My Overcoming Journey: Postpartum Depression (PPD)
How is it possible that a woman who prides herself in being strong, motivational and perseverant could ever suffer from postpartum depression? Rationale would tell us it’s unlikely. But the life experiences shared by 1 in 10 mothers tell us a different story. Today, I am one of those mothers and I am sharing my story, not for pity. No, I’m telling it for the many mothers who struggle in silence because our society lacks a safe space for mothers to feel no judgment in revealing their truths. I want those mothers to know they are not alone. I also want to challenge those around new mothers to create a judgement-free environment for mothers to talk about symptoms openly. My hope is that you will find healing in my story, no matter what challenging journey you are on that currently feels like it’s going to break you...
Four months after Kalea’s birth, I hit my breaking point. After putting Kalea to bed one night, I went downstairs to grab a bite to eat. I sat alone in the dark, feeling lifeless. My husband came down a few minutes later and turned on the light. “Is everything OK?” he asked. “Yes,” I responded quickly.
“You’ve been acting differently. Do you want to talk about anything?” he kept pushing.
I stayed quiet for a long time and I could feel a rush of anxiety come over me.
“Fran, are you depressed?”
As soon as the words came out of his mouth, I began crying uncontrollably. I was gasping for air, my body was shaking, and all I wanted to do was crawl into a little hole where no one would find me. My husband wrapped his arms around me and stayed quiet. I had been in a similar place before years ago and I had promised myself never to go back. But here I was: a mother, a wife, a motivator, and a pastor feeling depressed.
And the worst part is, I felt guilty and ashamed...
I have everything I’ve ever wanted in life, I thought to myself. A happy marriage to my best friend, a beautiful and healthy daughter, a home that is my own, a great job, and the list goes on. I felt that out of all the women, I had no right to feel down and sad. But PPD is no exception of persons, and it is a reality that many women face alone due to the same feelings of guilt and shame.
After doctor visits and assessments, my doctor advised me to start physical therapy and prescribed additional vitamins. Little did I know that my vomiting, joint pains, migraines, inability to sleep and loss of interest in things I used to love doing all stemmed from my PPD. I remember leaving the doctor’s office and crying in the parking lot. How could this happen to me?
While I could have sulked in my misery and shame, I opted to do everything I could to win this battle. I relayed the doctor’s advice and my mission to get better to my husband. I later found the opportunity to tell my intimate circle of friends, who showered me and my husband with love and encouragement and promised to be with us every step of the way. I opened up to my manager at work, who graciously supported me during the months of therapy.
It’s been two months since I started my journey to recovery. With the help of prayer and faith, my support systems and health activity, and my world (my husband and Kalea), I can say that I have overcome and am overcoming every day! I’ve realized that true strength is not in staying silent and battling alone, but in being vulnerable enough to say to others, “I need your help; I can’t do this alone.” I believe that God places people around us so that in our most trying times, we can find strength in Him through others. If we are brave enough to reveal our hearts, they will hold us and carry us when we don’t have the strength to carry on.
Whatever your battle might be, remember that fighting alone does not make you stronger than those who fight in numbers. Don’t fight alone; vulnerability is not weakness. Your decision to be vulnerable could be the key to your breakthrough. Like the old African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”