PND – A Walk in the Woods

A military spouse shares her story about her journey through Post Natal Depression (PND). It is normalised that the military lifestyle lends itself to the non-serving partner becoming the default parent, often isolated from friends and family, in unfamiliar locations. This, we feel, can only intensify the symptoms, as well as confuse the path to diagnosis and support.

We share these often raw and honest accounts not only to raise awareness and continue to advocate for our community, but to the person reading this and relating to the words written; You are not alone, we are here, we see you.

“I went into the hospital on Friday to be induced, had our son on Saturday and by Sunday evening I was home alone with a newborn baby and a 23-month-old. My husband was in the middle of a course and was not allowed to take his paternity leave until the course finished which was 4 weeks away. When our son turned 5 months old I was alone again due to my husband going on exercise for 2 months and it was when he was out of the country that it hit me.

Adapting to life solo-parenting two young children in the week on my own was hard. We were an Army family on a RAF base which at times I found really hard due to ‘clicky’ groups and a bit of a ‘them’ & ‘us’ segregation. The thought of going to local baby groups filled me with dread! I left the house only when I really needed to or if I had my Mum or Dad visiting. I remember one day needing to get milk as we had none in, I drove to the local supermarket and my daughter was throwing the worst tantrum, the kind that could be heard from wherever you were in the shop, I was there with the pram, the milk and a kicking toddler under my arm and I could just feel all eyes on me and the judge-y looks. As soon as I got back to the car I cried, I called my Mum and sobbed as it was just all so hard. The simplest of things like getting milk was now giving me anxiety. The toddler tantrums grew worse, I was so lucky that my son was a content baby as all my energy went into keeping his older sister happy but I just felt like I couldn’t and that I wasn’t enough.

One day, mid October 2017, it all got too much, both children had been relentless, I put them both in the car with the dog and drove to the nearest woods where we usually took our dog for a walk. It was a dark miserable day – to match the mood! and I just thought what’s the point? What’s the point in being here? And a very real, scary suicidal thought came over me. I am almost ashamed to say that the only thing that stopped me from going through with something so final was not the thought of leaving my two babies… but fear. What kind of Mum did that make me?! I didn’t care about leaving them! That’s when I knew I needed help…

Looking back on all of this I have realised that I probably had PND with my firstborn but through shame and embarrassment I just put it down to a bit of the ‘baby blues’ and adapting to motherhood with a husband in the forces who was away a LOT. Should I have recognised it then I would have been able to get help sooner when it happened with the birth of my son.

My husband was away so much that he never really saw it. I would tell him how awful my days were but I think he just thought I was overly tired, emotional and dramatic! Post diagnosis he was amazing, he realised how important it was for me to have time to myself when he was home. I don’t think he ever sought support with how to help me get through it. He felt awful knowing I was struggling while he had hot meals, unbroken sleep and work to keep him busy. As it took 5 months for me to get help the Military wasn’t aware of the situation or able to support us through it and I don’t know what resources are available to help.  

We need to talk about depression more so that people going through it can feel comfortable to seek help and talk themselves. I think as mothers admitting we aren’t happy when we have these beautiful bundles of joy feels really ungrateful, hence why so many try to struggle through it rather than asking for help and support. I think there needs to be more resources available for partners so that they can recognise the signs and catch it early – understandably this is hard in military life if the partner is serving away but even recognising the tone of voice on a phone call or the things they are saying so partners can differentiate between a bad day and a REALLY bad day.”