After the birth of my daughter 4.5 years ago, I experienced the complete opposite of what the books, movies, other mums had told me about birth & the overwhelming love you feel when you see your newborn baby & when you bring your baby home. I felt like a fraud for acting as though I was in love & bonded with my baby, I felt ashamed, numb, confused, angry, robbed & mostly alone.
As my journey of recovery continued, I met many other mums that had suffered the same experiences in early motherhood than me & I no longer felt so alone. It didn’t matter whether or not their stories were ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than mine – it was just that they had been ravaged by the same Demon & were desperately trying to return to the same person they were before it attacked.
DH & I kept it a secret that I was unwell & admitted to a Psych facility (aka nuthouse) with our baby & told our family & friends that we were at sleep school. It’s not that I was ashamed, I just wanted to focus on my recovery & not what people thought of me. It was Valentine’s Day 2012 where I first shared my story. It was my hope that through my words I would be able to reach out & talk to mothers out there suffering in silence.
By opening up & sharing my story, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable, whilst at the same time acknowledging that shame & judgment are likely to be their companion. I had to make a conscious decision to not care about that. I can’t control people’s opinions or thoughts, so I decided that the fear of judgment was not going to get in my way of spreading awareness & finally taking my mask off & telling my story.
The things I’d like to share in this blog hop are the things that I’ve learned as a result of my journey. Mental illness, specifically a Postpartum/Postnatal mood disorder (depression, anxiety, OCD) or Postpartum/Postnatal Psychosis – it’s just not something you choose to have or want following the birth of your child or following an adoption. It’s a hard time for our families, friends & social circle to understand what we’re going through & it’s challenging as they don’t know how to help us which makes as frustrated in kind. Our symptoms are invisible & unobvious so it’s easy for people to distance themselves from us if our illness goes beyond ‘the expected time for recovery’. I’ve learnt that PPMD’s don’t discriminate – it doesn’t matter what socio-economic status you are, what faith you are, what nationally, race or creed. It doesn’t matter what support you have, what means you have or what your social standing you are. It is one of the most levelling of life’s experiences one can have.
But here’s what I can tell you: I can tell you however is that recovery is possible & that help is out there. I can tell you that you’re most definitely alone & never will be in your journey to recovery. I can tell you that the way you feel today will not last forever & you will get through it. I can tell you that there is NO shame. I can tell you that there are some absolutely wonderful peer supports available online (#PPDChat on Twitter, #PPDChat closed FB support group, Postpartum Progress to name a few & also my group on having a baby after a PPMD) if you’re not comfortable attending an IRL group or if there’s not one close to where you live/work. And I can tell you that there are the most AMAZING & brave women that I’ve had the honour & privilege of meeting & calling my friends through opening up & sharing my story.
I want you to all know that you are worthy. I want you to all know you are important. I want you to all know that you matter. I want you to know that being ‘good enough’ is ok. I want you to all know that you now have an Army behind you, supporting you, loving you & are your biggest advocate & voice when you’ve lost yours.
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In May 2011 Postpartum Support International (PSI) declared May as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Since 2011, more States in the US & many counties across the globe have now designated May as a time to bring awareness to maternal mental health. This year, PSI is launching their first maternal mental health awareness month blog hop & the topic being explored is mental health recovery & coping skills. If you are a blogger who has experienced postpartum depression (PPD) or any other PPMD, please consider joining the blog hop to help spread awareness. Visit the two blog hop host blogs, Kathy Morelli’s Birthtouch & Dr. Christi Hibbert’s blog, to review further information & guidelines & also see all the other bloggers that are participating this year.