Psychotherapy and Postnatal Depression

Facing Post Natal Depression

Gwyneth Paltrow, talking about her “painfully debilitating” postnatal depression after the birth of her son Moses, says that she found her way out of it by facing what she was feeling, rather than shutting her feelings out. 

Attempting to face what we are feeling, although very difficult at times, is key. Trying to make sense of confusing and negative thoughts and feelings, with the help of an experienced therapist, really can start to make meaning of such confusion.

Bryce Dallas Howard (American film actress and daughter of Ron Howard), when recounting her experience of postnatal depression, has recently described how she fell into a black hole. Moreover, she realises then, whilst in the middle of it, that she actually couldn’t even begin to express her true feelings.  She says, “if I had been able to convey my ordeal with postnatal depression truthfully… I would most likely have said no words at all.”

In those moments after giving birth Howard says she felt nothing, she felt she was suffering emotional amnesia. She says she couldn’t genuinely cry, or laugh, or be moved by anything. And yet, in private uncontrollable sobs would flow. She describes how she saw a therapist who diagnosed her with postnatal depression and little by little began to feel better.

Feeling emotionally overwhelmed, anxious, isolated, deeply sad, or just simply nothing because there is too much to feel, are all symptoms of postnatal depression. These feelings are similar to other forms of (clinical) depression and can be eased with the outlet of emotional support and verbal expression.

Depression following the birth of a child is undoubtedly very difficult to understand, particularly, as such darkness and aloneness seem to accompany what is seen as a celebratory, almost euphoric time. Consequently, this pressure, along with our own, mostly unconscious histories of our experience of being parented, are thrown into the mix and it can be simply too much to make sense of alone.

Brooke Shields wrote her account of postpartum depression in her book Down came the Rain. Following the birth of her daughter, Rowan, she describes feeling as though rain came pouring down. She describes postpartum depression as the most frightening and devastating challenge in her life. As a consequence of feeling so isolated and debilitated, Shields vocally speaks out about her experience. She is keen to encourage the importance of talking about feelings with a professional.

We at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice in Harley Street, London, are also keen to emphasise the importance of being able to ask for help and to receive supportive, professional help.  To begin to make sense of such unbearable feelings can enable us to start to feel connected to ourselves and to ensure a healthy attachment with our children and families.