Are We Bottling ‘It’ Up?
1st February 2016
Recently I received an email from a woman about her experience of post natal depression (PND).
In a very personal account, she paints a picture of how this debilitating illness caused her so much pain and how she was on the verge of calling time on a promising career.
With her consent, I now publish her words and invite you to share your experiences and feedback if you so wish. Your personal details will be kept confidential and you can email me at Rosemary@womenmeanbusiness.com.
And she writes:
“I’d like to keep my name and that of my employer confidential. Suffice to say, I’m a professional woman based in the province of Munster and the reason I am making contact today, is to raise awareness about post natal depression (and depression in general) in the workplace.
As a nation, and through my experiences over the last two years, we are simply not comfortable talking about mental health. It does exist; it is out there. As women we are battling to keep on an equal career path to our male peers and as a result, we are bottling up what is going on in reality, in order to keep apace!
This becomes more difficult as we take maternity leave, try to balance kids, work and a home life. In certain cases it’s simply not realistic to dedicate the overtime or extra commitment required to roles, which may get us to our end career goals faster. No wonder we do not have as many women leaders as men!
I was one of the lucky ones though. I had a female boss who noticed there was something wrong, gave me the time to deal with it, and now I am happy to say, thanks to her, I am back in the workplace, in a great role, and feeling more confident day by day. It has been a huge journey for me, and has taken a huge amount of support from my boss, and my family to get me where I am today, but I wonder, is everyone so lucky?
By virtue of the fact that in many companies, we have male leaders (and I mean no disrespect to them at all), and because we have a culture of not talking about mental health, I think in many cases these leaders would not understand what is going on with depression, never mind post natal depression. Are there women out there struggling with this, but unable to say it? I believe there are.
Do they fear the repercussions – how they will be viewed, if a promotion was coming up? Would she, the woman with three kids and post natal depression, be seen as an equal candidate to her male counterpart who is less complicated, and is possibly seen as a safer bet? After all, he will not be going out on maternity leave any time soon.
These were the thoughts that ran through my mind, as I was struggling to cope last year with PND. I actually went as far as to try and hand in my notice, on my fantastic job with a great company. When you’re so down and not thinking straight, this seems like the best way out of the pressure. I did not truly recognise in myself that there was an underlying problem, which was fixable. All it would take was focus, time and the right people around me.
I am still on this journey, however funnily enough besides this email to you, I have shared my illness with very few people, certainly not divulging further than my boss and a very small circle of friends and family. Because I simply do not think they would have understood. The attitude would be ‘sure what’s wrong with you, you have beautiful healthy children, no money worries, and a great job, just snap out of it and go back to work’. I made excuses as to why I was off work, which were far from the truth. As time went on, I came very close to telling more but never did, and now I am well on the road to recovery, so I will simply not reflect on the past.
You would be surprised how many women are now choosing to stay at home, instead of progressing their careers – it’s the ‘coolest’ decision at the moment. And this is fine as it is their choice. However I do find it hard to relate to them. They are so excited about arts and crafts, playgroups, the next noise their child is going to make, that I am quite unashamedly bored. How can I talk to these women about PND and my career?
…It has been lovely to write down my experience for the first time ever. I hope by sharing, I will help other women realise that with the right supports, you will beat PND and come out the other end.”
In Nurture we support and counsel women who are experiencing major difficulties surrounding their own maternal mental health in Ireland. We are nationwide, offering immediate, affordable supports with a ‘No wait list policy’. This article is so true for women returning back to the workplace where they have struggled with health issues throughout their maternity leave and are effectively not ready to return back to work.
Women feel they cannot tell their working colleagues that they are experiencing post natal depression and that their coping mechanism is not what it used to be, as they fear they will be judged or demoted.
Where to find PND support
Irene Lowry, CEO, Nurture contacted us after reading this article and this is what she had to say:
“Nurture supports women, partners and family members as we recognise the enormity of the issues and problems that surround women’s maternal mental health. Women will not talk about their feelings as they feel: embarrassed, ashamed or simply ‘Not Good Enough’. They realise they have potentially lost out on what might have been the most joyous occasion of their lives and are simply lost in the process.
Even though it’s 2016, they are still afraid if they admit they are struggling with their maternal mental health; they are genuinely afraid that their baby will be taken off them by the HSE. This area is hugely stigmatised and taboo – women will just not talk about it.
Regarding the wonderful organisation Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI), I am delighted to say I am an Awardee of their For Impact Award 2015. Nurture will be supported by SEI financially and I will be working with them on their two year innovative social change model programme. Our aim is to grow slowly and continue to create a sustainable business model. By offering women professional supports, we know they can do really well and family life and work life, can be once again restored.”