The first time I told the story of my severe postpartum anxiety, I had to think about what I was doing.
Telling my story out loud, on the internet, where it would live forever. Where someday, my kids will see it. That was scary, so I almost didn’t tell it all.
I was going to leave out the part about seeing a demon hallucination because Good Lord, I don’t want my kids to read this someday and think I was crazy.
I was going to leave out the part where my husband couldn’t figure out a way to take care of me, because he is such a good man and I don’t want his name to be bad at the village gates.
I was going to leave out the part where my family doctor and pediatrician both told me that I should really just try to calm down, take a bath and drink some chamomile tea, because they were good doctors really, even though they dropped the ball on this one.
I think the instinct to sugarcoat is legitimate and for lots of reasons. Maybe I wasn’t ready to handle the whole truth of the thing. Maybe I felt that if I gave them less attention, I could strip those days of their power over me.
My biggest fear was that my kids would not understand my story when they were 12 or 15 or 25. That they would think I didn’t want them, or couldn’t handle them. Or that I was unhappy with them. I never want them to see a story in the news like this one and wonder “Did you ever want to do that?”
The answer is no, but I hesitate to give it, because I know it’s not that easy. The honest answer is more like no, but…I understand how a choice like that can be made and how it can even look like the greatest act of love in the eyes and heart of a sick mom.
Ultimately, I decided to tell the whole truth. I did it for right now, because there are still too many women who stand in front of doctors and husbands and mothers and friends who just don’t know how to help them.
Not because they are bad doctors or husbands or mothers or friends. But because we still don’t have enough support systems out there, enough classes, enough hotlines. We still see mental health as a very personal issue and we look away.
We look away.
So I also did it for years from now, when I will tell my kids this:
I went through a bad time, caused by all the crazy hormones running through my body. I didn’t sleep for days. Your dad was just starting a new job and he thought I was a really, really strong mama and that I would pull myself out of it. And he couldn’t miss his first week of work. He took me to the doctor who told me that I just needed to relax. He took me and Annie to the pediatrician who told me take a bath and drink some tea. He trusted them to know what to do.
I finally did get help, but not before some really scary things happened.
During that time, I never stopped loving you. I never stopped wanting you. In fact, hugs from you were the only thing that made me feel better. When I thought about leaving, I was taking you with me.
There was never a moment when I didn’t want to be with you.
Lots of mamas get sick like this. And it happens in different ways. Some mamas look like they didn’t want their babies, but we can never know what a sick mama is thinking. What she needs, more than anything, is love. Love and help. Don’t judge her. Help her.
Even though it was hard, the best things came from me telling my story. It helped all the mamas who knew me to be more aware of themselves and their mama friends. It helped more than a few mamas get the help they needed. Until we do better with organized outreach for sick mamas, this is what we have, telling our truth and spreading it one mama at a time.
So that if you or someone you love ever feel this way after having a baby, people will know what to do.
And remember…It’s not your fault. You will be ok.
If you or someone you know is struggling with pre- or postpartum depression or anxiety
- If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- If you are looking for pregnancy or postpartum support and local resources, please call or email us:
- Call PSI Warmline (English & Spanish) 1-800-944-4PPD (4773)
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. In honor of Dana and me and all the mamas who have recovered, please don’t just look at the new babies. Look at the new mamas. Are they ok?