In the United States 1 in 9 mothers struggle with postpartum depression, and although more women are coming forward and sharing their stories, some women still feel a stigma attached and struggle on there own in silence.
Recently a friend of mine started a journey to raise awareness of not only postpartum depression, but perinatal mood disorders as a whole, and with her efforts to speak out and end the stigma, I’ve been inspired to do so myself. You can check out her fundraiser here, and help to spread awareness and end the stigma.
When I was pregant I did literally everything I thought I could to set myself up for success post baby. I read, I meditated, and I watched a whole documentary on postpartum depression. I had just created the blog a month before I was due to have a hobby while on maternity leave, I had a solid support system, it never crossed my mind that postpartum depression would even creep into my life. I thought the sleepless nights and lack of appetite came with the territory, but still breaking down in tears on a daily basis over the smallest inconvenience four weeks after the baby was born didn’t seem like something that was supposed to happen.
The six week postpartum check up came along and I was miserable, but I was ignorant. I was ignorant in the fact that somehow, in my three years of working behavioral health and working in an environment founded on the concept of resiliance and accepting when to ask for help, that by admitting how I really felt, I would be seen as weak. So I did what I thought was right, I lied. I talked myself out of being honest on the worksheet they had me do, and only registered as “potentially at risk”, so I was handed a pamphlet of where to get help if I needed it, and fake smiled my way out the door.
Week six postpartum I also thought it’d be fun to start a new job, needless to say the added anxiety of having to preform at a semi-high stress occupation lead me to leaving six weeks after my hire date. I was a wreck.
I couldn’t eat, I was always on edge, I lost my baby weight and then some in the six weeks following my little man’s entrance to the world. When friends and family commented on how I seemed to be rapidly shrinking, I’d just laugh it off and hope for the best. I was crying nearly daily for no reason, and just couldn’t shake the dark cloud that seemed to follow me.
I can remember coming home from work one night in October and crying to my husband, “I just think someone else can do a better job as a mom to our baby”, he was floored, it was obvious I had changed with the birth of our son but we kind of thought it was normal, this was when we realized it wasn’t and something had to change.
The next day I dug out the pamphlet that I was given at my postpartum check up months prior and tried to make sense of it all. I looked at websites and phone numbers, but just wasn’t ready to commit myself to a solid solution, because if I was one thing other than depressed, it was proud to a fault, and again talked myself out of it. It was by chance I was sent to an Army class on resiliency, and that’s where I found my tool box of coping skills that got me through the storm.
I’d like to think had I shed my personal stigma sooner, I would’ve enjoyed a little bit more of the baby days, but by February I started to see a difference and was feeling better. I simplified my life, took a less stress job, moved, and started taking some time to really work on myself.
During the darkest days, I talked to co-workers, the league of moms that aren’t my mom, and realized that speaking up was not a sign of weakness, but strength. What I also found was that more people close to me shared a similar struggle, but each mom I knew was able to bounce back, and I found hope in that.
My experience with postpartum depression was something that changed me, now self care is a daily part of my routine, but I also avoid isolation at all costs, and always let someone know when I start to slip back into the darker days. It wasn’t easy to get through, and looking back I wish I had the strength to reach out and seek professional help. Asking for help should always be seen as a sign of strength, yet somehow overwhelmed by new motherhood I failed to realize that.
If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression, or any mental health issues, please reach out an get help, I’ve included below a list of resources in the off chance that someone finds this article and realizes it’s time to start feeling better. Being a new mom is tough but youdon’t have to brave the storm alone.