Lebogang, a South African mother, has blessed us today with another story for our series Warrior Moms of Color, where we focus on Asian-American, Latin-American and African-American — and today, African — moms with postpartum depression or postnatal depression as it’s called elsewhere around the world and their experiences with the illness. I’m so happy to have her at Postpartum Progress!
Apparently I fit the bill to the T, and I didn’t know it.
I remember at the psychiatrist office, how confused and scared I was.
Have you had anxiety before?
A bit, through my divorce.
Have you had a loss prior to this pregnancy?
Yes, an ectopic pregnancy three months prior to conceiving our son.
Have you been on slimming pills, erratic diets, etc?
Errhm, yes, all my life. In fact I might have been anorexic, but we are black so such issues are never diagnosed/discussed.
Have you had a fertility treatment?
Yes, an IUI after a long year of trying to conceive.
Are you a perfectionist?
I have always been.
Did you deliver via C-section?
YES, YES, YES! What’s wrong with me?!
You definitely have postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression! Everything was a blur from that statement onwards. All I do remember is thinking for sure that I was dying, my heart was pounding so hard I could literally hear every beat, I was shaking like a leaf.
I don’t think this doctor understands what I’m going through. What the hell does this have to do with postnatal depression? I’m having a heart attack people! Hell I’d take depression anyday over this.
Well that’s what I thought at the time, and boy was I wrong. I was prescribed the lowest dose of antidepressant and something to control my tremendous anxiety, and within hours I could breathe without counting my heartbeats. But then things got progressively worse. By Tuesday I couldn’t concentrate, Wednesday I was living through a glass (few people would understand this phenomena), Thursday I saw my son dying in 101 scenarios, by Friday I wanted to run … and by Sunday I wanted to jump. My mind was racing, I was in a deep hole. I pleaded with God to keep me alive and did as much research as possible.
My family did not understand this — I don’t blame them as I didn’t believe in postnatal depression myself — but they were supportive. My husband did his research and held my hand and I am lucky in that regard. I lived on Postpartum Progress, searching for hope stories and hanging onto them with dear life. My meds were adjusted, changed, and adjusted again.
I tried looking for more black women who had gone through this. I found three on Twitter. Three … that’s it. I talked to anyone who cared to listen, and many made me feel insecure, like I was the only black woman to ever go through this. I was told to smile, pray more, suck it up and enjoy my baby. Why are you on meds? Don’t you know you’ll be dependant for life? My very close cousin was scared of me, she told me I was going crazy. See I love how the black community is the same all over the world … like Addye said:
- We don’t do therapy, at all.
- Any mental illness means you are losing your marbles, hence we keep it a secret.
- Women are meant to be hard as a rock; we are somehow supernatural beings.
- If anything goes wrong in your life, it’s because God is punishing you for something and you are just not worthy of Him.
I made a choice to reach out. I owed it to myself to get better, to my kids, to my family. The white community in South Africa welcomed me with open arms. They all knew someone who’d gone through postnatal depression. My therapist had never ever treated a black woman. Our support group had, well, no women of colour. But I made it my mission to find more of us, and what better way to do that than sharing my experiences. I wrote to all baby magazines, and started a blog. And one day, when I least expected it, my pastor at church called me to the side and told me that she went through PPD. Two of my distant friends had gone through it, but kept it a secret. I also received two emails from strangers who had gone through this.
When my son hit three months, things got much better, by the time he was five months I had the right treatment plan, and now at ten months postpartum I feel so much like my old self. And so I share my story in hope to help a new mom out there, black, white, it really doesn’t matter … You are not alone, you are not the only one to go through this, and please please hang on, it does get better. I’m Lebo, a black South African mother and a postpartum depression and postpartum OCD survivor.