Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Submit Your Story for New Postpartum Anthology

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postpartum depression storiesApproximately 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression after having a baby. Many more may experience depression during pregnancy, postpartum anxiety, OCD, and more. Postpartum depression is in fact the most common pregnancy-related complication, more widespread than gestational diabetes, preterm labor, or pre-eclampsia. Yet confusion and misinformation about postpartum depression and anxiety are still widespread. Myths surrounding mothers’ mental health challenges can have devastating effects on women’s well-being as well as their identities as mothers, too often leading to shame and inadequate treatment. Although postpartum and antenatal depression and anxiety are temporary when treated, untreated mood disorders can lead to long-term consequences for both a mother and her child. A mother can feel very alone, ashamed, and hopeless. And keep silent.

Mothering Through the Darkness: Stories of Postpartum Struggles will be a unique anthology with the goal of breaking that silence. With this collection of essays, the HerStories Project will try to dispel these myths and focus on the diversity of women’s experiences through the voices of mothers themselves. Mothering Through the Darkness will be the third book published by HerStories, which has already published The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain & Power of Female Friendship and My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing & Leaving Friends (to be released on September 15th).

The HerStories Project is thrilled to be partnering with and supporting Postpartum Progress with Mothering Through the Darkness. Ten percent of the profits from the sales of the book will go toward the nonprofit organization’s mission of supporting maternal mental health.

For this anthology they now have opened submissions and are seeking unpublished, first-person essays from mothers about their experiences with postpartum depression, anxiety, or other mental health struggles during or after pregnancy. They’re looking for well-crafted, true accounts that explore and examine aspects of this experience. Submissions must feature a strong and compelling narrative. They’re looking for well-written prose, rich detail, and a strong, distinctive voice.

Essays submitted for the book and the HerStories Writing Contest (learn more about the contest below) will be judged by the editors of the HerStories Project, as well as several talented writers listed below whose lives as mothers or as clinicians have been affected by postpartum depression and anxiety. Essays will be judged on their emotional power, originality, and quality of their prose.

Guidelines

Previously unpublished and between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Please also submit a short bio of 50-100 words, including whether you’ve appeared in other publications.

Deadline

December 1, 2014

The Writing Contest

Your submission to Mothering Through the Darkness can be, if you choose, simultaneously entered into the first HerStories Project Writing Contest. The HerStories Project will award $500 to one submission for Best Essay and $100 to two runners-up. All three essays will be published in the book, and each winner will receive a paperback copy.

To cover the costs of sponsoring the contest, they are asking for a $10 reading fee with your submission. If this fee presents a financial hardship in any way that would otherwise prevent you from submitting an essay, they will waive this fee and this will not affect the status of your entry. Again, you do not need to enter the Writing Contest to submit to the Mothering Through the Darkness book.

Writing Contest Judges

Katrina Alcorn is the author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink. She is a writer and a design consultant. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and documentary filmmaking from UC Berkeley and blogs at WorkingMomsBreak.com.

Lisa Belkin is the Senior National Correspondent for Yahoo News. Previously she has held staff positions at the New York Times and The Huffington Post. She is the author of three books, including Life’s Work: Confessions of An Unbalanced Mom, and the editor of two anthologies.

Julia Fierro is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she recently published her first novel, Cutting Teeth, an Oprah Pick of the Week.

Kate Hopper is the author of Ready for Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. Kate holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Sustainable Arts Grant. She teaches classes and holds retreats for mother writers.

Lindsey Mead is a corporate headhunter with an MBA from Harvard who also writes for her popular blog, A Design So Vast. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies

Jessica Zucker, PhD is a psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. A consultant to PBS’ This Emotional Life and the Every Mother Counts campaign with Christy Turlington, she has been a contributor to NPR and is currently writing her first book for Routledge on maternal attachment

How To Submit

Click here to submit your essay for consideration. For more information, visit the HerStories Project website.

 

Photo credit: © tashatuvango – Fotolia.com

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New York Times’ Biased Reporting On Antidepressants And Pregnancy Hurts Moms

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On September 1st, the New York Times published a misleading and irresponsible article on antidepressants and pregnancy: Possible Risks of Antidepressants to Newborns. It was published in print on September 2 as well with the headline “Pills May Put Babies At Risk,” though if you read the article there’s no “may” about it, but instead lots of research showing children of moms who take SSRIs are probably in very big trouble. Below in its entirety is a response to the article put together by Postpartum Support International. I’m sharing it in full at their request.

