Our Wish for All Moms Experiencing Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Our Wish for All Moms Experiencing Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders -postpartumprogress.com

Hayden Panettiere spoke yesterday about the amazing support she received when she announced she was entering treatment for postpartum depression.

“The more open I was, the more acceptance I got from people,” she said. “I got so much support and so much love. I was floored. I feel much more exposed, yes, but in a great way.”

She’s been open, honest, and vocal about her experience, and we continue to love the way she’s using her experience to educate and destigmatize postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. The more the general public hears about postpartum depression, the more it becomes less scary, less “other,” and the more likely moms might be to reach out for help when they’re suffering.

But the truth is this: Even Hayden was shocked that she received support.

Moms remain silent, hiding their symptoms from even those they’re closest to, out of fear of being judged, fear of being told they’re not a good mother, fear of admitting what they perceive to be some kind of inherent female flaw. Whether it’s their first or their fifth child, moms experiencing a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder fear they’re just bad moms. Not good enough. Broken.

Unfortunately, the stigma of maternal mental health isn’t imaginary. These moms don’t fear the reactions of others without reason. People, sometimes even with good intentions, spout of all kinds of things which aren’t helpful at best and, at their worst, can destroy a mom’s sense of self-worth.

“I don’t know why you aren’t feeling bonded with your baby; I loved my daughter the moment I set eyes on her.” “I’ve never felt resentment for my child. What’s wrong with you?” “You’re just not trying hard enough.” “Pray harder.” “If you hadn’t quit breastfeeding, you’d be feeling better.” “If you’d quit breastfeeding, you’d feel better.” “Exercise more.” “Taking time for yourself is selfish.” “This is supposed to be the happiest time of your life.”

Moms hear these things. They internalize them. They hear the unspoken point of the words: You’re doing motherhood wrong. Something is wrong with you.

Mothers experiencing these mental illnesses need to hear that they are normal. That 1 in 7 moms experiences a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. That postpartum depression and its cousins are temporary and treatable. That one day motherhood won’t feel like this. That they are good moms.

Good Moms.

Moms with postpartum depression are good moms. Moms experiencing postpartum anxiety are good moms. And postpartum OCD. And postpartum psychosis. And postpartum bipolar. And postpartum PTSD. And moms experiencing intrusive thoughts or suicidal ideation or insomnia or rage or crippling fear or all of the above. Moms seeking care for mental illness are good moms. Moms struggling to reach out for help are good moms. Moms who don’t know what’s happening inside their head and body are still good moms.

Our wish is that all moms would not just realize that postpartum mental illness doesn’t define their motherhood but that all moms would feel supported in their battle against postpartum depression and other postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. That when a mom starts to feel like something might not be right, she can reach out to those closest to her or seek care from a doctor, nurse, therapist, or do research online without fear of judgment or some form of punishment. That moms won’t feel silenced by social, cultural, or religious beliefs in their own communities. That moms can share their stories, online and off, to receive support without nasty comments or dismissive tones. That as mothers beat postpartum depression, they can reply in kind to those just starting their own battles, offering support and hope.

Peer support isn’t just part of our mission because we think it’s trendy. Peer support is our model of support because we know that receiving support for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders means the world to moms. It works. It changes the lives of moms and helps babies and families. Supporting moms where they are with what they need, no matter their diagnosis, should be a goal for all.

Maybe It’s Not About How Quickly You “Get Better” from Postpartum Depression

Maybe It's Not About How Quickly You Get Better from Postpartum Depression -postpartumprogress.com

Our dear Hayden returned to work recently after entering recovery for postpartum depression.

Everyone is talking about how wonderful she looks. How brave she is to talk about her disease. How it’s great to see that she has gotten better—how she has recovered from this debilitating disease.

Gotten better.

I don’t know Hayden. I may pretend that she has read my original letter to her, but we aren’t pals.

However, I can guess that Hayden is not 100% “better.” Hayden has done her best, just as we all can do with the resources available to us. Recovery is possible, but the way the media is portraying it right now might make moms feel like they’re somehow “doing it wrong” because they aren’t “cured” as quickly as Hayden. But you’re going to be okay, too; we’re all going to make it through this beast of postpartum depression.

It just takes time.

We recognized that there is, in fact, a problem. We reach out for help. We make appointments. We take pills. We go to therapy.

We take long, hard looks at ourselves in the mirror and wonder where we went wrong. We blame ourselves, our husbands, our genetics.

We wonder why the first round of pills doesn’t work; or the second, or the 12th.

We wonder why we feel no connection with our therapist.

We wonder when we will feel that lightness of heart that we were promised when we hold our babies. We wonder when that feeling will supplant the feeling of dread or, worse, numbness.

There is no quick fix to this disease, but one day you will be back.

Hayden, most likely, entered a private in-patient program where her medications were easily monitored and adjusted on a daily basis depending on how she felt. She probably had group therapy, one-on-one therapy, yoga, art therapy. She probably wondered if this was all worth the effort.

As we all do. We sit on our couches, in our beds, on our bathroom floors with tears streaming down our faces. We might not have access to the same types of facilities, but mother with postpartum depression and other postpartum mood and anxiety disorders feel and experience similar things. And they can all heal. In time.

