Back in February, I wrote a blog post about an old friend of mine called Mark Williams. The title of the blog post was Fathers Reaching Out, and it was a story about one man’s drive to change the world of mental health. It started with the provision of a support system for men whose partners are going through Post Natal Depression (PND), but it quickly become so much more, proving that the world did have a lack of support in this area. It started with the creation of a support group, also called Fathers Reaching Out, and if you – or anyone you know – suffer from PND, then I urge you to check it out. When I received a text message from Mark asking me to review his book, it stopped me in my tracks. How could he possibly have written and published a book so quickly? His speed of action both inspired and embarrassed me. But that’s the new Mark Williams.
The book is Mark’s story of his experience with post natal depression, and it centre’s around the birth of his son Ethan, and his wife Michelle’s battle with PND. Mark had to learn to understand his wife’s illness, and help her through her process of recovery, whilst also trying to be a father, a husband and provider. While everyone was wondering if Michelle would ever recover, nobody was noticing that Mark was in need of desperate help, and this included the man himself.
Mark Williams is a typical Welsh valley boy. Where men are men and there will be no more discussion on the matter. It is all rugby and beer. Muscles and manliness. People who are mentally ill run around naked, screaming out senseless sentences of drivel. They should all be locked up in Glanryhd Hospital and should be forced to eat their own key. People don’t associate themselves with the mentally ill, after all you wouldn’t want to catch it would you? So Mark did what most valleys boys do in their time of need. He took solace in the form of alcohol, kept his thoughts and feelings to himself and lived a lie for a very long time.
As an adopted valley boy myself I felt a real connection to the story that I was reading. It was dreadfully sad, but Mark managed to sneak in a lot of his humour, and I dipped in between laughter and sadness all the way through the book. He may not have been very good at talking about his problems, but he has a great way of writing about them. The story really connects, because the language he uses connects. Not only does his story inspire you, but it also educates you as well. Yes Mark, ante natal classes are a joke, and you learn nothing about what awaits you when you finally get your child home. Yes Mark, sending the father home and subjecting the mother to a sleepless night, immediately after an 18-hour labour is barbaric, senseless and somewhat moronic. Yes Mark, when your baby is finally born you, do not always cry because you are overwhelmed with the feeling of ecstasy. Sometimes you are just glad that the nightmare is finally over. Should you be feeling differently? Nope…what you felt was just right. Yes Mark, the first few years are an absolute blur, and the little pink thing you know you will adore, sooner or later, cries, shits and pisses it’s way through your life like a urinary infection. To those people who say they love this period of their lives, please send me your name and address so I can post my next child to you and you can take care of them for me, only returning them when they can walk and talk. Mark, I felt just like you during all of these moments – and as you now realise – you were not alone in your thinking.
What I learned the most from this amazing book was how depression can blitz through a family like the plague. It really does paint a picture of how many people’s lives are touched by just one episode of mental illness, and this is why it is so important for the National Health Service (NHS), and other health services around the world, to create support groups, not just for the sufferers that can be seen in the cold light of day, but also those suffering in the shadows. Those like Mark.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Michelle for allowing us into her mind. Without Michelle’s blessing, Mark would never have been able to write this book, and thousands of people would not have gotten the help they needed. The strength of courage that it took was not lost upon these slanty little eyes. Michelle, a lot of people owe you a debt of gratitude for the sacrifice you have made. Mark, you are an inspiration to us all. Keep up the good work.
Once again, if you, or anyone you know, is suffering from PND…please…please get help and Fathers Reaching Out is a great place to start, particularly if you are a father who needs to reach out!