How It Is #10: Like Wearing No Skin

What is postnatal / postpartum depression like? For me, it's like wearing no skin. |


I wrote this a few weeks ago. It’s part of a long-running series on my experience of severe postnatal depression, which has been part of my life for over two years now. You can find the whole series here, and the first post here.

One of the reasons I can’t sleep tonight is the life insurance ad that played five times while I watched a tv show online. It has a little boy asking his grandad what his dad was like. My dear friend’s son lost his father when he was two, so this poignant conversation is too much for me tonight.

Life insurance is a good thing, so I’m not being holier-than-thou about their methods of selling. I just don’t have any skin on at the moment, and every little bump is agony.

I never watch the news and I rarely click past the headlines of traumatic news items online for the same reason. One thing that characterises postnatal depression for me is this rawness.

I know from conversation (and, you know, Facebook) that many new mothers have a period of feeling like this, and avoid watching the news or reading the crime novels they used to enjoy (why it is that ‘the news’ should be in the same category as crime fiction needs another post). For me it has persisted throughout the depression.

Today was a good day but one without rest or solitude, after a particularly demanding week. I ended the evening exhausted and vulnerable to this supersensitivity. Once SBJ was in bed, I was trying to catch up on some conversations online, but I felt so beaten up by the news of my world on social media that I am considering taking some time away from Facebook – unheard of for this recreational user – just to protect my fragile emotional skin.

There’s more bad news in most people’s worlds these days than there was for our grandparents. I know or know of more people with, say, cancer, right now than my grandma probably did through her whole life. It’s something that’s talked about freely, commemorated and fundraised for publicly – these are good things, of course – and internet communications mean I can maintain acquaintance with many more people than she ever could. Probably being a minister increases my exposure to tragedy, too.

Christopher, in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, describes his autistic experience of the world as being unable to shut out all the sensory information he has access to. He can’t prioritise what to pay attention to. Everything he can see or hear or feel jumps to the top of the queue, all at once, all the time. He always feels bombarded.

When you feel like you’re wearing no skin, all the little sensations of sadness, futility, worry or anxiety don’t just glance off you as you bump into them. They leave big bruises. And if you come across enough of them in a day, especially when you’re tired, it knocks you off your feet.



christian parenting, postpartum depression, feminist parenting, reflection on postnatal depression

Verity, Damien Hirst, Ilfracombe, photographed by Steve Russell, via

If reading this makes you concerned about your own experience, please make a call to your doctor or another health professional. You can read more about PND and other mental health matters at the excellent resources website Mothers Matter

If you’ve found this post helpful, please feel free to share it around.

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You might also be interested in these related posts:

Other posts in this series on my experience of postnatal depression

How to support someone with postnatal depression: 13 ideas

Kathryn’s story of postnatal depression

Jenn’s story of PTSD and childbirth

A step-by-step guide to getting more rest

Tips for becoming a great listener

A post on living in the gap between our expectations and the reality of parenthood.

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3 comments on “How It Is #10: Like Wearing No Skin”

  1. Ann Reply

    Oh yeah I so totally hear you. I so often feel like I have no skin left. Nothing between me and emotions. Nothing between me and others. Nothing.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jocelyn Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I can relate – depression can leave you feeling very raw.

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