Ever wonder how I came to write about postpartum depression and act as an advocate for maternal mental health?
For the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with women suffering from all kinds of mental health issues after giving birth. It’s for those women that I write about postpartum depression. I spend my days creating resources, infographics and researching, all the while wishing I had access to this same information when I was heavily battling postpartum depression.
Recently, someone asked me how and why I decided to write about postpartum depression. It got me thinking about my journey to becoming a maternal mental health blogger and advocate.
And so, in keeping with the Running in Triangles tradition, here is my story.
I always wanted to be a writer.
From a young age, I knew that writing was one of my strengths. Not only did it come naturally to me, but I loved doing it. Having the ability to tell an entire story just from words felt like a superpower. The English language gets a lot of criticism for it’s wide array of spellings, meanings, synonyms and slang words. But I think having so many different words to express a single emotion is one thing that makes it great.
Throughout my life, I struggled to find the right path for my writing. Books, journals, diaries, poems, short stories… all started and forgotten about. I knew I wanted to write, I just didn’t know what I wanted to say.
My first mom blog.
In my late teens and early 20’s I took to the internet to showcase my writing on sites such as My Space (and other infamous ones that no longer exist). I enjoyed having a space to write knowing that someone else other than myself might actually read it.
I started my first, real, mom blog in 2013. At the time, I was in the thick of postpartum depression and needed an outlet for my emotions. But I didn’t write about postpartum depression. I wrote about recipes and crafts and funny things my kids did because that’s what all the other mom bloggers were doing.
The story that changed my life.
A few months after starting my fluffy mom blog, a news story from my hometown hit headlines – two young children found drowned in a bathtub and the mother had gone missing. They suspected postpartum depression (or psychosis). I became obsessed with the story and constantly checked for updates to see if she had been found. The online comments were filled with things like “I hope she’s dead” or “what kind of monster does that” and “she doesn’t deserve to be a mother.”
I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t think about anything else other than poor Lisa Gibson and her two babies. I still cry at the mere thought of it. Yes, it’s tragic and heartbreaking, but that’s not the only reason I cry. I cry because it could have been me. At 4 months postpartum, I was fighting suicidal thoughts on a regular basis and imagining drowning my colicky baby in the bathtub. But I was not a terrible mother, I was just sick.
Two days later, Lisa Gibson’s body was found floating in the river. It was a tragic ending but I felt relieved for her. She was finally free of the mental anguish she was likely consumed by. Would she have even wanted to live after finding out what happened? The story tormented me for weeks, and the public reaction was even worse. No matter what I did, I could not silence the voice in my head that kept saying, “do something about this.”
The first time I spoke up.
I couldn’t just sit by and spectate anymore. I knew why people said the things they did… they didn’t understand it. I couldn’t be mad at the online commentators because postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders are NEVER talked about. And unfortunately, Lisa Gibson would never get the chance to tell her side of the story.
But I could tell mine.
And that’s what I did. I sat down at my computer and just wrote. Tears streamed down my face as I choked on the giant lump in my throat. I would write something truthful and then immediately delete it. What would people think of me? What would others say? Would they take my kids away if they read this? I would imagine Lisa Gibson floating in the river and I would write it all over again.
Nearly every single sentence had me second guessing the decision to share my story. And every time, I would picture Lisa Gibson or repeat the hateful online comments and push onward. Finally, it was finished but I was struggling to publish it. Once I hit that button – everyone will know. Will people treat me differently? Will I get hateful comments too? I felt sick to my stomach as I hit the “publish” button, but it was done. There was no going back now.
The reaction to my story.
Once my story went live, I thought I would feel better. But it was the opposite. I was consumed by anxiety. I couldn’t sleep. Was this a mistake? Is it too late to take it down? I waited for the mean comments, for the misunderstandings and the judgement.
I got nothing but love.
Those who knew me reached out with complete empathy and the sincerest praise. Friends that I saw in person told me how moved they were by my story. I started to get comments and emails from women who experienced something similar. They all said one in thing in common… “me too.”
Fast forward 5 years later.
After sharing my story, I finally felt fulfilled and stopped writing for a while. I couldn’t go back to blogging about nothing when I had just said so much. I decided to take control of my postpartum depression and began treatment. I even had another baby without experiencing a postpartum depression relapse.
Five years after hitting the publish button on my postpartum depression story, I found myself as a stay at home mom looking for a side hustle. Mom blogs had not disappeared, in fact they seemed to be taking over the internet. Moms were replacing their full time jobs running their own blogs from home. Could a blog be a way for me to turn my writing into a full time career? I had to give it a try.
The Early Days of Running in Triangles
Running in Triangles was initially targeted towards moms of three kids (hence the name). I had learned that, in order to be a successful mom blog, I should write posts that were helpful. So I started by sharing my best advice for sleep training and breastfeeding. They quickly became popular and are still some of my top articles.
I desperately wanted to write more about postpartum depression, but I was still afraid to say exactly what I wanted to. Out of that fear came the post, 9 Reasons Why Moms Don’t Speak Up About Postpartum Depression. It was the blog post that changed the entire direction of Running in Triangles.
Since the blog was now seeing a steady amount of traffic worldwide, I was able to reach a lot more moms with postpartum depression. They started emailing me and commenting about how they related 100% to what I wrote in that post. They said they wanted to speak up about postpartum depression but were too afraid and didn’t know how to begin. So I launched The Postpartum Depression Guest Post Series, making it possible for moms from any background to share their stories in a safe place. The following year, I featured 10 Questions About Postpartum Depression in order to allow even more women to open up about their experience.