We all—every single one of us, famous or no—must come to that crossroads of whether or not we think we deserve to get better in the first place. Once you convince yourself that, yes, you are being attacked from the inside and it is time to do something about it, then the healing may begin.

You must tuck your chin to your chest and walk against the wind. You must be willing to try different medications if the first few don’t work. You must be brave enough to fire your therapist and find a new one. You must love yourself enough to realize you are worth saving.

Recovery in postpartum depression is not just about getting better. You can’t just take a blue pill for six months and forget it ever happened. Mood disorders leave deep wounds on your soul. You can bandage them quickly, but they won’t heal. You can stitch them up, but they will scar. That scar will always be there, to remind you to guard yourself.

Just like all scars, you can either choose to hide them or bear them proudly for the world to see what you survived.

That’s exactly what Hayden is doing. “Look and see what I have done. I have gone to war with myself and I am still alive. I have been given the weapons to defend myself. I am doing my best.” We are so proud of her her voice right now.

When you are diagnosed with postpartum depression, it should never be about just “getting better.” It shouldn’t be about comparing the length of your recovery, your battle, your acceptance of your scars with another mother. Even Hayden.

It should always, always, always be about arming yourself to the teeth—with knowledge, with support, with treatment, with self-love.

The faster you realize this, the faster you will start to FEEL better.

Have courage, dear hearts.

What Moms with PPD Fear When Returning to Work

What Moms with PPD Fear When Returning to Work -postpartumprogress.com

Reports state Hayden Panettiere just returned to the set of Nashville after completing treatment for postpartum depression. The actress sought in-patient treatment last October for PPD where she stayed until late November. Like many working moms, now she’s back to work.

Returning to work can feel daunting for any mom after the birth of a baby. You’ve been away from work for a number of weeks. You might worry about catching up on work or if your absence negatively affected coworkers. You might have concerns about leaving your baby with a care provider. Finding a new routine after time off can feel impossible.

But for a mom dealing with a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder, the anxiety is heightened. Every worry becomes a series of “what if” questions. They can spiral out of control for a mom dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety, sending a new mom on a spiral of unhelpful questions and fears.

And then: What if someone finds out about my postpartum mental illness?

We decided to ask a group of our Warrior Moms about their fears on returning to work with postpartum depression. In doing so, we hope to show mamas researching their return to their jobs that they’re not alone in their fears. No, mama. You’re not “crazy.” Other warrior moms have thought it, worried about it, and come out on the other side stronger and able to both do our jobs and parent our babies. You can do this.

These mamas had a number of fears about returning to work with postpartum depression.

  • I dreaded the questions people would ask, like how’s baby sleeping (about which I would think “great, but I’m not”) or how are things going (to which my brain would come up with about a hundred different answers they didn’t want to hear) or the most dreaded comment, “enjoy every moment-they grow up so fast” which made me feel incredibly guilty and inept because I couldn’t. -Lindsey

  • I was afraid of having to use leave for therapy appointments when I had no leave left. I worried my boss would see me as incapable of completing my job effectively, and fire me as a result. So I hid my health and wore a mask; it didn’t work. Thankfully I was able to see my job and coworkers as a sense of support after my mental health disclosure. -Christina B

  • I think for me the most terrifying thought when I was in the thick of my depression—and how I’d be able to go back to work—was how incoherent my thought processes were and the total loss of ability to think, speak, or act clearly. I’ll never forget the day it took me two hours to make a pot of soup from a recipe I’d made countless times before and then the cold January day where I spent over 14 hours working on a paper for school and rolled from one panic attack to the next. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. -Anonymous

  • My biggest fear was leaving my baby. The anxiety I felt when I had to drop her off in the morning was unbearable. I was constantly sick to my stomach. She was little, just three months, so it had nothing to do with her knowing I was leaving. I would cry almost the entire 30 minute commute to work. When I got there it would take hours for my mind to focus on simple tasks. I watched the clock constantly, waiting for it to be pointed at that time when I could leave. Even though I knew my daughter was in the most capable and loving care (either with my husband, parents, or sisters), it was devastating to be away from her all day and be surrounded by people who had no idea what was really going through my mind. -Megan B.

  • Being the Mom of a preemie, I was afraid of the questions that my co-workers were going to ask me and how I would have to reply. “How big is the baby now?” “Are there any concerns with him?” “Isn’t being a mother wonderful?” I was already feeling guilty and exhausted from the lack of sleep, so it was even more draining to plan out how I should be prepared to answer those types of questions, especially as my anxiety had me breaking out in a full body sweat. At the same I looked forward to bring out of the house and back to my “normal” life. -Stacey

  • I was afraid of being unable to control my emotions. But actually, returning to work turned out to be very good for me. It got me back in my routine. And I had been by myself with the baby in the dark of the Ohio winter. -Anonymous

  • My fear was, because I work in the mental health field, everyone would know that something was wrong. I had a hard time finding a provider because of being in the field and knowing everyone. On the flip side, it was comforting because my colleagues were so supportive once I told everyone my struggles. -Joyce M

  • After my PPP, I was out of work for a couple months and I feared what my cowokers knew or thought about my medical time away. (Now It is a non issue.) -Kristina D

Other moms lept at the chance to return to work.

