True Story: One Father’s Struggle with Postpartum Depression


Dads get the “baby blues” too.

People might not realize this, but, after the birth of a child, both women and men can encounter symptoms of postpartum depression. I’m speaking from experience here.

After the birth of my daughter, which endures as one of the happiest moments of my life, I found myself struggling with unexpected waves of anxiety, fear, and depression.

It was horrible, and what made it worse, was that I was very uncomfortable talking about it.

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Here’s why — don’t you hate it when a couple says “we’re pregnant”?

I do. Because the dude isn’t pregnant. He’s not going to have to squeeze a bowling ball out of his downstairs business, so, c’mon, give credit where credit is due — SHE is pregnant and the guy is along for the ride.

I’ve never liked it when a man tried to make the pregnancy about him. He plays a part, sure, but, I was always of the opinion that, as a guy, there is NO way that I can ever comprehend the physical and emotional toll of pregnancy, so my role was to sit back, be supportive, and shut up.

And, for the most part, I think that strategy works.

However, I wasn’t prepared for how “shutting up” would negatively impact me AFTER my wife gave birth.

Because becoming a parent stirs up deep, powerful emotions. And, while many of those feelings are overwhelmingly sunny and positive, they can, sometimes, cast a shadow. Those epic highs lend themselves to equally epic lows and, suddenly, you find yourself crying and you don’t know why.

Once we brought my daughter home, I found myself confronted with those overpowering moments of terror and panic and I didn’t say anything about them.

Why? Because my wife had just gone through a freakin’ c-section. She’d spent almost a year getting sick every day, while a living creature grew in her belly, and then doctors had to cut her open to pull the creature out. They then sewed her up, handed her the creature, and expected that she’d know how to feed and care for it.

That’s a lot of shit to put on a person. No question — my wife had it WORSE than I did. There’s no comparison.

However, just because things were harder for my wife doesn’t mean that they weren’t also hard for me. She might win the miserable contest, hands down, but I was still in a really bad place. And I was too embarrassed to let my support network know that I needed them.

The more I’ve talked to new fathers, the more common I realize this experience is.

We’ve all just watched our partners go through one of the most intense physical experiences in the world, so we just feel ashamed to admit that we’re hurting a little too. It feels like our struggles are frivolous in comparison, but the fact is they’re very, very real and painful. Postpartum depression can be painfully real for men too, even if it’s embarrassing.

It all came to a head for me the first evening I spent alone with my daughter.

I’d encouraged my wife to go out with some friends — she’d only consented to leave for a few hours — and told her I’d be fine. Our baby was so good and happy. A little alone time was going to be good for us.

So she left. And my daughter started crying. She rarely cried.

And she cried, as if she’d been set on fire, for three hours non-stop.

I was beside myself. She never did this and, no matter what I tried, I could not get her to stop.

It shredded me, but I knew I couldn’t call my wife. I wanted her to have a fun first night out. I didn’t want her to worry. I was supposed to able to handle this.

My wife called me when she was leaving to come home, and I guess she heard the panic in my voice. She asked if I was OK. My voice cracked and I said, “Just please get here soon.”

She raced home and, the SECOND she stepped into our apartment, my daughter stopped crying. The baby smiled. The baby laughed. The baby goddamn cooed.

I handed her to my confused wife without a word, went into our bedroom, locked the door, laid down on the bed, and cried for thirty minutes.

Once I opened the door again, my wife and I had our first conversation about my postpartum depression.

I will say, my depression was extremely manageable in comparison to some stories I’ve heard. It came in waves that seemed to grow smaller and smaller as I became more comfortable as a father. So I was lucky.

Lucky it wasn’t more severe and lucky that my partner was so supportive (even though, again, she had it SO much worse than I did).

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But, more than anything, it really opened my eyes about the importance of men needing to talk about postpartum depression.

It doesn’t just happen to women. It is important. And it is valid and OK acknowledge that you’re not feeling right, even when you know your partner is feeling worse.

Men — don’t be afraid to speak up about your anxiety and emotions following the birth of a child.

The healthiest thing you can do, for everyone, is get your feelings out into the open and let your support network do their job, even if they’re breastfeeding and changing diapers while they do it.

This guest article originally appeared on Yes, Men Suffer From Postpartum Depression Too (Trust Me, I Know).

True Story: One Father’s Struggle with Postpartum Depression
True Story: One Father’s Struggle with Postpartum Depression

Do You Know What to Say When Someone Has an Anxiety or Panic Attack?

Panic AttackSaying the wrong thing can do more harm than good, but don’t worry! We’ll guide you on how to help.

As someone who suffers all too frequently with panic disorder, I can tell you that sometimes, there’s just nothing to do but get through it. Friends, and family may try to help but truthfully, they can make it worse.

If you haven’t actually had the experience of a panic attack (Congrats!), then you may not understand what the body goes through. Lucky for me (ha!), I can tell you first hand what an anxiety attack is like.

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Have you ever had a drink of water and chugged it so fast, it went down your air pipe? That feeling of having to choke and not being able to breathe? Yes, well, that’s one part of it.

Ever feel like there’s a weight on your chest and your lungs are restricted? That’s another!

How about the sweats? Yup! Rapid cycling thoughts? Thinking you’re going to die when in practicality, you’re not? Nausea? Yup, yup, and yup!

Think only crazy people have anxiety? NOPE! According to National Institute of Mental Health, about 40 MILLION people, ages 18 to 54 within the United States, suffer with an anxiety disorder. If you’re not the one dealing with anxiety, then it’s likely you know someone who does.

There ARE ways to help! Be compassionate with the person, before, during, and after their attack.

You can offer to bring them to a place of comfort, outside of their trigger zone, if you’re able. You can try distracting them with a funny story, a cute anecdote, or something you know they enjoy, but try not to invoke an emotion other than happiness. Bringing up a story about their deceased loved one, even if in jest, could cause an even worse situation.

