Could Keeping a Diary Help with PND?

It was World Mental Health Day two days ago on October 10th. Current stats indicate 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. And that doesn’t include mothers who suffer from post natal depression.

I didn’t suffer from PND (beyond the usual anxiety of keeping a baby safe, fed & nurtured) but I have been ambushed by depression brought on by my dad’s sudden, undignified death in 1993.

From taking that call in a middle of a lecture, my world was turned upside down and very quickly I was drowning in a turbulent sea of anger, despair and bewilderment.

I was at university at the time and, after 2 weeks compassionate leave, I returned, a husk of my former self. My friends and peers were nonplussed by the walking wreck that would stumble into lectures and pretend to listen.

I was 23 and felt so alone.  It didn’t help when someone equated my loss with losing their childhood cat. I couldn’t offload even half of the wretched, crazy misery in my head. So I shared with a diary instead.

At the end of each long day I’d force myself to sit and let the torrent of words spill out of me with utter abandon. On the page I could say absolutely anything without fear of judgement. The lack of self regulation on my part felt both daring and therapeutic.

Obviously I did open up to friends and a counsellor helped me through those dark months. But I also believe that being honest with myself on paper helped most of all.

Did I re-read it? Yes. Not easy words to read. But, as the months passed, the raw pain that sprang from the page felt progressively alien. I felt encouraged by my slow progress through the stages of grief. Relieved I no longer felt like smashing glasses or bruising my arms & legs.

Different days brought different emotions but by registering and writing down the feelings (anger, sorrow, numbness and, weirdly, feeling like you’re watching yourself in a movie) I was allowing myself the chance to be myself, however crappy, in that moment. Without fear or recrimination. I even started to stop feeling guilty if I found something funny.

Death is life changing. Birth is life changing. So when I had my first son and awash with runaway emotions and hormones, it made perfect sense to record them on paper again.

Motherhood is a significant journey that sometimes feels rudderless (like grief) and recording the highs and lows, the good and the bad makes the whole experience even more transformative.  Looking back I quietly hi-five myself; I did it! I survived the baby years (& most importantly he survived my rookie mothering), we navigated the terrible twos and now we’re charting the waters of primary school.

Next hurdle – the teenage years. That’s going to be a big diary and probably a bit sweary.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether keeping a diary has helped you. Please leave a comment below.

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