About Me

Kent, United Kingdom
I have the perfect family but still struggle to find the light in the darkness of post-natal depression.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Grrrrrr!

I am cross this evening. Not because I've just had to pay a parking fine (which was entirely my own fault and unavoidable but still annoying!). Or because I've just finished doing some work I didn't get time for during the week, when I'm actually paid to work. And more is waiting for me tomorrow...
No, today I am cross after deciding to take some time out to read some of my parenting magazines. Normally this is one of my favourite activities, combining two of my interests; parenting and writing/reading,and it's a rare treat to get a moment to myself to read them. But today the feature writer at Mother and Baby magazine turned my treat into a torture (almost - I may be exaggerating but I like the alliteration...).
In a seemingly innocent feature about one woman's story of PND she managed to encapsulate all the things that make me mad (not literally!) about this illness. It was blurbed on the cover and I actually hunted it out inside instead of waiting until I came across it. On the face of it, the feature should be a good thing because it's more exposure of the illness and it had options for help and support at the end of it.
But in fact it was so stereotypical, patronising and predictable that I'm glad I didn't read it when I was actually still mad (rather than cross-mad). The woman they chose to feature - and I'm sure it was a deliberate editorial decision - had PND with her first child, the result of an unplanned pregnancy when she was 18. She was, predictably, a single mum living in poverty: "I had no life, no money, no friends..."
After several suicide attempts (including breaking several bones jumping off a multi-story car park) her family intervened and she was sectioned. That gets a mention in the last column of the second page. The rest of that column deals with what happened afterwards, including another three children with a different man, and the obligatory moral message: "I'm telling my story to spare others the suffering I endured. I want expectant mothers to know about this terrible illness so they can spot the signs and ask for help."
All very nice.
But it's not. And that's the problem. The whole article reinforced the misguided impression that PND is somehow a circumstantial illness. There was mention of chemical imbalances, but only AFTER the poverty and misery of her life. The very clear message seemed to be that of course she ended up with depression because everything was so awful. And indeed it was.
But for many people it's not. What about those like me, who end up with PND after the textbook birth of a planned baby within a happy marriage? I found myself reading the article and wondering what my excuse was. And I'm sure I'm not alone. It brought to mind a conversation with a friend last year who developed PND with her second child, who ended up in hospital as a tiny baby with a serious infection.
"I'm not surprised - there was so much going on that it was just too much to deal with," she told me, as if she had to justify her diagnosis
It's almost as if you can't admit to PND if you don't have a sob story to go with it - a bit like the criteria for succeeding on the X Factor.
I'm not cross with the subject of the article (actually, I am a bit, after browsing her own blog and finding it particularly annoying) but I am fuming with the author and seriously considering penning a "Disgusted of..." letter in response. If I had read this while I was still ill I would have felt even more inadequate and worthless - particularly as her story was careful to describe the "rush of love" she felt when her son was born, the one I never experienced that started all my problems.
I'm not sure I'm making much sense, so I'm going to stop ranting now, but I just wanted to get this out somewhere. I appreciate everyone's story is different (and maybe secretly I just want mine featured in a magazine!) but I do think this was an irresponsible feature in a publication many vulnerable women will read.
End of sermon!
And I am still a little bit cross about the parking ticket....

4 comments:

Kate said...

Do it, write to them. If you read it and it made you angry you can bet it made a hell of a lot of other people angry too. And a lot of families who are living through it sad. You've already written the letter in this blog post, so it would be a shame not to!

Particularly think you should include: "What about those like me, who end up with PND after the textbook birth of a planned baby within a happy marriage? I found myself reading the article and wondering what my excuse was. And I'm sure I'm not alone." and
"If I had read this while I was still ill I would have felt even more inadequate and worthless - particularly as her story was careful to describe the "rush of love" she felt when her son was born, the one I never experienced that started all my problems."

Sorry for extensive cut and paste but want to persuade you to write!

Lesley Cookman said...

Do it. Write to them. This is irresponsible, something I could expect in tabloid journalism, but not in a magazine that purports to inform and educate. (Mind you, I'm still mad at a review...!!!")

Liz said...

Thanks girls - I think I will. The only problem will be keeping it short - their letters are usually max 200 words!
Lesley, I'm sure the next review will be better....or the reviewer was having a bad day! ; )

me-again said...

I can only echo the 'do write'! Kate's quite right that you've essentially written it, and coherently, in this.

I think one problem is that, since the rise in the 'misery memoir' syndrome, the idea that depression can happen to people for whom everything is not awful has taken something of a knockback. You nail it with (one word alteration) "It's almost as if you can't admit to [depression] if you don't have a sob story to go with it" (unless, of course, you're a 'Celebrity', in which case it's somehow 'OK').