Sharing feelings of ‘postnatal depression’ following my book launch and reaching out for help
In January 2020, before Lockdown and before we were truly impacted by Covid here in the UK, I decided it was time to write about the work I do, helping children and teens with all that stops them being the happy people they and their family want them to be. I use a number of therapy tools and constantly learn and develop in an organic way, trying things with clients because each one is different. I wanted to share my gifts so that other coaches would be able to use them and help children wherever they live. I do offer courses, live and self-study, but there will always be people who feel called to help young people yet who cannot afford a training course. I was writing my book for them and for parents who sought a deeper more comprehensive approach and teachers who support the mental health of their pupils.
I had an idea for another book, for parents, which I wanted to be very practical; a book they could dip into to look up how to help their child with anger or anxiety, friendship issues and so on as well as a general parenting section for help with communication.
I was delighted to get a two book deal with Free Association Books and on March 31st I gave birth to my second ‘baby’ in 15 months. I should have been thrilled, over the moon. Two books in such a short time, published by a ‘proper’ publisher, they were well reviewed and everyone thought I’d done a great job. Except me.
On the face of it I was pleased of course, who wouldn’t be? I didn’t think I could have done any better. Yet somehow I was sad, even a bit depressed and lost. No-one could understand it. When I should have been getting myself ‘out there’ on social media, I was using essential oils and crystals, meditations and early nights to minimise the time I would have available to focus on my books. I would look at my beautiful books and feel sad that I didn’t feel more love for them. I had put my whole heart and soul into them, they didn’t deserve to be treated with so little love and warmth. I gave them so little support. When the PR Agency ran the online book tour I retweeted automatically but I almost couldn’t read the lovely things they said about my books.
I know about postnatal depression as a therapist working with families although I hadn’t experienced it myself. These are the symptoms (source NHS).
Signs that you or someone you know might be depressed include:
a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
difficulty bonding with your baby
withdrawing from contact with other people
problems concentrating and making decisions
frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby
Looking at this list today, nearly a month post ‘birth’, I realise that this is how I felt and to some extent still feel. What the list doesn’t mention is the guilty feelings. I feel I am so fortunate to have been published, grateful for my writing skills, the support of The London Writers Salon and the positive way everyone has reacted to my two ‘babies’, they love them! So I should be happy and that’s what’s expected so I feel I am letting everyone down by moping about. In between playing tennis (which I love) seeing clients and training, I just mope about feeling sorry for myself.
I wonder if other writers feel that. It’s not as if I don’t have another writing project, I do. I’m ‘supposed’ to be researching my novel and ideally writing it. It will be the next Bridgerton (I’m hoping) but it won’t write itself will it? So how do I heal this depression?
So thinking as a therapist rather than a writer, what would I do to help a writer with this ‘postnatal depression’. I’ve come up with a few ideas that I’m going to try and I will let you know how it goes.
The first thing I will try is PTT, picture tapping. This is a combination of EFT tapping and art therapy. You tune in to how you are feeling and then draw the feelings on the paper using all the colours that come into your mind. You give the picture a title and do the setup on the title, then tap through all the elements of the picture. Do two rounds of tapping. You then tune in again and repeat the process 5-7 times until the feelings clear. I find this works really well for clients with symptoms of shame and guilt. If you find this appealing, you’ll find instructions in my book – ‘Understanding children and teens’.
I’m going to be conscientious about completing my gratitude diary each evening to record three things that went well that day.
I’m also going to use Morning Pages – three pages of long hand writing (specifically not my novel) stream of consciousness basically every morning when I’m on Writers’ Hour with the London Writers Salon.
Walking in nature. I do a dog walk every morning but this will be a more mindful exercise involving standing and staring rather than a functional walk. I might bring a few items back to reflect on as metaphors. I’ll do it later in the day.
I’m going to treat myself better, give myself the love I need right now. For me this will mean eating more healthily, drinking herbal tea, having lovely long soaks in the bath and spending more time ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ – being in my feminine energy.
I know that mothers (and I believe also fathers) find talking to other sufferers helpful but as an NLP er I think talking to models of excellence would be more helpful. So I’m reaching out to you. If you or anyone you know has experienced this ‘low’ after publishing their book, and importantly, has found a solution, please get in touch so I can model your excellence.
Judy Bartkowiak is the author of ‘Understanding children and teens – a practical guide for parents, teachers and coaches’ and ‘Empower your Kids! A coaching guide for parents’. She is a children and teen therapist and trains the NLP & EFT Kids Practitioner Course as well as offering other programmes. See website www.judybartkowiak.com