The day I knew I was too deep into the rabbit hole of postpartum depression to climb out by myself, was the day my then 3 year old daughter said to me through worried tears:
“It’s ok Mami, Papi will be home soon. It’s ok. You’re gonna be ok.” She stroked my arm in an attempt to comfort me, in a way that no three-year-old should have to comfort their own mother.
*PSA: Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety affect between 12.5% – 20% (the statistics are inconsistent) of individuals who have ever been pregnant, regardless of the pregnancy outcome. If you, reading these words, feel lost or desperate, full of rage where you’d normally have joy, please reach out to someone you trust and let them know. If you feel you have no one you trust, please reach out to me or one of the groups listed here.*
Instincts are great if we have the clarity of mind to acknowledge and respect them. But what if we can’t trust our thoughts?
Current statistics show that approximately 1 in 7, or approximately 14.3% of birth mothers – regardless of pregnancy outcome – are affected by Postpartum Depression in the United States .
From what I could tell, these numbers are based on self-reporting data given by newly postpartum mothers, which doesn’t take into consideration those that are not comfortable with self-reporting, those who may not have even been asked to participate in the screening and those who do not notice depressive symptoms until many months after giving birth.
Question: Are you a member of any neighborhood parent groups in real life or on Facebook? I am. One of the more active groups in which I participate – a group of only mothers of 2 or more children – has 1500 members, the majority of whom live in Chicago with others spanning Facebook users across the US and rest of the globe. So, due to lack of more specific statistics, using that 14.3 percentage we have from US based studies, approximately 214 of these women have experienced Postpartum Depression.
Motherhood is already riddled with judgement based on our outward decisions around how we mother, how we work – inside the home? outside the home?, how we feed our children, how we dress and appear immediately after childbirth – this one is exclusive to motherhood, of course. Plus, if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of mothers struggling with postpartum depression, add to the above a constant feeling of living outside of your own skin, or a feeling of general despair, rage, sadness, even physical pain and discomfort and yet, still be expected to navigate through the early parenting years with a smile and #supermom status.
Mental illness is cancer of the mind. Let’s treat it in the same rigorous, warrior mentality as that with which we fight cancer.
When we hear that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, we rally together, we hold them up, we bring them food and take care of their family. When we hear that a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness, we shift in our seats and whisper about how sad it is. Inappropriate. That stops now.
Here’s my story of my experience with PPD and how I fought my way out of its grasp.
I didn’t do it on my own, it is impossible to do on one’s own, just as is parenting. Never believe anyone who tells you that you must do it all on your own; I call bullshit.
And for those who are in it right now, if you feel like you can’t trust your thoughts and you can’t find your voice: don’t wait, stop right where you are for a moment and breathe. Call your friend, your sister, your doula, your care provider, call me (773-299-8803) if you have to, we will sit with you and listen with you until you find your voice and can use it to ask for the support you deserve. You are enough. You are worth it. I promise.