Most women with postpartum depression know two things – that they should talk about it, and that they don’t want to.
New mothers are bombarded with information telling them that they need to speak up if they just aren’t feeling right. But they don’t – and for several good reasons. So how do we bridge the gap between the terrified mothers living silently in darkness and the concerned support system who can only help if they know what’s wrong?
Ending the stigma surrounding mental illness would break down so many barriers. And more women talking about postpartum depression would help to do that.
The women who DO speak up, are courageous for doing so. They have decided to ask for help and tell their stories, despite the barriers presented by the medical system and society in general.
Here are some tips for women who want to know how to talk about postpartum depression.
*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.
Read About It
Reading the stories of other mothers can help you figure out how to talk about postpartum depression. Try to read as many stories as you can, because each mother’s experience is different. You never know which ones will relate to you specifically. And if you find a story that feels like the author took the words right out of your mouth – then save it and read it over and over again. Share it on social media or with someone you love. Let the courage of other woman inspire you to want to share your own story.
Find some stories to read in The Ultimate Collection of Postpartum Depression Stories
More of a visual person? You can find hundreds of videos of women telling their postpartum depression stories on YouTube
Write About It
If you want to know how to talk about postpartum depression, then you need to practice what you’re going to say. Writing it out is a great first step. You don’t need to be a professional writer nor feel any obligation to share your story with anyone. Write it just for you.
Write it out on paper, in pen, so that you can’t erase or delete anything. You can scribble words out but they will still be there like an everlasting reminder that running away from your thoughts doesn’t help.
Write about the bad stuff that you’re too afraid to say out loud. Write about the sad stuff and keep writing even when your tears soak through the paper. Write about all the hopes and dreams that haven’t come true for you yet.
When you’re done writing it out – you will want to burn it or tear it up into a million pieces and flush it. But instead of doing that, find the courage to keep it. It will help you greatly when you are ready to talk about postpartum depression.
Bonus: Download and print this free PDF workbook to write about your thoughts in.
Help Someone Else
Helping someone else who is in the same situation as you are is a great way to learn how to talk about postpartum depression. One way to do this by joining a private online support group where you can talk more freely with strangers. Mothers are usually quite honest and open in these groups and ask questions about everything from medications to marriage problems. If you don’t feel quite ready to ask your own questions, then start by answering one for another mother.
Supporting someone else is incredibly empowering and can give you the courage to talk about your own struggle with postpartum depression.
Here are some online support groups you can join: (I am a member of all these groups as well)
Talk to a Survivor
No one knows how to talk about postpartum depression better than a survivor. I should mention that, when it comes to maternal mental illness, there are no REAL survivors because there is no REAL cure.
What I mean by a survivor is:
- A woman who has lived through the worst of it in the first year postpartum.
- A woman who decided she needed help and asked for it.
- A woman who spoke up about what she was going through.
- A woman who made changes in her life to avoid the chances of a relapse.
- A woman who has established a treatment plan.
- A woman who’s mind told her to end it all but she didn’t.
Survivors are still battling the pain of postpartum depression and/or are at risk for a relapse. But survivors have one thing that you don’t… they have spoken up about postpartum depression and lived to tell the tale. So find a survivor and ask them how to talk about postpartum depression.
I am a postpartum depression survivor, and I am always available to talk! You can also join the Postpartum Depression Survival Guide E-Newsletter and get e-mails from me about things that are important to woman fighting the battle. Plus – you can reply to any one of them to chat with me directly!
Don’t Do It Alone
Fighting a battle alone is never a good plan, no matter how much courage you have. It is much easier to talk about postpartum depression when you have someone holding your hand. Asking for help with postpartum depression doesn’t always mean asking for medication or therapy. Asking for help can mean something as simple as helping you talk to someone about what you’re going through.
Who do you want to talk to about postpartum depression? Your spouse? Your doctor? Your family or friends? Find a person or group to stand with you as you do it (physically or virtually). Having someone else there for “emotional support” can give you the courage you need to speak up, and also hold you accountable so you can’t back out at the last minute.
One option to consider if you’d like help to speak openly about your postpartum depression to your family and friends is to access an online psychiatrist. Thanks to the privacy and anonymity that it offers, you can speak to a licensed professional, on your own time, without anyone needing to know until you are ready. To find out if this is the right option for you, read up on some more Reasons To Choose An Online Psychiatrist from Betterhelp.com.
Consider the Worst Case Scenario
Make a list of all the things keeping you silent. Which one do you fear the most? Are you afraid you will be treated like a criminal or child abuser? That your children will be taken away from you, or that your spouse will leave you? Maybe you’re worried that someone will judge you, say insensitive things to you or avoid you altogether?
Now make a list of all the reasons why you want to speak up. Are you struggling and don’t know how to cope? Do you want to be a better mother and wife? Do you want others to know why you’ve been acting strange? Do you feel alone? Are you scared of what you might do? Contemplating suicide?
