Where’s my head at? In a good place

I realised that it has been a while since I updated the world on my mental health – and the good news is that things are going well.

Unexpectedly, not long after our wonderful daughter was born, I got to learn first-hand about how dads can suffer from postnatal depression. You can read all about it here.

I was on medication for a little over three months, and that made a massive difference for me. In talking it through with my doctor, it seemed that the stress before the birth, and adjusting to life with a new baby had taken their toll on my brain chemistry. The medications helped to ease some of that back, and brought my mood back to the baseline.

With things going really well over a few months, in October I started the process of stepping down off the medication. You can’t just suddenly stop taking antidepressants, it is a bit of a process, and there are adjustments involved.

So with a plan put in place by my doctor, I’ve been off the meds for a few months now, and overall things are going well. I have become better at identifying when my anxiety is increasing or when my mood is headed in the wrong direction, and I am now able to mentally take a step back and assess what is happening, and what I can do to change it.

There are also some practical steps that I have taken. Now that I have access to my bike again, I’m getting back in the habit of cycling. And with our little baby waking up at the crack of dawn, I’m taking the opportunity sometimes to just take her out for a morning walk. As someone who works from home, these little breaks have certainly helped my mental health.

The other big thing has been the support that I have received from colleagues, friends, family and even complete strangers. So I want to say a massive THANK YOU to all those people who have been supporting me through this rough patch, however that has been.

I feel like I am living proof that depression and anxiety, if picked early and managed well, can be treated just like any other illness. I know that my case was mild and more related to the circumstances I was in, and so I don’t want to be trite about it, but I know that if I didn’t sit down and have a talk with my doctor about it, it could have progressed further.

So, again, I want to say to you that if you’re struggling with what’s going on in your mind, please get help, because it doesn’t have to be that way. And if you know somebody who is struggling, get alongside them and show your support. You may even save a life.

 

Baby prison blues

This week, with something of a heavy heart, I assembled the play pen – or as I like to think of it, baby prison.

 

It has, apparently, become necessary now as our little girl has really taken to the whole crawling thing really well. Less than a month ago she could barely pull herself up; now she’s hooning around the house like a teenager who has just received their license and an old beaten-up Commodore.

 

I’m not entirely sure why, but I had real opposition to the idea. For one, I feel like we have enough child containment devices already, including a hand-me-down ‘play centre that has things to entertain her with, while also holding her standing up. She loves that thing, and it has proven really handy to have when one of us has to leave her for a minute, or when I’m looking after her while working.

 

I suspect though, for me it was more about the symbolism of putting a barrier around the child. Yes, I completely get that, at a practical level, it is absolutely necessary as we have any number of potential hazards around, and having the baby contained is easier than having her get into everything that is 1ft above the ground.

 

As I bolted together the flimsy pieces of pine barriers and gate together, I couldn’t help but feel that, even if only as a metaphor, I was taking away some of the ability of my daughter to explore and engage the world around her. I’ve loved watching her grab things and try and work out how they fit into her mental sphere, collecting data on the world around her – and the prison seemed like it would impede that.

 

My childhood was pretty free-ranging, so I guess that is what I see as the ideal for my child. I had encounters with snakes, went playing in drains and built cubbies out in the bush, usually without parental supervision. It didn’t turn me into a wild child (I think…I could be wrong), and I actually have a very healthy respect for boundaries.

 

More than that though, I guess I also have a long-term view that I want our little girl to be able to pursue whatever she wants in life. It seems that there is nothing in life that makes you more of a feminist than having a little girl.

 

It’s why suddenly I’m all for women’s sports coming more into the mainstream. If, for instance, our little girl wants to play football (real, round ball variety), Aussie Rules or cricket, I’m stoked that opportunities are opening up for her to pursue that as a profession, even if it isn’t receiving the same attention or pay as the men’s games.

 

I guess all that to say that I don’t want to put roadblocks in front of my child. Of course, I will stop her getting into too much danger, but at the same time exposing her to levels of risk will build up her knowledge of her own limits. Conversely, I don’t want her to be held back by those limits.

 

I know that I am reading too much into the prison, but it does show how the small things can actually have a much bigger significance. As someone once said, “This is about that.”