Dark - Darkness.
Those are some of the words people threw back at me on my Facebook Page and Twitter when I asked them to play word association with Postpartum Depression. Most people have two images in their head of what Postpartum Depression (PPD) looks like. The listless sad mother, unkept, sitting in the dark crying, unable to do anything. Or the cold faced pychopath that did the unthinkable to herself and or her children.
I have had PPD with all four of my children and while on some days I may fit the first image more often than not I just came off as a angry bitch with a short fuse.
Yep, on top of being sad and depressed and having scary intrusive thoughts I was angry. Want to feel like a really bad mom? Just have your temper flare up and get angry at a newborn. Yep, sometimes my baby's cry would make me shake with anger. Why wasn't anything working? What was I doing wrong? Why won't you sleep!
PPD is a tricky beast. It's a shape shifter that changes you and changes in you. Sometimes it's scary and dark and sometimes it's sad and weepy. Postpartum depression looks like the mom next door. The mom with the frazzled hair who maybe snaps at her kindergartner getting out of the car or gives a scowling look to her partner. It also looks like the mom who has it all together and shows up smiling dressed and showered at a school event two weeks postpartum. I've been both, and that mom that looked totally put together? She could barely get out of the house because of the anxiety on her chest. While she stood there smiling her heart was beating out of her chest and she was digging her nails into the palm of her hand.
Every few months a story comes out that pushes PPD into mainstream news. A horrible tragedy or a celebrity who tweets something about being blue, and suddenly everyone is talking about it and making speculations.
While many times these stories make me cringe as the tend to reinforce stereotypes. The good thing is that it forces people to talk about it, think about it, have it in their conscious. It's cliche, but the more you know about PPD the better prepared you are to get help, to tell someone. According to JAMA Psychiatry, 1 out of every 7 mothers (14%) will get it. Postpartum Progress sites an Australian study that puts it closer to 20%.
What I know is that moms are struggling.
I struggle, my friends struggle and every time I write about my struggles someones says 'me too'. Yet we are afraid to talk about it to each other, afraid to tell our doctors, friends and spouses.
So I keep putting it out there. I keep talking about it and telling others it's okay. Motherhood will change you, and that's okay. However if after six weeks you are still feeling really off, talk to someone! Too many moms are suffering and too many moms are dying.
Melissa is mom to 4 kids and 2 angels. She chronicles the sticky bits of motherhood at Peanut Butter in my Hair.
See more of Melissa's stories here.