Head Vs. Heart: Why Postpartum Feelings Matter

Share Button

frostMy (baby) cousin gave birth to a beautiful baby girl this week. The night before her delivery, I got a text from her:

“Is it normal not to be excited?”

My heart sank a little. Just a smidge. She was having a scheduled c-section for breech presentation and it wasn’t the birth she’d had in mind or the one for which she had planned. I knew what she was feeling because of my own experience with a c-section 5 years ago.

“Yes,” I replied. “You get to feel however you feel. No one can tell you to feel any differently.”

As I drove up to the hospital the following morning to be there for her, I thought of what I wanted to say here this week on Postpartum Progress. Then I realized I’d already said it.

You get to feel however you feel. No one can tell you to feel any differently.

I mean, they CAN tell you. They undoubtedly WILL tell you. You don’t have to listen to them.

When you’re in the thick of postpartum depression and anxiety and you open up about your feelings, you’re likely to hear any number of well-meaning (but usually completely off-base) responses.

“But you have this healthy baby! Why are you depressed!?”

“You had the exact delivery you wanted! What is there to be depressed about!?”

“Your baby sleeps all the time and never seems to cry! Why are you sad!?!”

If you’re like me, you’re probably able to see all of the reasons why you SHOULD feel differently than you do. Knowing that you should feel differently doesn’t mean you will. In fact, being able to see all the reasons why you should feel differently will likely make you feel worse because you don’t.

You may not be able to explain it. You don’t have to. It just is. The very fact that you’re acknowledging that something isn’t right, that your head and heart are colliding, is enough.

As Gustave Flaubert once wrote, “one can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels.”

Because here’s the thing about feelings, especially postpartum feelings.

They’re rarely rational, frequently inconvenient, and almost always uncomfortable, for us and for those with whom we share them. But giving voice to them anyway is important for healing.

Take a look at this:

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings – words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out.”–Stephen King

Read that again. Really read it.

Owning your feelings, speaking them, bringing them to life, that’s what makes them manageable, defeats them when they need to be defeated.

It’s okay to feel your feelings. They are yours. It’s okay to acknowledge them and process and then decide what you accept and what you toss out. That’s your starting point on your way through it and through it is the best way out of it.

Share Button

You Can’t Tell A Mom Has Postpartum Depression By Looking

Share Button

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

 

Share Button

It’s Harmful to Pretend to be Supermom

Share Button

3357070465_48c9c32550

I remember all the feelings from when I had my first baby almost six years ago. Joy, utter disbelief at how we created something so freaking amazing, relief, exuberance, nervousness, exhaustion. But none was more harmful than the feeling of being invincible.

This feeling of invincibility is actually a symptom of postpartum psychosis, but I didn’t know it at the time.

I was now in charge of a new, helpless little baby. It was as if my ego grew tenfold in the moments he was extracted from my belly and the only person who could do things right for this tiny person my husband and I had brought into this world was me. Because I was his mama, of course.

He liked how I swaddled him best, how I rocked him just right, how I fed and burped him. I was trying to breastfeed exclusively which, looking back now was a mistake given how lack of quality sleep is a trigger for mania in my case, but I was putting the baby first, not my mental health. I never gave myself a break because I thought if I did, I’d be failing as a mom.

What I know now, after experiencing postpartum psychosis when my son was four weeks old, after recovering and going on to have a second baby, is that pretending to be supermom is harmful. It’s probably one of our worst habits as moms – pretending everything is fine when it’s not. This type of facade hurts everyone in the family, especially the mom. [Read more...]

Share Button

What If You’re Still Fighting PPD?

Share Button

winding path through trees Last week was a big week here at Postpartum Progress. It was the site’s 10th anniversary, and therefore the 10th anniversary of Katherine’s start as a powerful advocate for women with postpartum depression and similar mood disorders. In celebrating that anniversary, you may have seen stories from a whole list of women who credit Katherine and her work with saving their lives and getting them to where they are today.

But what if you’re not better? What if you’re still fighting PPD?

Being exposed to a slew of stories from people who did recover and who are better while you’re not can leave you with questions of, “Why me?” Or, “Why not me? Why are they better when I’m not?”

You may feel as though you have done everything you’re supposed to and it hasn’t worked. You might wonder why it’s seemingly easy for some people but not for you. And you might look at all that celebrating and feel like giving up.

What I want you to know is this: You will get better.

[Read more...]

Share Button