We write on behalf of Postpartum Support International (PSI), the leading organization dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood disorders, and to educating families, friends, and healthcare providers so that pregnant and postpartum women can get the support they need to recover.

As a group, we are deeply concerned by Roni Caryn Rabin’s inaccurate and dangerously biased piece in the New York Times’ Well blog on September 01, 2014:  http://nyti.ms/1no0Boy.  Her article is likely to foster unnecessary fear among women who struggle with mood disorders who plan to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are in the postpartum period. The implication that women idly choose to start or to remain on antidepressants, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), or any other medication during pregnancy is insulting and demeaning. Women who, under a healthcare provider’s care, choose to remain on medication do so to counter moderate to severe depression or anxiety symptoms that would otherwise render them functionally impaired.

Rather than refuting the Rabin piece line by line, we will simply address the key inaccuracies. Please refer to the PSI website at http://www.postpartum.net for further information and for resources and referral options for those suffering from perinatal and postpartum mood disorders in the U.S. and other countries.

The author has chosen to cherry pick studies to support her misguided, inaccurate hypothesis, and ignored studies that failed to find increased risks associated with SSRI use in pregnancy. Rabin failed to quote any reproductive psychiatrists, who specialize in this field and work on a daily basis with women suffering from various mood disorders before, during, and after pregnancy. Instead, she chooses to quote a non-physician, Dr. Mintzes, who lacks the psychopharmacologic training and experience necessary to make such global claims. Statements made by Dr. Mintzes are inaccurate and amount to fear mongering.

In terms of the assertion that fetal exposure to SSRIs increases the risk of birth defects, including but not limited to cardiac defects, this is an antiquated and now disproven theory. There are many highly reputable studies that have failed to find any associated risk. Every pregnancy has a 3-5% risk of resulting in major malformation, and study after study has failed to find any increased risk of such major malformations after exposure to any SSRI.

Regarding Rabin’s assertion that SSRIs result in cardiac problems in infants, studies have found that there is no relationship. One study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2008 followed over a thousand women. The findings were that there was no increased risk of heart defects associated with Paxil. A recent large scale study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June of this year concluded that the results of this large, population-based cohort study suggested “no substantial increase in the risk of cardiac malformations attributable to antidepressant [including Paxil] used during the first trimester.” (Funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes of Health – Huybrechts et al. NEJM June 2014)

Furthermore, the FDA warning that was initially posted in 2005 regarding risk of cardiac defects associated with Paxil exposure in utero has not been changed despite the FDA recanting the warning in other press releases.

Ms. Rabin also quotes a Norwegian study by Skurtveit and suggests it is a definitive finding regarding language acquisition deficits in three year olds as a result of long term SSRI use in pregnancy. However, upon close reading of this paper, it is apparent that the findings are anything but certain. Instead, only 386 of 51,748 women surveyed (0.7%) used SSRIs during pregnancy, and of these, only 161 reported long-term use. This is a very small number of women and the results were marginal at best.  Forming any conclusions regarding SSRIs during pregnancy is dangerous and inappropriate.

Another risk referred to in the article is Poor Neonatal Adaptation Syndrome. A small minority of babies experience self-limited symptoms of PNAS following in-utero exposure to SSRIs. To equate those rare cases to the withdrawal of babies from addictive substances taken by drug-abusing mothers is misguided and dangerously misleading and reveals a bias in the author.

The PNAS and Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) study from 2006 quoted in the piece as definitive has been followed subsequently by many other studies that have clarified the risk to be quite small and not significant enough to warrant stopping necessary medication.

There are further inaccuracies reported in Rabin’s piece. The risk of prematurity from exposure to SSRIs in utero is minimal at best. Studies found that mothers taking SSRIs might deliver one week early, which is still considered full term.  Women are routinely under-treated for depression and anxiety during pregnancy as a result of unfounded fears, such as the ones propagated by Rabin’s article. Anxiety and depression can cause an early labor.