Which list is your worst case scenario?
Don’t wait for something bad to happen before you decide to talk about postpartum depression. Think carefully about the consequences of staying silent when you should be speaking up. Talking about it won’t be easy, and neither is battling in silence – but wouldn’t you rather have an army by your side to fight the war raging inside of you?
Make Plans For the Future
Thinking about the future can help you decide how to talk about postpartum depression. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the darkness happening right now, but the future is that light at the end of the tunnel. Without help or a plan to get better, the future seems bleak. It seems like a never-ending life of sadness and despair.
Imagine what you want your future to look like. Do you want to have more children? Think about watching your children grow up, helping them with homework and taking family vacations. Aim to achieve it instead of mourn what would be. So make a 1, 5, and 10 year plan for your life. Having a future will give you something to fight for.
The simple act of talking about postpartum depression can feel like an insurmountable task for many mothers.
The hundreds of reasons for staying silent are completely valid and understandable. Postpartum depression is a private matter and there is no need for the entire world to know about a mother’s inner most thoughts and feelings.
But the hundreds of reasons for speaking up are also valid. It will take a lot of courage, and make a person feel exposed and vulnerable. But it means that you won’t have to fight this battle alone. And if you don’t have to fight it alone, you have a much better chance of winning.
Don’t wait for someone to ask you how you’re feeling, take matters into your own hands and find the courage to speak up.
Ready to talk about postpartum depression? I can help you share your story!
It’s been 7 years since my battle with postpartum depression first began. I consider myself a survivor now but living in the aftermath of postpartum depression is nothing like life was before it.
*This post contains affiliate 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.
1. Expect it to never go away 100%
I had hyperemesis gravidarum with all three of my pregnancies and it was horrific. But as soon as I pushed the baby out, the nausea went away instantly. Postpartum depression is not like that.
With treatment, you will get better. The days will be brighter and the fits of sadness and rage will become fewer and far between. But it will always be there, deep down inside. It will be hard to forget the dark days and there will be reminders of them everywhere.
You may go months, years even, living happily as a postpartum depression survivor and then suffer a relapse during a strenuous week of sleep regression or the flu. My personal postpartum depression treatment requires a consistent self-care routine and I’ve noticed that symptoms tend to rear their ugly head if I don’t keep up with it.
I think of my postpartum depression like a wound. It happened and it healed but the scar remains. Most days I forget all about it but it is always there.
2. Expect to feel guilty
We know that postpartum depression is NOT OUR FAULT. But accepting that fact is much harder to swallow. As moms, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we often feel guilty for something – our fault or not; we’re not spending enough time with our kids, we’re not giving them the best clothes, food, toys, education, etc. – you name it and a mom’s felt guilty for it.
But the guilt that a postpartum depression survivor feels is much worse than your average mom guilt. The things we said or did while we were in the raw days of postpartum depression were not us. We couldn’t control them, we couldn’t anticipate them and we didn’t mean a word of it.
But we remember all of it. And if there were witnesses around, (i.e. an older child or spouse) it’s likely they remember everything too.
So no matter how many times we tell ourselves that it’s not our fault – we can’t help but feel guilty for all the things we said or did during the battle.
3. Expect to have different relationships
Postpartum depression changes you. You can never go back to being the person you were before this.
Your relationship with your spouse or significant other will either be stronger or broken entirely. They will also be a changed person because you can’t watch someone else go through something like postpartum depression and not feel anything about it afterwards.
But if someone has loved you and stuck with you through the darkest of days then they are a keeper. If they ran for the hills then you didn’t want them anyway…
The same could be said of your friendships except it’s unlikely they even knew you had postpartum depression.
If you alienated yourself from everyone while you were suffering but did not give an explanation why then you will probably need to do some damage control in the aftermath.
4. Expect to be a stronger woman than you were before
It goes without saying that postpartum depression survivors are some of the strongest women who exist. (Ok, all “survivors” are strong – perhaps this one sounds cliché… but being forced to suffer from depression during a time in your life when you should be MOST happy is just plain cruel.)
Once you’ve doubted every single decision you’ve made, questioned your reason for living and hurt people you love – there is not much left that will scare you. You will reach a point where you think you just can’t handle it anymore – but then you do.
You learn that the limit to how much you can handle is much further than where you thought it was…
5. Expect to WANT to tell your story
While you may have felt ashamed or embarrassed about your condition at the time – afterwards you will be proud to say “I beat postpartum depression.”
You will recognize the all too familiar pain in other women and want to help them. Since you are stronger now, you don’t care who judges you for what.
And while writing or talking about your experience will be hard and will likely stir up all the guilt you’ve been working so hard to abolish, the freedom you will gain from it is unlike any other.
Sometime in the aftermath of postpartum depression, you will WANT to tell your story, whether it’s to your closest friends and family or complete strangers.