I have been talking to my son about Postpartum Depression (and mental health generally) lately, and there is a reason why. As a Postpartum Depression Survivor, I keep wondering, what if I had learnt about mental health way before I became a mom? What if this was part of our conversations? Wouldn’t it go a long way in reducing the stigma associated with mental health? Wouldn’t help my son learn about self care and help him comprehend some of the changes in mood he has seen in me? in himself? in the family?
Having gone public with my Postpartum Depression story (see this link), I realized that withholding accurate information on mental health from my son does no good. He might not understand it now, but in this day and age of the internet, he will learn about it sooner than later. And instead of leaving him to his own devices to figure it out, I am beginning the lessons early enough. If anything, I am hopeful this information helps him feel more secure and less fearful about mental illness.
Here’s how the conversation began: He asked what I have been doing ‘talking on TV’ and why ‘those TV people have not come back this year yet he has been waiting’. And so I figured this would be a wonderful note to start the topic. So, I told him when he was born, I was not able to handle a small baby well and my mind got a little sick. That made me sad and I used to cry sometimes. But I saw a doctor who helps treat the mind, and I got better. So, after that I started a ‘company’ (organization really) that helps moms whose minds are sick. He asked what company that was, and I said PPDKenya, even showing him some of the official documents.
He was quite inquisitive. He asked how and why the mind gets sick, what the doctor does and whether I would get sick again. To which I answered, the mind is a part of the body, like the leg, hand or head. And just like these other parts get sick, so can the mind. The doctor may give medicine to a mom to help her get better. Would my mind get sick again? (This had me undone to be honest, because it is a fear that lingers at the back of my mind.) I answered honestly, and at a level a 6 year old would understand: I could get sick again, anyone’s mind can get sick, but I am taking care of myself and doing what the doctor told me (during therapy). I assured him that talking about what worries our minds is one of the ways to take care of ourselves, and if he ever had any issues he could share them with me. He agreed (and has since admitted he doesn’t like it when I do XYZ, his heart feels sad when someone dies like my cucu did this past week, and that he feels like crying when the phone games hang..) It is encouraging to see him learn how to describe his emotions an put words to his feelings – it reminds me we are making progress.
Hopefully we can keep up this momentum as the days go by.
Sidenote: Ever since he saw the PPDKenya documents, he has been so enthusiastic to ‘help’ me run the organization, complete with writing posts on his ‘PPDKenya Notebook’. This warms my heart, that this tiny human believes in me to help other mommies, in his words ‘for their minds not to get sick’ 🙂