A family history of depression or other mental illness is a risk factor for postpartum depression, whether that history is known or unknown. For so many of us, the lives our parents have lived and also how they parented us plays a big role in our own experience with parenting and postpartum depression or related illnesses. Warrior Mom Jaime H. shares the story of her father’s recent death and how his life impacted her own.
I’m still processing my father’s death, which happened suddenly on May 16. I found out about it on Facebook. I’d been estranged from him for half my life, except for a brief three-month period during my twenties when we tried to reconcile.
My father was mentally ill, although I’m not sure if he ever received a diagnosis or any treatment. I plan to investigate this further with the help of my aunt, his sister, when the dust settles. Over the past decade or so, I’ve learned that mental illness weaves throughout my paternal family tree. My great grandmother committed suicide just after the birth of her last child. We can only speculate she had postpartum depression or another postpartum mood disorder. Most of my other family members have generalized anxiety disorder; some have depression. I’ve had all of those things at one time or another, which is why I don’t hate my father.
I think he was a man with an untreated mental illness that damaged his whole family irreparably. Knowing him and knowing our family history helped my resolve to seek treatment when I suspected my own postpartum mood disorder a few years ago. The pain I’ve felt during my childhood as a result of the things he said and did became a tattoo on the inside of me—a reminder, when I looked, of the kind of parent I never want to be for my son.
My son will not experience the estrangement of a parent if I have anything to do with it. My son will know his mother is proactive when it comes to mental illness. His mother fought. And now that I am no longer fighting my own battle with postpartum depression, I’m helping others fight it, in my small way, through this blog and other resources. I’m here to remind you to fight when you don’t feel like fighting. I’m a warrior mom.
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