Putting Down The Mask
Thanks to Megan Daley for sharing her story with us!
Becoming a mother, postpartum depression was not something I ever thought I would have to worry about. Little did I know that it would be an epic struggle for me…twice. Now, in my third pregnancy I’m faced with bigger worries than what color to paint the nursery. I have to consider the very real possibility of having to struggle through hell all over again. I remember clearly the intensity of those days and it’s something I want to avoid at all costs. I want to do everything I can to put as many supports in place as possible and be honest about what I went through.
Support Resource: Friends & Family
I need my friends and family to know the truth so they can be on the lookout for warning signs and help me get the support I need if I find myself going down that dark path again.
Postpartum depression is different for every woman. For me, I had an instant bond with both of my babies and during the first several months everything went well. I had an overwhelming amount of love for them and wanted to do whatever I could to give them the best of everything and keep them safe.
The horrifying part was when I started to feel that I would be the one to hurt them. I remember calling my mom hysterically crying that I needed help immediately because I was afraid I was going to do something bad. It was the last thing I wanted to do and I never did hurt them but it was these intrusive thoughts I couldn’t control that I might just “snap” one day.
I couldn’t have made it through those days without my mom. She never judged me, just calmly talked me down time and time again. I never understood her unwavering faith in me. But each time, my children were safe and somehow I managed to make it through the day. She was right. I could do it.
A Strengthened Sense of Self
To be honest, my road to recovery was slow and full of setbacks but it was also a journey of self-discovery. Now I feel stronger and more empowered. I’m a lot more confident as I have learned how to advocate for myself.
When my doctor wouldn’t take me seriously and consistently minimized my concerns, I knew I had to find someone who would listen. Sadly, not all health care providers are educated about postpartum mood disorders and we have to advocate for adequate care.
Support Resource: Enlightened Healthcare Providers
I found another doctor who took the time to listen and ask the right questions and follow up with me regularly. She referred me to a psychiatrist who monitors my moods and the effects of my medication. She also gave me a number to a crisis line I could call, which was reassuring to have even though I only actually had to call once.
I educated myself about postpartum mood disorders through many books (Karen Kleiman is my favourite author on the subject) and reputable websites
like http://postpartum.net/ and http://postpartumprogress.org.
I read stories of other moms who had been through the same thing. I was astonished with the statistics and wondered why more people are not talking about this when it’s so prevalent? Why is there such a stigma attached to it? I vowed not to hide it anymore because maybe if I was honest about it, other moms would be brave enough to do the same.
The most important thing I ever did was finally put down the mask.
The happy mask I wore every day to hide what was really going on. People don’t see past the smiling photos on social media, which were usually genuine but really only snap shots into a much more complicated story. I wasn’t posting status updates like, “I’m crying hysterically in the bathroom because I feel like the worst mother in the world”.
I had this unnecessary and unrealistic need to portray that I was this “Super Mom” who had everything under control. Once I let that go and started being honest, I found overwhelming support in my friends and family. I started talking about it to other moms and found out I was not the only one struggling. Pretending is exhausting and it was such a relief to be authentic! I don’t worry anymore about being judged. This is something I struggle with and I know I’m not alone. The more we talk about it, the more we spread awareness.
The Importance of Self-Care
I’m aware of my triggers and I have some coping strategies that work for me. I know I need to get out of the house every day, even if it’s just to stand on the front step and feel the fresh air on my face. Going for walks, going to a park, library or local early years center can help me turn things around when the negative thoughts start taking over. I have a tendency to isolate myself when I’m struggling which I now know is the absolute worst thing I can do.
When I wasn’t well I had to stop watching the news completely. It would send me into such a state of anxiety that I would be fearful for the lives of my family. I still limit how much and what I watch. Violence causes me to have horrific nightmares and I just don’t expose myself to things that will be a trigger for me.
I stay encouraged by connecting with other “Warrior Moms”, as Postpartum Progress refers to us. Participating in events like the PSI Blog Hop and “Climb out of the Darkness” has been so empowering and inspires me to keep telling my story and reaching out to others so we can come together to spread awareness and celebrate our progress.
The road to recovery isn’t easy and there are no short cuts but it is absolutely possible. We need to be brave and reach out for help. You are not alone and this struggle does end. Keep holding onto hope. It gets better.