The Reason Why I Write About Postpartum Depression
Throughout this journey, I have finally discovered the true path for my writing. I write about postpartum depression to help educate others on what it’s like living with this mental illness. I write for all those mothers who are unable to find the words to say it themselves. I write for those who can’t tell their stories anymore, like Lisa Gibson and countless other women who lost the battle to postpartum depression.
I write about postpartum depression because not enough people do. It needs to be talked about more, to be included in regular conversation. It’s not a bad word or something to be ashamed of. I write for future generations, in the hopes that they will take the time to learn about it and put an end to the stigma of it.
I write about postpartum depression in order to empower women. New mothers should be able to access facts and information, find resources and support groups and know their treatment options. But too often, the medical system fails them. There’s not much I can do to change that, but I can give mothers the tools they need to take their mental health into their own hands.
And at the end of the day, if I’ve saved even one mother from drowning in the river, then it’s completely worth it.
We are all incredible people, no matter what our journey is with postpartum depression.
Some women who end up with postpartum depression have battled mental illness their whole lives. Some may have gone through a depressed period as a teenager or following some tragedy in their lives. Maybe they’ve witnessed a family member deal with it, or experienced some kind of childhood trauma. PTSD can contribute significantly to depression and other postpartum mental health disorders.
But others, like myself, have never faced a childhood trauma or battle with mental illness prior to becoming a mother.
To go from living the “perfect” life to experiencing the darkness that is depression in such a sudden way feels like being buried alive. While I no longer struggle with depression on a daily basis, it’s effects remain permanently. I will forever mourn the loss of the incredible person that I was before postpartum depression took it all away from me.
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.
I used to be an incredible person.
I had a really great childhood, with parents who loved me and loved each other.
My sister was my best friend and confidant.
Even as an awkward, mixed-race, home-schooled teenager, I never felt depressed or self-conscious.
I embraced my differences, stood up for others and voiced my opinions.
I loved to take care of people and when I started working, I delivered the type of customer service that got rave reviews.
I worked jobs that I loved and was successful at them.
I almost married the wrong man, but then met and fell in love with the right one and had a fairy tale wedding, just like a cliché romantic movie.
We renovated a house in the perfect neighborhood and got a couple of dogs before a baby soon followed.
Life wasn’t always perfect but it was pretty darn close to what I imagined “happily ever after” would be.
Most of these things haven’t changed.
I still have an amazing husband and a family who love and support me.
I still have the perfect house with the two dogs and three kids.
I still have success doing work that I find rewarding.
Except that now, I have postpartum depression.
It’s been 6 years so I doubt it’s even considered “postpartum” anymore, but I will always refer to it as that. Because until I got pregnant with my second child, I was anything but depressed.
For the past 6 years, I’ve had to fight every single day to be the happy, incredible person I was my entire life.
Things that came so naturally to me, such as talking to people or taking care of myself – are now things that I avoid at all costs.
Shopping dates and salon appointments were something I looked forward to doing with my friends. I loved fashion and beauty to the point of vanity. But these days, I feel zero motivation to get dressed in the morning, so I wear the same sweat pants and stained T-shirt all week long.
And when I do dress up, I criticize everything about myself. I count out grey hairs and wrinkles. I pinch the rolls of skin on my stomach and make disgusted faces in the mirror.
Instead of styling my hair, I fantasize about shaving it all off.
I can’t look people in the eye anymore, or make small talk with cashiers and servers.
When I talk to someone on the phone I stutter and stumble and forget what I was supposed to say.
I silence my phone when it rings because I need to work up the courage to take the call first.
And if I see someone I know out in public, I duck and hide and hope they don’t notice me.
I’ve never felt as much hatred for myself as I do now and I’ve lost all my confidence to postpartum depression.
I feel sorry for the people who have come into my life only after the postpartum depression because they never got the chance to meet the real me.
The fun me, who was hilarious and clever and the life of the party.
The powerful me, who loved to debate about controversial topics.
The competitive me, who hosted game nights and Rock Band showdowns.
The inspiring me, who gave the best pep talks and listened to everyone’s problems with empathy.
Those people will say that I’m still like that, but oh, if they only knew.
Those who did know me before, walk on eggshells around me now, afraid of what might offend me or set me off.
I make people uncomfortable with my presence, because no one is ever sure what to say to someone with a mental illness.
I’ve forgotten how to break that awkward silence with pleasant conversation.
Friends that used to come to me for advice just feel sorry for me now.
They look at me and think I’ve let myself go… that I’ve given up.
But what they don’t see is that I’m fighting a mental battle every single day just to survive.
I loved who I was before postpartum depression.
I was happy and fulfilled and determined before postpartum depression.
I was a people-person, a social butterfly, an extrovert before postpartum depression.
And now, I am merely a shell.
I look the same on the outside, but inside I am hollow and empty. The amazing person that used to live in here is all shriveled up now, unable to move or grow.
Life pushes me along like waves on the ocean, slowly rolling through the days and the months and the years.
I try to stop it, try not to move forward, but there is nothing to hold onto. I am simply grasping at water.
I want to stay still, I want to press pause.
Can someone please put me in a glass box so I can watch life happen around me, without having to actually be part of it?
Participating in my own life is exhausting.
I don’t want it to end because there is a tiny glimmer of hope still inside of me.
I hope that someday I will feel the desire to live again and then I can come out of my glass box.