Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and disclosed how, I was a little anxious about setting up my LinkedIn account. Yes, I am the one in a zillion who had never bothered to create a Linkedin account until the point I decided to get PPDKenya registered legally. And partly because I subconsciously didn’t think there was anything worth writing about myself in the professional circles. Walk with me, I am going somewhere with this.

See, I have been a stay (and work) at home mom since my son was born – in January 2012. Even typing this makes me pause for a few seconds. It’s going to seven years since I last set foot in a regular 8-to-5 job, which amazes and shocks me in equal measure. It hasn’t been easy – it cannot be easy to make the switch from a travel junkie whose work involved lots of travel, to staying and raising a child round the clock.

Becoming a SAHM was not something I sought out to be. In the second trimester of my pregnancy, I realized I was going to be raising my son alone. Shortly after, I lost my job. So jobless and with no partner support, I ended up going back home to my parents and figure out life from that point. My son was born with no health complications, thankfully. My parents were very supportive, and I am thankful for that to-date. I knew however, I needed to find something to do to help me raise my child and get the basics (diapers, clinic money, clothes etc) because at the time, I wasn’t paying any rent or utility bills.

Read More: This is Why I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

That’s how I stumbled onto online writing. A friend suggested the possibility of working from home and I embraced the idea because it would keep us afloat. Years later, it has provided a lifeline for my son and I, but it was not without its own challenges.

At the onset, it gave me a profound sense of self to be able to stay home and cherish whatever memories I could of raising him before Postpartum Depression stole the precious moments. But as the years went by, I realized I was starting to feel overwhelmed by it all. SAHMoms find themselves alone, quite literally, for long hours every day. I found this aspect of SAHMotherhood particularly challenging. I am an extrovert by nature, and love to be around people. Here I was, spending up to 10 hours indoors, alone, with nothing but baby talk, bibs and nappies to fill my days.

The lack of adult interaction for most days made it difficult to articulate the emptiness I felt. Caring for my son almost 100% of the time made it very easy to forget about myself. Add to this the monotonous routine of daily life and it started to feel like my sense of self was slowly but surely slipping away.

My PPD didn’t make it any easier. I remember asking myself, ‘What’s the point of dressing up anyway, if I wouldn’t be going anywhere? Why make my nails if I will spend half the day cleaning up mustard-coloured nappies?” Let’s not talk about the matted nest that was my hair. I let go of myself. I just did not see the point of making it… and over time, how I looked on the outside began to seep into how I viewed myself.

Read More: Changes

It started to feel like I had lost my sense of identity, I had lost the person I was before motherhood, so much so that on several days when I got someone to watch over him, I’d spend the whole day trying to remember what it was I loved doing – what it was I enjoyed most. I couldn’t find myself in the haze of motherhood. I didn’t feel attractive anymore, and struggled to look at myself in the mirror. Under the layers of baggy tees with several milk patches and saggy track pants, I felt completely lost.

The intrusive thoughts I had with PPD worsened how I viewed myself. My mind kept telling me I was frumpy and ugly (frugly if you like), and it didn’t matter because everyone seemed so put together on IG but I was struggling with my sense of identity and self-esteem.

I did go for therapy, and that helped quite a bit. I recovered from PPD, but the scars on my sense of identity linger on many days, particularly on those days when there’s an impending change or I am embarking on a new project as is the case with the organization. I second guess myself so many times, I doubt my abilities, I hear the subtle voices in my mind telling me I am not good enough.

But,

But I am learning to look into the mirror and tell myself I am doing an amazing job raising my son. To say out loud positive affirmations, and to remind myself of the wonderful work PPDKenya does to help moms with PPD. I am learning to create boundaries to practise self-care. I am learning to say NO. I am learning that this is part of my journey. And it is helping me find myself, and teaching me to let go.

 

 

 

 

 

I am talking to my 6 year old son about Postpartum Depression. Here’s why

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.

Read More: PPDKenya provides psychosocial support for moms with Postpartum Depression (PPD)

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’ 🙂

OUT OF THIS LIFE – A photo exhibition on suicide in Kenya

“OUT OF THIS LIFE – Let’s talk suicide. This is an invitation to a necessary dialogue in any society that condemns suicide because of cultural, religious, or social reasons.”

