Postpartum Depression: one woman's voice about understanding mental health
The following article was written by our guest blogger Marta Breckenridge. Marta shares her experience with postpartum depression to inspire and empower other women who may be going through something similar. Marta is a brilliant woman. Her story is raw, honest, and brave. We hope you as a reader and follower feel you are not alone after reading her story.
Their stories. Her stories. Our story.
We are Kathy.
Recently I saw a friend post an article on social media about a woman with postpartum depression who injured her children. The comments were angry and aggressive. Part of me wanted to comment but I knew I wouldn't accomplish anything.
My friend’s reactions and raw emotion stuck with me, and made me think about my own experience with PPD. I was afraid to tell anyone for fear of being thought of differently. I was afraid of being vilified.
I feel strongly that as a society we need to normalize mental health. Talking about our mental health should never be taboo. I want to put a face and a name to postpartum depression. I want to remind women that those suffering can get help and still be great moms. I would like to share my story.
I have had issues with depression since I was a young adult. When I was younger I was raped by my cousin. I ate my emotions and was morbidly obese by the age of 21. My obesity caused me to rarely leave the house other than to go to work. I thought about suicide almost daily. Only my partner and my mom knew, but I kept it a secret. I went to one therapy session, but never took any meds.
I never really dealt with it.
When I was 24, I had my oldest child Avery. I was a single mother and my child's father wanted nothing to do with either of us. My family lived about 2.5 hours away and I lived with my best friend. She was my only support person.
When I was in the hospital, my nurse told me I was at a higher risk for postpartum depression because of my lack of support and history of untreated mental illness.
I didn't take her seriously because she didn't know me. Who was she to say anything about my life? Now as a nurse myself, I understand that she had seen women like me before and knew what she was talking about.
I remember having my daughter home for about 5 days, and waking up kinda pissed that she was still there. It should have been a clue, but I just laughed it off as a funky mood due to lack of sleep. A lot of this time was hazy because of not sleeping. After a few days my mom who was there to help for a bit went home, and my roommate had to return to work.
I was still healing from a C-section, in a lot of pain and I was left alone with the baby.
Avery had colic, cried non-stop, and had a lot of intestinal problems which caused her to not sleep. Her lack of sleep now meant I didn't sleep. I started to get frustrated. Frustration lead to anger and resentment. I spent a lot of nights in a rocking chair with Avery in a bouncy seat on the floor. I rocked her chair with my foot because I didn't want to hold her anymore.
I started only meeting her absolute needs and nothing more. I neglected my own needs during that time. I fed her, burped her, changed her, put her on the floor for tummy time while I watched Judge Judy and played video games. There was no bonding. I only held her and played the role of Happy-New-Mom when people came to visit. Since I was alone with her most of the time no one noticed.
One night, something changed. I was in my rocking chair, Avery screamed in her bouncy seat, my foot tapping away, making it rock. Suddenly a thought popped into my head, “I bet she'd shut up if I bashed her face into the wall.” I sat there rocking my baby with my foot, while I thought about her death. I thought about how her face would look all bloody and sunken in. I thought about how I'd clean up the mess.
I just wanted her gone. After about 30 minutes of planning, I shook my head and thought, “What the hell is happening right now?” I began sobbing.
I was falling off the deep end, but aware enough to know I was not safe to be alone with my child.
I called my roommate at work, crying and begging her to come home. I then went and laid in my roommate's bed and left Avery strapped into her bouncy seat still screaming.
My roommate was able to come home and help care for Avery. The next day I called my OB/GYN and poured out my soul over the phone to Heather the medical assistant. I got an immediate appointment, was started on Zoloft, and Heather gave me her personal number to call her anytime I had intrusive thoughts.
With meds and time my depression improved. I started holding my baby. I started bonding with her. I rocked her to sleep in my arms. I also got her tummy issues looked into, so she was a happier baby as well.
We live in a society where new moms are critically judged for every decision they make.
Avery is almost 16 now, and I've had two children since then. I currently still take antidepressants. I have depression and anxiety, but I am much better at managing it.
Not every woman with postpartum depression is so fortunate. There are women who don't want to admit that there are issues when we live in a society where new moms are critically judged for every decision they make.
We've all seen the news stories about the mothers who murder their kids. It is such a tragedy. Innocent lives are lost and mothers are behind bars, in an institution or lost to suicide.
While most people are outraged at the mothers for committing a horrendous crime, I feel for those mothers. I was so close to being in a similar situation.
As a society, we need to be more open and honest about our mental health. We must stop shaming people who struggle with mental health disorders. Maybe women would speak up before it's too late. Know that women with PPD are not cold blooded murders, but women who have a chemical imbalance that cannot be controlled without medical intervention. We as women need to come together. If you see someone struggling, support them, listen to them, advocate for them if they cannot do it for themselves.
We are only as strong as the hands that hold us up.
I've not told Avery about any of this. Not because I don't want to have a discussion about mental health, but because I know it would break her heart to know I had those thoughts about her. I plan on talking to her about it once she is mature enough to listen without “feeling guilty.” I want her to realize I battled demons for her and would do it again. But mostly, I want an open dialogue about PPD, not just with her, but with all mothers and all women. Only then can we stop judging and instead start lifting each other up. I want women and mothers everywhere to know that depression isn't something to be embarrassed about.
Talk to your mother, sisters, cousins, friends. Talk to your doctor. Know you aren't alone, and seek out the women who will extend a hand to you and hold you up when you need it most.
Written by: Marta Breckenride