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.
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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.