My friend Patricia Esteve is holding an exhibition aptly titled ‘Out of This Life’ to shed light and have conversation on a taboo subject in our community – suicide. According to Patricia, “This is a documentary project, which gathers the experiences of people in Kenya who have tried to commit suicide or who have lost a loved one to suicide. Using photography I collect their testimonies throughout the country, on the stigma surrounding suicide as well as the social and legal injustice they face.”

Did you know that according to the Kenyan Law, anyone who attempts to commit suicide is guilty of a crime? What’s more, the sentence for such a crime is two years in prison, a fine, or both. This appalling, and need I add archaic, decriminalization of an act that results from mental health disorders only does more to stigmatize and shame the people struggling. Often times, a suicide attempt is a cry for help, which is precisely why this exhibition is well timed if the increase in suicide cases lately is anything to go. (See this link). As someone who struggled with suicide ideation when I had Postpartum Depression, this project is dear to my heart.

Read More: On suicide ideation – The hardest post I ever had to write

The exhibition, which opened on 19th April 2018, tells the story of suicide, from the eyes of those who have flirted with the idea, attempted and survived, and the caregivers of those who have died by suicide (Please note, I wrote died by suicide – not committed suicide. It is part of the language of mental health. When we say committed suicide, there is the implication of doing so willingly, yet we are all aware suicide is one of the symptoms of a wide range of mental health conditions. Saying died by suicide therefore, is the very same way we would say someone died from any other health condition. Whew, I feel like I need to do a blogpost on this).

I walked in late (thanks Nairobi traffic), to find the credits rolling to the video Patricia had put together, after which she gave a small speech and thanked everyone for showing up. I took a moment to breathe in and out before going round the exhibition. The very first photo I saw was of this lady, face covered with a black shawl, a red dress and black stockings. I know this lady inside and outside, because that was me, deep in the throes of PPD, back in 2015.

Suicide. Open Spaces. depresión post parto .
Samaine´s story.

Patricia reached out and asked whether I would get on board with her project, which I did and share my story on living with PPD. Seeing those photos (they were two, one where I was with my then 3-year old son) tugged at my heart in a way I cannot quite explain. There was a sense of amazement – at how far we have come with J, and there was a lingering sense of relief. Relief because PPD had pushed me to the very edge of suicide ideation – but we survived because we got help, and can now offer psychosocial support for moms through PPDKenya support groups. The silent tears came and I requested a friend to let me have a moment to myself.

There are a few other photos that really stood out, which I will share below.

Photo Credits: Patricia Esteve

Go check out the exhibition guys! Patricia has done an amazing job with this exhibition. Check out her website here.

It runs up to the 27th of April 2018, between 10am and 6pm at the Kenya Cultural Centre (Kenya National Theatre) on Harry Thuku Road. entry is free!

YAY! We finally got PPDKenya support group therapy underway!

This past weekend is probably the highlight of the year (so far) because it ushered in a new chapter for PPDKenya. See, I have, for the longest time, been so scared of stepping out and just starting! So guarded up, and so fearful of failure, that at one point I considered shutting down this website and deleting its social media pages. Frustration and fear will have you throwing in the towel reaaalll fast (not that this is something I have dealt with in entirety, I am still learning and unlearning). So, anyway, this past Saturday we had our very first support group therapy  meeting! I cannot put in words how exciting – and nervous- this was. It was a dream come true.

Read More: Why is a PPD support group important?

Of the seven who had confirmed, four showed up. The rest, for a number of reasons, could not make it. Which is okay really. For a start, this exceeded my expectations. PPD Kenya intends to create a safe space for moms and dads struggling with postpartum depression to express themselves and begin their recovery journey. By creating a small intimate circle, we are able to reach out to the moms and help them make a full recovery. By we, I mean PPDKenya and Royal Fountain Counselling Services (RFCS). RFCS is headed by a qualified psychologist who brings on the professional angle to the therapy groups, while as a survivor, I offer peer support for the moms and dads. Note: For a number of the participants, there is need to see a psychiatrist as there are some severe cases on board.

This was just a post to give a headsup and say thank you to each and everyone who came, and to RFCS for making this possible. I also created a Twitter thread for the same. Please check it out on our Twitter Page.

