This a question that someone wrote in a search engine to find my blog. They were delivered to my post about mythbusting, but I am sure they would not have found it a satisfactory answer. I am, for no reason in particular, assuming this was a husband, or partner, looking to support the mother of their child.
So, this is my answer.
How can I cheer up a woman with PND?
Cheering someone up, by its very nature, belittles the person with PND. Attempting to cheer them up suggests that you think their illness could be cured with a quick joke or funny dance. It can’t, and it is disrespectful to try.
You can however make them smile, understand them and make the cloud overhead clear for just a little while. Maybe the sun might even briefly shine through. You can make a small difference. And a small difference is a huge difference to someone with PND.
I do not pretend to be an expert, but after dark journey into the light I can say what would have given me a glimpse at sun.
Praise. And praise publicly.
Remind them that they are a great mother. Tell them how proud you are of them for bringing such an amazing baby into the world. (However labor went). Make the praise specific. “You are such a good Mum for staying calm during tears”, “We are both very lucky to have someone as selfless as you in our lives”. PND can often involve an intense paranoia that everyone else thinks you are a bad mother, so make this praise public. Tell Facebook how amazing she is, tell your family, tell her family, tell everyone you know. (and those you don’t!)
Hugs, smiles, a squeeze of the hand or a nod of the head. All small and easy things that give a moment of reassurance.
Be her biggest defender.
Even when you can’t see that they need it. Be aware and be sensitive to the topics they may feel attacked on and jump to their rescue. (whether you believe they need it or not). If a parenting choice is being discussed then state clearly and without prompting that you are proud of her for her choices and that you agree with them wholeheartedly.
Give her time.
Time to sit, time to stare, time to be. Recognise that she has not made a choice to be ill and that recovery will not be quick.
Talk to her.
About life, about how she feels, about how you feel. About your child, about work and about the mundane. Show her that you care by telling her you love her and telling her that things will be OK. She will be happy again and you will help her get there.
Listen. Really listen.
You may think her reasons are strange, you may find her concerns ridiculous and you may find her anxiety frustrating. But listen as she tell you why they exist. Listen as she explains what her fear is in that moment and listen as she repeats herself over and over. Really listen. And to prove you have heard make sure to act on something she has said.
Allow her to sit and cry. Don’t belittle her emotions with comments. Just sit with her. Hold her hand, make her a drink and give her a kiss. Crying is important. Don’t stop her.
Don’t treat her as you normally would.
Strange advice though this may seem, DON’T just carry on as normal. She needs to be made to feel loved and supported and it is likely that she will be feeling numb to this. Imagine, if you will, that love is a temperature. A woman without PND may start at a warm temperature and love can heat them further. A woman with PND is starting at frozen. They need more love and more sensitivity in order for them to reach the same result.
Don’t talk about other mums and babies.
Right now she may feel like a failure on every count. Give her no excuse or ammunition for comparison. Her baby is the only one that matters.
“How can I support you?” Don’t ask if you can do anything, ask instead what you can do. Ask how she would like you to behave and ask if she wants more support than you are currently giving.
Remember, she is still the same person she was. Love her, understand her, and help her find her happiness again.
Note: This assumes that professional help is already being given. If this is not the case then it must be a priority to visit the GP. Go along with her if she would like you to.