This post may be triggering. Please read with caution.
She was 6 weeks old when I collapsed on the floor of Michael's Craft Store. I was exhausted, yes, but what I really felt was hopeless.
It was the middle of a full week. Family was flying in to celebrate Madeleine's Baptism. My visit to Michael's that day was to pick up a few things for the brunch after mass. I should have been happy. Or, at least that's what I told myself over and over.
'Why aren't you happy?' 'You have everything you want.' 'What's wrong with you?'
It was an endless internal conversation / pep talk / admonishing for not feeling the way I thought new mothers were supposed to feel.
As I sat in the aisle sobbing, I began to feel smaller and smaller. What I desperately wanted was for someone to hold me, to see me. Instead I was an obstacle that other customers had to step around.
Without a single word or concerned glance from anyone, I wiped my tears, gathered my things and exited the store. From that day on I existed.
We welcomed a second daughter, Lyla, 2 years later. And while I couldn't escape the nagging feeling of despair, that darkness was punctuated by many moments of sheer, unimaginable joy.
It was a balancing act. Outwardly, I was 'acting' the way I thought I was supposed to. Inside I was screaming. I didn't have the right to feel this broken, I thought.
I was overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts of driving off the road on my commute to work. I truly believed I was not contributing in any positive way to my family and friends. I felt unnecessary.
But it wasn't until Maddie was 3 1/2 that I finally sought help. A psychiatrist diagnosed me with Postpartum Depression (PPD). And instead of feeling relieved, it made my mom guilt skyrocket.
I loved being pregnant. Truthfully, I've never felt healthier than when I was expecting. I had no trouble getting pregnant; and I've never experienced pregnancy loss. How dare I feel 'depressed' when I'd been so fortunate?
I felt embarrassed, disappointed and consumed with guilt. On top of that, my twice weekly therapy/psychiatry appointments took even more time away from my family. I was drowning; and eventually found myself at an inpatient facility after a suicide attempt.
I lost friends, frustrated family members and took a leave of absence from my job. I participated in an intense daily therapy program for 5 weeks. I was given tools that helped me understand, process and heal.
I began my Flight into Life.
It was painful and empowering and educational and scary and liberating. It is my story.
But I know I am not alone.
According to the CDC, 1 in 8 American women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Let's read that again....1 in 8! I wonder how many are struggling in silence or are simply unaware that what they are feeling is actually a treatable illness?
Today I live with Major Depressive & General Anxiety Disorders. My mental illness is treatable with a combination of meds and therapy. I think about it every. single. day.
I work really, really hard to stay ahead of the darkness. And after my own experience, I am passionate about spreading mental health awareness and giving back to an organization that helped me so much, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Here are 11 early signs of PPD according to Flo.health:
- Psychomotor retardation (a paucity of spontaneous movement, or sluggish thought process), or psychomotor agitation
- Recurrent thoughts of death and suicide, or suicide attempts
- Lack of interest towards the baby
- Feeling exhausted
- Poor appetite with weight loss
- Decrease in sexual drive
- Ideas of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt
- Reduced ability to concentrate
- Sleep disorders
- Decreased sleep/early waking
- Loss of interest or pleasure – anhedonia
If you are struggling. Please seek help. If you would like to hear more about my journey or just need to talk, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are in crisis, call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 714741