Therapy Digest 10
Therapy Digest 10
The latest insights into men’s’ mental health explore men and their experiences with their partner giving birth. They can find the experience traumatic and they can experience depression too plus what questions to ask yourself to determine if your partner respects you,
The recent American Psychological Association Conference 2018 said that new fathers should be screened, as new mothers are supposed to be, for mental health problems.
“Fathers need to be seen as the partners they are, and the family system is what needs to be assessed and treated any time there is a newborn coming into the home,” said Dr Sara Rosenquist.
She added that men also need access to suitable treatment if they have postnatal depression.
The issue has also been raised in the UK by the campaign group Fathers Reaching Out who acknowledge a diagnosis of peripartum depression – relating to the period around giving birth – has no equivalent diagnosis for men even though men can be severely affected.
There is another stumbling block for men to get the emotional support they need and that is the shame that they feel following experiencing and witnessing a birth trauma.
It is not helped by the fact that men are not even asked if they are okay or how they are coping with the emotions engendered by their partner giving birth or experiencing a miscarriage. The implied message is that what they are feeling is not valid.
The conference’s recommendations reminded me of a man in his early thirties who came to see me describing how he had been signed off work with depression and anxiety. He talked about how bleak he felt, how he kept crying for no apparent reason and how he often felt fear and panic. He added that he could barely face socialising anymore and was forever making excuses to his wife not go out and see friends and family.
He went on to say he found it hard to calm his mind enough at night so that he could eventually fall asleep from exhaustion and that every morning he woke with a sense of indescribable dread.
He was utterly at a loss as to why he should be feeling this way and how he found these emotions to be entirely new for him and confounding.
We talked about his past and if any of the feelings he was now experiencing felt familiar in any way. He couldn’t identify any connection to previous experiences, and he kept reiterating how difficult these feelings were and how he had always been a happy-go-lucky kind of guy where nothing much had bothered him.
I asked him if anything else had changed in his life that might coincide with his negative feelings and he paused for a long time before answering,
‘Well, my wife and I have a new baby daughter, but there’s nothing bad there. We’re over-joyed with her.’
Something was telling in his omission and how adamant he was that becoming a father wasn’t connected to his recent mental health issues that alerted me.
I asked him how the birth of his daughter had gone and asked if he could run through with me what he remembers of how it played out for him and his wife.
He looked a little embarrassed and said the birth story wasn’t really about him but as it happened his daughter’s birth had been a complete horror show.
I encouraged him to tell what had happened while getting him to tap around his collarbone with a soft fist which is an EFT tapping point (Emotional Freedom Technique) known to help foster feelings of calm.
It soon became clear that his daughter’s birth was the cause of his anxiety symptoms.
From what he said it was clear that it had been at the beginning a textbook labour for a first-time mother. However, his wife’s initial effective contractions stalled for hour after hour until she was exhausted and the unborn baby was showing worrying signs of distress.
He described how the atmosphere in the delivery changed from calm and quiet to urgent as a midwife called for extra help and the room filled with additional medical staff. Extra monitoring arrived and he was physically moved from his position close to his wife’s side as space was needed for the bleeping and flashing unit.
He recalled his wife’s almost inaudible cries of distress as she withdrew further and further inside of herself while the medical team raised their voices to call her by name and to stress how it was vital to get the baby out immediately.
He remembered how powerless he felt in helping his wife and how superfluous he was in the unfolding drama that he felt he had no part to play.
He couldn’t remember if the delivery bed was raised or lowered in the kerfuffle of activity that involved attaching stirrups to hold his wife’s legs in position as a doctor readied for a forceps delivery.
He knows he felt over-heated and faint a couple of times and then he’s unsure of what happened in the next few moments before the paediatrician pulled out their purple-faced baby. From his memory, the doctor threw the mewling baby through several feet in mid-air to a waiting midwife who immediately worked on the baby to stabilise her and then swaddle her. The paediatrician was still focussed on his wife as he was handed his baby to hold. The doctor called out that his patient was haemorrhaging and shot a glance in his direction as the doctor ordered to everyone in the room and to none in particular that they should get him out of there.
Still holding the baby, he was ushered quickly from the delivery room not knowing what was happening to his wife. He sat stunned and terrified in a side room with his wide-eyed newborn still in his arms as he waited not knowing if his wife was going to live or die.
If felt as though hours had passed before someone came for him. It was as though he had been forgotten and it was only his baby’s cries that had reminded someone that they even existed.
They took him to see his wife in another treatment room. She was still very weak and receiving treatment for loss of blood and complications following the birth. She was barely conscious and not speaking. Someone took the baby from him to give her a bottle and brought her back a little later.
Over a short time, his wife’s blood pressure came back up to normal, and she stabilised and as improved life took on new momentum. After a couple of days, they were able to leave the hospital together as a new family, and all of the trauma of the birth was subsumed with god will visitors and the routine of a new life to take care of.
