‘I felt as though I couldn’t function,’ says Andrea Allen, as we chat one sunny Sunday morning. ‘I didn’t want to get out of bed every day.
I felt no happiness in my life.’ It was following the birth of her second child that Andrea found herself knocked off her feet by postnatal depression; a condition that she believes still has stigma attached to it, despite it being a medical condition brought on by hormonal imbalance. ‘Postnatal depression is something that people don’t want to know about. When you fall pregnant, or you have a child, you are meant to be the happiest you have ever been, and people find it really difficult to understand that you are not feeling that way,’ she explains.
Six months after the birth of her second child, Andrea was officially diagnosed by her doctor. ‘Although I knew I had it, I was shell-shocked. Having someone tell you you’ve got it makes it so much more real.’
Following her diagnosis, she went online to try to find others who felt the same, and in a fortuitous turn of events, she spotted a post in a Dubai forum that had been submitted that very same morning by another new mum. ‘It said “I have postnatal depression – I’m looking for other suffers to meet up for a coffee and talk with”. In all honesty, if it hadn’t been for that, I probably would never have got through it as easily as I did.’
After picking up three more sufferers along the way in similar fashions, the mums decided to form a support group called Out of the Blues. ‘Two years on, I’m not taking medication and am in a good place in my life, and it’s time to help and support other people in the way I was helped,’ she explains.
In her role as a breast-feeding counsellor, Andrea describes frequently meeting new mothers in Dubai who are finding it hard, and who have no one to talk to. ‘Not everyone is on the verge of suicide: some people are just finding it genuinely hard and just need to have someone hold their hand, but there are some cases where it’s much worse. Since we’ve set up the group, I’ve had one lady call to tell me that she
is done, that she has had enough of her life.’ Fortunately, she found someone to talk to.
‘The understanding of postnatal illness here is poor – really poor. I went to one hospital to talk to them about putting people in touch with us, and they just looked at me and said: “We don’t know who deals with those kind of women here.” I thought: what kind of women? They’re mums – any woman who has had a child,’ she explains in disbelief.
Fortunately, Out of the Blues now holds monthly meetings every first Sunday of the month. ‘None of us are counsellors, and none of us want to lull people into that false sense of security – we’re just people who understand. But we do have a counsellor who will start coming to meetings soon, and she will be a huge help.’
If you think you might be suffering from postnatal depression, Andrea urges you to get in touch. ‘No matter what, no matter how bad you feel it is, we will not judge you, irrespective of where you’re at.
We are an open group for any nationality, any circumstances, and we are just here to support you.’
Search ‘Out of the Blues group’ on Facebook.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a closed forum on Bigtent.com, which requires sign-up for access. The forum also has an emergency number for when things get too hard.
More support groups for Dubai mums
Dubai Mums’ Club
This group meets regularly for coffee, giving women and mums the opportunity to share experience and advice on a variety of issues.
This group for parents or expectant parents of twins, triplets or more organises weekly meetings and a monthly night out, as well as an empathetic network of members.
Dubai Autism Group
Parents and carers for children with autism meet on every second Saturday of the month. There is also a forum for people to share their problems and seek advice.