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 reasons why moms don’t speak up about postpartum depression aren’t that surprising to me. But the reason why I finally DID speak up was because I was so emotionally moved by the tragic story of a woman from my hometown who suffered and died from postpartum depression in 2013, after drowning her two small children.
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.
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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!!!” Moms often don’t speak up about postpartum depression because they don’t even believe it themselves.
This comprehensive guide to maternal mental health disorders from Parenting Pod offers plenty of information to help you understand your symptoms.
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.” 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 signing up for our postpartum depression survival guide. In it, you will find various workbooks and resources to help you tell your story.
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.