him with OCD which was triggered by becoming a Father.
He, like me, now feels he’s in a place where he can manage. And kudos to him for sharing his story. Because this is one area of Post Natal mental illness that is not often talked about.
The reason for my anger is attributed to the reaction Louis has received since sharing his experience.
“Mirror Mums” a Facebook page linked to The Mirror newspaper group shared the article.
Above the article read the clickbaity headline of “He took all of the knives outside as he feared what he’d do with them”.
Of course, like with any Facebook post, there is a comments section where readers can offer up their “well thought out, educated opinions”. Or perhaps their pearls of wisdom.
“Bollox. Post natal depression is hormonal. He’s just a psycho”.
Yeah I told her she was an idiot.
“I would be terrified to leave my baby alone with him. He could just snap!. Hope he stays on meds and no harm comes to this sweet baby”
I called her ignorant.
I might have used a swear word with this one.
I posted a comment on the Facebook page myself. It read like this.
I advise every single person who has posted ignorant & offensive comments on this post to go and educate yourselves on Post Natal OCD. Familiarise yourself with the stats if you feel you need peace of mind that this guy isn’t a threat to his son. Then I hope that you yourself, or anybody you care about don’t ever suffer from the utterly debilitating condition. Shame on you.
When I read the comments those morons had written, I can’t tell you the level of anger I felt. I was LIVID. Had I read that in 2013 whilst in the depths of despair and confusion, well, I dread to think what it might have done to me.
I felt so angry for Louis, sharing his story was a brave step and was so key in raising awareness regarding OCD with intrusive thoughts.
I felt angry that people could write with such conviction about an illness they clearly know so little about.
And also, I felt angry because one day one of those people could experience what Louis has. Their daughter could be diagnosed with it after giving birth. Perhaps their Mother or Father experienced it and they’re unaware of this.
The one thing that helped me come to terms with my OCD was remembering that thoughts are not facts. We cannot control our thoughts. In fact, the more we try to control our thoughts the likelier we are to think something we don’t want to think.
I always use the ‘pink elephant” theory. I’m sat here now trying not to think of a pink elephant and all I can think about is a bastard pink elephant. Wearing high heels, which is a bit weird.
OCD is a devastating condition. It is so frightening, so isolating and worryingly, it’s a significant problem – affecting 2-4% of all new Mothers.
I’ve written this post today to a) alleviate me of some of that rage I’ve been feeling due to reading moronic bile posted on the article and b) to raise awareness of OCD.
Nobody is protected from mental illness. I’ve written time and time again about how it doesn’t discriminate. This means we can’t afford to dismiss it, we can’t afford to write flippant and offensive comments regarding it.
OCD and similar other mental illnesses demand respect. I just hope that anyone who recognises themselves in Louis’ article didn’t read those comments and felt like they were a “pyscho” or a “sicko”.
Because they’re not. They’re just someone who didn’t ask to suffer from a horrendous condition. A condition that is treatable but so utterly terrifying.
Louis’ story if you’d like to read it is here.
And if you’d like to read about OCD, the symptoms and treatment then here is a really useful resource.
Lastly, please remember if you’re suffering from a mental illness that not everyone is an ignorant buffoon. It’s shame on them, not shame on you.