Switch all of the lights off in the room you’re in and give it a minute for your eyes to adjust. Unless you live in the countryside or happen to be in a basement, it’s probably not all that dark. Now, switch one light back on and stare at it intensely for a minute before switching it off again.
Pitch-black, unyielding darkness.
That light being switched on made the darkness seem deeper. The light doesn’t cause darkness of course, but because of that light and once you have seen that light, things that aren’t directly lit by it seem darker than they once did. The brightest lights or the highest sun, although illuminating, also deepen shadows by their presence.
Post-natal Depression then? Well, yes in the sense that this depression has occurred in the postnatal period of my life, but I’m not a fan of that term and it has never been a diagnosis for me. Sure, my depression was diagnosed in the year after the birth of my child, but in that regards you could also say that I’m eating a postnatal sandwich and drinking a postnatal coffee as I write this.
‘Postnatal Depression’ however, seems to suggest that my depression is linked, associated or somehow caused by the birth of my child; that the darkness was somehow caused by that light being turned on. It wasn’t, it just made me notice it more by comparison.
You see, I’m a fucking good dad. I’m immensely proud of my smart, confident, beautiful and strong little girl and she fills me with a happiness that I’m not sure I’ve ever known.
And there’s the rub.
Switching on that beautiful ray of faultless sunshine and staring at it so intensely has made me turn around and see how dark and how deep the shadows are. This new-found sense of joy, of self-worth and of pride has made me notice its absence elsewhere and made me wonder just where the hell it has been all my life. By comparison to this new light, I’m in almost complete darkness.
I’m not depressed as a result of my child being born, I’m not depressed about the future of being her dad nor the struggles of new parenthood nor any of the other concerns you might associate with having a baby. But one room of the big old house that is my life has had a light turned on and now the rest of the house just seems dark.
But just like in our little experiment at the start of this post, my eyes will adjust again and I will be able to see my way around. Only this time it’s different. This time I won’t just become accustomed to living in relative darkness because this time I know that there are lights.
And with help and support and medication and therapy and self-care I am slowly improving my night-vision, stumbling around in the dark, looking for the other light switches in this big old house that is my life.
If you didn't try that little experience the first time you read Kevin's story, please try it again. We're so pleased that Kevin gave us a refreshing take on how mental illness can be defined and how he remains, above all else, an incredible father.