  • I didn’t fear anything, I was relieved to leave the baby in capable hands and have some adult time. -Stephanie

  • Although I was a few weeks into my recovery plan when I returned to work (had to take some extra weeks to get better), I was excited to go back. I needed that separation from my baby to just be me and focus on my thing. If I hadn’t gone back to work, I really don’t think things would have gotten better for me. It helped me bond with my baby MORE because after work, I actually looked forward to getting her, taking her home, and cuddling, feeding, and playing with her, something I never had while on leave. -Anonymous

  • I didn’t quite know that I was dealing with PPD at the time; all I knew was that I was so relieved that maternity leave was almost over and was counting the days until I could return to work. -Stephanie C.

  • I was mostly afraid questions like, “Aww, don’t you miss the baby?” Um. No. “Aren’t you just loving being a mother?” Um. No. “Were you dreading coming back to work?” Um. No. Could not wait to come back. I know the expected answers were yes. And of course I said “yes” to all, but on the inside I was screaming, “No!!!!” -Melissa

And so, new mama returning to work, you’re not alone. Whether you choose to disclose your postpartum depression or not, there’s a network of mothers who will stand with you in solidarity as you move forward in your career and in your parenting. Your fears might feel insurmountable right now, but we will support you as you beat this next fight in your battle with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

I Understand Catelynn Lowell’s Journey with Postpartum Depression & Open Adoption

I Understand Catelynn Lowell's Journey with Postpartum Depression & Open Adoption -postpartumprogress.com

You’ve probably at least heard of the show Teen Mom, even if you haven’t watched it. Recently Catelynn Lowell talked about her battle with postpartum depression after the birth of her second child; she placed her firstborn for adoption on the show a few years ago.

I’ve followed Catelynn’s story closely over the years, even though I don’t normally watch or enjoy reality type television. I also placed my firstborn for adoption, so I watched with interest regarding how the show would portray birth parents. It’s not often the media shows those who relinquish their children in a positive light, so I felt encouraged when they showed some of the good aspects of the young couple. I especially appreciated how they showed both Catelynn and her then boyfriend, now husband, Tyler, as they struggled to say goodbye to their baby girl.

My Story with Postpartum Depression and Open Adoption

When I got married and my husband and I decided to try conceive—his first, my first since placing my daughter for adoption—I thought my emotions and grief concerning my daughter’s placement were all in a “good place.” I didn’t feel overly sad anymore, though I missed her every single day. During my pregnancy with my oldest son, I felt exceedingly happy, though anxious about health complications and actually becoming an everyday parent. I felt excited that I would finally be recognized as a mother. Being pregnant without an adoption hanging over my head felt like a dream. I documented my belly as it grew every week. I loved every (complicated!) moment of being pregnant with my oldest son.

However, when my son arrived, the anxiety immediately took over. I experienced a panic attack the night after his birth while my husband took a quick shower. Within two months, postpartum depression and anxiety quickly overwhelmed me, both of which were exacerbated by issues I’d never known to discuss with a therapist after the birth of my daughter. The facilitator which proctored our adoption didn’t offer me post-placement counseling, and so I didn’t have a clue about any of these previously unaddressed feelings that slammed into me day and night.

Thankfully I found a therapist in my area who dealt not only with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders but also worked with adoption issues. It was a long road but a necessary one. I took my medication and did a lot of hard work in therapy to get through that difficult year. Even with all the work I did then and after the birth of our youngest son, again experiencing postpartum anxiety, I still see a therapist to this day regarding my feelings of loss, guilt, and grief over the placement of my daughter. Oh, and my perfectionism and anxiety to boot.

Over the years, watching my sons play with their sister helped me heal in various ways, just like Catelynn said in an interview:

“We went to the beach, so we were feeding ducks with bread. Carly just wanted to hold Nova immediately and be like, ‘Can I feed her? Can I hold her?'” Lowell told People magazine of the first time Novalee and Carly met, adding that Carly “kept showing Nova to everybody and saying, ‘This is my birth sister.’ It was so cute… After that day, I felt perfectly fine again.”

It gets a bit trickier as the kids get older and start experiencing their own sadness, grief, and frustration over the situation. I always feel a deep pang of guilt when my sons tell me that they miss their sister or that they wish she could come live with us now that I’m no longer sick. But I’m continuing to work through it, showing them healthy ways of coping and grieving. It helps that technology brings us together with things like FaceTime. It also helps that I stuck it out in therapy and have the knowledge and verbal ability to help them through their big feelings right now.

I’m proud of Catelynn for talking about postpartum depression and the anxiety she has experienced over the years. I think it’s especially important that her story will reach a younger demographic. Early parenting is a risk factor for postpartum depression. Additionally, letting younger viewers, men and women alike, know that postpartum mood and anxiety orders exist is a step forward in the goal of educating people. Kudos, Catelynn (and her husband, Tyler)!