I believe that we are all on our own journey, in life and in motherhood. My journey happens to involve a terrible struggle with postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter. At times, it was debilitating. I won’t go into detail here, as it will take many blog posts to tell that story. What I will share is that it was very difficult for me to talk about, to admit to myself that I needed help, to ask for help, to accept help, and to recover from it (in some ways, I’m still recovering). Hardest thing I’ve ever faced in my life, hands down. And it wasn’t just hard for me; it was hard for my family too.
Most people probably have no idea that I was suffering. The thing about postpartum mood disorders (PPMD) is that it’s so very different for each person. It doesn’t “look” or “feel” a certain way. My symptoms snuck in slowly, and worsened quickly. Because it’s a spectrum mood disorder, it looks and feels completely unique for each person. For me, it was a whole bunch of little things rolled into one big messy package. I just knew that I didn’t feel right.
If you have suffered, are currently suffering, or think that you might be suffering from a PPMD, know that you are certainly not alone. Although you may feel very alone, know that 1 in 5 women will experience some sort of PPMD. 1 in 5! My mind was blown when I first learned this. More and more, it seems that people are starting to open up about this topic. PPMD can be tricky to spot – in my case, my symptoms were quite obvious to my midwives, my family, and myself, but it’s not always so easy to recognize. There are many great resources available – websites, postpartum support groups, phone support services, and the list goes on. The important part is that you talk to someone about how you’re feeling, and get help as soon as you can.
I am very fortunate to have an amazing family – they made sure I got the help that I needed fairly quickly after my symptoms developed. The road to recovery was long and emotionally painful. Just as my symptoms were made up of a bunch of little things, so was my recovery. One thing that stands out in my mind was an interview that I listened to when my daughter was about 2 months old. Howard Stern interviewed the singer Sia, and it changed my life. Sounds crazy, but it really did. During the interview, Sia opened up about her own mental health struggles. She was so honest, and she didn’t let her struggle define her; it was simply a part of her journey. No guilt. No shaming. Just love and self-acceptance. She gave me hope and made me feel like I was going to be ok, and that it was ok to have struggles and messy parts in your life. It was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment.
For the next several months, I listened to all of Sia’s music – mostly during long stroller walks with my daughter. It was like therapy to me. The lyrics are amazing, and I really connected to them. A few months ago, I attended a Sia concert, and it was so much more than just a concert to me. It was one of those wonderful, powerful moments where life seems to come full circle. I was reminded just how far I’ve come in my journey.