In terms of the risk of neurodevelopmental delays and autism as a result of SSRI exposure, there have been many studies that fail to show such associations. The research consistently finds that any potential increased risk is based primarily on the underlying psychiatric illness being treated, not from the medications directly.

While multiple ‘risks’ of exposure to SSRIs were highlighted in Rabin’s article, the well-established and repeatedly documented true risks associated with fetal exposure to untreated depression and anxiety were systematically glossed over. Depression during pregnancy increases the risk of prematurity 2-3 fold. Depression and anxiety during pregnancy also profoundly increase the risk of postpartum depression, which may have profound negative effects on both the baby’s and any siblings’ development (Pilowsky et al 2008).

In contrast to this poorly researched, biased article that fails to inform accurately, the New York Times effectively documented the potentially devastating consequences for mother, baby, and family from under-treated peripartum and postpartum illnesses in the series of articles released in June 2014 by Pam Belluck.

As an organization comprised of clinicians, researchers, families, and advocates who strive to help women, babies and families, the Postpartum Support International community is profoundly disappointed in the New York Times’ biased and inaccurate reporting. Women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders must be supported, and treated, not shamed. No clinician prescribes any medication in pregnancy without an appreciation that the risks of the untreated illness are far greater than any risk associated with medication being prescribed. Women rarely choose to take medication during pregnancy if they can avoid doing so; however, pregnancy is hard on its own, and pregnancy for women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can be painful beyond words.

There is no excuse for such reporting that clearly seeks to dissuade women from getting the treatment they require. There are horrible stories in the news regularly that document the risks of untreated perinatal illness for mom and her children. Why these inexplicably sad outcomes cannot be seen as a reason for treatment is truly beyond comprehension.

Yes, risks exist from exposure to SSRIs in pregnancy. However, these risks must be put in context and compared fairly with the potential devastating effects of untreated maternal illness. Such a risk versus benefit analysis occurs daily among women, their partners, and clinicians. Rather than condemning the choices made, it is about time for society to support these women and show compassion for the painful ordeal they are experiencing by virtue of suffering from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.

Ann D. S. Smith, CNM, PSI President

Carly Snyder, MD, PSI Research Chair

Catherine Birndorf, MD, PSI President’s Advisory Council

Adrienne Einarson, RN, Reproductive Psychiatry Group Founder

Editor’s note: The original version of this letter as it was submitted to us and published stated that Dr. Urato is not a not a physician. This is incorrect. The letter meant to state that Dr. Mintzes is not a physician, and has now been corrected to reflect that. 

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You Can’t Tell A Mom Has Postpartum Depression By Looking

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You can’t tell when a mother has postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD or PTSD just by looking at her. People assume it should be fairly obvious, except it isn’t. We can get pretty good at hiding how we are feeling and what we are thinking. So to all the people who say, “But you look great!” and to all the physicians who say, “I don’t need to screen. I just know when my patients need help,” I say look at these faces. Look at them closely and then read their words. This is what maternal mental illness looks like. THIS.

adrienne postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering through severe postpartum depression. You can’t tell by looking, but just hours before this picture was taken, I tried to kill myself. I had been sobbing for two weeks. An hour after this picture was taken, I got up on stage and performed for a church talent show like everything was fine.” ~ Adrienne Feldmann

Morgan postpartum anxiety

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. You can’t tell by looking, but I was going through crippling self-loathing, constant systemic panic attacks that ravaged my digestive system, and a lack of desire to live.” ~ Morgan Shanahan

addye postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression and severe anxiety. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt like a horrible mother. I had been suicidal a few months prior. I was having racing & intrusive thoughts, experiencing moments of rage I couldn’t explain  or understand, constantly sweating from anxiety, having at least one panic attack daily, and found myself stuck in gravity wells of sadness every few days that made just getting out of bed painful and exhausting.” ~ A’Driane Nieves

kim postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering postpartum depression and anxiety. Not long after this I made a suicide plan that I was too scared to follow through with. I experienced rage, loss of interest in everything, extremely low self esteem, panic attacks, and a complete inability to make basic decisions (like what to eat, or how to get two kids in the car).” ~ Kim LaPrairie

