As a new mother I went through a hard time coming to terms with my changed life and before I knew the happy gratified person was replaced by a permanently distressed woman. Only if I had known it was PPD and seen a therapist then, I would not have suffered for close to a decade.
PPD, 10 years ago, was attributed to imported pregnancy books. No one here talked about it, because women after birthing a baby had to be happy, come what may. The pressure of being a happy mother was just too much. I am glad things have started to change. People are talking about how they feel, post delivery or otherwise, and seeking help. But the mental health issues continue to affect many many more people, a majority of them being women especially new mothers.
Mental wellness remains a topic very close to my heart and you’d often find me talking about it here. Today, however, I let Kiran Manral, noted journalist and author do the talking here, on That Girl In Muddy Boots. Kiran has done what I have only been thinking about — writing a book on effects of Depression. Her latest novel Missing, Presumed Dead deals with mental illness, fragile relationships, the need to break free, and a lot more.
Here’s what she feels about mental wellness — or the lack of it.
Of all the issues that women put on the back burner their own mental health must rank amongst the highest. According to research, women are 40 per cent more likely than men to suffer from depression and twice as likely as men to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nonetheless, women seeking and getting help for their mental condition is definitely not commensurate with the proportion of them suffering from it. Very often, women don’t even realise that they need help.
One of the most notable times when women actually do need professional help and therapy, and don’t get it is during their post partum phase. According to research, almost 80 per cent of women suffer from some degree of post partum depression, of these a significant number will have their symptoms persist for more than a few weeks till the hormones stabilise. Post partum is a difficult demon. There is not just the physical trauma that one’s body undergoes during the process of childbirth and the recovery from it, but also the chaos of hormones which wreaks havoc on a woman’s mind. Post partum depression is a deep dark place where many women flounder for the first few months after they’ve had their baby. Couple this with the need to care for a very demanding newborn, minimal or nonexistent spousal support for infant care, dealing with her own bodily changes and body image issues post partum, and most women are broken beyond measure. Post Partum Depression has always been around, it even has a term, Baby Blues, that is commonly used, which acknowledges the fact that most women will have to deal with it. If the post partum blues persist beyond a few weeks and the symptoms get aggravated, perhaps professional help might be required. This is when the Post partum blues morph into the more serious Post Partum Depression and can last for over a year. Mood swings, depression, loss of motivation and appetite, a desire or fear that she will harm the baby, all these are common. A more severe form of Post Partum Depression is post partum psychosis which affects a minuscule one percent of new mothers. This is dangerous though, for both the mother and child, and the mother may need hospitalisation and be more prone to suffer it in the subsequent delivery.
In my latest book, Missing, Presumed Dead, my protagonist, Aisha, deals with mental illness that gets triggered off post partum. She battles body image issues, and depression and then swiftly descends into a vortex that needs her to stay medicated to stay stable enough to deal with her every day.
These are discussions we need to have, rather than elevate motherhood to this glorious duty of self sacrifice that our popular narrative presents us. Let’s talk about the toll motherhood takes on women, physically, mentally and emotionally. And let’s stop propagating the unrealistic expectations that a woman should be back to her former self, wasp waistline included, within hours of childbirth, with the freshly powdered infant sleeping snugly in her arms. Let us step in and help new mothers we know cope, in whatever little way we can, whether chipping in with the daily routine, or just taking over care of the infant for a little while so she can catch up with sleep, or simply bringing in hot meals so she has that stressor off her head, if she does not have that support. It is a tough job, being a mother, and it is a lifelong one. Let’s help women get a headstart on it.
(A TEDx speaker, columnist, mentor with Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk 2017 and festival curator, Kiran Manral published her first book, The Reluctant Detective, in 2011. Since then, she has published eight books across genres till date. Her books include romance and chicklit with Once Upon A Crush, All Aboard, Saving Maya; horror with The Face at the Window and nonfiction with Karmic Kids, A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up and True Love Stories. Her short stories have been published on Juggernaut, in magazines like Verve and Cosmopolitan, and have been part of anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Have a Safe Journey and Boo.
She was shortlisted for the Femina Women Awards 2017 for Literary Contribution. The Indian Council of UN Relations (ICUNR) supported by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, Government of India, awarded her the International Women’s Day Award 2018 for excellence in the field of writing. Her novella, Saving Maya, was long listed for the Saboteur Awards 2018, UK, supported by the Arts Council England. Two of her books, The Face at the Window and Missing, Presumed Dead, were long listed for the JIO MAMI Word to Screen.
Her latest book Missing, Presumed Dead, can be ordered on Amazon here.