I battled with postpartum depression silently for a long time and didn’t speak a word of it to anyone, nor did I have any intention to.
The reason why I finally decided to share my story was because I was so emotionally moved by the tragic story of a woman from my hometown, Lisa Gibson, who suffered and died from postpartum depression in 2013 (along with her two children). The story, in itself, was truly heartbreaking but what bothered me the most was the public reaction. Many people seemed to believe that she got what she deserved.
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 while I had 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.
The month of May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month.
As a survivor of postpartum depression, bringing awareness and help to others who are suffering is a cause that is close to my heart. 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.
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**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. We are in denial.
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!!!”
2. We think this is “normal” motherhood.
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.”
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. (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.
For some reason, society has led us to believe that having postpartum depression 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?
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’re 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. Sometimes it does and then it’s just a mild case or the “baby blues” but if it’s truly postpartum depression it’s highly unlikely that it will go away without treatment.
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.
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.