PS: We decided to hold the support group therapy meetings on alternate Saturdays as the moms felt every Saturday for the next 5 Saturdays would be too restrictive. So, our next meeting will be on Saturday 27th January 2018. Here is a rundown of the details in summary:

When: Saturday 27th January 2018
Time: 11AM to 1PM
Where: Princess Park Apartments, Kabarnet Road, off Ngong Rd
Cost: Kshs 2500 for ALL 5 sessions held on alternate Saturdays (Payable through MPESA to 0717 040090)
RSVP Required.

Email ppdisland@gmail.com or call 0733 424 361 for more details

 

 

17 things in 2017

So, *drum rolls*, 2017 is finally coming to an end, and what a year it has been. If I had to use three words to describe it:  a stretching season, heartbreaks and vulnerability. Looking back, I think this was one of those years where, had I known what curve balls life would throw, maybe I’d have skipped it altogether and re-joined  yall in 2018 (chuckles). That said, I thought to put up a post with highlights, lessons and memories from 2017 (in a nutshell), because it is always good to reflect and put some perspective to past experiences for posterity’s sake. Here are 17 things in 2017.

 

  1. I am exactly where I am meant to be, in the grandness of life, and my journey is mine alone to make. It is often easy to forget (and hard to believe in all honesty), that we are right where we are meant to be, but over the years, I realized how profoundly true this is. Every experience – the good, the bad, the ugly- moulds me to be a better human, if I allow it. So even in the thick of things, I remind myself that it is part of the journey.
  2. Family matters, family is important. Always grateful my family supported me the best way they could when I was struggling with Postpartum Depression, and even now, they are an anchor and my support system.
  3. Life is about seasons, and reasons. People will walk into your life, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. I think one of the most important (and heartbreaking things) for me this year was the realization that for some friendships, the season had ended. What started out as a beautiful friendship, had run its course through life’s issues and my friends and I had drifted apart. The visits become fewer, the calls sparse and the texts spaced out. And it is okay to know when the seasons have changed – that’s just how life is.
  4. In the same breath, it is okay to walk away from toxic relationships, places and spaces. You owe it to yourself to have peace of mind, and if something or someone doesn’t grow you, then it is only wise to walk away. Here’s the thing I realized, it takes so much courage to walk away from toxicity and to own your space. Here’s to shedding dead weight in 2018.
  5. Grief is not linear. I realized this when guka passed on in August this year, and I blogged about it here. Grief is personal, so people who’ve experienced loss will express it differently. Some wail, some cry for days on end, some lock up their emotions for days and then break down after the funeral… however one does it is really up to them (provided it is addressed, otherwise it never really goes away).
  6. Sometimes you just need to plunge and do it anyway. It’s been one year since my son and I moved from home, and what an exhilarating ride it has been. Fell in love with my not-so-new town, and making beautiful memories.
  7. Health is wealth. So many times we take good health for granted, until hospital visits remind us to be grateful. This year I learnt, if I am healthy, then I am wealthy because it means I have the capacity to chase after my dreams and goals. And when the kids are not sick, there is so much to be grateful for.
  8. Change is good. Change is scary. Change is inevitable.
  9. Journaling is such a profound tool. This year, in the midst of my storms, I have learnt to put my thoughts down in their raw and unedited form. It’s therapy, putting words on paper. It is exhaling. It is venting. It is clarity. It is the purest form of expression in my opinion.
  10. Take time to be spontaneous and adventurous. (I am giving you the side eye Tina). Sometimes, in the humdrum of daily life, it is easy to lose glimpse of our sparkle, what makes us shine, what makes us, US. Sometimes, breaking away from this monotony with a random adventure is the way to go.
  11. Love is a beautiful thing, start with the person in the mirror.
  12. Cherish the moments with family, friends and loved ones. A day will come when those will be the last moments to hold on too.
  13. Be kind, but kind does not equate a doormat.
  14. The sum experiences that make our life are inextricably linked to why we are still alive. And this is one of the highlights of my year. PPDKenya is finally starting support group therapy sessions from January 2018. More details in this post.
  15. Dream big. Write the vision down, it will not tarry. I remember way back, watching Victoria’s Lounge and thinking how awesome it would be to be on her show. Well, that did happen, and the show aired mid this year, and we are grateful for the feedback and the many moms who reached out. In all honesty, this did give the impetus to start the support group therapy. If you missed it, catch the video here.
  16. Mental health matters. Mental health illness can affect anyone, regardless of their colour, social status, educational background or religion. Mental health matters.
  17. Thankful to God for yet another year. I cannot wait to see what 2018 holds in store.