No one ever asked him how he was. No one ever asked him if he was okay. He took from this that he shouldn’t feel anything negative about the birth and he shut out all memories he had of his time alone with the baby in that tiny room when he didn’t know if his wife was going to die or not.
Shutting those memories away and trying to bury his feelings had caused all of the negative emotions he was presenting with. To label the emotional state he had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which I treated with EFT, PSTEC (Percussive Suggestion Technique) and hypnosis.
What I also allowed him to do bear witness to what happened. The shock, the anxiety and the trauma he experienced were not allowed in his world and he felt shame for all the fear he felt. Allowing him the safe space to explore what had happened validated his feelings so that they could be resolved and released with the therapeutic technique I used.
Once the work had been done in what amounted to just a couple of sessions, he was able to let go of the trauma and accept that he’d had, along with his wife, a truly tough time of it all.
If any of this resonates with you and connects you with feelings of trauma originating in birth or a loss, then please reach out and make contact with me. I see women and men who have struggled to manage their feelings of trauma for years, and this doesn’t need to be the case. You’ll find a link on this page to book an obligation free discovery call with me.
5 questions to ask yourself
Respect is the key to any healthy relationship.1.
To communicate openly and honestly you and your partner need to have respect for one another.
It takes mutual respect to come to agreements and to reach a compromise.
So, if you suspect that your partner doesn’t respect you, then your relationship is probably in trouble already.
If you are in a relationship where you feel you are not being shown respect you need to acknowledge that this is an indicator of serious future emotional or physical abuse. Lack of respect is the starting point of dehumanising behaviour which needs to be addressed immediately so that it’s not allowed to develop and become normalised within your relationship.
There may be a time when you believe you are not being respected is because your partner doesn’t realise the effects of his or her actions or behaviour has on you.
This is your chance to clarify if these are just momentary lapses in behaviour or just how they really are as people. To do this, you’ll need to call it out. Highlight how it feels when they ignore you or speak over you or put you down and see how they respond. Try really hard not to fool yourself here. Soulmates don’t make you feel bad about yourself, so if you are not getting clear signs back from your partner about how sorry they are and how they will never behave in this way again, you need to be prepared to let them go.
There are the five warning signs that may indicate if your partner doesn’t respect you so ask yourself these questions.
1. Do they speak over you or interrupt you?
Disrespect can be shown through small actions such as your partner speaking over you, interrupting you, or making little decisions without your input.
If you start to notice this kind of behaviour make sure to call it out and let your partner know that it’s bothering you.
2. Does your partner consult with you?
If your partner tends to make decisions – large or small – without consulting with you first.
Make it clear to him or her that you are not happy with this situation and give them an opportunity to change how they behave. Try to do this in a non-accusatory way stop encourage a conversation instead of expressing a judgement about the kind of person your he or she is.
3. Do you have to make excuses for them?
Are you left in the awkward position of having to explain some of your partner’s behaviour, to your friends or family?
When people who love and care for you don’t quite see the appeal of your chosen one then you need to take a closer look at him or her too. If the people who know you and care about you all best of all have no hidden agenda and just wish you well then alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear if they don’t rate your partner.
4. Do you compromise to keep the peace?
The healthiest relationships are pretty balanced between who compromises and who doesn’t. At any point in time it’s probably not 50:50, but generally, it evens out so that both people respect each others standpoint and if its relevant to one of them then the other will try their best to accommodate them. It’s about being heard and supported and not just being put down all of the time.
5. Is it all your fault?
If you feel you are to blame all of the time and your partner is quick to point out to you that you’re at fault, then you are most likely not respected in your relationship. Worse than that is that being invariably found to be in the wrong and being blamed for how ‘bad’ you make the other person feel is called ‘gaslighting’ and is a form or emotional abuse.
So have these 5 quick questions promoted you to reappraise your relationship? Th real test for whether you are respected in a relationship or not is how do you feel? If you were to take the time and really listen to your gut instinct or your intuition, then you will hear the truth for sure. It’s hard to walk away from a relationship you care about but understand that respect is a crucial emotion and if it is not there then nothing good can build on those hollow foundations
If you are not sure what to do about your relationship but feel something is out of kilter, then reach out and make contact with me. Relationships often follow a pattern so understanding your relationship dynamic is the first step in transforming your essential ties with people. There is a link on this page to an obligation free discovery call.
Sally Baker is Senior Therapist, published Author and Speaker in private practice in London for face to face sessions and the world over via the internet.
With almost twenty years of professional experience, she employs cutting-edge therapeutic approaches to help one person at a time to transform their lives.
She has extensive experience working with people to alleviate their anxiety, depression, anger issues, eating disorders as well as conflicts within relationships and the family.
To find out more about Sally Baker, her books and her work visit her website, www.workingonthebody.com