I’m not normally the type of person to make New Year’s resolutions but there is just something about a new year that makes me feel inspired. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to change your life and that’s exactly what the Running in Triangles blog has been for me.
This month marks the two year anniversary of Running in Triangles and it has been quite a journey. When I first started, I knew that I wanted to talk openly about postpartum depression and help raise awareness about maternal mental health. But I had no idea what an impact it would make on my life and the lives of others.
In 2017, I wrote about all kinds of things I learned while raising my three kids, from sleep training and breastfeeding to party planning. But it was my posts about postpartum depression that gained the most popularity, and the ones I felt most inspired to publish.
I didn’t know it at the time, but those two posts have become the cornerstone content of Running in Triangles. The fact that women don’t talk about postpartum depression was something that needed to change and a big part of the problem is the lack of support.
Their popularity confirmed what I already knew: women with postpartum depression wanted to speak up and their loved ones wanted to help them, but no one knew how or where to begin.
This discovery led to last year’s Postpartum Depression Guest Post Series. It was my way of giving these women a safe space to tell their stories without worrying about being judged or criticized. I accepted and published every single guest post that was submitted, no matter who it was from.
I read about women who spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments to conceive, and others who ended up pregnant unexpectedly.
I heard from women who had incredibly supportive spouses, and those who suffered from divorce and separation at the hand of postpartum depression.
I watched some women struggle openly and others do everything in their power to hide what they were feeling.
But one thing was the same… their pain.
Knowing that thousands of other women, from all around the world, were dealing with the same pain, no matter their backgrounds, made me feel incredibly empowered; as if I had an army of women behind me who could validate my feelings.
To help put it into perspective, I chose ten questions about postpartum depression and decided to ask as many women as possible to answer them.
I am excited to see how the answers will compare and my hope is that they will prove to other women who might feel isolated and afraid of speaking up that they are not, in fact, alone.
My goal for 2019 is to get at least 200 women with postpartum depression to answer these 10 questions.
If you, or someone you know, has postpartum depression, please click below to submit your answers and help me share this questionnaire so that it can reach women from all around the world.
In addition to this exciting challenge, I hope to continue providing more information about postpartum depression and maternal mental health this year. They say knowledge is power and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to mental health. Being misunderstood, judged and stigmatized are some of the biggest barriers for a woman with postpartum depression and it’s my mission to change that.
Thank you so much to all of my supporters, readers, contributors and of course, to my fellow postpartum depression survivors who inspire me to keep going.
Mothers with postpartum depression began to reach out to me, stating that it spoke to them and they realized their reasons were not insane or unreasonable. These mothers also felt like they wanted to tell their story but didn’t know how or where to begin.
It inspired me to create a safe place for women to share their postpartum depression stories, without judgement, or requirements or any degree of difficulty.
Speaking up and sharing my own story and the stories of other women turned Running in Triangles into a beacon of light for those women who were lost and suffering in the darkness.
Over the past couple years, I’ve had the chance to connect and interact with so many women who have had or are currently suffering from postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders.
One thing that so many of them had in common was the fact that they stayed silent for so much longer than they should have. And there are so many more than 9 reasons why these women chose not to speak up about what they were feeling…
Here is a list of over 50 reasons why mothers don’t speak up about postpartum depression.
1. We are in denial
2. We don’t even know we have it
3. We’re not 100% certain that we have it
4. We haven’t been officially diagnosed
5. We don’t think it’s as bad as it actually is
6. We just aren’t ready to admit it yet
7. We think this is “normal” motherhood
8. We don’t think it’s a big deal
9. We don’t want to make it seem like we’re suffering more than any other mother
Endometriosis is a condition that plagues nearly 10% of women but is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.
Like postpartum depression, endometriosis is something that isn’t talked about enough. It causes a considerable amount of pain but so many women learn to live with it and don’t seek the proper treatment. And those who do seek help, are often told it’s nothing, because endometriosis doesn’t show up on ultrasounds or x-rays or ct scans.
While there is no link between endometriosis and postpartum depression, they do have a lot in common:
They are affected by hormones
They affect women in their childbearing years
They are under-diagnosed conditions
They are invisible diseases
They are stigmatized and need more awareness
Every women’s struggle with endometriosis is different, just like postpartum depression. Here is MY story…
It was a mere coincidence that both my endometriosis and postpartum depression were diagnosed at the same time, because the two conditions are not exactly linked to each other. But ever since that diagnosis, they have been intertwined throughout my journey of highs and lows.
It all began when my daughter was 5 months old. Actually, the postpartum depression symptoms had been going on for a few months already but I was still in denial.