robin postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression rage. You can’t tell by looking, but I was extremely irritable and every little thing set me off. I yelled constantly and threw things (like laundry baskets) against the wall to keep myself from hitting my kids. It was like I was watching myself react badly to every day situations, without the ability to stop myself.” ~ Robin Macfarlane

lindsay postpartum depression

“When this photo was taken at my brother’s college graduation, I still hadn’t been diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety, but I had already been shamed by a doctor who told me what was wrong with me was my fault. I wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t connecting with my husband, would have moments of rage, and had constant headaches and tingling in my extremities (a rare symptom.) You can’t tell by looking, but the only thing I felt like I could do right was breastfeed my son; not my job, not being a wife, a coworker, daughter, sister, or friend … nothing.” ~ Lindsay Maloan

alena1

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from PPD. You can’t tell by looking, but I was self harming and trying to manage deep depression and intense rage.” ~ Alena Chandler

raivon postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt like my life was spiraling out of control. I was trying my best to smile and hide my pain from the world. I thought If I just tried hard enough maybe I could convince myself that I wasn’t sad — that the pain was all in my head.” ~ Raivon Lee

megan postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering with postpartum anxiety and depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I was struggling through every day with scary, intrusive thoughts, anxiety about keeping my children safe, and was feeling depressed and inadequate as a mother.” ~ Megan Daley

darcie postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken, I was suffering from severe postpartum anxiety, OCD and PTSD. My first was 18 months and my youngest was 2 months old. You can’t tell by looking, but I was suffering from multiple panic attacks daily, thoughts of harming myself, severe physical symptoms such as heart racing, nausea, tremors, and all over body aches. My husband was deploying and I was trying my best to keep it together, to remain strong for the both of us and our two young boys.” ~ Darcie Jones

hannah postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD. You can’t tell by looking, but I was going through hell.  I wished that I was dead so that I didn’t have to live like this anymore. I thought my girls would be better off without me. I cried all the time. I had horrible thoughts about hurting my baby so I didn’t like to be around her, and my family took care of her for about six weeks. It was awful. I WAS MISERABLE.  I wouldn’t wish this illness on ANYONE.” ~ Hannah Stearley

alicia childbirth trauma

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum PTSD from childbirth trauma. You can’t tell by looking but I was having vivid flashbacks of my labor and delivery, crying every time I was alone and struggling with guilt of feeling like I didn’t love my baby as much as her older sister. I thought I was going crazy.” ~ Alicia Glascock

grace postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was struggling with postpartum depression. You can’t tell but I was struggling with deep despair, suicidal thoughts and a constant sense of overwhelm.” ~ Grace Biskie

jenna postpartum depression

“When this photo was taken, I was suffering from the worst depression and anxiety I’d ever known, over 8 months postpartum. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt like I was drowning. I was never happy, worried about everything all the time, and wanted nothing more than to just disappear and never return.” ~ Jenna Rosener

robin postpartum depression

“This is me on my oldest child’s first birthday. When this picture was taken I was suffering postpartum depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I was overwhelmed and exhausted, and, because I was refusing to accept what I was going through, thought it was just me and that I just wasn’t cut out for motherhood.” ~ Robin Farr

candice postpartum anxiety

“This picture was taken during my second round of PPD and 3 weeks before I entered the hospital for postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and chronic and acute PTSD. I had not left the apartment in months, and this was the day my husband dragged me and my boys outside to be in the sun. I was dealing with flashbacks of my postpartum hemorrhage, high suicidal ideation, and extremely intrusive thoughts.” ~ Candice Brothers

chelsey postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering postpartum depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I was lost, tired and crying every day. I felt like I would never get the hang of this motherhood thing.” ~ Chelsey Andrews

jennifer postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering postpartum depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt like I had made the worst decision of my life, I wanted to run away but got even more angry with myself for not being able to think where I could go. My son had colic and the constant crying pushed me closer to the edge.  I cried all of the time, I felt lost, alone, and that everyone had abandoned me.  I lashed out unfairly at my husband who was doing his best to try to help me hold it together.  I didn’t feel that there was light at the end of the tunnel or that things were ever going to get better.” ~ Jennifer Picinich