Happy New Year everyone! And thank you for reading and sharing on the blog.

Featured Image shot at Olooseos Resort

We have good news!! PPDKenya is finally launching physical support groups!

December is finally here – 2017 has been a long year (well, for many of us). Personally, it has been the one year that stretched me in just about every aspect – emotionally, financially and physically (because the weight settled in, haha to all the cake). But it has also been the year in which I have grown and learned – still learning – to embrace change, because change is the only permanent thing in life. It has been a journey in every sense of the word. Some days exciting and full of purpose, others dreary and depressive. We pulled through, and ultimately that’s what matters.

This and last month has felt like an unending struggle day in day out, in part because my son fell ill first week after closing school and then after that I started to feel myself lose the grip on what PPDKenya is all about, whether there’s any impact it’s having and if it is worth anything. I found myself utterly disillusioned, and just not having any energy to come back to this space. And so, I took a break. I spoke to a few pals and two things stirred me up to get on here and begin to share on something I have always wanted to start on, hence the good news.

Read More: This is why I speak out about PPD

My pal KK reminded me of his journey as a photographer (who by the way, does a fabulous job. Check out his IG account here), and why he started. His mission is to make beautiful memories. That is his why. He asked me to remember my ‘why’. I recalled how, when I started this blog, I was all about creating awareness and helping moms struggling with postpartum Depression (PPD). That was, still is my ‘why’. This had somehow faded into the background, toppled over by the demands of motherhood and a seemingly unending load of work in the quest to get some money. And in a few months it started to feel like a daunting task, just to get up and come back here. Reminded of my ‘why’, I am slowly crawling back to this place.

Second thing that stirred me up is when I talked to a lady who works in the mental health field and I was interested in additional resource material. She recommended my website to me (at which point I chuckled because I hadn’t mentioned it to her), and said she had been referring moms to it as a helpful reference point alongside medical help. It was humbling and encouraging to hear this, which is why it stirred me to come back to the place where my words find a home.

Read More: PPD – the conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

For the longest time, I have wanted to start support group therapy for moms and dads dealing with PPD. It has always been the underlying need to do more than just the TV and print interviews – to reach out and offer psychosocial support to those struggling with the aim of connecting them to professional help. I am reminded of my son’s early years when I desperately looked for  support group or forum that addressed PPD and couldn’t find any. In retrospect, maybe this would have helped. It is the reason why, after months of hesitating and self-doubt, it is time to launch and start a new chapter on the blog, hence the good news.

We are finally starting support group therapy sessions in 2018! *insert ululation*. Many moms have reached out and asked about this, so there’s a need for such a safe space. PPDKenya has partnered with Royal Fountain Counselling Services (RFCS) to offer group therapy sessions at a very subsidized fee. At the core of these meetings is the need to offer support and walk the journey through recovery with those suffering from PPD. This professional-led group will offer information, support, and tools to help you in your recovery journey. Anyone affected by PPD need not struggle alone because there’s help available, and they can recover.

Details:

  • The first meeting is slated for Saturday 13th January 2018 at a venue to be confirmed. The cost of all the five sessions is KShs. 2500 (which translates to 500 per session). This is heavily subsidized to ensure that help is closer to those affected, while offering a chance for parents to connect and share their experiences in a confidential setting.
  • A cycle is typically made of 5 sessions spread over two months. The support group meetings will be held on alternate Saturdays, so the first will be on 13th Jan, the next on 27th Jan and so on. We thought this to be flexible for most people.
  • Once a cycle begins, the participants will typically attend all 5 sessions before another new cycle begins with new participants. This is done to help ensure that those affected get the most of the support groups.

