Dads with Postpartum Depression, the Bipolar Battle of the Wife of one of Canada’s Former Prime Ministers, and a Common Cure
With Father’s Day coming in a few weeks, you may be especially interested to read that one in 10 fathers experience postpartum depression. Not only is this number much higher than many of us would have guessed, but the symptoms men are different than women, according to a new study. However, the subject does not have to be depressing because many adults are able to get help and actually have a better life after overcoming their postpartum depression.
I was struck though by how this fact could compound the often difficult transition from being childless to becoming a parent. It probably feels like a cruel game of Russian roulette for the unlikely couple that both experience postpartum depression (PPD) at the same time. Mothers have a 1 in 4 chances of getting ppd. If the dad’s chances are 1 in 10, then I believe that means that 1 couple in 40 will experience both couples having PPD (any mathematicians want to confirm my math?).
With treatment, both men and women can alleviate their symptoms, and even end up happier than they were before ppd. I had the great fortune of learning about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) when I first was hit with ppd. I needed medication to give me a lift so that I could do the cognitive therapy. However, once I got going with CBT, I was able to go off medication quickly, and stay off. CBT helped me to change the thoughts that lead to the chemical imbalance. The gift was that I emerged from my child’s early years much more resilient and happy overall.
For men and women, undiagnosed or poorly treated, depression is a rough ride. An expert quoted in the Wall Street Journal article says that without treatment, male postpartum depression makes them more likely to be abusive. So, for those couples who lose out on the Russian roulette, the potential for abuse rises along with all the other side effects of depression. Which makes effective diagnosis and treatment that much more critical to give kids a fair start in life.
Not a cheery subject, I agree, however there is a bright side. As I mentioned earlier, for myself and many others, depression has been the force that prompted us to make changes that resulted in a much better life than before ppd. CBT not only gave me my life back, but gave me the tools that I needed to have the life that I wanted. Not a small claim, and not an over-exaggeration either.
I recently had the fortune of going to see arguably Canada’s most famous prime minister’s wife. Margaret Trudeau was infamous for her crazy behavior as the first lady of Canadian politics. She suffered from then undiagnosed bipolar disorder, which meant that she spent large periods of time profoundly depressed, interspersed with manic, crazy moments.
She mentioned how critical cognitive behavioral therapy was in managing her illness. Exercise and proper sleep are key as well, and she is on ongoing medication. However, the CBT is a cornerstone of her finally achieving balance in her life. Now she is able to give her talents and lend her name to many worthwhile causes, such as. She is thriving, and learning cognitive behavioral therapy is a key part of her new life.
Much like people who have conquered cancer emerge with a new-found lease on life, depression survivors can be that much happier and grateful for their lives. So, although having 1 in 10 men experience postpartum depression is not at all good, at least there is a lot of cause for hope. As we grow more accepting of postpartum depression in men, they will be more likely to get the treatment they need. It is important that we spread the message so that kids are given the gift of parents who are getting the help they need.