In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!
“I’m 23-years-old. I have been married for 3 years and have 2 kids. I live in US with my husband and his parents. I suffered from postpartum depression after my first son. I had a really hard time bonding with him and used to cry a lot. I would get so nervous and anxious around people that I have lost the ability to communicate or have a conversation with any stranger, even till today. I don’t have any friends. Haven’t visited my parents for 2 years. My kids cry all the time. The older one doesn’t eat. Feeding times have become so stressful that I hit myself and sometimes him too. He spits the food out, or just keeps it in his mouth for LITERAL HOURS. He has extreme tantrums, throws things away, bangs his head, and whatnot. It’s not that he’s jealous of his younger brother – he plays a lot with him, and we make sure we give equal attention to both. But the food situation is getting worse. I can’t even imagine how I used to be. I used to never understand people who do self-harm. And I’m doing that myself. I have severe anxiety. My younger one doesn’t sleep at night. I study online too. I have too many house chores to do. It’s not that my husband or in-laws aren’t nice. They do cooperate a lot, but it’s just not enough for me. I need a break but can’t have it. I wanted to visit back home, but I can’t because of COVID-19. Is it normal to feel that my kids have made my life extremely difficult and I never wanted this? I wasn’t ready for marriage. I just wanted to complete my studies first. But my parents decided everything on their own. I didn’t want to have kids so early, but had my first son after 10 months of my wedding. I wasn’t ready at all for another kid but had my second son back in November. I just can’t get over the fact that I wasn’t ready for any of this. I didn’t want to jump into all this this early. I have become a very bitter person. I lash out a lot without even realizing it. My husband is supportive, but doesn’t really know how to help me. He doesn’t get what I’m feeling. I’ve lost almost all friends because I’ve become so busy, I can’t talk to anyone on text or call. I can’t express these feelings to my mom or sister because I don’t want to stress them out. Please tell me how to help myself. I’m really, really struggling. I need help. Or I’ll become a toxic mother and a toxic wife and a toxic person and I don’t want that.”
My heart really goes out to you and what you’ve been going through. It sounds like there’s a lot of weight that you’re carrying around with you, and I imagine it’s getting to the point of emotional, and perhaps even physical exhaustion! Let’s see if we can help you get the help that you need in order to move forward.
Importance Of Acknowledging Our Needs
Anon, I want to take a moment to tell you one thing: you are human. You are allowed to be angry, frustrated, sad or whatever it is you need to feel. Parenthood, especially with postpartum depression is hard! The difficult part is trying to manage your emotions, as well as trying to meet the needs of your child. I have seen that parenthood can often take its toll, not just physically but emotionally as well. The main side-effect of that can often be a neglect of our own needs and instead, existing primarily for the needs of the child.
It can be tough and extremely exhausting, and it’s completely okay (and natural!) to be frustrated, or even admit that this wasn’t something you wanted. Your needs are important in this as well, Anon. While I can completely understand and empathise with you on the matter of taking care of your children, neglecting yourself can have a strong negative impact on your mental health later on, which could in turn affect your ability to stay attuned to your children, or even others around you.
It’s absolutely essential to meet your needs in the best possible way you can. It could even be as simple as taking some rest, going for a walk or listening to calming music. Pause and ask yourself: what is it that I need right now? How can I relax my body? How can I calm my mind?
There are several articles on Mashion’s page that list down coping strategies for anxiety. Some of my favourites are journaling, exercising, warm/hot showers, mindfulness, meditation or even just listening to the sounds of the ocean on YouTube.
Consult A Specialist For The children
In the case of your child’s eating habits, it might help to consult a doctor. What concerns me is the inability to really consume food, and if it’s getting worse, then perhaps this might be an option to consider.
Stepping Away From Who You DON’T Want To Be And Focusing On Who You DO Want To Be
Anon, I would also like to say that what you’re experiencing now is completely okay. Give yourself permission to not be okay right now. Maybe you’re exactly where you need to be for the time being. Everyone’s journey is different.
In terms of what you said at the end of your message, I noticed that there was a lot of focus on who you don’t want to be. Let’s step away from that, and try to shift your attention towards what or who you would like to be. Take that a step further and ask yourself: what needs to be done in order for me to reach there?
Find A Safe Space To Talk About What You’re Going Through
Anon, what really concerns me about your message is that there is a reluctance in terms of being able to open up about what’s going on. Sometimes our reluctance comes from this sense of judgement that we have about ourselves, which we might project onto someone else. What that simply means is that it’s possible that certain assumptions are being made about another person’s feelings. Perhaps your mother or sister might be able to hold space for you if you did reach out?
If you still feel uncomfortable with the idea of opening up to family or friends at this stage, I would strongly recommend therapeutic counselling. While I’m not as familiar with tools and resources outside of Pakistan, I imagine that therapeutic counselling would be available, even online at this time. This is a space where you’ll be able to talk about your experience without judgement and safety.
Anon, there seems to be a lot going on in your life, and it seems really unfair that you’re allowing yourself to go through it alone. Through all the words, I hear a great deal of pain. You seem to be taking care of the world around you, but it also looks like you aren’t really looking out for YOU, and I wonder if that’s where some of that anxiety is coming from: that sense of not being truly open and accepting about what you’re experiencing, or your needs that continue to go unmet. At the end of the day, being attuned to our own needs and being our most congruent and authentic selves is extremely important! I really hope things work out for you, and that you’re able to find the peace and safety that you’re looking for. I wish you all the best. Take care and stay in your power, Anon!
The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.