We took a family trip to Disney World (both kids were still free to get in, so we thought we’d take advantage)! Despite exclusively breastfeeding, I got my first postpartum period – right there in the Magic Kingdom.
I was disappointed and annoyed but what else could I do, on this trip of a lifetime, but suck it up and waddle around in blood-soaked pants for the rest of the day?
The next day, we planned to go to Cocoa Beach. When you’re from the Canadian Prairies, trips to the ocean are few and far between, so I was definitely NOT missing out on it. I bought the biggest box of tampons I could find and tried my best to enjoy the day.
But the cramping was worse than labor pains and the bleeding was relentless.
I made it through that vacation but the following month was even worse. I probably wouldn’t have said anything to my doctor, except that it happened to fall on the same day as my daughter’s 6 month checkup.
I was lucky enough to have a great doctor with whom I already had a close relationship, and it was in that appointment that I broke down crying – overcome by the pain of the menstrual cramps and the dark place my mind had been in for the last 6 months.
Based solely on my symptoms, he figured it was endometriosis that was causing the pain and heavy bleeding. It was the first time I had ever heard the word. When he told me that it can cause infertility, I actually felt relieved because I had zero desire to have another baby. He gave me some samples of birth control pills and advised me to take them continuously in an effort to “skip” my periods.
Then we discussed the postpartum depression and came up with a treatment plan.
I was supposed to follow up with him in a few months to see how things were going. But by then, we had relocated for my husband’s job – a 9 hour drive away.
For a while, things were alright…
My mind was distracted by the move and I remembered to take my birth control pills everyday, avoiding the painful cramping that accompanied my periods.
Until I ran out of samples.
Trying to find a good doctor in a new town where I didn’t know anyone was tougher than I thought. So I chose to suffer instead. I loaded up on painkillers and wore adult diapers to soak up the extreme amounts of blood and just dealt with it.
With each month that passed, the pain got worse and worse. The cramping started earlier and lasted longer until I was only pain-free for one week each month. I turned to essential oils for help with the pain, but even their magic wasn’t strong enough.
The chronic pelvic pain exacerbated my postpartum depression symptoms.
I felt defeated by the pain. I didn’t feel like being strong or fighting through the pain – I hoped and prayed it would just kill me. I thought about how my daughter might someday experience this kind of pain, and I felt responsible for that. I felt like all I did was inflict pain on those around me, because I was also in pain. And I was certain that everyone would be happier, myself included, if I was just gone.
When my year of maternity leave was over, things got better.
I found a job that I loved and began to make friends. The daycare we chose for the kids was wonderful and they settled into it without any problems. I appreciated my children more because I cherished the short amount of time we had together each day instead of dreading the long hours of nothingness.
Finally, I was happy! I pushed through the endometriosis pain every month because I didn’t want anything to destroy my happiness.
But after a year of being happy and ignoring the pain – the pain pushed back.
I couldn’t ignore it anymore and eventually wound up in the emergency room. Much to everyone’s surprise – I was pregnant!I guess endometriosis doesn’t always cause infertility…
The anxiety began almost immediately. I didn’t want to go through another HG pregnancy and I definitely worried about dealing with the postpartum depression all over again. Plus we had just moved again, and hadn’t even bought a house yet.
Despite the exciting news, the pain was still there… worse even.
The doctors suspected a possible ectopic pregnancy and rushed me into emergency surgery.
When I woke up, I had mixed feelings about losing the baby. Part of me was relieved to avoid another tough pregnancy, but another part of me felt disappointed that I didn’t get another chance to make things right.
The next day, I found out I was still pregnant. The pregnancy was a healthy one, and there was nothing they could tell me about the endometriosis because they didn’t want to do anything to disturb the pregnancy.
And so I had my third child. I suffered from the worst case of hyperemesis gravidarum of all three pregnancies, but for a while, I didn’t have to worry about the menstrual pain. This time I did everything in my power to prepare myself for postpartum depression again but thankfully was spared from it. I was given a second chance! I immediately felt a bond with this baby and she made our family complete.
I had a good, solid 8 months of bliss with my happy baby before my first postpartum period arrived.
And, in true dream-crushing fashion, it came back on Christmas Eve so I spent most of that night hopped up on painkillers and hovering around the bathroom door in order to change my tampon every 30 minutes.
After another steady 8 months of pill popping, I missed another period.Oh no, not another pregnancy. It can’t be. I can’t do it again. But the tests were all negative…
My menstrual cycle finally had a nervous breakdown.
