28 September 2012

Post Natal Depression vs. Tiredness

I went to the doctor today. I sat down to say I've-got-another-cold-and-I-need-some-help-please-may-I-have-some-antibiotics, and ended up bawling my eyes out saying I'm-just-not-coping-and-I-don't-know-if-it's-maybe-post-natal-depression-or-just-sheer-tiredness. Oops. Didn't mean it to go quite that way...

But it got me thinking. I have 'flat' days regularly. Sometimes frequently, sometimes hardly ever. I think flat days are to be expected in my line of work. (Mothering pre-schoolers, that is.) However, the symptoms of Post Natal Depression (PND) are:

Physical symptoms such as:
Change in appetite (increased or decreased)
Extreme tiredness to the extent of not being able to perform normal tasks of everyday living
Poor sleep patterns.
Changes in mood
Low mood
Lack of ‘joie de vivre’
Expressing beliefs, such as:
Inability to cope
Inability to concentrate
Undue anxiety
‘not wanting to go on.’

Now, I know I could check a few of those boxes (except that very last one) on a good day. Quite a few on a bad day! But it strikes me that nearly all (maybe even all?) of these symptoms can be caused by tiredness too. Read the list again, but with the header, "The symptoms of tiredness are:" Do you see?

I think most mothers of young children (and maybe older children too, but I don't have any of those, so I can't comment!) are combating tiredness. More tired than we ever thought possible before we had children. Combine a 24 hour work day and broken sleep, not to mention the responsibility for moulding and shaping a small person or persons, and you have a recipe for at least some amount of tiredness.

Before we go any further, please understand that I am most definitely not saying that if you have post natal depression, you are actually only tired and getting more sleep will help. Apart from that being ridiculous (it's usually very difficult to get more sleep), it's inaccurate. PND is a real and documented condition. 10-15% of women in NZ suffer from depression after having a baby. If you are diagnosed with PND, it is important that you speak with someone who can help you to get the support you need, including more sleep.

For me, these last few months have been difficult ones, as I previously mentioned. Since the first week of July, I have had some combination of a cough/dry cough/hacking couch/plegm-y cough/blocked nose/running nose/gunked-up nose/headache/fever/sore throat, only fully abating for two days or a week before the next lot of symptoms began. I'm not trying to garner sympathy, just to illustrate the state of health in our household this winter!

You know what? Having a cold is tiring! It must be said that I am immensely thankful that my health problems are less than a drop in the ocean of all health problems. I'll take a cold over something like cancer any day of the week and say thank you. But it is tiring. Tiring to care for three children, a husband and a home while still somehow trying to find that ever-elusive 'Me Time' when you are sick and can't rest. And all those things in that list up there? I've felt them. I feel them. Most of the time at the moment. I'm thankful for my experience of knowing that it is all just a stage - the colds WILL pass, I WILL get more sleep (I will!), and positivity WILL return.

Talking with my doctor, we agreed that I don't have PND really. I've just been sick and staying up too late. But it frightens me how close to actual clinical depression that sheer tiredness can come. It really has hit home to me that taking care of yourself doesn't only involve eating right, drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly (all of which I suck at as well), but prioritising sleep as much as you can too. I've always known that, but it's like the Lack of Sleep Fairy just struck me over the head with her This Is Unhealthy Stick. (She's not a very nice fairy, all in all.)

So where to from here?

I'm going to set myself a night time routine that involves switching off the TV or packing up my sewing machine at 8:30/9pm, have a quick tidy up to be ready for the next day, brush teeth etc, a little time to read in bed (one of my favourite things to do!) and lights off at 9:30pm. 10pm at the latest.

Sleep's important. I want to do the best I can by my family. Being tired robs me of the wonderfulness of where we are right now, where we'll never be again. These years are short, and I want to enjoy them.

Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep... You truly are my friend.

(If you're still with me at this point I commend you for your fortitude in getting all the way to the end!)


  1. I am sooo where you are right now. I just went to the gym and then came home and sat in the car crying. I've had that appointment, that realisation, the guilt of having days where I am just not giving the best of myself to my beautiful children. A night time routine is a good start. Maybe put hubby in charge of gently reinforcing it if you're prone to faltering. Go well xx

  2. Good for you - I had one broken night sleep the other day and spent the rest of the following day filling the pain with empty calories - hello bad cycle!! Sleep and water - God's answers to so many things

    1. "filling the pain with empty calories" - that's a whole other blog post right there. A whole series, even.
      Amen to sleep and water!

  3. Good on you for speaking so honestly with your doctor. I am miserbly tired right now, because of my own doing. I think once the babies in bed I need to make the most of my time without her, because of that I ended up going to bed waaaay too late. Last night I went to bed at 11.30, the first time in a week I got to bed before midnight. I'm torturing myself!!!

    Setting a bed time for tonight, 11pm latest (baby steps huh!)

    GOOD ON YOU! Hope you start feeling better ASAP

    P.s, thank you for your lovely comment on my love people post <3

  4. Take care of yourself Jess.
    It is tiring
    I think we are living mirror lives at the moment ;'(
    I went to Dr today also and burst into tears
    Thank goodness for school holidays and grandparents is all I can say
    Hope with a good nights sleep or four you feel on top of everything again
    Take care of you please xxx

  5. I have been at both places.... Tiredness and pnd. These days I find I am in bed once the kids are in bed, as they get older, hubby who is a night owl does bedtime for the two older kiddies, and I'm in bed these dark nights by 9 at the latest! Xx

  6. I've been having the same internal debate with myself lately. It's reassuring to hear I'm not the only one.
    Here's hoping we both get some sleep, and some cheerier feelings, soon xx

  7. I loved reading this post. We're expecting our second and I still remember (even though our first is 7) the strains that lack of sleep puts on your body/ mind/ relationships etc. There were times when Ben was young that I could have ticked every box on the PND check list EXCEPT the last one- I never felt suicidal/ I couldn't go on, just that it would be much easier to go on if I could have some undisturbed sleep. I guess the other thing is that with PND it probabaly doesn't go away even if you do get sleep.A really insightful post, thank you. Following.Rx


  8. Nice article and thanks for sharing your knowledge. I really appropriate your views.

    postnatal depression.

  9. When I finally got the nerve to go to my doctor about my depression (not PND, I don't think, just regular depression), I was actually having a good day and didn't feel like crying at all. I sat down, she said "So what's your problem?" and I said "Well, I think I have depression...". Whereupon she reached over with a slightly world-weary poker face and slapped a box of tissues down in front of me. It was kind of hilarious.

    Anyway, yes, fatigue is ghastly. Good luck with the bedtime routine!


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