Australian actor Steve Bastoni talks about his experiences with how his family was affected by post-natal depression.
Steve is a national ambassador for Lifeline.
There we were, expecting our first child, living in a beautiful new apartment, a new car in the driveway, my job security not in question, which is a rare thing for an actor. On paper we had every reason to be happy but we weren`t, as the due date grew closer so did my wife, Bianca`s, anxiety and fear. I was unable to identify the cause of her sadness and she couldn’t articulate it, so I withdrew from her emotionally and grew increasingly resentful that my wife could be so ungrateful. After all I was bringing home the bacon, I`d provided her with a nice place to nest, I was being a man! What more could she possibly want? I became more and more frustrated and lonely and like many good Aussie males, sought solace in beer and other substances. I hoped that she would change when the baby came and she did. Her depression got worse, it had overtaken her and I watched helplessly from the sidelines as my beautiful wife wept uncontrollably while breast feeding our son. I kept thinking this would pass but down she spiralled until finally she admitted she needed help and checked herself into a maternal health care facility. She was diagnosed with severe Post-natal depression and was taken into full time care with my son and treated with anti-depressants . At first I was relieved that I could have some time to myself, some space from the “inconvenience” of her mental state, she was ruining what should have been the happiest time in my life, she had chosen this! How could she do this to ME? My wild emotions oscillated between compassion and anger, I was filled with self-pity and bitterness, for the first time I started thinking of turning my back on them. I had tried and I had failed.
I started partying heavily in a futile attempt to forget about my situation, trying to drown my feelings in booze and drugs, but no matter how much I drank or what drugs I took, the reality was always there in the morning. So the questions remained could I live with this? Could I really desert her in her hour of need? Was I destined to be “one of those guys” who walked out when things got too hard? This wasn’t part of the plan. I decided that I would give it one more chance and that I would learn about this Depression bullshit, and would tackle it head on. My wife had lots of books lying around the house on pregnancy and what to expect, but none of them talked about what we were going through, I had “expected” something very different. I expected her to know what to do, to be a natural earth mother and to instantly bond with the baby and smile serenely at me while she cradled my son, Isn`t being a Mum a part of a woman`s DNA?, surely it should come as easily to her as breathing or walking? ! Each time I came to visit her I learned a little bit more about Post-Natal depression and how it affects one in seven women (that`s reported, I think it’s a lot higher but goes unreported because of the shame that women feel around it) slowly it dawned on me that this wasn`t her problem, this was our problem and she couldn’t “just snap out of it” as I had wisely suggested. The more I read about it the more hopeful I felt that she could recover. We started talking about it honestly, as our communication grew, our bond began to strengthen again and we vowed to fight it together, together we would kick that black dog to the kerb. By the time she came home we were more educated about it but were still living in fear of its shadow, what if it came back? We took it a day at a time and monitored her closely for any signs that this faceless demon was re-inhabiting her and slowly her condition improved, but mine didn`t. I had become depressed too and had been self-medicating to the point of addiction, now I was the one who needed to change. We began seeing a counselor for our marriage and I started getting help for my addiction problems and funnily enough, the quality of our lives started to improve. Today we are out of the dark shadow of depression, it`s been a long journey but it really has brought us closer together. The tools we learned in fighting it (communicating honestly about our feelings) are a part of our daily lives, we have two happy healthy boys and life couldn’t be better. I hope sharing our experience might be helpful for others suffering. If you’re experiencing depression or worried about someone who you think might be struggling “Man Up!” and reach out and get help. Lifeline 131114