How Recovery From Postpartum Depression Is Like Playing Chutes & Ladders

postpartum depression recoveryHave you ever played the children’s board game Chutes & Ladders?

As players move through the game, they advance along the board, sometimes skipping ahead several spaces by landing on a ladder and sometimes falling behind several spaces by landing on a chute.

I like to describe recovery from postpartum depression and anxiety as being like a game of Chutes & Ladders. For a while you’ll be moving along nicely, maybe even having such a great day that you feel you’ve shot forward to the end. You’ve reached out for treatment, you’ve been doing what you’re supposed to do and you are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then, for whatever reason, you fall back into a hole of despair. A bad day, or a string of bad days, hits and you become convinced that you’ll never get better.

Setbacks are a completely normal part of recovery from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD. I can’t tell you how many women I hear from who are worried about them and want to find out if other women experience them. The answer is a resounding yes. I can’t tell you that I know exactly why they happen, because I’m still not very clear on the intricacies of brain healing, but I do know they happen all the time. I also know that they don’t last and that you should never give up.

If you just keep going, despite temporary obstacles, you’ll realize the same thing that pre-school players of Chutes & Ladders learn: No matter what happens, the players always make it to the end of the game.


About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. Love it! So relateable!

  2. Amber @Beyond Postpa says:

    Very cool analogy!

  3. Such a great analogy–I have setbacks all the time and you're right, it does feel like they're never going to end and I'm never going to get better. It's funny how we can feel great for weeks on end and then one bad day comes and boom, we're miserable and life sucks and will never be better. Hopefully next time I'm having an episode I'll remember Chutes and Ladders. 🙂

  4. So very true. I had a serious chute issue a couple of days ago and thankfully I remembered that I have wonderful friends that I could call for a rope ladder. I'm back on the board!

  5. thanks for normalizing what so many of your readers have gone through and are currently going through! Myself included.

  6. Are you inside my head today? Just this morning I was imagining myself "backsliding" with a visual of a playground slide in my head. Your analogy is much better. Thanks. 🙂

  7. I remember this well!! My therapist described it as a stock chart that has jagged ups and downs. Even if it ends on a high, it took some ups and downs to get there. It got me through those rough days when I'd think "maybe I'm NOT getting better". But I was, the bad day(s) was just a hiccup in the process.

  8. Ugh setbacks suck hard and it is very difficult at times to look beyond the setback and to actually see how far you've come and know that you can make it there again. I have to remind myself that it's one day at a time. Today may suck, but tomorrow's a new day…a new roll at the dice if you will.
    Don't give up that hope ladies.
    Great analogy!!

  9. I especially appreciate this topic because my shrink (who doles out medication and asinine advice) told me that I should be treating my "recovery" from chronic depression (and dysthmia) as a full-time job. Which is great advice, but I'm not sure what recovery looks like.

  10. Thanks so much for this.i am from england and my son is 7 months old.i have suffered from horrific postnatal anxiety.i was hospitalised in a psychiatric mother and baby unit that help women with postpartum illness.i could not le on my own,be near my son,not get out of bed for days on end and had a horrific feeling of doom over me everyday.i thought i would never ever recover.but i am now on medication and have had a lot of therapy and am on road to recovery.i loved the analogy of chutes and ladders.

  11. I love that analogy, it is so true….That is how it has been for me for about a year and a half now…Waiting to get to that finish line, lol…Thanks

  12. Amen! I had been having a wonderful week and then today was just not as great as the other days. But I'll take one bad day for ten good days, better then what I was having, no good days. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it's not a train! 🙂

  13. Yes. I love this analogy, too! The first time you may go flying off the chute, completely blindsided- wondering who pushed you. And maybe even the second and third.
    But learn from those slides and start to recognize what is happening before or as you start to slip: anxiety, paranoia, crying, blaming, anger, intrusive thoughts, or whatever other warning signs you may recognize.
    Once you identify the "blame" isn't external, it's an internal treatable condition that needs to be addressed- again. Starting to slip is the time to put in that call to the therapist, go for a run, ask hubby to handle the kiddos for the night so you can get some sleep or whatever helps you.
    And keep climbing back up that ladder.
    Love it, Katherine.

  14. Chrissie says:

    This is particularly helpful to me now because I recently tried to get off of my medication after 6 months of treatment. Things were going great…I even saw characteristics of myself that I have been missing (laughing more, more energetic with the kids), but, alas, I started having major sleep issues and my anxiety shot through the roof after a couple of weeks. Needless to say I jumped back on the medication train and am now waiting for it to get back into my system and take effect. So discouraging!! Its easy at this moment to believe I’m stuck with this evil, but reading this website really gives me hope that I will get out of this some day.

  15. Thanks for this. I should probably read this post every day!

  16. Hi, this is a very nice example of the situation. Until yesterday I thought recovery was progressive as it was the illness before. Now I see , when my wife had a new episode of hysterics yesterday and doctors didn’t allow us to visit her. Problem is she called home and she sounds so relax. she acts so normal with me. Also she said it was not the same attack as when she was ill, all she wants is going home and doctors are lying.

    It is really a problem now because grandpas are close to go back home. And I will seat alone with the baby… sounds normal no? well it is not! I’m Mexican guy , living in Russia for sure do not speak normally the Russian language. (((

    Sometimes I don’t know how to trust more, doctors with their proud attitude, or my wife who just want to be at home and care about baby ( even when I Know she is not ok) .

    She will be already 2 weeks this friday at hospital but for sure, it looks like an eternity for all of us, specially for our baby who’s today 1sth month will be spent without mama.

  17. I have a friend and we don’t know what to do….

  18. I have post partum anxiety, I had a good two week period then pretty sure got lack of sleep giving me huge setback. Back to waking up multiple times during night, loss of appetite, exhaustion, not able to focus. I’m constantly worrying that I won’t get better which leads to so much crying and more anxiety episodes. Im constantly asking for reassurance from my husband, and my mom. They upped my meds (50 to 100mg) zoloft yesterday. Been to counselor once, it’s hard to get into them though 🙁 – busy schedule. Does anyone have any advice? I don’t know anyone that can relate but these articles are very helpful.

    • Sara – You aren’t alone. Many women have been right where you are and have gotten better. Keep working with your doctor and your counselor and you will overcome this. I too felt I would never get better and that’s when the depression set in. Please know this will NOT last forever and you will be the old Sara that seems so far away right now. Don’t lose hope.

    • Great analogy – I will try to remember this on the snake days ( apt for right now!)

      Sara, as Becky said, you are absolutely not alone and it will get better. I have just had the same experience as you … A great two weeks, then my husband had a week of very long work days, bubs worsened with her feeding and sleeping and I started slipping again. But I cling onto the fact that the ups and downs are actually a normal part of the recovery process. It’s easy to let the fear of slipping back into the abyss grip you but remember, you are never really going backwards – what happened in the past is done and you are progressing on your journey. When you climb a mountain there are times the path goes up and times it goes down as you slowly but surely get closer and closer to the top – might sound cheesy but I find those analogies helpful. You are a strong and capable woman, dealing with an incredibly challenging situation – you WILL get there (we all will). Go easy on yourself, keep seeking help and trust the process as hard as it is at times.

  19. This is exactly what I needed to hear right now.


  1. […] You will go along fine for a while and then have a setback and be shocked and worried about it. Setbacks are common. They are not a sign that you will never get better. They are just setbacks. You will get past […]

  2. […] How Recovery From Postpartum Depression is Like Playing Chutes & Ladders […]