“Depression is not a sign of weakness. It means you have been strong for far too long.” ~Lifehack
Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Bing, Youtube, Snapchat, etc. So many ways to get and share information. Thus it is that I saw a really heartbreaking snippet from a new mom who appears to be at her breaking point.
She was complaining that her husband is not helping her, and she stated he makes matters worse by continuing to do his own thing (such as going for a work out,) and by undoing the cleaning and picking up she had just done. It made me want to reach through the screen and give her a hug and a shoulder to cry on.
Also I wanted to tell her “Don’t just talk about it here, go tell your husband how you feel, and what you need!” In truth, I believe in addition to venting, she is (subconsciously) punishing him by publicly shaming him for failing to see her, to see that she is drowning in a sea of misery, anxiety, exhaustion, fear, anger and resentment. She speculated about postpartum depression, but didn’t come right out and say she is depressed (I too can only speculate about her emotional state.)
Also, do forgive me but, before I go on to talk about PPD (Postpartum Depression,) I must point out the importance of calling Postpartum Depression what it is. One does not ”have Postpartum.” The first time a young mom said she “Had Postpartum” I didn’t understand what she meant, so she explained by saying, “You know, depression?” Postpartum is a state of being, a term of a woman’s life after having her baby. “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.
Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.” Postpartum Depression is depression suffered by a mother following childbirth. To reiterate, a woman who is depressed after having a baby does not “have Postpartum.” She has Postpartum Depression.
Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum TSD. All illnesses that have probably been around for as long as there have been postpartum women. All can be debilitating, and at worst can develop into postpartum psychosis or lead to suicide.
Unfortunately, I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety with all three of my children. Although in retrospect I have found one positive aspect of my awful experience. It’s allowed me to understand and try to help moms who are living it. One piece of wisdom I’d like to share about dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety is that communication is absolutely crucial.
You hope and expect that someone (particularly your husband, your partner) who is close to you will see you’re going through something, and they will ask “What’s wrong?” However, it’s most likely that they won’t. It’s best to assume that unless you open up and talk about what it is you are feeling, living, it’s unlikely people around you will bring it up to you, even if they suspect something is wrong.
Of course I can say that now, having lived through the experience of not communicating. I didn’t tell my husband, or anyone else, about my feelings because I honestly believed that surely he would be, should be, able to see that something was wrong! Well, he didn’t, and I became more miserable and less inclined or able to communicate my concerns.
It’s not because he’s insensitive or uncaring that he didn’t catch on. It was because he was in the “man of the house” mode. Going to work, and working to ensure his family’s financial security. He did his best to help with getting the children fed and bathed and off to bed, but I hated asking him to help as I felt guilty that he, having worked all day, had to help me, “the stay at home mom.”
Sadly, it didn’t even become clear to me until many many years later how I had been deluding myself about my role. Perhaps if I had given myself more credit I would have been able to express my feelings openly. Stay at home mom does not equal “non working mom.” I worked hard, I was the one making, (or rather trying to make,) our house a home. A place for my husband to come home to, and recharge before going back to work, a nest where our children could grow and thrive.
I was the homemaker, his helpmeet, in strong, independent woman mode, taking care of our baby, and later, babies. I was also miserable but by damn, I was going to be the best helpmeet he ever saw. Just as good as my mom and his mom, if not better!
In reality I was miserable, but because I didn’t say anything, he thought I was tired or had another migraine or was experiencing a worse than usual degree of PMS (I later learned I actually had *PMDD.)
As illogical as it was, I was angry with him. I kept silent, waiting and waiting for him to see me, to really see me, and not the facade I was all too successfully hiding behind.
I should have told my husband or family or a friend how I felt, physically, mentally, emotionally but so many things got in the way. Feeling ashamed for “being weak,” for not being grateful for all the good things in my life, for feeling resentful about the situation I was in, held me back.
As a result the cauldron of my mixed emotions threatened to boil over countless times throughout the day. I had to try to control myself and put everyone else first, but then I felt vengeful and angry. My postpartum depression manifested itself as sheer, uncontrollable rage.
My thoughts ran wild, my perception was skewed, I was totally unbalanced. Those feelings, that state of imbalance, led me to hold my negative feelings close to my heart, so that my misery spilled over onto my husband. It was a way of punishing and hurting him for something that wasn’t even his fault. Much to my everlasting regret, our children got caught in the crossfire.
Eventually, after years of suffering, I realized I needed to get help. So I did. And we got through those rough times. Sadly we all, my husband, my kids, myself, bear the scars of my battle with anxiety and postpartum depression, which eventually became a permanent state of depression that I must to cope with every single day. Thank goodness I have access to healthcare and medication to treat my depression and anxiety!
So please, please, if anyone who is reading this is in the same situation, please reach out for help. As hard as it may be, speak up, because you can’t assume that your partner, your family, your friends will recognize what you’re going through.
For anyone who may suspect that a mom is suffering from depression and anxiety, as intimidating as it may feel, try to approach the person about whom you’re concerned. It’s a delicate subject, and you don’t need to say much. Just “I’m concerned about you, is there anything you want to talk about, or is there something I can do to help?” would be sufficient.
If you’re not comfortable speaking with her directly, consider approaching someone who is close to her.
Children are profoundly impacted by postpartum depression. Mom needs to be healthy and content in order to take care of her children. Loving them, making sure they’re cared for isn’t enough to make up for having a mother who is battling depression, (which is also often accompanied by physical symptoms.)
Everyone suffers alongside mom. Also, dads can also have postpartum depression but sadly most don’t recognize it or acknowledge that something is wrong, for the same reasons I stated above. Also it is not as well known, and it’s rarely talked about.
If you are suffering postpartum depression and/or anxiety, talk about it. Get help, in whatever form that help might be, from talking to someone who cares about you and will you listen to you, to professional counseling and possibly, medication. Get help so you can take back your joy.
Disclaimer: Please be advised that while I am an RN, I do not have extensive formal training in recognizing postpartum depression and/or anxiety. Having worked with expectant and new moms for my entire 19 year career as an RN, I have observed countless moms and learned first hand about the signs and symptoms of depression. As well, I am speaking from personal experience. I want to reiterate that it’s crucial to communicate one’s feelings and seek professional help in order to get the help one needs.
*PMDD, Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, is commonly defined as an endocrine disorder, meaning that it is a hormone-related disorder. But as well as physical symptoms, people with PMDD also experience a range of different mental health symptoms such as depression and suicidal feelings.” https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd/#.XcJP6i2ZNN0
Some resources for getting help: