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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About 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.

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Comments

  1. This sends such a powerful message. My wish is that it could be shared with every doctor’s office everywhere. Baby steps.

  2. This is such an important article, thank you for sharing the “face” of PPDA

  3. Emma groves says:

    This is amazing. I’ve had so many professionals say ‘well you look fine’
    Dont they realise that as a mum you become practised at keeping up appearances.

  4. Thank you for giving us a real voice. Ppd is very real and disregarded too easily. After the birth of my daughter I had Ppd Ppa. I still deal with the depression and anxiety I had before and after her birth.

  5. This is brilliant. Such a wonderful call to look past the facade.

  6. <3

  7. I have a wonderful picture of me with my son when he was about 3 weeks old. What you can’t see in the picture is the hours every day I spent sobbing to my husband begging him to let me put the baby up for adoption.

  8. Thank you for this post. My four girls are now aged 31-22, but I can still totally relate to these sweet mothers and their pain. Even my husband had no idea how bad it was. We become so good at hiding the horrible truth from others. Please continue to share this amazing post so that others can understand and help.

  9. Amazing and so true. I am looking at pictures that I took in the midst of PPD / PPA / PPOCD and I looked happy. This illness makes you suffer from the inside and it’s so sad that no one understands.

  10. Love this article because it raises awareness on one can hide the hell that is going on inside of you. You put up a front and try to be what you’re expected to be-a happy, new mom.For about a third of my life, I was abused by my father. Early on, I learned to hide my anxieties and depression and lead a “normal” life. All those feelings I was forced to suppress finally took it’s toll and all the emotions I suppressed release itself from the dark place it had been hiding for a long time. Now, at 48, I’m starting a new life which means forgiving my abuser, practicing mindfullness and living in the present. I’m also learning to put myself first and stop trying to please others instead of pleasing myself. I’m trying to get rid of the negative criticism of myself and change it to affirmations. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in my life and can only take small steps at a time. I’ve always been a fairly attractive person(though I never saw it) so people assumed I was just as pretty on the inside. But, hell had taken residence inside of me but no one could accept this. I’ve lived in isolation most of my life.

  11. Sara Berger says:

    Thank you. I needed so badly to see that I’m not alone. I was searching for information about ppd, specifically what I thought might be late-onset ppd (my daughter is 3), and I happened upon your site. I was diagnosed with ptsd several months before giving birth, and always assumed that what I began to experience after giving birth was the old trauma. After reading your articles, I think it’s something more like trauma layered on severe ppd that was never addressed. Your articles have been illuminating. Thank you so much. I was beginning to feel pretty hopeless about my situation. Sometimes I feel like I’m just a ghost watching my husband and daughter live this happy life together. I pretend to share in their happiness, when in reality I feel like I weigh a million pounds. I’m seeking help tomorrow. Thank you.

    • Do get help. Your situation looks hopeless to you because you are alone in this. I know I’ve been there too. You can be whole again. Different then before, but whole.

    • Sara, I’m so glad you found something to help. I know how you feel – my experience was similar. Don’t be afraid to reach out – there are so many moms out here willing to extend a hand to you as you deal with this.

    • Hugs, Sara! I’m so glad you’re seeking help–you will get better.

  12. Thank you, brave moms, for sharing your stories and photos. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

  13. Honestly I was depressed my entire pregnancy and had pp depression after my daughter was born and no one even knew. I would smile in front of everyone and at home would be miserable, now she’s almost three and and wouldn’t change a thing. The only thing that bugs me now just having another baby is the dr is constantly asking how I’m doing.

  14. I feel this. I am one of them. Looking at pictures after my second child was born I see keeping up appearance, trying to be happy and loving, but even after 3 years I can still feel the pain I felt. And nobody ever asked how I was doing. If I was managing at life. Because nobody knew how horrible I felt. I think I will never be like before. I accepted this. But it sucks anyway.

  15. Such a powerful and difficult to explain illness with so many varying symptoms…and the fear of talking about it, for fear someone will take your baby away if they knew about the intrusive thoughts that you just cannot control. Very crippling illness. Medication and sleep helps a lot.

  16. This is so true. We are like chameleons. I also think that woman going through this feel as if ppl can tell….so they do their best to look great. I think that self confidence plays a big part aswell. We don’t wanna look crazy..because we don’t wanna be labled. So we do our best to look the part of a happy person.

  17. These really resonate with me. My husband has been hugely supportive, but the rest of my family unfortunately doesn’t understand.

    I wonder how many of these mamas feel completely better now? And how many still have to work at it?

  18. Elizabeth Reed says:

    My pics are all of my daughter- hundreds of them with her smiling. I thought if I his behind the camera and sent friends and family photos of a smiling baby- maybe I would start to feel better. It didn’t work of course until I found help. This is a very personal and powerf piece- thank you for sharing.

  19. Thank you for sharing this. It led me to share my own story in hopes to bring more awareness for moms experiencing this. Thank you to the mommas in this post for having the courage to share yours. http://persevereinrunning.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-guiltiest-of-mommy-guilt.html?m=1

Trackbacks

  1. […] us are even “covers” when we are alone. As the previous post by Katherine pointed out, you can’t tell when a mom has a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder just by looking. We are good at hiding […]

  2. […] See that smiling woman cuddling her kids, you don’t see her anxiety and her battle every day with post-partum depression. […]

  3. […] You Can’t Tell A Mom Has Postpartum Depression By Looking by Katherine Stone at Postpartum Progress […]

  4. […] The recent suicide of young mom Jennifer Huston in Oregon once again has me thinking about how isolated moms often feel, and how misunderstood postpartum mental illness truly is. So often family members are shocked after a loss like hers. They didn’t see it coming. They just saw a young woman dealing with the normal stress of motherhood. Yes of course, motherhood is hard but postpartum depression in entirely different. And, you can’t necessarily tell someone is suffering just by looking at her. […]

  5. […] Can’t Tell a Mom has Post Partum Depression by Looking” – a devastating photo essay. You cannot […]

  6. […] an August post, Postpartum Progress founder Katherine Stone writes “People assume it should be fairly obvious […]