In Summary:

Date: Saturday 13th January 2018, from 11AM to 1PM (and thereafter at the same time on alternate Saturdays)

Venue: TBA

Fee: Kshs 2500 (Note that this is for all 5 sessions)

Please email on ppdisland@gmail.com or call +254 733 424 361 to register for the support group therapy meetings or to make inquiries. We look forward to hearing from you. Do not forget to like the Facebook Page here and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Ramblings on motherhood, toys and straws

These holidays have been an emotional rollercoaster for me and mine. The school holidays began with a bang. My heart was bursting with gratitude and just the sheer amazement that we made it this far. Here, my not-so little boy, all grown, graduating from kindergarten to Primary school (wrote about it here). It was a big moment, I still look back and I’m like whoa, see God. (You may never understand the magnitude of this milestone if you never had to struggle with depression that made you question your ability and worth as a mom. I have blogged about this here and here and here as well).

So, anyhow, graduation came to an end and the very next week he was admitted to hospital, and discharged after almost a week. Mom and baby were ecstatic to have him in great health. Then mom got the infection and off I was to hospital. Took a couple of days off, and was better. Right after that, kid had a stomach bug and it was back to hospital. To say this was a rough ride is to put it mildly. I was really scared, and my thoughts were going crazy. (PS: Has any of you moms ever made the silent prayer that says, I’d rather be sick than my child gets unwell… then you actually get sick and are unable to cater for the child’s needs? I’m like – this is twisted irony 🙂 )

Read More: 7 Gross things moms do (admit it, you have done one of these!)

Fast forward to now, we are both in great health and are thankful for that. And we are back to bouncing off walls and off each other. Don’t go just yet, I am going somewhere with this post… So, J has an affinity for drinking straws, the disposable ones. A weird affinity that sometimes irks me because, I just don’t understand why anyone ought to take their yoghurt in a cup using a straw – but maybe therein lies the wonder and amazement of a child’s life.

Now, drinking with the straws is no big deal per se. It’s what follows once that happens which gets on my nerves. The not-so-empty cup is left on the table, and the straw leaning over. It’s easy to drop the cup by simply having the swish of my cardigan touch the end of the straw. For whatever reason, this is one of those pet peeves I have always had.

How does it relate to the hospital visits? The few days we were at hospital got me thinking how we as parents take so much for granted. We have this misguided illusion of immortality. There is all the time in the world, we think to ourselves. Until sickness jolts us back to reality. The other day I looked at him playing on the floor, strewn with all his toys, LEGO blocks, and my pens and pencils. On the table, the yoghurt cup and straw he had just used. For a split second I wanted to scold him and ask him to clean up.

Read More: Lessons from my son’s bag of toys

Then it struck me, when he was sick, I prayed and hoped that he would get back his health because at the time, I certainly preferred a messy house to a sick child. And here he was, playing, all energetic – yet I was inwardly grumbling at the sight of the messy floor. It struck me that one day, when this rambunctious little boy is all grown, there may never be a messy floor again.

I realized that a time will come, when there will be the last straw – quite literally. When he is taller than mommy, and has a deep voice to go with it, I may never need to tell him to discard the straw and drop the cup in the sink, because he will not be so little anymore. A time will come when there will not be the pattering of little feet up the staircase, a time when the warmth of morning cuddles and wet cheek kisses will be few and in-between.

This struck me because the inquisitive and wondrous stage we are in will not last forever. The genuine sparkle of his brown eyes when he makes a discovery may not be so obvious in a few years to come. I am making an intentional decision to enjoy this stage, to enjoy the endless stories even when I’d rather be scrolling down the gram, to enjoy the balloon games and blowing bubbles while they last – not forgetting the cartoons on JimJam. As I write this, my work desk is filled with toys, and you guessed right – a cup of yoghurt.

 

Why join a PPD support group?

A support group is an organization that brings together people who share or have gone through common disorders or life experiences such as postpartum depression (PPD), child loss, grief, addiction and anxiety among others. These people meet together to share their experiences and provide emotional support even as they go through their different challenges. As such, a PPD support group seeks to provide psychosocial and emotional support for moms struggling with this form of depression.

These groups are typically led by a mother who has gone through PPD and has made a recovery in what is known as offering peer support for affected moms. Peer support is one of the most powerful ways to reach out to moms with PPD – there is the aspect of knowing and understanding that if one mom can make it, they too can pull through. It is a lovely reminder that one is not alone, that there are others struggling with the same. This helps to banish the isolation that many moms feel. It has a positive outcome, and while it is not meant to supplant medical intervention, it is a helpful coping tool that compliments medical treatment and therapy. In some settings, a professional such as a psychologist, therapist or trained counselor may be present to walk the journey with the moms.

