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I have postpartum depression.
No, that doesn’t mean I’m just tired. That's where the majority of us find ourselves.
People say I don’t look like I have PPD, maybe because the stereotype is a woman who doesn’t shower or leave the house. I do those things. It’s not easy, but I do them. It’s confusing, symptoms can change daily and are different for every woman. And if you haven’t experienced it firsthand it’s hard to understand.
While not every woman who suffers from postpartum depression will talk about it, she wants you to know these 12 things to better understand her struggle:
She’s scared she won’t get better.
In the throes of PPD there’s little light or hope. Being told “things will improve soon” or “it’s just baby blues” compounds the problem, making you feel like it’s not serious and you should be getting better -- but you aren’t. When my doctor told me, “This is real. I don’t know when it will end, but I promise that it will,” I finally felt normal in a time of complete abnormality. I was validated.
Visitors make her anxious.
I wasn’t intentionally keeping people from my baby, but guests lead to anxiety. If a mom seems hesitant to have you over right away there may be a deeper reason than new parent exhaustion.
She doesn’t want to talk on the phone.
My phone has been on silent since the day my son was born, but knowing it was ripe with countless missed calls made me sick to my stomach. Text messages are easier.
She thinks you’re mad at her.
See above. I was dodging calls and visits because I was depressed, then falling further down the hole because I assumed everyone hated me for disappearing.
She doesn’t want to reassure you.
I spent months hiding my PPD. When the dam broke and opened up I was inundated with concerned family and friends asking if they played a role. No. I appreciate you trying to understand, but this would always end with me making someone else feel better. Please don’t make this about you.
She doesn’t want to hear secondhand stories.
Being told “my co-worker’s cousin’s neighbor’s dog walker’s aunt had triplets and PPD… and it wasn’t that bad,” doesn't help. Hearing grand tales of women who allegedly had it worse makes you feel like an even bigger failure for struggling.
It helps to talk to strangers.
PPD is a club that no one wants to join, but once you’re in you want to talk with other members. I shared my story on Instagram and was quickly contacted by other moms with PPD. I wasn’t choosing them over family or friends, I just needed to talk to women who had walked in my shoes.
She needs sleep.
Sleep deprivation worsens postpartum depression yet PPD can cause insomnia. It’s a vicious cycle. I was told to exercise and I’d feel better. If only it were that easy. What I needed was someone to watch my baby while I slept. It was instrumental to my recovery.
She thinks you’re judging her.
There is a stigma attached to mental health. I assumed that everyone who knew I had PPD saw me as weak or lazy. Even worse, incapable of handing motherhood.
She thinks she’s a terrible mother.
Your mind lies to you. Though I was falling apart my son never wanted for anything. Yet I’d tell my husband to take him and leave because I was an awful mother. In hindsight I see how strong I was, to be so sick and still give my son everything he needed. But not at the time.
She may be in a fog.
I look back at videos and photos from my son’s first few months and barely remember it. It’s like I was outside my body watching someone else participate. I’ll never get that time back and the guilt will always haunt me.
PPD doesn’t discriminate. You can be a young mom or, like me, one of “advanced maternal age.” You can have a staff of 20 or be a single parent. No one is immune.
If you think you may be suffering from PPD talk to you doctor, partner, family and friends. If you are scared or worried about the stigma and would rather talk to someone outside of your circle, you can call Postpartum Support International at 1.800.944.4773. If you just need a fellow mom to validate you and listen to your fears, find me on Instagram and reach out.
Anxious, overwhelmed, unhappy, or scared by how you feel? If you're struggling emotionally, you could be depressed. Take this 10-question quiz to find out.
Images by Becky Vieira
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.