After I had my son, my life went dark. Even as a seasoned social worker trained to recognize mental health issues in others, I had no clue what was happening to me. My depression and anxiety were suddenly off the charts, I felt no love for my son, and I wanted to buy a one-way ticket somewhere -- anywhere -- and never come back. Because surely my husband and son would be better off without me.
To this day, my husband will say he had no idea how bad I was feeling -- because I never told him. I never told him I felt like I had made the biggest mistake of my life, I never told him I didn’t want our son, I never told him the overwhelming guilt and shame I felt for being such a horrible mother, I never told him I didn’t want to live anymore.
One of my greatest regrets during that period is that I didn’t tell my husband how I was feeling, I didn’t tell anyone, and I felt so, so alone.
My son was born 11 years ago, and over those 11 years, I have told anyone and everyone that will listen about my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety because I want everyone to know what it feels like and how common it is. One in 5 women suffer from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, and those are just the ones who come forward.
So how do you tell someone that you have Postpartum Depression? And why is it important?
1. Be honest.
It has been the norm to say "I'm fine!" when asked how you are doing, even if you are not. When someone asks you this question, it's ok to say "I'm really struggling," or "I don't feel like myself."
2. Identify someone you trust and can confide in.
It could be your partner, your mother, a friend, someone that you know takes you and your feelings seriously. Someone that won’t minimize your experience, and tell you it’s normal to feel this way or that it will go away on its own -- but will really HEAR you.
3. Talk to your pediatrician or OBGYN.
More and more doctors are beginning to screen for PPD because they recognize how common it is, and that there is a connection between a healthy and happy mommy and a healthy and happy baby.
4. Try not to rely on the media or online message boards for PPD education and support.
While some participants on message boards are well-meaning, there is also a lot of unfortunate mom judgment and shaming.
5. Don't wait.
In moderate to severe cases, postpartum depression (PPD) doesn’t go away without treatment, and can actually get worse over time. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you will feel better and start enjoying your experience as a mother.
If you think you have PPD - Call The Motherhood Center - 212.335.0034. We are here to tell you for sure if you have postpartum depression. And more importantly, if you do, we will provide the treatment you need to feel better. With the right treatment, EVERYONE feels better.
Paige Bellenbaum, LMSW is the Program Director at The Motherhood Center. After experiencing severe postpartum and depression after the birth of her son, once she got better she made it her plight to ensure that women would not have to suffer as she had. In 2016, she joined forces with The Motherhood Center founders, Dr. Catherine Birndorf and Billy Ingram, and together, with an excellent team of reproductive Psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and specialists, treatment for mild to severe PPD symptoms is available for pregnant and new moms that are suffering. And the good news is, with treatment - everyone feels better.