It would skip months for no reason and then come every other week. The pelvic pain got worse and it was no longer limited to my menstrual cycle – it was there 24/7. I ended up in the emergency room regularly looking for something to help with the pain. Nothing ever showed up on any of the tests, and I’m certain everyone thought I was a hypochondriac. Even though I was in an intense amount of pain, I started to wonder if they were right.
The pain triggered the postpartum depression again.
It didn’t help that I was now a stay-at-home-mom, living in a city with no friends or relatives to help me out. Between the darkness of postpartum depression and the pain of endometriosis, life was very bleak for nearly a full year.
I finally met with a specialist.
He instantly validated everything I was feeling and scheduled me for a diagnostic laparoscopy to find out what was going on inside of me. Since he wasn’t sure what he would find, he asked me to sign a form that stated he could perform a hysterectomy if he deemed it medically necessary. This way, I wouldn’t have to undergo two separate surgeries if I did need one.
We discussed the fact that a hysterectomy would be the worst-case scenario, and I signed the form without hesitation.
In the 6 weeks leading up to my surgery date, I bled continuously. I should have known then, that more was wrong under the surface than I wanted to admit. If I had, perhaps I would have been more prepared for what was ahead.
The surgery was supposed to be a laparoscopic day surgery on a Friday. My husband, kids and I made the 2 hour drive into the city, expecting to stay with family for the weekend and be back home by Monday.
But when I woke up from the surgery, I was told I would not be going home that day.
My doctor came in to see me, head hung, disappointment in his eyes. He rested his hand on mine and told me that this was the first time he’s ever had to convert from a laparoscopic surgery to an abdominal incision (minimally invasive surgery was his specialty).
And then he filled me in on what happened in surgery.
He had to remove my uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and left ovary. He left the right ovary so that I would not go into menopause but everything else was stuck together with adhesions and needed to go. My reproductive organs were attached to the pelvic wall, bladder and bowels which he successfully separated, but there would be scar tissue remaining. The adhesions had re-routed my blood vessels and so he cut into one while attempting to perform the hysterectomy, causing me to lose nearly 4 units of blood and require a transfusion.
It was the “worst case scenario,” and I felt completely blindsided by what had just happened.
I ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days. Losing so much blood left me feeling weak and dizzy and moving around was almost impossible. Once I did get home to my own bed, I couldn’t leave. Walking up and down stairs was difficult and living in a 4 level split meant I was practically bedridden. Long after the scar healed, the pain inside my pelvis was excruciating. I was told to expect to be out of commission for a full 6 weeks but it took more like 8.
Dealing with the sudden loss of my uterus was difficult. Although I knew I didn’t want to have more children, I liked knowing that it was an option. I spent a lot of time thinking about my pregnancies and how the place where I grew my children and felt them move and kick was no longer there.
But once I recovered from the surgery, the constant pelvic pain that plagued me for years was finally gone. It was hard to believe that it was no longer there, I kept poking at it to see if it hurt but no – no more pain! And I never had to wear another giant tampon or adult diaper ever again.
Most days I forget that I no longer have a uterus. I still get some symptoms of PMS when my lonely ovary ovulates but it’s nearly impossible to track it without a menstrual cycle. The fluctuating hormones do still affect my postpartum depression symptoms and I have to take extra care of myself on those days, but otherwise, it’s no longer triggered by constant pain.
So while my battle with endometriosis, as well as my battle with postpartum depression, is over for now – they have changed who I am as a person.
They have both taken things away from me that I can never get back. They have killed a part of me inside and remain there, dormant, waiting for another opportunity to strike. I will do my best to take care of myself, to help others who are suffering, and to raise awareness about these two important issues, so that if and when they ever do decide to rear their ugly heads again – I will be ready to fight back.
Postpartum depression, as common as it might be, is widely misunderstood.
No one knows for certain exactly why mothers get postpartum depression and many aren’t even aware of the symptoms. If there was less stigma and more mothers felt comfortable enough to speak up about their postpartum depression, perhaps the rest of the world would know about it and find ways to help.
Here’s a list of 10 things that mothers with postpartum depression want you to know.
1. We Are Not Bad Mothers
Mothers with postpartum depression are not prone to hurting their babies. While there have been cases that ended in tragedy – many of those mothers were suffering from postpartum psychosis, which is a much more serious condition.
We might be seen as “bad” mothers because we didn’t bond with our babies right away, or we seem withdrawn from them or avoid holding them. These are common symptoms of postpartum depression but it does not mean that we want to harm our child or that we don’t love them as much.
If anything, postpartum depression makes us stronger mothers because we have to fight harder to build a mother-child relationship.
You don’t need to take our babies away from us or be concerned about leaving us alone with them. If we come to you for help and admit what we are feeling – that makes us a better mother, not a bad one.
