What causes postnatal depression?How does it get there? Why can it sometimes disappear as the kids get older? What makes it come and what makes it go? When does it stop being postnatal depression and starting being generalized depression? 

Why is my brain malfunctioning all of a sudden and creating this hormonal imbalance? What’s wrong with me?

All of these questions and more can be asked by a depression sufferer as they feel helpless, hopeless and powerless to do anything about it, except lie at the mercy of medication and psychologists to pave the path to what is sometimes just a glimmer of happiness.  Well, no more!  I want to EDUCATE you on the real cause of depression and why you are absolutely qualified to change your own life, turn it around and create the happiness that you are looking for.

I say EDUCATE, because that, my friends is what you need in order to change – new information on why you are experiencing what you are and how to experience life differently.

The first thing that I want you to understand is that YOU ARE NOT BROKEN!  Your brain is not malfunctioning or beyond repair.  In fact, it is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing, and that is, reacting to your perception of life.

Here’s a great analogy to help you understand your depression better:

Let’s say a spider was to crawl down onto your shoulder. What would your reaction be?  Most people I know would freak out, feeling a very real sense of fear coursing through their body.  That fear is the well-known chemical/hormonal production of adrenaline.  But what caused the body to produce this adrenaline?  Was it the spider? Or was it how you perceived the spider?

Because if it was the spider, then that would mean that everyone who had a spider land on their shoulder would feel fear and consequently produce adrenaline in their body. However we know this isn’t true.  Some people may just gently brush off the spider, casually saying “Off you go little fella, you belong in the garden”, with no fear whatsoever (and hence no adrenaline).

The reason your body reacted physically to the spider was because of your beliefs about spiders (spiders can kill me, I’m terrified of spiders etc).

Now apply that to depression and the same concept applies.  The chemical imbalance in the brain occurs because of how you are perceiving your life, not because it is malfunctioning.

Furthermore there is a specific belief that underlies ALL cases of depression and that is:  ‘I am a failure/my life has failed’.

Your perception of your life is that in your experience every time you have tried in a specific area of your life (or perhaps you have just tried once) that you have failed, or your life has failed. This is due to beliefs about what defines your self-worth.

Common examples of what we may believe defines our self-worth can be:

  • I have to be the organised one (or the smart one, pretty one, happy one, the one that gets it right etc)
  • My job made me feel good (worthy)
  • I need to breastfeed/have a natural birth to be a good mother (worthy in the area of motherhood)
  • My family should consist of a husband, a wife, one boy, one girl, a mortgage, dog and cat.

If you have your self-worth or your idea of a successful life attached to the achievement of these goals and they don’t come to fruition, you can easily wind up feeling like you/life is a failure.  This can also explain why depression can sometimes be periodical. There may be times in your life where you may feel you are living up to these definitions of self-worth, however whenever you can’t you spiral down into feeling like a failure again.

What happens then if you are perceiving your life (and your self-worth) in this way, is that it can send you to a very dark place, particularly if you keep experiencing more and more in life that you perceive as being further evidence of your ‘failings’.

Furthermore, when we are feeling like a failure, this causes us pain. It is one of our most basic human instincts to avoid pain, so in order to stop feeling this pain, what do we do? We stop setting goals in that area of our lives.  We stop trying to get up in the morning and be that mum that you want to be, you stop trying to ‘get back on track’ or trying to overcome your struggles.

It all seems too hard because you perceive yourself or life to be one big failure, so you think “Why bother! Why bother setting any goals in this area of my life, because all it does is show further evidence of me being a failure?”

So this is where we give up and shut down.

Now it’s true that different people experience depression in different ways and with different levels of severity and this is only due to the beliefs that they hold about what defines their self-worth to begin with and how badly they feel their self-worth has been damaged because of the events that have occurred in life.  The majority of times we perceive life in accordance with the beliefs that were set up in childhood and often we carry these same perceptions throughout our adult lives, unless we deliberately look at them and change them, or have experiences that upgrade these perceptions.

This is where the EDUCATION comes in.  What you need is new information on how to perceive and accept all of the ups and downs that life has to offer.  The reality is that all of us experience good times and bad, but what differentiates a happy person from a depressed person, is not because one is better than the other, but because of the mindset that one adopts to the ‘bad’ times.  All that needs to happen for you to be that happy person that you want to be, is to learn how to adopt the same mindset as a happy person.

The only reason why you have depression is because you have learnt an incorrect view of life. A depression sufferer’s attention is stuck in the past and within your internal dialogue you will find these four lenses:

  1.  My life is going wrong / not going to plan/ not the way it’s supposed to be
  2. Now that it’s going wrong, I am missing out on what my life needs.
  3. I should have done this, or I could have done something different (or perhaps someone else should have or could have)
  4. And finally (and this is the core of all stress related illness) because my life has turned this way, I am worth-less (a failure)!

