These are serious life events. Such as the dad who finds out that his wife, who is 36 weeks pregnant has serious health issues and an emergency caesarean is going to take place. Or that his partner has been diagnosed with postnatal depression. Body-blow events like these are overwhelming in nature and usually cause a shock reaction – feeling sick with worry and even full of hurt and frustration. But how do you handle these blows? Once the shock is starting to lessen it may be time to move into problem-solving mode and to get to that you may need to do something a lot of men are not very good at – asking and accepting help from others. Whilst this may not be something you are comfortable doing it will help you – particularly where perinatal anxiety and depression are involved.
These are the things that happen in life that leave you feeling a bit flat. It might be that you exchanged cross words with your partner before you went to work and it left you feeling flat all day, meanwhile both of you wait for the other’s ‘sorry’ text.
What is important here is not so much what happens, but how you respond to what happens. A series of punctures can be like feeding negativity, and you may find yourself having more negative thoughts throughout the day. In mental health terms we call this ‘negative self-talk’. It’s not much fun and takes the shine off the day, so here is something to think about:
Just like riding a bike, punctures happen, but these annoying events can usually be solved, repaired or simply let-go.
Accepting that life isn’t perfect and we can’t be happy 100% of the time is a mindset that accepts that little punctures happen.
These are an exception to the norm, in recognising this perhaps you can see that they are a hitch and they will pass.
Good mental health means that we recognise our negative self-talk as not a healthy state of mind and also not the truth of the matter.
There are lots of days as a dad where you can feel flat. It’s often to do with being over tired, overwhelmed or just missing your partner and the life you had together. If the baby’s sleeping patterns are settling over time, yet you are still finding it hard to rest and remain feeling flat, think about getting some help.
Life’s little irritants and frustrations. Some days it feels like life has more speedhumps than usual – nothing major, just lots of seemingly smaller things all happening at once. On a good day you know it’s not the end of the world when these things happen, but on a bad day they can push your stress levels up and your mood down. For some it is helpful to take a deep breath, acknowledge the speedhumps, and then let them go. For others it may feel that the speedhumps are seemingly endless – talking with someone can help.
The stone in your shoe
Can you remember the feeling of having a stone in your shoe and not getting around to taking it out? In life we sometimes don’t get around to seemingly annoying things also – doing your tax or making an appointment with your dentist are two that come to mind. And sometimes we can all be guilty of avoiding them but still know that you need to do it. (Read more) Then when you finally get around to it, it doesn’t seem that hard after all. Ideally in life you don’t want to have too many ‘stones in your shoe’, things you haven’t acted on, at the same time as they can wear you down. Your mental energy has to deal with being reminded of these incomplete tasks or issues/ghosts.
In mental health terms we call this avoidance – a little bit is OK, but a lot of avoidance can drain you of energy and vitality. Your confidence as a ‘can-do’ person goes down – perhaps make a list of all the tasks, make it a priority, tackle them one at a time and as you make your way through it you’ll probably find they’re not as hard you pictured.
Everyone has bad days and we all cop with that differently – on a really bad day, your demons might be in your head, telling you unhelpful activities will make things better such as drinking, drugs or gambling.
You could say your demons are leading you astray through self-medicating.
You could say that instead of looking to good long term mental health care your demons are recommending self-medicating to take away bad feelings or manage stress, ways that might make you feel better straight away but are not likely to make you or your situation any better.
Think twice. Talking about it, getting help and support are much better and stronger things to do than self-medicating.
Good mental health
Making a decision that can change the quality of the rest of your life – work on your ghosts and lay them to rest. We can’t say that it will be easy but hopefully you will find it to be worthwhile – and it will help you to be the best dad you want to be.
Find someone to talk to who can help you become a ‘ghost buster’ and help you to identify things that may be in the way. They can help you learn some new skills and strategies to control and deal with your demons so they don’t control you. And help you to recognise and accept that the punctures and paper cuts we’ve referred to are part of life, but can be the exception rather than the norm.
There are plenty of other things that may help also – such as keeping fit and eating healthily, planning achievable goals, taking time out for yourself, and taking regular holidays. Armed with some help you have more likelihood of working through the body blows if and when they come, and nobody really knows when that may be.