As those of you who follow my writing know, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression when my now-5-month-old daughter was about 8 weeks old. I am a mental health professional, so I have quite a bit of experience helping those with a wide range of mental illnesses. On top of that, I became a school psychologist in the first place because of my own experience with mental health problems in my teens and twenties. Even with all that under my belt, so much about PPD has surprised me. Here are some things I have learned thus far.
It’s way more common than you think. It has absolutely amazed me since I started talking and writing about my PPD how many women have come out of the woodwork to reveal to me that they have been through the same. Women I went to high school with, women I work with, women in my family, other CTWM writers. Women I perceive as smart, strong, confident, and great moms. PPD doesn’t discriminate. Even scarier, a lot of these women never sought help.
It lies to you. It tells you you’re a terrible mom. That you don’t deserve your kids. That you don’t deserve your husband. That you don’t deserve to live. Worst of all, it tells you that you don’t need help because you don’t have PPD. You can never feel better because there is nothing wrong with you, you’re just this terrible, defective person.
It is often invisible to the naked eye. Women don’t exactly go around wearing a big “PPD” on their chest. Many who are struggling can still pull themselves together decently well, slap a smile on their face, and interact pretty much normally in mixed company. I am forever sad when I see all those smiley new mom pictures up on Facebook. I search the eyes of those women, expecting them to say something, but the truth is that I can’t tell by looking. Most people won’t know that you have PPD unless you tell them.
It affects everyone differently. For me, it has manifested mostly as intense feelings of anger, followed by guilt and self-deprecation as a result of those feelings. For me, nights were much worse and days were often ok. Some women cry for no reason or feel generally overwhelmed. Others have a hard time bonding with their baby. Some don’t experience any symptoms until their baby is several months old. Clearly, there is no one story of PPD.
Postpartum depression or not, if you need help, you should get it. I truly have debated whether what I am going through and what I went through with my first child really fits the diagnosis. I’ve talked a lot about this with my therapist, and what I’ve come to realize is that it doesn’t matter what you call it. If you are struggling, if you’re having a hard getting through the day or night, you deserve and should get help.
The last five months have been really hard, but resurfacing from rock bottom is also liberating and life changing in some positive ways. I’m definitely doing a lot better now than I was, though it’s certainly not perfect. I am taking this journey day by day and am always thankful that I have such a wonderful community of other moms to lean on.