jessica postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering severely from postpartum psychosis. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt like I was going through hell. That everyone hated me and that everyone was judging me for the baby weight that I gained. I felt so alone and so depressed. I remember one time hiding in my room for 15 minutes crying because I was convinced they all thought I was ‘crazy’.” ~ Jessica Torres

mariah postpartum anxiety

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from severe postpartum anxiety and depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I wanted to run away and leave my family behind.  I felt a nameless dread almost every second, and that I did not want my baby. I thought my sister would be a better mother for him and should have taken over.  In a word, it was hell.” ~ Mariah Warren

samantha postpartum anxiety

“When this pictures was taken I was in the midst of postpartum anxiety.  I had actually just had a panic attack in this picture and asked to hold my son to calm me down.” ~ Samantha Dowd

jodi postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression for more than six months untreated. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt hopeless in this picture. I felt like a failure as a wife, mother, business owner and as a member of the human race. I didn’t want to have these pictures taken–I didn’t even want to leave my house. It took more energy than I felt I had to do my hair and put makeup on, and I was exhausted from forcing myself to look happy, and in panic mode by the time we left, though no one could tell. I wanted to run away from my life and never look back.” ~ Jodi Serrano

Becky postpartum anxiety

“When this picture was taken, I was suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt nauseous, emotionally distant, physically weak and shaky and unable to feel the joy of this special day.” ~ Becky Schroeder

Kendra postpartum depression

“You wouldn’t know by looking, but I was suffering from postpartum anxiety, OCD and PTSD.  This was the week after I got out of an inpatient facility, and while I was attending an outpatient program.  I was suffering from constant panic attacks, inability to sleep, eat or even sit still, and my mind was running a mile a minute with severe and persistent intrusive thoughts, including suicidal ideation.” ~ Kendra Slater

wendy postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering postpartum anxiety. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt life was out of control.  I was angry, terrified, and sure that I would fail in everything I did.  I thought it would be more merciful to my family if I took my own life so they could function normally without me screwing it up.” ~ Wendy Fanucchi

Jen postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.  You can’t tell by looking, but I felt panic, rage, irritability, and hopelessness every day.  It was a struggle to make it through each day.” ~ Jen Gaskell

dee postpartum depression

“Savannah was six months old in this picture while I was battling my PPD demons I suffered from rage – but this picture says I am a happy put together mom loving motherhood. Truth be told I hated being a mom and felt I never should have had a child.”  ~ Dee Gemme

lisa postpartum OCD

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum anxiety and OCD. You can’t tell by looking, but I was always anxious. Always afraid the babies would die in their sleep. I couldn’t drive over bridges for fear of the actual irrational thought of wanting to drive off the bridge actually ‘winning’.  I suffered from relentless insomnia. I told no one. And all everyone said was how great I looked.” ~ Lisa Madden

jess postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I was going through depression, anxiety, and feeling so overwhelmed with the thoughts that my life was literally over because of my baby.” ~ Jess Craig

jessica postpartum anxiety

“When this picture was taken I was suffering severe depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I had to force myself to leave the house, was crying all the time, and hated being a mom.” ~ Jessica Durkee

courtenay postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt lonely, scared, angry, resentful and lacked any confidence to be a parent of this amazing child. I didn’t want to be a Mother.” ~ Courtenay Petracca

sarah postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from severe PPD.  You can’t tell by looking but I was suffering with suicidal thoughts and felt that I could never be whole again.” ~ Sarah Kotranza

amber posptartum anxiety

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from severe postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. You can’t always tell by looking, but I felt/was going through HELL.  I repeatedly said I wished that my precious son, with whom I am now completely in love and bonded with, was my nephew, not my son, in the first few months of his life.” ~ Amber Koter-Puline

samantha postpartum OCD

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum OCD. You can’t tell by looking, but I was going through horrific intrusive thoughts, loss of appetite and numbing fear.” ~ Samantha Nenninger

amy postpartum OCD

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression, anxiety and OCD. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt/was going through intrusive thoughts, depression, exhaustion, fear of leaving my home, massive panic attacks and feeling like I was a complete failure as a mom. People looking at me had no idea.” ~ Amy Brannan

