I met Robin Farr at a writing workshop hosted by Island Parent magazine. During the workshop, she talked about her struggle with postpartum depression and how she blogs about that. Since then, I’ve been reading her blog and really enjoy her sense of humour. While I’ve had bad days as a mother, Robin has helped me realize that’s normal. Bad days happen (and so do good days). What happens, though, when the bad days never end? That’s why I asked Robin to share a little bit about her struggle and finding PPD help.
When Bonnie asked me to guest post for her on this topic, I immediately said yes. After all, I suffered—badly—with PPD and it’s become something of a mission to raise awareness. And how hard could it be to write about this?
Harder than I thought.
First, I totally forgot about the date I’d agreed to. (Which, in a way, is one thing you should know about PPD. It kills brain cells. Or that’s what happened to me, anyway.) And then I couldn’t figure out what to say about it because it’s such a complicated illness. So let’s start with that.
What Does PPD Look Like?
The first thing you should know: Postpartum depression takes many different forms. I always thought of PPD as being “depressed” or having difficulty bonding with your baby (and reading Brooke Shields’s book when my son was a baby reinforced that perception. It’s a great book, but just one person’s experience). Women suffering from PPD can feel depressed, sad, hopeless, or just nothing at all, but there are other symptoms as well.
For many women, PPD is experienced as guilt, anxiety, or feeling overwhelmed. I think all new moms feel those things on some level at some point, but with PPD these symptoms tend to really hold on tight.
A lot of women—many more than I ever imagined—experience PPD as irritability, anger, or rage. That was my experience, and I never once connected my incredible anger and frustration with depression.
I just, unfortunately, didn’t know the symptoms were so varied. If I’d known, I’d probably have asked for help much sooner than I did.
More about Postpartum Depression
Second, PPD is not limited to the first few weeks. PPD can happen any time within a year of birth, but I’ve heard of so many women whose doctors told them it’s not PPD if it occurs later. That’s wrong, and it leaves so many people without the help they need.
Third, to address the PPD elephant in the room, postpartum depression is not just about women killing their children. It’s not even mostly about that. It is sometimes, of course, and in many cases those women are suffering from what’s called postpartum psychosis. This is tragic for everyone involved, but it’s thankfully not the average family’s experience. People (ahem, media) who characterize PPD sufferers as monster mothers are doing everyone a disservice.
The fourth thing on my list is related (sort of). PPD is really common. Much more so, sadly, than most people realize. 15-20% of new mothers suffer from PPD, so chances are you know someone who has dealt with this.
The fifth and final thing you should know is what I consider the most important: It’s okay to ask for help. It is. If you are struggling, you are not weak. You are not the worst mother in the world. And you are not alone.
There are many of us who have walked this path before—or are still on it—and are willing to help. If you or someone you know has PPD, please reach out.
There is power in sharing. There is power in being brave. And I have a folder full of thank yous to prove it.
You’re not alone.
Postpartum Depression Resources
Postpartum Progress is a website dedicated to helping moms with PPD. She has downloadables, posts, answers and more to help you navigate PPD or learn more about it to help a friend.
When Your Depression “Isn’t that Bad” is my list of tips for dealing with minor depression (not PPD). If you’ve suffered from mommy blues but realized in reading this post that your depression likely isn’t PPD, please don’t brush aside your symptoms because they aren’t that bad. I did that for years and realized that my kids deserve a happy mom, and so do yours.
This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression—If you or someone you love is among the 1 in 7 women stricken by PPD, you know how hard it is to get real PPD help. This proven self-help program, which can be used alone or with a support group or therapist, will help you monitor each phase of illness, recognize when you need professional help, cope with daily life, and recover with new strength and confidence.
Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety—Beyond the Blues contains the most current pregnancy and postpartum resources for prevention and treatment of mental health challenges for all parents. Updated information and research about medications, as well as complementary and alternative options are included. Direct and compassionate, it is required reading for those suffering before or after the baby is born and for all professionals working with them.
Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth—This is a poignant tale of 20 women’s journeys through postpartum depression and the growth that they experienced as a result. These women described severe suffering as they had been taken completely by surprise by their depression. They also experienced failure of care providers to screen for or treat depression, and finally reached a place where they determined that they would do whatever it took to recover. These women not only survived their ordeal, but emerged stronger than they were before.
More about Robin Farr
Robin Farr is a writer, wife, runner, communications professional, speaker and mom. She had undiagnosed postpartum depression after her first son was born in 2008 and turned to blogging to share her story. Since then, she’s established herself as a leader in the movement to erase the stigma around mental illness. She has been a TEDx speaker and has written for Family Fun Canada.