Again a tragic story is unfolding. A woman in Winnipeg, suffering from postpartum depression is believed to have suffered postpartum psychosis and killed her two children - a toddler and an infant. Another mother, Allyson McConnell, killed her children in 2010 in a town 10 minutes from where I live. I work in that community. I knew mothers who knew her.
It is all tragic. Not only is it tragic that little children get killed by mothers who cannot handle what they are going through, but it is tragic for the mentally ill mothers, the fathers, the families and the communities. It is all-round TRAGIC.
So why do we allow this to happen? How, in this culture of information overload, can a woman get to the point of killing her children? Why is there not the kind of support that is necessary to prevent this? Why didn't she realize what she was going through? Why didn't someone else?
Well, the answer to those questions is probably very complex and not easily answered. But one thing comes to mind - there is still a stigma around depression. Even postpartum depression, which has a clear and basic cause, appears to still be difficult for people to accept as a real illness. We still need to remember to talk about these issues. We need people to understand that mental illness is no different from other illness and it needs to be accepted and treated.
If there is something I want people to realize, it is this: Depression is caused by stress - it can be the stress of having little kids, the stress of the death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, illness, moving, travelling ... anything that causes stress can push you past your limit, and cause the brain to stop working properly. And there is NO SHAME in it.
We all have different limits. We all can handle so much - and no more. Some people can seemingly handle anything ... until they can't. Some people can handle having 8 kids. Others can't handle one. It doesn't make one a better person than the other. It makes them different. We have to know our limits and live within them.
And we need to talk about it.
I'm an intelligent, educated woman. I'm a good wife, a great mother (to one child - I wouldn't be to 2) and a decent friend. I work as much as I can, I take care of my house. But if I try to do too much of any one thing, I go past my limits. I use up the time I need to exercise or eat properly and balance is lost. There is no shame in this, this is just life. I can't do everything I want to do. There isn't enough time and I don't have enough energy. I need sleep. I need down time. I need to watch movies, spend time with my child and my husband. Each and every one of us needs to find our balance and try our best to stay there. And we should not compare ourselves to others. Because we aren't them. I am me. You are you. Do what is right for you.
Please talk about mental issues. And if you have problems, if your life is being affected by them (or the lives of your family), talk to your doctor, take medication if you need it. It's worth it not just for you, but for everyone in your life (and NOBODY wants to take medication for depression - it's just sometimes necessary).
So, if you find you're yelling at your kids a lot, if you're crying for no specific reason, if you're finding it hard to get out of bed, if you're tired all the time, eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, if you just don't feel good ... well, go to your doctor. You know something is wrong. Don't ignore it and hope it will go away. Take care of yourself. Because if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of your family. And your family deserves your best YOU.