I am one of those women.
You know the ones.
The ones that society pretty much ignores until something catastrophic happens and we end up on the news, the stories where everyone wonders what went wrong.
The ones that other people constantly tell to be happy, to enjoy this time, to just think positive, to be grateful for what we have.
The ones that make other people uncomfortable.
The ones that other people don't understand.
The ones that struggle enough with an internal dialogue, so much that the words of others just serve to reinforce what the voices in our heads are saying to us.
The ones misunderstood even by our doctors, the doctors that might ask us one time if we're okay as a passing part of an exam, usually in the same manner that they ask if we're still taking our vitamins as if that's good enough.
I'm one of those women fighting post partum depression every single day.
I'm one of those women that people condemn when something terrible happens, when they interview those closest to us and they all say that they had no idea that things were this bad or that there was no sign or that everything seemed fine from the outside.
They use words like crazy. Like homicidal. Like monster.
They don't know what it's like to be in my head.
There are women, so many women, just like me out there, fighting this beast back with a dull blade, exhausted and worn down. There is so little help out there, even less compassion and sympathy. What there is in ample supply is judgment.
She should have done this, she should have felt this. How could she (insert whatever here)?
I'd never do ______.
Our society is one that places the most extreme demands and expectations on mothers to be perfect at every single aspect of motherhood, from even before conception all the way through until our children are grown and raised. We have these impossible demands, these requirements that society imposes on us. To eat perfectly, to be pregnant ideally, to not suffer complications, to labor beautifully, to deliver naturally, to breastfeed easily, to bond immediately, to nurture constantly.
And we're all supposed to do it without help.
Without breaking under the pressure.
As much as this society of ours demands of us, places these unattainable expectations upon our shoulders, it expects us to be able to meet them almost always alone.
We don't support women the way that we should. We don't support new mothers. We schedule one postpartum visit six weeks after delivery and declare her healed just because the physical vessel has recovered.
What calls itself support out there is often judgment in disguise. Spend any time with any new group of moms and you'll know just what I mean. Instead of supporting one another, we are arguing, debating, judging, wagging fingers at each other, declaring what we would do in their shoes, insisting that we are right and they are wrong.
It isn't just society failing us, no.
We, as mothers, are failing each other.
Those of you out there who don't struggle with post partum mental conditions may be able to weather it, to let the words spoken by others to roll off your skin a little more easily.
Those of us who do struggle though, we may not always be able to do that. Our arms are tired from holding up the shield all the time. We are weary. We feel so alone. The words, they bite.
And we're afraid to talk to you about it, all you other mothers, because we're afraid you will judge us even more.
The ugly truth is that we only ever see maternal mental health in the news, on television, when it has reached a point of critical mass, when something horrific has happened.
That mother, the one being called a monster now, she needed help months or years prior. She needed a village, but what she got instead was a raging mob after the fact.
The portrayals on television, in movies, the stories of crisis in the news, they mislead. They paint an unfair picture of those of us who struggle because they only ever show the worst case scenario down the road. They don't show the mother who hasn't showered in three days, the one who stares at her screaming newborn across the room because she doesn't know how to make the baby stop crying. They don't show the woman curled up in a ball on the shower floor. They don't show the woman giving every reason under the sun to avoid leaving her house, justifying her isolation because she just can't do it. They don't show the woman who wants to tell her doctor that something is wrong, but holds back in that moment out of fear.
We need to do better, as a society, as women, as mothers. We need to take better care of ourselves and each other.
To do that, we need to admit that this happens far more often than most people realize. Then we need to confront the fact that most of what we believe about post partum depression is wrong. We need to understand that the images we are fed are misleading.
Postpartum depression looks like me.
We need to have an open dialogue about these conditions, what they are really like for most of us, instead of only believing that they need to be addressed when we go off the rails. We need to be supported instead of judged, and we need it long before it gets to that point.
We need to not be fed misinformation on the screen, misinformation that only serves to perpetuate the stigma.
There are far more of us crying on the floor in the shower than there ever will be who end up in those horrific news stories. We need a society that understands that, that doesn't think the extremes are indicative of what most of us experience, that doesn't judge us and call us names. We need a society that encourages us to get the help that we need, that encourages all women to speak out about the battles they fight, that doesn't make us believe we have to do this alone.
My name is Kelly. I am a mother of five. I have post partum depression. I struggle every single day.
I am one of those women.
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