2. It’s Not In Our Head
Postpartum depression is not just a psychological issue – it’s physical pain, it’s chemical imbalances, it’s uncontrollable hormones. It’s a total body experience and not just something we imagine.
Positive thinking alone will not get rid of postpartum depression. It’s important to stay positive to help reduce stress which is a big trigger for symptoms, but there is so much more to it than that. Many women suffer from disruptions in sleep and appetite, headaches and back pains from stress and tension, nausea and debilitating fatigue.
It might be called a mental illness, but the pain is never just “in our head.”
3. Nothing We Did Caused This
Postpartum depression is NOT our fault. A traumatic labor , breastfeeding problems or lack of support are out of our control and not something that we did wrong or could have avoided. It’s natural to want to find an explanation for what we’re going through and it’s easy to look back on our pregnancies and deliveries and find something to blame for the mess.
While there are several different risk factors that can increase your chances of having postpartum depression, the truth is – even a women with the happiest of pregnancies, easiest of deliveries and biggest support system could still be diagnosed with postpartum depression. It does not discriminate.
There are plenty of treatment options and ways to control the symptoms but we will never be the same person we were before postpartum depression.
Anti-depressants, therapy, self-care, yoga and meditation, etc., are all important for helping with the symptoms but they will not make postpartum depression go away permanently. Some women can control their symptoms better than others, but no matter what, we will all have to live with the darkness inside of us for the rest of our lives.
If we’re not careful about following our treatment plans, we could suffer a relapse.
5. It Can Be Invisible
Just because we don’t seem depressed doesn’t mean we’re not suffering inside. Postpartum depression can be an invisible disease, which means we don’t have a giant scar or walk with a limp but we are in just as much pain. Mothers with postpartum depression have gotten very good at putting on a smile to hide the pain and avoid the awkward questions.
Postpartum psychosis leads a mother to have hallucinations and hear voices in their heads. They are often a danger to themselves and those around them, including their children, because of their unpredictable behavior. They are not aware of what they are doing, and if left untreated – can end in tragedy.
Postpartum depression can manifest itself in different ways.Fits of uncontrollable rage is a lesser known symptom and can cause a lot of strain on relationships.
When we are riding the emotional roller coaster that is postpartum depression, it’s easy to lose control and lash out. But until our symptoms are under control with a proper treatment plan, it’s best not to take the things we say and do personally.
The urge to push people away and withdraw into ourselves is strong with postpartum depression, but that doesn’t mean it’s what we actually want.
8. It’s easier to talk to strangers
Please don’t feel offended if we don’t want to talk to you about what we’re going through. It’s much easier to talk to strangers who have been through it before, such as a therapist or online support group.
They understand what we mean and won’t judge us. We know you don’t mean to judge us, but unless you know what it feels like to be inside the head of a crazy person, you couldn’t possibly understand.
Even if we don’t want to talk to you, we still need your help to get through this. Postpartum depression is a tough fight and it’s even harder to fight alone. There are so many ways that you can help us, but it’s very hard for us to tell you what they are. The biggest way that you can help us is by trying to understand what we’re going through.
And even if you don’t understand, stand by us and support us no matter what.
10. Please Don’t Abandon Us
Mothers with postpartum depression make for some of the worst company. We’re weepy and emotional. We rarely smile or laugh. We’re tired all the time, or angry and annoyed. We dodge your phone calls and cancel dinner plans. We don’t blame you for not wanting to hang out with us…
Withdrawing from society is a major symptom of postpartum depression and it’s out of our control.
But we hope that, when we do finally feel better, you will still be there waiting for us on the other side of the darkness.
This story, and so many others like it, really hit home and broke my heart. But what bothered me the most was the public reaction… Many people seemed to believe that she got what she deserved.
As a fellow mother with postpartum depression, I realized that I needed to do something to help others understand maternal mental illness. Her story was a worst case scenario, but I dreaded what others would think of me if they knew the dark thoughts and feelings that I battled with due to postpartum depression.
It shouldn’t take a tragedy like that to encourage someone to speak up but it made me realize two important things:
1.) I was not alone.
2.) We need to annihilate the stigma of postpartum depression.
While it can be terrifying to “speak up when you’re feeling down” it is so important both for our own mental health and to help bring awareness about this debilitating condition.
Prior to becoming a mother myself, I had heard about postpartum depression in all of it’s notorious glory. But I never, ever, in a million years, thought it would happen to me. I had ZERO risk factors and an awesome support system. So when the first few symptoms started popping up, I laughed it off… “ME??? Postpartum depression??? Never!!!” Moms often don’t speak up about postpartum depression because they don’t even believe it themselves.
