As I mentioned in my original blog post, it has taken me over a year to gain enough courage to talk openly about my experience with postpartum depression (PPD). I have often been asked why it took me so long to talk about my struggles and why I think women are so reluctant to talk openly about their own struggles with PPD. I have given these questions a lot of thought and would like to offer my insight on them.
Why did it take you so long to talk about postpartum depression openly?
Well because I was terrified of it. Having postpartum depression is a lot like having a nightmare as a child. You wake up scared and run into your parent’s room and ask to sleep in their bed so you feel safe and comforted. Your parents ask you what your bad dream was about and you quickly reply, “I don’t want to talk about it!” Why? Because it was scary and felt real to you and you were afraid that if you talked about it too soon then as soon as you fell back asleep it would happen again. That’s how I felt about my PPD and anxiety. When you fear something so deeply, the last thing you want to do is talk about it.
Looking back now, I have also realized I didn’t understand what I was going through or why I had to be the one it chose. How was I supposed to talk openly about something I couldn’t comprehend? I couldn’t explain my feelings very well and it was frustrating to me.
Can you explain the “stigma” behind postpartum depression?
Unfortunately, there is a major stigma behind PPD and this stigma needs to END. If you were to look up synonyms for the word “stigma” you would find “shame, disgrace, dishonor, humiliation” It saddens me to admit, but I felt every one of those emotions and more while suffering from PPD.
My pregnancy was exciting and then stressful; my delivery was beautiful and then traumatic, my time with my newborn I wanted to cherish forever and then completely forget at the same time. The emotional roller-coaster a woman feels throughout pregnancy and postpartum is unimaginable. I was constantly worried about what others, including my immediately family, thought about me. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone and I didn’t want people feeling sorry for me or thinking that I was incapable of being a mother. I mean, at the time I myself, didn’t feel capable of being a mother so there was no doubt in my mind that others were doubting me too.
I was never one to ask for help but rather the first person to provide the help, so I wasn’t sure how to accept any of it or how to welcome the support I was being offered. I was living in a state of confusion where I didn’t know from hour to hour how I’ d be able to deal with my emotions. I lost trust in my own abilities. I quickly lost sight of who I was and the person I had worked so hard to become… a mother.
It also didn’t help that I was referred to countless doctors who talked to me as if I needed to be convinced something was wrong with me, but had little resources to help me understand what was happening. This was the hardest part. I didn’t need to be convinced something was off, it’s my body I knew better than anyone that what I was feeling was wrong, but I felt ignored, misunderstood, childish and humiliated. It wasn’t until my OBGYN got me in contact with an amazing social worker that I finally felt like I was being heard.
It all comes with a price as well. Insurance doesn’t always cover the costs of the people that offer the help a woman needs. We ended up paying out of pocket to meet with the right people. Women shouldn’t have to battle insurance companies while trying to find help at the same time, it just doesn’t make sense.
Knowing where to go and who to talk to isn’t always clear. I’ve found these links helpful. However, know it may take talking to several caregivers until you find the right one for you.