I want you to meet my friend Kate — you’ll love her! She’s my go-to gal for trading toddler war stories during a morning walk, reminiscing about our kid-free days over a glass of wine, and I can always count on a Tuesday morning post-carpool call from her to recount every detail from last night’s episode of The Bachelor (puh-leez, Arie!). I love that she’s thoughtful about how she parents her kiddos but doesn’t take it too seriously. She’ll be the first to crack a joke about her yoga pants smelling like three-day-old breastmilk or her four-figure Chick-fil-A budget. Honestly, she’s that dependably positive friend that’s always there to remind me I’ve got this momming thing.
What You Don’t Know About Kate
Once the kids are in bed, after the dishes are washed (or, let’s be real, the wrappers tossed in the trash), while her husband is on his laptop the living room, Kate curls up on her bed, pulls her t-shirt over her head, and cries. No, she doesn’t just cry, she wails. Why? If you asked her, she might tell you it’s because she’s a bad mom. She may say it’s because she’s so worn out. More likely than not, she will be so paralyzed by her pain, she won’t be able to tell you why. The answer is something she may not even know.
What she does know is that she aches from the inside out. She spends all day struggling to hold all the pieces together. The smallest thing — a friend’s happy birthday wish a day late or the thought of her child being seriously hurt — can send her spiraling into the thought that the whole world would be better off without her. Getting out of bed and climbing Mt. Everest have a lot in common these days.
When we went for our walk earlier, she was all smiles. Around dinner time, she even sent me a video of her baby dipping his blueberries into CFA sauce and loving it (gross, but adorable). Kate seems fine. In fact, Kate seems better than fine. She’s the one who has curled lashes and kids who say, “Excuse me,” while I’m still walking around with oatmeal stains on my shirt and my kids’ behavior lands somewhere between Tasmanian devil and human hurricane.
So, what’s the deal?
The Silent Terror of PPD
Kate has postpartum depression (PPD). Kate knows she has postpartum depression. Kate is getting treatment for postpartum depression. Kate is still daily dealing with the struggle that comes with postpartum depression.
A woman does not present postpartum depression like she would many other debilitating illnesses. She still looks the same, she still interacts with people in a way that would give little to no indication that something is seriously wrong.
And the worst part? She doesn’t tell some of her closest friends because she doesn’t want to be a bummer. It doesn’t seem fair. It’s not fair. But that’s Kate.
Confession . . .
In case you hadn’t guessed it, I was Kate. Well, the way less cool, slightly less pulled together version of Kate. This was my life for a year. Through counseling, medication, and a ton of support, I am on the other side. (Although it should be said that “the other side” looks nothing like where I started.) 🙂
A Call to Action
First of all, if you think you might have postpartum depression, please seek help immediately. If you are having any suicidal thoughts (“I would never hurt myself, but my family would be better off without me” counts), please seek help immediately.
Here is a website with some PPD facts. If you are having, or you have recently had, any suicidal thoughts, please reach out to your practitioner or call a hotline for immediate help. Here are two:
- National Hopeline Network :: 1-800-273-8255
- Crisis Text Line :: text 741741 (while your kids are running amok)
Here is my very tough request, and if I may be so bold, I am going to make a big ask. To those of us who have been through it, who may be on the other side, or who might be right in the middle of it, chin-deep in our own tears, please start talking about it. There is so much shame and misunderstanding about PPD and it looks different on everyone. (Does anyone remember Brooke Shields on The Oprah Winfrey Show?) Sharing our stories — as uncomfortable as it is — will begin to lift some of the fog around this debilitating issue.
This is a based-on-a-true-story retelling of my own experience. PPD looks different on everyone and can manifest in many different ways. It likely will not look like Kate’s experience. If you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing PPD, please reach out to a professional immediately.
I want to include something in here about supporting mamas who you have no idea are struggling, but I have no idea how to do it. So, will you tell me if you’ve been a supporter of someone who’s walked through this? How did you help?
For those of you that have experienced PPD, what helped you recover?
To those of you who continue on to share your story — you are so brave. To those of you who continue on to consider your own journey and choose not to share it yet — you are so brave. And to those of you who continue on to click refresh and wait to gain hope for yourself as you learn about others’ stories . . . you are so brave. No matter what is right for you in this moment, please know that bravery lies in your persistence, in your never giving up on yourself, in your continuing on.