I've written a bit about them here before, though not in too much detail. I don't go into the details so much for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I'm still very much dealing with PPD on a daily basis and paying too much attention to the details tends to send me into a spiral.
My form of PPD is closely tied to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have intrusive thoughts. Essentially what that means for me is that my brain is really good at imagining injuries that could happen to the baby. Sometimes in my head, usually in my head, I'm the one hurting him. Sometimes in my head, his injuries are the result of a horrific accident or trauma. Sometimes in my head, the harms come to him from other people.
It's really fucked up. There's no way to sugar coat it.
The thing about this particular form of PPD is that it almost never results in a mother perpetrating harm to her child, we are just stuck in this world where we're constantly imagining things happening to them.
I don't talk much, if at all, about the things I see in my head because they're so disturbing that I don't want to even speak them aloud. I tend to do better when I'm intentionally distracted. The quiet moments are generally the ones where the visions come more frequently.
I've been asked by some people to advocate more than I already do on behalf of maternal mental health issues. I will. I have done so in the past. I just can't right now.
I spent almost an entire year of my daughter's life avoiding stairs. I stopped driving mountain roads for a while after I saw myself driving the car off a cliff.
I have never harmed any of my children, although the truth is that this condition has kept me home probably more than it should. I tend to hide in my hole more than I should because I know it is safe here. There are not so many unknowns if I keep things close. The unknowns are more likely to weasel their way into my brain and turn themselves into intrusive thoughts.
Anyway, you might be wondering why I am writing this right now.
I'm writing this because a high profile celebrity mom, Hayden Panatierre, has just checked herself into a therapy center for post partum depression. As is par the course for the internet, it seems that everyone has an opinion about her right now, and because of the wonder that is social media, everyone feels compelled to share them.
Here's my opinion.
If you've never dealt with this condition and you are criticizing her (or any mother out there who deals with it), shut the hell up.
That seemed harsh, I know.
God, that was harsh.
Here's the thing, though....it's hell. Truly hell to deal with, and until and unless you've been in this dark, messed up place, you really don't know what you're criticizing.
When you have a baby, people expect you to be happy and self-sufficient and blissful and content, they expect you to only have positive thoughts and energy about the child you've brought into this world. They expect and demand that you bond immediately, that you change everything about your life to accommodate this person who needs everything from you. Not only that, but in this fucked up society we live in, mothers are supposed to be perfect. You're supposed to have a beautiful, easy, unmedicated labor with a healthy child who eagerly nurses without incident. You're supposed to make every choice after diligent planning and research. You're not supposed to express any sadness or emotion other than pure love. Oh...and we expect you to do all that without help. You're on your own, mom. Society doesn't have time to actually help you out or give you time to heal. Nope. You'd better get back into those jeans in 6 weeks and not ever look tired, because GOD KNOWS IF YOU LOOK TIRED, SOMEONE WILL TELL YOU.
Then they'll offer some extremely unhelpful and unsolicited advice about all the things they think you're doing wrong.
And maybe, for some lucky women out there, motherhood looks like that. I have to assume that they exist, even if I've never known any of them. We're all expected to compare ourselves to these fictional happy, healthy, stable, fit mothers. Maybe there are some out there. There must be, right?
It just isn't realistic for most of us.
And for some of us, PPD sneaks in and whispers in our ears. Tells us that we are failing, that we are broken, that we are weak. It plays these evil movies in our minds about the things we might do, the harms that might come. The anxiety creeps in, the depression takes hold.
And none of that, not one single bit of it, makes us bad mothers.
It just means that we need help.
I've needed help. I still need help. I have to actively seek out ways to benefit my mental health, and I have to do it because I know that if I don't, a long, dark, scary path calls my name.
Hayden needs help. She is seeking it.
That doesn't make her weak, no. Not even close.
It makes her strong and brave and powerful. It means that she is doing what is necessary for her to be there for her child. She is doing what is required for her sanity.
And she's doing it in public, before a world full of criticism and judgment at a situation they can't possibly understand.
Unless they've been there.
And those of us who have been there, who are there now, we are clapping for her, chanting her name, lifting her up.
What she is doing, and how she is doing it so openly, will help countless women out there in the world right now trapped in their own heads feeling like there is something really wrong, but who are afraid to ask for help, who are afraid to tell someone.
If you are suffering from PPD, you are not alone. Please get help. Talk to someone. Reach out.
There's a whole bunch of us out here, fighting the demons in our heads, promising ourselves and our children that we're doing what we need to in order to get well and stay there. We're here. Talk.
Much love, Hayden.
You got this, mama.
If you or someone you love could be suffering from post partum depression, please seek help. The symptoms vary in severity from person to person, are more severe than with the baby blues, last longer and can surface months, weeks (or even years) after a child is born. On occasion, PPD can be triggered by weaning after breastfeeding as well.
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you're not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide