When I first became depressed and anxious after my oldest daughter was born four years ago, I kept it bottled up inside – but its devastating effects on me were all too visible anyway. I wasn’t eating, couldn’t sleep, was mute and crying at the smallest instigation – and I thought I was all alone. Forever.
The first time I felt not alone, despite having been surrounded by family since my daughter was born, was a few weeks in when my husband said, “I think you need to see someone.” I nodded silently with tears streaming down my cheeks as I rocked in our glider while feeding Rebecca, one of the many tasks I apathetically completed during that time. I suddenly felt like perhaps he understood that something going on inside my brain was not right, and felt it start to shift the slightest bit.
Finding my therapist was the next step out of the lonely dark. During our first phone conversation, she made a point to let me know that nothing I had said to her was something she hadn’t heard before. That immediately had an impact – I wasn’t the first person to not be flooded with love for their baby? I wasn’t the first person to not want to take care of their baby? I wasn’t the first person to cry at and feel paralyzed by every parenting decision I had to make? Yet another small mental shift occurred.
After she diagnosed me and while I waited for my medicine to kick in, I found Postpartum Progress. The patient forum. The blog. The symptom list that sounded exactly like what I was experiencing. And while still alone in my apartment, I knew I wasn’t alone anymore. These moms were putting words to the exact feelings in my heart and thoughts in my head, and even more importantly? They were better. They were Warrior Moms, and now I was one too, fighting the battle against my own maternal mental health. That was the biggest shift of all. Until now.
This past weekend, I met more than 100 of these moms in Boston at the Warrior Mom Conference. I hugged them in real life. I talked with women who had the same symptoms I did, some who suffered more devastating setbacks than me, and some who recovered more quickly than I am. Each conversation that we had, at a table during a meal or just in the hallway in passing was loaded with love, light and understanding. There was so much healing going on in the St. Botolph Club that there was no room for judgement – not that any of us is in the position to judge another anyway.
Women nodded with each other as they divulged memories and cried. Tissue boxes were passed up and down rows of seats and emptied quickly. Hugs were handed out freely. The ripple effects of cathartic panel discussions, a group therapy session and small support groups could be felt constantly – and amid the sniffles and blowing of – ahem – Warrior Snot (to be trademarked soon), laughter also prevailed. Smiles were present almost constantly, as personal burdens were shed and women emerged lighter, happier and more whole. The power of this support was undeniable.
The closed Facebook group for Warrior Mom Conference attendees has been a special place since it was created. Attendees chimed in to share excitement, sign up for different parts of the Conference, transfer tickets as needed and more for months. As a virtual pre-conference icebreaker, many of us created introduction videos telling our stories, allowing us to put voices to each others’ profile pictures. And in the days leading up to the event, the group was a buzzing hive of activity where we shared anxiety, excitement, memes and fashion tips. I wasn’t sure what would happen to the Facebook group after the Conference, but – it has only gotten busier. The healing that began last weekend is continuing as we speak, through the power of support.
None of us are alone – a fact we knew as soon as we found Postpartum Progress, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt now. So despite how lonely any person suffering may feel, know that there is an entire family of Warrior Moms armed with love, light and understanding, just waiting to welcome you – to help you through this tunnel and out the other side – and to support you the entire way. As a Warrior Mom, let me make it abundantly clear – you are NEVER alone.
Lesley Neadel is a blogger and freelance writer living in Hoboken, NJ. A mother of Rebecca, 4 ½, and Lila, 10 months, her mission is to give women the most real sense of what pregnancy and motherhood are like – the good, the bad, and the downright nasty. She has written about her struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety, how she’s changed since meeting her husband, her adventures in attempting to breastfeed and how she feels about her babies growing up (HOORAY!). Her raw, honest and often humorous writing has been featured on Yahoo! Parenting, GoodHousekeeping.com, Redbook.com, and MommyPlayZone.com. She blogs at www.RealLifeRealLaughter.com.