There Should Be No Shame Surrounding Postpartum Depression
I live with a bag of diagnoses. I have several mental illnesses and one psychical illness, all chronic. I was prepared during my pregnancy to experience increased depression and anxiety after the baby arrived. I had my support system set up and in place. I was in an outpatient mental health program at the hospital I was delivering at.
The plan was to start a few weeks before my son arrived. Then, I would go back after the baby came. I was prepared. I was, for once, in complete control of my mental health. Two days after giving birth, however, the hospital program came to my room to discharge me, against my wishes.
I told myself this was fine because I was set up to go to a prescriber. I would be able to stay in control. I was released from the hospital (for my C-section and delivery) the first week of October. By February, my therapist had yet to hook me up with the prescriber. The system had failed me for a change (normally I’m not committed). All the preparation I took to prevent and combat postpartum depression (PPD) was for nothing.
For so long, I refused to open up to anyone about struggling with PPD. For me, it was more about the shame of already having other chronic illnesses. I felt like such a burden. For once, I was supposed to be responsible, too. The odds were stacked against me. I didn’t think anyone thought I would make a good mom. There was so much more to prove.
The symptoms of PPD melted into being bipolar and a new mom. I wasn’t eating much, but I never really do. I don’t have the healthiest eating habits to begin with, and I’m working hard now to fix that. I was so busy with the baby. How could I eat? Then, of course, there was the lack of sleep. I was used to that being manic so often and in my early 20s. I was irritable. Yet again, I was used to that.
There were subtle differences that should have been clues it was PPD. I wasn’t eating because I hated my body. I hated how I looked since the baby had left my body. I didn’t even feel like my body was my body anymore. It felt like it was someone else’s. I didn’t just not sleep. I had panic attacks all night. I would stare at my son all night, making sure he was breathing.
I kept thinking of every horror story of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) I had read online and needed to make sure he didn’t die. Then, there was the irritability. I didn’t think I had it in me to be angry toward a child, let alone an infant. I didn’t think I would think so many awful things about someone I loved. As much as I wanted it to stop completely, it wouldn’t.
The worst by far, however, was the effort it took to bond with my son. I knew I loved him. I just felt like I couldn’t form a connection with him. I felt distant from him. All I wanted to do was love him and hold him. Yet, I couldn’t find it in me to do that. I dismissed all of this as laziness and bad parenting. I would think it was PPD but would dismiss it immediately. I was scared I would have my child taken from me if I was honest. I didn’t know who to trust.
I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was feeling because what I was feeling wasn’t me. Those thoughts weren’t mine. My actions weren’t ones I would take. I wanted nothing more than to love my son, and my family as much as I could, but PPD created a road block and prevented me from doing that. Because of that, suicidal ideations and thoughts started coming back into play.
I am 10 months postpartum now, and I’m able to speak to people who are close to me about PPD. I stopped feeling guilty for having another diagnosis, and accepted it with everything else. This past weekend, I really bonded with my son Jack my son. We are finally at the place I was hoping to be months ago, and I’m loving him with all I’ve got.
I was so ashamed of having PPD, but the reality is that it’s really common. Statistics say at least 10 to 15 percent of new mothers have postpartum mood disorders. Having PPD isn’t some taboo. We make it that way, though. We need to bring light to the darkness new mothers face every day. It takes a village to raise a child, but we need that village to help support mothers, too.