Months ago, I wrote here about my struggle with Postpartum Depression, a struggle that almost led me to commit suicide. It was a post that I found both difficult and cathartic to write, but it was something that needs to be said. I often hear people say that they can't imagine homeschooling or having a large family or ...fill in the blank... and how I seem to have my shit together. But in reality, I think that many of us are sometimes (maybe even often times) hanging on my a mere thread. And that's not just hard. It's terrifying. I feel enormously lucky that I have friends and a supportive family to create my "village", who make things like writing and marathoning (and just having a free moment to myself sometimes) possible, but even that wasn't enough when I was under the blanket of darkness that PPD creates. When I look back and think of what I almost lost... It sucker punches me to the gut. I shouldn't have felt that way for months. No one should ever, ever feel that way.
Which is why I am beyond honored that Scary Mommy shared an adapted and expanded article based on my post Returning From the Dead, both on their webpage and with a link on their Facebook feed. The article, as well as the blog post, describe what PPD felt like to me and how I almost most an irreversible choice as a result. It also mentions that, in spite of knowing the symptoms, I didn't seek out help.
As I thought yesterday about the fact that my battle with PPD would be considerably more public by sharing it with SM, which has a massive readership of moms (and, from their Confessions page, dads and nonparents, too), I couldn't help but think about what my kids will one day think. Will they, especially Lucas, whose birth was the impetus for my PPD, think that he is to blame? Will he feel sad? Will he realize that it was his smile, his laughter, his being here, that saved me from the edge?
More than that, my thoughts led me to ask "Why?" Why didn't I seek out help? Why, in my moments of lucidity, when I could see that I was falling fast, didn't I reach out?
Recently, my newsfeed has been full of articles of mothers who have taken their own lives after private struggles with PPD; some of them have killed their babies as well as themselves. A common theme from those left behind is how they didn't know, how they would have tried to help. So then why?
I've read through the comments posted by readers and they break my heart.
"I felt the same way."
"I still feel robbed [of motherhood]."
"No one would have ever known."
"I look at photos but cant remember when they were taken."
I've gotten comments in mom's groups that I'm a part of, on my own FB page, and from strangers via FB messenger, telling me that my story was their story.
I am humbled by their words and kind thoughts for me, but more than that, I find myself deeply disturbed by the epidemic of hidden PPD by the "survivors". I don't want this for Maya or Anna, should they become mothers; I don't want this for my mothering friends. I don't want this for any woman. The stigma, the shame- those of us who have suffered through this nightmare and those of us who know someone who has must take a stand.
I watched the kids play in the snow the other day and I worried that they might one day find this article and think me weak or be ashamed. But today, I hope they find it. I hope they realize that their mother walked through her own private hell and made it back to them. I hope they see, in my sharing this publicly, that they have nothing to be ashamed of in their own struggles and that there is never, ever shame in reaching out for help. I hope they see just how close I came to the edge and that they always know they can reach out and my hand will be there willing and waiting to pull them back from their own ledge.
I don't only hope this for my own children, but for yours. And for you.
Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Psychosis, Antepartum Depression... These mental health issues that impact women when they are carrying and delivering the future of the world should not be hidden.
We shouldn't be afraid to reach out for a helping hand or to seek medical treatment when needed.
We shouldn't worry that someone will take our children from us or think we are weak, unworthy, or unfit.
We have to realize that, in our darkness, we are strong- we are finding the light, pulling at it, refusing to let it go.
We are warriors.
We are survivors.
If you think that you might be suffering from postpartum depression or if you can't (or won't) put a name to how awful you are feeling, there are resources available. You can find anonymous help at http://www.1800ppdmoms.org/ and http://www.postpartum.net/. Many hospitals also have lines that you can call to speak with someone. While my PPD didn't present as wanting to harm my children, if you feel that your children may be at risk, please reach out to a friend, neighbor, family member, or even your local police department, and find a safe place for your children until you are able to get help for yourself. You are not just a mom; you are the mom. You are worth more than you know, and not just because you are an irreplaceable mother. You are worthy in your own right; please seek out help if you need it. Don't wait until it's too late.