I hope the tragedy of Robin Williams’ death will shine a light on depression and mental illness, and maybe, just maybe, it will wake the world up as to what it’s like to live in this state.
There is a segment of our society that has a high rate of depression, latest estimates between 10-15%. These are the reported cases so I suspect the actual rate is much higher.
This segment of our society is very important, their well-being effects the core of every household and family on this planet.
Postpartum depression is REAL and it’s HUGE. There are approximately 6.5 million pregnancies in the US each year, which means there are at least 1 million more mothers living with postpartum depression each year. Some of those mothers will hurt themselves, some will hurt their children. And there are absolutely women who will contemplate taking their own lives because of postpartum depression.
Having suffered postpartum depression myself I can sometimes sense it in others. I’m not shy about asking women “how are you feeling?” repeatedly in the first year after having a baby. “Fine” isn’t good enough for me because that’s what every woman says. I will press further by asking:
“Are you getting out?”
“Do you get together with friends often?”
“Are you getting any sleep?”
“Are you eating well?”
“Are you finding time to get any exercise?”
“Are you getting breaks from the baby?”
“Do you have any health issues from your delivery?”
“Are you happy with how your delivery went?”
“How are things with you and [insert partner’s name here]?”
Etc, etc, etc!! …
Because I know that there is so much shame and guilt surrounding postpartum depression that most women won’t get professional help, let alone admit they’re struggling to a friend.
When I ask women these questions I sometimes find a small crack of vulnerability. And behind that crack there is often a waterfall of pent-up emotions. I have had many women disclose postpartum depression to me from friends and family to strangers that have written me through my blog. It always baffles me when I hear from strangers because I think, surely I am not the first person that made these women feel safe and cared for?
But maybe I am. And maybe talking to a stranger about it is easier than talking to a friend or family member because of the guilt and fear of judgement. There is so much focus on the baby and so much “new mom joy” expected of us that I think women feel they have to bury any emotions other than appreciation, elation and thankfulness.
Sometimes you do need treatment for postpartum depression, whether that’s counselling or antidepressants, or something else… And it will change your whole life. I also believe that there are women out there that, if reached early enough, can avoid postpartum depression altogether if they are able to talk about their feelings, let go of the guilt, and get some support from friends, family and their community.
So today I want to ask you to do one of two things. If you are feeling down, depressed, or a little disappointed with motherhood then tell someone. Your feelings are completely normal and a good friend or family member will help you get the support you need, whether that’s a fifteen minute walk by yourself or an appointment with your family doctor. If you can’t find it within to do it for your own well-being, then do it for your family.
Second, if you happens to be one of the new Moms feeling fabulous, try and remember not every mother is. Spread some of your love around by asking your friends any of the above questions. Let them know they are normal, they are good people, and most of all, they are cared for. Help them to help themselves.
Sometimes it feels as if the world has forgotten about us, that if we ceased to exist no one would even notice. Please know that this isn’t true. It may not be clear to you now but you are part of a large and divine plan for the universe. You are important. We need you.