Let's Really Care
About three and a half years ago I became a mother, my son was a few weeks old and I was having the hardest time I've ever had. I felt overwhelmed, anxious, I couldn't sleep and I felt indifferent about my son. I felt afraid to be alone with him, afraid he would start crying and never stop, afraid my life would never be the same and that I would never feel like myself again. Without a doubt I was experiencing Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Anxiety - and I had no idea.
I read an article tonight that brought me to tears - a mother, Allison, in Virginia took her life as a result of PPD. She had no outward signs or symptoms. No one close to her had any idea, she didn't even know. My heart is breaking for her family and for her. How do we reduce these deaths? How do we reduce PPD?
I'm not really sure what the answers are but much like Allison I had no idea what I was experiencing, nor did the people around me. I felt like something was wrong with me or with my son because I didn't think being a mother was amazing. I didn't love everyday with my newborn, I didn't have an instant bond with him and I didn't know why. I felt a little like a failure and a little like I needed to hide it - until someone asked me the right question.
Around two or three weeks postpartum we bumped into our soon-to-be neighbours while we were both visiting our nearly completed houses. The natural greetings took place and then it happened.
"How are you holding up? Are you doing okay? Are you guys all doing okay?"
My future neighbour looked me straight in the eyes with understanding. I nearly cried. Before I even answered she went on to recall her first few weeks postpartum, she offered up the answer that it isn't easy, it doesn't feel amazing and it can be downright awful. I don't remember but I may have hugged her - someone I had only met on one other occasion. The relief washed over me as I started to explain to her my feelings and she listened without judgement. She listened and nodded her head, sympathy and compassion on her face. For the first time since having my son I didn't feel like a freak. I felt validated, I felt normal and I felt like I had someone to talk to. In fact, I felt like I could talk about it, period. And so I did. When I would meet another mom, or talk to anyone, I was honest. I shared how I felt and the struggles I was experiencing. The incredible thing was that the more I shared my story, the more stories were shared with me. Stories that were similar, stories that supported us as new parents and stories that bound us all together.
It has taken time and effort to work through PPD and Anxiety, but it's getting so much better. It may seem like such a small thing but I will always believe that one little conversation with my future-neighbour made the world of difference for me. It started a conversation that I needed to have - and that I've since had with so many others, living with PPD, Anxiety and many other forms of mental illness. A conversation that needs to happen a lot more often - let's talk to each other, be honest, be open. Let's truly care and let's take care of one another.
And to my now-neighbour of over three years - I hope you always know the difference you made. I truly don't know where we'd be without you.