Postpartum Depression & Stigma: You Don’t Need to Prove That You’re Worthy

postpartum depression stigmaI got an email from a mom this week who, in her story of frustration over the lack of help for postpartum depression, made sure to let me know how successful she is.

She’s smart. She has a great job. She makes good money, she told me.  Her words struck me.  How many of us, when seeking help for our mental illness, feel we have to make sure people know we are competent individuals?

I know I did.  I felt that I had to prove to people that I was still worthy.

Hey doc, I may have postpartum OCD, but I swear I’m a good person.  I have a great title at work.  I was in the National Honor Society in high school.  I was in Who’s Who Among American Universities & Colleges. I’m intelligent.  I have a lot of achievements. Please don’t throw me in the trash heap …

It’s a reflection of society’s stigma of mental illness that we feel compelled to share a laundry list of our accomplishments so that we can prove our value despite postpartum depression.   Is it because the automatic assumption is that anyone who has a mental illness is not worthy or capable?  That women with postpartum depression, or any other mental illness for that matter, must come from the dregs of society?

I don’t smoke.  I don’t take drugs. I pay my taxes. I was voted Most Talented in my high school class. Please don’t think I’m stupid or unsafe …

People who have mental illness like postpartum depression shouldn’t need to justify themselves.  Besides, what if you don’t make a lot of money or didn’t get a high score on your SATs? Should that mean you are less worthy than the mom who did?  No.

I want you to know that you don’t need to convince me you’re a good person.  I already know.  And I look forward to the day when we can speak with the doctor, or a friend or neighbor, and say we’re suffering without having to follow that up with our curriculum vitae.

I’ve never been arrested.  I give to charity.  I wash behind my ears …

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.

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  1. Yes, I too felt the need to let people know how good of a person I was. Especially when dealing with thosr individuals that weren't aware of what ppocd was.

  2. Great post. While I haven't suffered from a post-partum mental illness, I do have depression and anxiety. I find that I have to convince MYSELF, no only others, that I'm a good person because of the mental health stigma.

  3. I can relate! When I speak to any doc for the first time and mention my mental illness, I make great effort to let them know I'm a paramedic and I handle high stress situations often… But somehow I can't handle the depression/anxiety I feel after having a baby. But that just goes to show that motherhood is tougher than any other job! I commend all you mothers!

  4. I am so glad you'e written about this. Almost every mama I talk with tries to reassure me of the same things, too. Recently, a mom said, "I can't wait for you to meet the real me, Amber, I promise I am a really normal, nice, competent person- I'm worth your time." It made me sad. ALL moms are worth my time.

  5. I am reading this in a low grade inpatient mental health facility for PPA. I have been here for a few days and hope to go home soon. First, you website has been a wonderful source of information and inspiration. I have noticed while in here and working with the doctors that I have been doing the 'justifying' with how much I have handled in the past, that I work at in a high-paced job at one of the hottest companies at the moment. I am doing just as you described I want to make sure they know that I am a good person and I have something of value here. Well after this post I am going to stop it. Because I am a good person, have accomplished a great deal but I am just struggeling now for something I have never had to deal with and I don't need to justify to anyone. Thank you!

    • Katherine Stone says:

      Yes, you are a good person Marianne. Everyone struggles in life. Postpartum anxiety happens to be a struggle for you, but it does not define who you are.

  6. i appreciate this post and you whole site 🙂 ppd is very hard and even though i did everything i was supposed to (talked to my doctor, went to counseling, etc.) i still don't feel quite right, any site i can find on ppd is very helpful.

  7. This is SO true. I also felt like I had to make sure people knew I wasn't crazy. So many people hear "postpartum depression" and automatically think Andrea Yates, think you're stupid, whatever.

  8. I can relate to this! When I went through postpartum mania after the birth of my first daughter and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I remember telling the psychiatrists that I wasn't just a typical person, I was intelligent, competent, etc. Fear of the stigma still holds me back from telling other parents at the preschool.

  9. Yes!

    I just had an appointment with a new pain specialist and as he scrolled down my list of medical issues he said out loud "Oh, you're bipolar"

    …I felt a pang in my stomach like I had to explain to him that I was a nurse and was this and that etc…like I had to prove to him that I wasn't "crazy"…

    Sigh. Why do I do that?

  10. Although I have been quite vocal in my journey through PND, I always feel the need for justification. Justifying why I think i went through it and justification of who I am. I need to accept me for me and that I have gone through this , because it happened. Not because I am a good or bad person, but just because.

    It chooses people regardless of age,gender,race, qualifications ect.

    • Katherine Stone says:

      I hope you can see you are not alone, Angeline, in feeling the need to justify. We all do. I just hope someday we don't.

  11. I either don't tell people I had PPD or feel obligated to tell them I'm competent and accomplished when I tell them I had PPD. There's a stigma in this country around mental health, and that is a terrible thing. It's one reason why people like you Katherine are SO SO SO important because you are honest about PPD and are also such an accomplished, capable woman. Knowing you made me feel braver about having PPD and more able to open up about it to close friends. I'm still not brave enough to tell my business contacts, but I wouldn't have had the courage to tell my friends if not for you and the work you're doing to raise awareness and take away the stigma.

  12. Wow, I just felt like crying when I read this. I have just recently recovered from PPD and I for a long time I felt I had to preface any conversation about my PPD with my achievements or that I was "still normal". It took a while for me to stop doing it and helped me to realize my own preconceptions about mental illness.


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