If you suffer from depression, next time you are feeling really down make a conscious effort to become aware of your self-talk in those moments and see if you can identify how your repetitive chatter can be placed within these 4 categories (you may already be identifying with them now as you read!)  Whether you have postnatal depression or general depression is irrelevant, because underneath those illnesses is a mindset that needs correcting, and this is what I teach.

As a trained life coach with the Anti-depression Association of Australia I use a specific method to teach mum show to change this kind of thinking that underlies depression and anxiety, and consequently help many clients to overcome depression altogether.

Through my blogs and resources that I have created, it is my aim to share this information with as many mums as possible for two reasons:

  1.  Because I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did when I went through postnatal depression/anxiety; and
  2. Because when you change your mindset, you will be changing what you teach your children about life and their self-worth, which stops depression from being handed down from generation to generation.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Jackie Hall is not only a parenting coach, specialising in motherhood stress, depression and anxiety, she is also a mother of two young boys. Having suffered from postnatal depression herself and resourcing ways to stop her own feelings, she created www.selfhelpformums.com and www.postpartumdepressionrecovery.com and has written multiple resources to help mums, such as The Happy Mum Handbook and The Postpartum depression Recovery Program.

 


  • Such an awful illness to be suffering. I hope all the attention it’s been receiving makes it easier fir mums to admit to having it and seeking help

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  • A very informative article, thanks for sharing.

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  • I am so glad I never got this after any of my pregnancies. It sounds horrific and still so. Misunderstood

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  • A really interesting article! Thank for this read!

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  • great article full of usefull info

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  • Thank you for sharing that interesting and different perspective. I suffered from postnatal anxiety and it is definitely important to note the self talk and how it is impacting me.

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  • I really love the analogy used. I think I’ll share it. I have suffered Depression (when my Dad passed away) and Postnatal Depression (after the birth of my son). Both were managed by medication and regular Doctors visits. To note, both times the depression was noticed by people other than myself, but I was open to a Doctor’s visit and the process that followed.

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  • Great post. Like your point about having a better outlook of self worth as to not pass it to the next generation.

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  • Great read thanks Jackie. I tell my friends to be good listeners when it comes to new Mum’s they need to be heard and they do not need us telling them about our kids etc matching their stories. This drives them mad.. i like to complement my friends on how good a job they are doing and how great they look! This boosts their self esteem.

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  • I had severe postnatal depression with all four of my pregnancies, one ending up in severe miscarriage. I have tried to work out how depression has evolved in my life and I believe it stemmed from the fact that my daughter was in a frank breach position and although they tried to turn her around she changed back to the position she was in. I was told when they checked her hips in hospital after the birth by the nurse confirming that she had a clicky hip and followed by a Doctor’s check and visit this was confirmed. Because of her position in the womb which caused this for her she had to wear double nappies for six months to help her hip socket back into place. My days were spent with endless nappies on the line and at times they took up so much room that I was left with no room for other items. Her situation was a lot of work for me and also for her to go through. In hospital I felt so sad that my baby was born defective because of her how she had grown in my womb. I equate this with the failure I felt as a mother that I also couldn’t have a normal birth and had to have a caesarean as she was stuck and there was no way that she would have been born naturally. And from that point all my births ended up that way also because I had a very small uterus and natural birth was a no go.
    To couple the experiences I felt I would lock myself away in the house and was scared of visitors and when everything became so overwhelming to me especially being a first time mum and when she cried, (which I thought was pain from her hip) I would comfort her, lay her down to rest pull the phone from the wall plug and crawl into a corner of the lounge room, sit in a foetal position, cry and rock myself off to sleep because I felt that I was a failure as a mum. My husband never, ever understood and was no comfort to me and would not go for any supportive counselling with me as he said that he might get the blame for my condition. He used to tell me to snap out of it and that I was only acting this for attention. He was cruel, hard, ignorant and lacked understanding in the matter. Thank God I don’t have to spend the rest of my life with him because that would have been worse than depression. Needless to say this went on until it became full blown clinical depression and medication was needed to assist my condition. To this day I have never really conquered my depression and due to other circumstances which have arisen I deal with depression on a daily basis. It is a terrible predator and there are times when I feel like this cloud will just gobble me up. If I keep busy then I don’t have a lot of time to just sit and think. Thank you for you article as I am always looking into the causes and cures for depression. Cheers.

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  • depression sucks. what a hard battle to fight

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  • thank you for sharing this very informative read, I personally have not gone through this, but have a few friends that have, will be passing this info onto them.

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  • Some very important points made here a very good read. If you feel this is you then take some action ask for help. Go to your G.P. and tell your closest friend/partner.

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  • Having a child totally turns your life upside down. Until the hormones settle down it is extremely difficult to function. Chronic lack of sufficient sleep can play havoc with a new mum’s well-being.

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  • so nicely written. i do get negative sometimes and recommend this article as a great reminder to be positive

    Reply

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