For me, drinking ice-cold water helps. I’ve talked to many people who feel the same way, an ice-cold jolt brings them out of their panic cycle and is calming. That may not work for everyone, so don’t go throwing ice at your friend’s face; just saying! (But you could suggest a cold shower. It’s been shown to help!)

Here’s the thing: You may think you’re being useful by saying certain common phrases that seem helpful, but they’re not. I’ve created a list of things people have said to me during a panic attack. Word of advice: Don’t say these things. But lucky for you, I’m also including some helpful ways to make the situation less awkward for everyone.

1. DON’T SAY: Just Relax.

I totally appreciate what you are trying to do, but telling me to relax has the complete OPPOSITE effect. Seriously, if it were that easy to relax, I wouldn’t be in the middle of a panic attack.

INSTEAD, SAY: Is there anything I can do to help you right now?

Honestly, just knowing we have someone next to us who’s understanding and willing to run to the store to get a paper bag to breathe into can do wonders!

2. DON’T SAY: It’s All Going to Work Out.

So, technically, you’re probably right. Everything WILL work out, most times. But saying that to me while I’m panicking just makes me feel like you’re dismissing me. At the moment that my head is spinning, I can’t think rationally. Despite all signs pointing to good things, I see it as DANGER DANGER. Thank you, but no.

INSTEAD, SAY: Whatever happens, we’ll figure out a way to make it right.

Even though it may be a situation that can’t be resolved, just being reminded in that moment that there’s someone willing to work with me on something, and even giving a glimmer of hope, helps TREMENDOUSLY.

3. DON’T SAY: It’s All in Your Head.

OF COURSE it’s in my head. Anxiety is a diagnosable MENTAL illness. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. You telling me it’s in my head just makes me more embarrassed about what I’m going through!

INSTEAD, SAY: I’m here if you want to talk about what’s upsetting you and work through it.

Phew! I can’t tell you how many times a panic attack has been squashed just by breaking down all the moving parts into tiny fixable situations.

4. DON’T SAY: I Know How You’re Feeling.

Maybe you do. But more than likely, you don’t. Even those with anxiety may not know what I’m going through because the symptoms fall on such a large spectrum and vary person to person.

INSTEAD, SAY: I wish I could understand how you feel, but I don’t. I respect your feelings and will do anything you need me to do to feel better.

OK! So, obviously, I’m not going to be like, “I need a piece of cheese from Whatever County 100 miles away to feel better.” Even though cheese always does help. But knowing you’re willing to help makes things a bit easier to swallow.

5. DON’T SAY: There Are People With Bigger Problems Than You.

Yes, I’m well aware there’s starving children in the world and people with incurable diseases. However, when I’m in the midst of an anxiety attack, all I can think about is my little small world. Not only that, I have GUILT about feeling the way I do KNOWING I don’t have it that bad. But thanks for reminding me!

INSTEAD, SAY: Nothing.

I’d rather you be quiet than tell me about people who have it worse. There’s no way to spin that into something better.

6. DON’T SAY: You Have a Lot to Be Grateful For.

It’s very likely that I know all the things in my life I should be happy about. It’s also very likely that it’s those VERY things I’m worried about. Sometimes, I get into a panic just thinking about LOSING everyone I love, or even the roof over my head.

INSTEAD, SAY: Try thinking about the big picture here.

Sometimes, I get so caught up in all the tiny minutiae of life that it’s hard for me to remember that I have an entire world of good things. Just don’t TELL me I have good things. Walk around it. Just…walk around it.

7. WHAT NOT TO SAY: Want to Get a Drink?

This is tricky. Some people do self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, but that’s not how I roll. And even though a drink or two may solve the problem momentarily, it’s not a long-term fix and may even exasperate the condition even more. Don’t offer drinks, because the person you may ask might not be able to say no.

INSTEAD, SAY: Want to grab a bite to eat?

This is a good opportunity to be distracted by people, music, eating, and a perfect place to talk things over.

8. DON’T SAY: You’re Annoying!

Trust me, I’m just as bothered as you are. But as a friend or relative, it’s actually really rude and inconsiderate to say this to someone while they’re suffering. It’s harder on the person with anxiety than you. Be nice, and get over it!

INSTEAD, SAY: I wish I knew a way to make you feel better. If there’s anything I can do, just let me know!

It sounds repetitive, I know. But seriously, knowing someone is there to offer help in our moment of crisis means the WORLD!

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9. DON’T SAY: I’m Going to Give You Some Alone Time.

That just makes us feel like we’re really alone, you know, when you leave us alone. Especially if we’re in a public place, don’t leave your panicked friend alone. Our minds are running wild and we need your support. If you don’t know how to handle the situation, your best bet is just to ASK the person what they need from you.

INSTEAD, SAY: Do you want to be alone? Do you want me to stay? I’ll do whatever makes you comfortable.

Because sometimes we DO want alone time, but not having someone just leave us in haste. Asking what the person wants is a good way to connect and open dialogue.

10. DON’T SAY: You Really Need to Try Yoga/Essential Oils/Chiropractor/Whatever.

Though I appreciate your sales pitch, I REALLY do, now is not the time. It’s like when I’m in the mood for macaroni and cheese and my husband says, “Oh, I’ll pick up some next week.” HOW DOES THAT HELP ME NOW? It doesn’t. So don’t do it.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Every situation is different. Every person handles anxiety in different ways. Offer your loved one a hand; don’t force contact, but let them know your hand is free. Call me crazy (actually, don’t!) but sometimes just holding someone’s hand can be more calming than any words.

This guest article originally appeared on What You Should (And Should NOT) Say When Someone Has A Panic Attack.

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