Support groups will vary in how they are run (depending on the members’ needs) but the groups are usually small and intimate. The groups meet on a regular basis and are guided by a set of rules such as confidentiality, how long the group runs and topics to be discussed among others. The group leader may facilitate the meetings. The end goal of a support group meeting is to offer support, reduce the isolation and generally help moms recover. Remember that support groups do not replace personal therapy sessions or medication.

NB: Watch this space for some good news… soon 🙂

 

Update: We are launching support group therapy in Nairobi. More details on this post.

 

 

Conversations on #suicide

I really do need to get into the habit of writing down blog ideas on the go. This post was inspired by something that happened whilst my son and I were in hospital last week. He had just got his medication administered when I had some commotion downstairs. For a moment, I let it pass because I thought, the last thing I need is to have my peace disturbed  – and so I tucked Jay in for him to continue napping and get some much-needed rest. But the noise persisted, and it piqued my interest because, what could the people/ patients be talking about so loudly? I hurried to the balcony just in time to see the small crowd that had milled around disperse. Curiously, I asked the nurse what had happened. What she said left me feeling angry, hopeless, defeated, charged and riled up – all in one.

So, the crowd that had gathered had come to pick a patient who had been referred to the national hospital. Naturally, I enquired what had led to that, and she admitted to the patient having overdosed (in a suicide attempt) and requiring specialized attention. So what was the noise all about, I asked. Apparently, a group of his ‘friends’ had come to pick him up and take him home. I say ‘friends’ because of the comments that followed. The nurse went on to share some of the crude and disheartening things they said, things like:

“Tell the medics they should have administered a stronger dose…’ (ostensibly to kill him)

“Be man enough…  relationship woes do not suffice to make a suicide attempt… some of us wish we had those very girls (those girls tormenting your life)…”

“suicide is selfish… you just don’t care about others”

“Suicide is for weaklings!”

I asked her what the administration did about the fiasco and she admitted to having had an intervention before the crowd chose to disperse. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to imagine what the man must have felt hearing such words from his ‘friends’, the people who had supposedly come to help him on his way to get specialized care.

Read More: Masked

Here’s the thing about depression and suicide. Depression is not just something you can ‘snap out of’! If it were, then so many people would get better at the snap of a finger without going through the motions of hopelessness, rage, disillusionment, intrusive thoughts and self-harm. If it were so easy, we would not have so many people struggling.

Many people think and say out loud that suicide is selfish, that it is for weaklings – but I am of a totally different view. It hasn’t always been like this. I too thought, suicide was selfish – until I suffered Postpartum Depression and experienced suicidal thoughts. Then I realized, people who struggle with suicidal thoughts feel absolutely worthless, hopeless and good for nothing. It is not just an ‘I woke up with a bad hair day and I kinda feeling under the weather’. It is believing that one is actually not worth anything.

It is feeling utterly overwhelmed and trapped with no way out. It is hazy and suffocating  – I often liken it to opening your eyes in over-chlorinated water. Worst of all, when one is suicidal, they feel like a burden to everyone around them – their family, friends and even their children. They genuinely believe that the world would be a better place without them. It is this struggle that sometimes pushes people to their limits and they go right over the cliff. In a moment, powerful negative emotions surge, and when the mind is sick, it is often impossible to stop these thoughts.

It is time we had conversations around suicide and suicide prevention. Look out for the signs of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Be aware of what the symptoms are. Be present enough to know when someone’s putting up a strong face yet crying for help. Go beyond ‘ hi’ and ‘I am fine’. Taking a minute to do this genuinely can save a life.

Read More: Taking a minute can change a life

 

NOTE: 10 things NOT to tell someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts in the next post.

 

THE EDINBURGH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION SCALE (EPDS)

Postpartum Depression (PPD), same as Postnatal Depression (PND – which by the way, I have found is used a lot in the UK) is one of the most common mental health disorders in women. Statistics show that between 11 and 20% of women who deliver every year will experience symptoms of PPD. That’s about 2 in every 10 women are going to get PPD. One of the tools that has been developed to identify women who are at risk of perinatal (that is both antenatal and postpartum) depression is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). EPDS is an efficient screening tool that consists of 10 questions listed alongside a set of values. Below are the guidelines for using the EPDS.