ashley postpartum anxiety

“When this photo was taken, I was suffering from the worst depression and anxiety I’d ever known, over 8 months postpartum. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt like I was drowning. I was never happy, worried about everything all the time, and wanted nothing more than to just disappear and never return.” ~ Ashley Riser

jennifer s postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from Postpartum depression and Anxiety. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt so guilty that I was not being the mother I should have been.” ~ Jennifer Seagraves

kristin postpartum anxiety

“When this picture was taken, I was suffering severe postpartum depression and anxiety. You can’t tell by looking, but I was quick to rage and scared to cook with knives or drive a car. I felt like I was drowning.” ~ Kristin Novotny

cristi postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering postpartum depression and anxiety. You can’t tell by looking, but I felt out of control and didn’t like leaving the house. See that necklace I’m wearing, I had just started making jewelry to distract myself from the intense feelings of anxiety and sadness. Distraction really does help.” ~ Cristi Comes

alyssa postpartum depression

“When this picture was taken I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. You can’t tell by looking, but I had severe anxiety, intrusive thoughts, irrational fears, and depression.” ~ Alyssa Sanders

 

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When You Are Thinking About Suicide

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suicideSuicide is a terrible thing. The loss of actor and comedian Robin Williams is a somber reminder to all of us that depression is a horrible disease and it can drag anyone down. That is why we try to be ever so vigilant here at Postpartum Progress in encouraging you nonstop to take care of yourself and your emotional health and seek help when you need it. Suicide is never the best answer, even though we know and understand why and how someone could get to the point she believes it is the only answer.

In 2010, 38,314 Americans died from suicide. By way of comparison, there were 16,238 homicides in the US in 2011. I’m willing to bet most people have no idea that suicide happens more than twice as often as homicide. We have to talk about it. HAVE TO. I received a post today from a friend, a single mom who is a social media professional and PPD survivor, about her recent thoughts about suicide.  I think her words are important and I’m glad she’s allowing me to share them anonymously with you today:

In the past weeks I’ve wanted to speak up, speak out, shout to the world that I am not okay. That I am most definitely and certainly not okay. But, aside from a trustworthy few in whom I’ve confided, I’ve stayed silent. Why? Why is someone who wants to be helped so afraid to be helped?

We live in a self-help society. There are books and shows and podcasts and platforms of every magnitude telling us how we can help ourselves and that we should, in fact, help ourselves. But we can’t always do that. I can’t always do that. I have spent weeks trying. Staying silent while switching medications. Telling only a select few even though staying quiet to so many others felt so wrong.  I have spent more than 4 years being an outspoken advocate for maternal mental health as a postpartum depression survivor. But this? This general depression and anxiety that was swallowing me up in darkness? I couldn’t shout out about it. Why?

In the last 7 months I have been told things like, “You have so much to be grateful for.” And, “You have the life you wanted.” And, “Things are good in your life – what do you have to be anxious about? You have a good job. Your kids are healthy. You have friends. You should be more grateful for those things!” I am sure if you’re reading this and you’ve been in a dark place you have heard similar phrases and they always feel like a punch in the gut. They smother me with guilt and just intensify everything that feels wrong. Why couldn’t I just be happy with what I had? Why was I sad? What was wrong with me? Why would anyone want such a self-loathing unappreciative jerk in their life?

The darkness came suddenly and swallowed me. I haven’t been well in months but when the blinding darkness came it came quickly without warning. I was completely lost and could visualize taking my life.  That was the first time I’d ever found myself in such a dark place. I was familiar with self-harm thanks to the time I lost to postpartum depression. But the idea of suicide was new, and I always imagined I’d be scared by it and yet instead I found peace in it. A sliver of peace in this hell I was living in, this hell in my own head. The idea that suicide is an easy way out, a permanent solution to a temporary problem, or selfish (all things I have seen people refer to suicide as over the last 24 hours regarding Robin Williams)? Not one of those things felt applicable to that moment when I stood in my bathroom and tried to grasp at anything to pull me away from ending my pain. From a pain I realized I’d likely feel again even if I got out of it this time, a pain that it seemed no one understood, a pain that was so sharp, real, and intense that even the most horrible ways to end it seemed like they would be a relief. [Read more…]

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