All we ever hear about when it comes to parenting is how hard it is. The sleep loss, the crying, the breastfeeding struggle – it’s all normal… right? A brand new mother experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression may assume that this is what everyone meant when they said it was hard. I’ve heard stories of women opening up to others about what they were feeling, only to be told “welcome to motherhood.” Is it any wonder that new moms don’t speak up about postpartum depression when they get this kind of response?
3. We are terrified of having our child taken away from us
Obviously we want what’s best for our child but it would be a mother’s worst nightmare to be deemed incapable of caring for her own child (the child who got her into this mess in the first place, might I add). If anyone knew the thoughts that a mother with postpartum depression has on a regular basis, they would lock her up and throw away the key. Mothers don’t speak up about postpartum depression because we’re afraid of what might happen if we do.
If you are feeling the urge to act upon your bad thoughts, seek help immediately as you may be suffering from a rarer case of postpartum psychosis.
4. We are ashamed of ourselves
We don’t speak up about postpartum depression because society has led us to believe that having a mental illness is our fault. Admitting to it is admitting that we were one of the weak ones who fell susceptible to the curse that is postpartum depression. We feel like terrible people for thinking and feeling the way we do, even though we have no control over it.
5. We are concerned about what others will think of us
If we are diagnosed with postpartum depression that means we are classified as “mentally ill” and will need to accept the stigma that comes along with that label. All of a sudden we are dangerous and unpredictable. Will other people start to question our parenting skills now? Will they treat us as if we are delicate and fragile and weak? What will our co-workers or employers think? Will having postpartum depression jeopardize our futures? If we don’t speak up about postpartum depression, then we don’t have to deal with the awkward conversations that come along with it.
6. We feel like failures
This is not the way it was supposed to happen. In our dreams of becoming mothers we pictured it blissful and beautiful. We imagined sitting in a rocking chair, singing lullabies to a sleepy, happy baby. And when it wasn’t like this, we felt like we had failed. We failed our children and robbed them of a happy childhood. We failed our spouses and robbed them of a happy marriage. We failed ourselves and all of our dreams of motherhood. No one ever wants to admit that they are a failure.
7. We think we can cure ourselves
We think it will go away on it’s own, eventually. Or maybe we are planning to tell someone when it gets worse… it just hasn’t yet. We think that if we sleep a little more, relax a little more, meditate and do yoga that our postpartum depression will magically go away and so there’s no need to burden anyone else with our problems. Self-care while battling postpartum depression is extremely important but it’s highly unlikely that the symptoms will go away without a proper treatment plan.
8. We don’t trust the medical system
It’s a sad truth that many women who open up about postpartum depression still don’t get the help they need. Unless you already have a trusting relationship with a medical professional it can be difficult to find the right person to seek help from with such a personal matter. The fear is that we’ll be told we’re over-exaggerating, drug seekers or that it’s all in our head, so we just don’t speak up about postpartum depression.
Regardless of how difficult it is to find good help, it’s so necessary to seek treatment. Postpartum depression will NOT go away on it’s own, and even if the feelings do subside after a while, there is always chance of a relapse.
9. We feel alone
We’ve joined online support groups. We read the posts and silently agree without so much as a “like.” The women write about how they’re exhausted and overwhelmed. They talk about how they can’t sleep at night, how they can’t eat or can’t stop eating and how they worry about everything all the time. And we can relate to that.
But what those women don’t talk about is the bad thoughts they have. It’s incriminating and requires a *trigger warning* and what if no one else feels the same way?
I’m here to tell you that I don’t care what bad thoughts you have, I don’t want nor need to know what they are because chances are, I’ve had them too. You don’t have to say them out loud. You can pretend like you didn’t even think them, so long as you know that you are not the only person who has thought them. You are not alone.
To prove it to you, here is a list of postpartum depression stories from other brave mothers who have been through the worst of the worst and still managed to survive (myself included).
If you’ve read this entire post and can relate to all 9 of these things, then it’s time to do something about it. Staying silent about postpartum depression helps no one.
Start by downloading this FREE printable PDF workbook to help you collect your thoughts and come to terms with what you are feeling and how you want to say it.
Then, write out your story. It doesn’t have to be pretty – in fact, it probably won’t be. But don’t hold back. Think about all of the real and raw things you wish someone else had been brave enough to tell you.
Next, decide if you are ready to tell it. Do you want to tell someone close to you or would you prefer to anonymously release it into the world for other mothers with PPD to read? Either way is fine, as long as you’re not keeping it all inside.