  1. The mom-to-be/ mom is asked to tick the answer that describes closely how she has been feeling in the previous 7 days.
  2. All questions must be answered.
  3. Caution should be exercised to ensure that answers are not discussed as this could skew the results. That is, answers should only come from the expectant woman or mother herself.

NOTE: The EPDS is not a diagnostic tool and must be used alongside clinical assessment. For this reason, it should not be used for self-diagnosis. If you go through this set of questions and suspect that you may be suffering, consult a doctor to ensure you get professional help. Secondly, one of the questions (#10) is on suicidal thoughts and must be answered before the report is submitted. If the item is checked, a follow up should be made so as to ascertain the level of risk and make the necessary arrangements for mother and child.

Read More: Depression during pregnancy

As you are pregnant or have recently had a baby, we would like to know how you are feeling. Please check the answer that comes closest to how you have felt IN THE PAST 7 DAYS, not just how you feel today. 

Here is an example, already completed. 

I have felt happy:

 [ ] Yes, all the time 

 [X ] Yes, most of the time 

[ ] No, not very often

[ ] No, not at all

This would mean: “I have felt happy most of the time” during the past week. 

Please complete the other questions in the same way.

 

In the past 7 days:

  1. I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things

[ ] As much as I always could

[ ] Not quite so much now

[ ] Definitely not so much now

[ ] Not at all

 

  1. I have looked forward with enjoyment to things

[ ] As much as I ever did

[ ] Rather less than I used to

[ ] Definitely less than I used to

[ ] Hardly at all

 

*3   .I have blamed myself unnecessarily when things went wrong

[ ] Yes, most of the time

[ ] Yes, some of the time

[ ] Not very often

[ ] No, never

 

  1. I have been anxious or worried for no good reason

[ ] No, not at all

[ ] Hardly ever Yes

[ ] sometimes Yes

[ ] very often

 

*5.  I have felt scared or panicky for no very good reason

[ ] Yes, quite a lot

[ ] Yes, sometimes

[ ] No, not much

[ ] No, not at all

 

*6.  Things have been getting on top of me

[ ] Yes, most of the time I haven’t been able to cope at all

[ ] Yes, sometimes I haven’t been coping as well as usual

[ ] No, most of the time I have coped quite well

[ ] No, have been coping as well as ever

 

*7.  I have been so unhappy that I have had difficulty sleeping

[ ] Yes, most of the time

[ ] Yes, sometimes

[ ] Not very often

[ ] No, not at all

 

 

*8.  I have felt sad or miserable

[ ] Yes, most of the time

[ ] Yes, quite often

[ ] Not very often

[ ] No, not at all

 

*9   I have been so unhappy that I have been crying

[ ] Yes, most of the time

[ ] Yes, quite often

[ ] Only occasionally

[ ] No, never

 

 

*10.The thought of harming myself has occurred to me

[ ] Yes, quite often

[ ] Sometimes

[ ] Hardly ever

[ ] Never

 

SCORING

QUESTIONS 1, 2, & 4 (without an *)

Are scored 0, 1, 2 or 3 with top box scored as 0 and the bottom box scored as 3

QUESTIONS 3, 5¬10 (marked with an *)

Are reverse scored, with the top box scored as a 3 and the bottom box scored as 0

Scores

0-9: Scores in this range may indicate the presence of some symptoms of distress that may be short-lived and are less likely to interfere with day to day ability to function at home or at work. However if these symptoms have persisted more than a week or two further enquiry is warranted.

10-12 : Scores within this range indicate presence of symptoms of distress that may be discomforting. Repeat the EPDS in 2 weeks time and continue monitoring progress regularly

. If the scores increase to above 12 assess further and consider referral as needed.

13 +: Scores above 12 require further assessment and appropriate management as the likelihood of depression is high. Referral to a psychiatrist/psychologist may be necessary.

Item 10: Any woman who scores 1, 2 or 3 on item 10 requires further evaluation before leaving the office to ensure her own safety and that of her baby.

 

Resource Material

Source: Cox, J.L., Holden, J.M., and Sagovsky, R. 1987. Detection of postnatal depression: Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. British Journal of Psychiatry 150:782-786.

Screening for antenatal depression with the Edinburgh Depression Scale

 

 

 

1 2 3 8