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:
- My life is going wrong / not going to plan/ not the way it’s supposed to be
- Now that it’s going wrong, I am missing out on what my life needs.
- I should have done this, or I could have done something different (or perhaps someone else should have or could have)
- 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:
- Because I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did when I went through postnatal depression/anxiety; and
- 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.