I knew Abby had depression because when we first met, about two weeks after we met, she got a bout of it. It was a testing time early on in our relationship but we got through it and became stronger in a way.
A few years later she had another bout of depression and we got through that OK too. So, even though I knew there was a possibility that she could have depression when she was pregnant it was still quite a shock when it happened.
She was about seven months pregnant when it started and that was difficult because she was obviously heavily pregnant. I realised something was wrong when we had an argument and she wasn’t quite reacting ordinarily as she’d react.
"I’ve dealt with her depression before so in a way I knew the kind of things to expect but nonetheless it’s quite tough."
It was towards the end of the year and we had the growing realisation that she was falling very ill with depression. That Christmas we had a pretty horrendous time. I can remember on Christmas morning, her being incredibly emotional and incredibly upset.
I’m a freelancer so I work for various people but the company I was working for at the time were fantastic. They were very understanding and the person I worked for, effective, my boss at the time, he was really good and just helped me rearrange things slightly so I could work from home and just was there as a friend really which helped a lot.
Like Abby, I was quite open about the fact that she had depression, and I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of.
I know it’s not a fault of hers that she has depression and I know the only thing you can do when somebody has got depression is to be very supportive. In terms of trying to reach out for help obviously the first thing I wanted to do was get my parents to help. They were fantastic. I also had some really good friends. My best friend was just brilliant. He helped me throughout, certainly the early stages when she fell ill but also later on significantly.
So yeah, when Bethany was born it was fantastic. We were just so happy at that point. The immediate time after that was fantastic. I’d always wanted a child and just to see that child in front of you for the first time is just so special.
So Abby did feel a bit better after Bethany was born and I initially thought maybe we were through the depression.
It was probably a few days after that that things started to turn again though.
It soon became apparent that she wasn’t really capable of looking after Bethany. She wasn’t in a mental state to look after her and had to go into hospital again. The realisation then sort of hit me that I’d have to look after her on my own, which is quite a tall task for a new father.
The first thing I had to rely on was my friends and family.
My best friend was a new dad and he had a little boy, who was about a year and a half at the time. He’d gone through the father issues and certainly knew how to deal with a newborn. Basically, he moved in. He moved in with me and we looked after my little girl, for about a month or two. We’d take shifts basically, so I’d do like the first night shift and my friend would do the 3am shift. It was a strange situation. My parents were brilliant too they also come round and helped me out but
And inevitably I was thinking about Abby all the time. It was quite tough emotionally because you’ve got a newborn beautiful little girl, which so happy about, but my wife was in a psychiatric ward.
It was really tough to see her so unwell at this time.
This was probably the worst I’d ever seen her and her feelings were partly targeted at me. She kind of focused on the things that were most important to her, myself and her little girl and those were the things she would obsess about and be quite destructive about. One of the toughest things for me to hear was that she didn’t love me anymore. And worse still, she said that she had never loved me. I knew it wasn’t true but I still had moments of doubt and it was really difficult to take.
At that point you draw on the times when it was good and the times when she was well.
The strength that we had together before she had depression helped me. I knew we could get through it and I had the confidence that at the end of it we would be back together again.
My advice to other men would really be ‘stick with it’. I know it’s terrible at the time. I went through six to eight months of hell and it is very tough. There were times when I wasn’t sure if we’d ever have a relationship again.
You have to remind yourself of the person who was there before the depression.
Even though it seems personal and it seems like it’s targeted at you, it’s only because you’re the loved one and there isn’t anybody else really to focus that negative energy on. And ultimately, she, you know, the person is there somewhere it’s just that you’ve got to be supporting and go through that journey with her.
You realise that depression is kind of cyclical. The same things come up again and again and again. So in the end I became accepting of the fact that Abby just was unwell and I pulled on and used my friends and family as much as I could. That helped a great deal and I’d recommend anyone doing that.
No matter what negative and quite hurtful things she said I knew that I could deal with it because I was mentally well and I knew that she wasn’t. That made it easier for me to cope with.
It helps if your family and friends understand a bit about how depression works because it’s very easy for people to think that it’s just her being unhappy and it’s most certainly not that.
So life being a dad is great now. Things are brilliant. Bethany is nearly three now and she’s a beautiful little girl. I am just so happy to see her in the mornings. Our life is lovely and completely different and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Adjusting to life with a new baby can be difficult and overwhelming. We may set ourselves unachievable goals as a result of the unrealistic way society represents motherhood. This can leave us finding it hard to cope and feeling like we’ve failed.”
Catherine shares her experience of postpartum depression and being part of the BBC documentary ‘Mothers on the Edge’.
I had postnatal depression after my first baby was born, but I chose to deal with it myself and didn’t ask for help. I was stubborn and assumed I’d be OK.
I have always been a worrier. But after I had a miscarriage and my Dad, Nan and Grandad passed away, I started having panic attacks and was diagnosed with anxiety.
Organisations, blogs and communities that provide support with issues around wellbeing and mental health in pregnancy and afterwards
People were just completely bemused if I said, ‘I don’t really like being pregnant.’
If you don’t get the reaction you need from the first person, find somebody else
I always say, ‘If your feelings are not normal for you, come and talk to us.’
I've never had depression before so it was a shock
Although I'd had depression in the past, I’d never, ever felt like this before.