Today, we bring awareness to mental illness. Today, we celebrate the victories and we share the struggles. Today, on World Mental Health Day, a mother bravely shares her story about her fight against mental illness.
She sat on the edge of the bed,
surrounded by the darkness. Her hand grasped towards her mouth to stifle the sobs. Beauty arose from her being but broke the soul. A mother filled with regret and hopelessness.
The moonlight gave light to the loneliness that embraced her. She was becoming weaker and weaker as the nights faded into the days. Afraid to share her struggle, the suffering grew deeper. Every time she heard her son’s cries, she cringed. Anxiety rippled through her body. She knew that she needs to be his comfort, but exhaustion told her to ignore it.
The night turned into day, and the sunshine concealed her pain with a smile. She felt warmth and love while cradling her son in her arms, inhaling his scent. She felt hopeful. She knew that no matter what, her love for him would be enough. The days passed by filled with activities. He wasn’t crawling, but that didn’t stop them from exploring. Her favorite moments with him were sitting on the front porch. They sat on a blanket, soaking up the sun, and she talked, and he responded in coos. She captured moments of smiles with pictures. They spent hours together, lost in each other’s presence. How could she grow resentful when she was surrounded by unconditional love?
Yet, every night, she trembled in fear. She refused to sleep. It terrified her. What if she missed him struggling to breathe? What if he spiked a fever? She was drowning in unimaginable possibilities that could tear him away from her forever. Her exhaustion brought on psychosis, and the fear of his death morphed into her own mortality. Days would pass before she would fall asleep. Her mind and body were exhausted from fighting and hiding the paranoia. At night, her eyes drifted throughout the darkness. She ached for the intrusive thoughts in her mind to stop. They became overpowering.
Her destruction was unraveling in front of others, and the mask was fading. Anger took over her body with his every cry. She believed that the end was near. Her husband heard the screams that vibrated throughout the house. It was her. He saw her lying in a fetal position on the raspy carpet in front of the bed. The cries escaped with no fight. Motherhood broke her. She vaguely remembers the days to come. Her body lethargic as if she was underwater fighting against the current to breathe.
Days later, she was sitting on the couch of a psychiatrist. Her body shifted at the weight of her husband as he sat down. She placed her hand within his grasps. The psychiatrist was a small, framed woman. Her desk was a shrine of paperwork for the people she fought to help.
The doctor asked, “How are you?”
She shut her eyes as her chest vibrates against the labored breathing.
“I can’t do this anymore,” broke through her lips. She tasted the salt from the tears that were escaping, much like her desire for motherhood.
She needed the support of her husband but was ashamed to share her thoughts. Her head dropped in defeat while her shoulders rolled forward in discomfort. She didn’t know that being his mom would bring sadness. She didn’t know that being his mom would alter her whole being. She didn’t know that being his mom would be suffocating. She didn’t know that being his mom would destroy her happiness.
She answered the doctor’s questions with anguished sobs. She was too tired to decipher her thoughts. But, her doctor had the code. It was Postpartum Depression. The psychiatrist’s petite body twisted towards her desk, placing the paperwork onto it. The chair that she sat in scraped against the carpet as she stood up. The doctor sat beside her and placed a hand on her shoulder. It radiated energy. Calmly, the doctor explained Postpartum Depression while rubbing her shoulder. Every movement and word spoken uncovered the truth. The truth that she wasn’t a failure. The fact that she wasn’t an embarrassment. The truth that she wasn’t alone. The truth that she could fall, and there would be a safety net.
There was a medication
that she could take to help lessen the fears associated with death and motherhood. It was not going to eradicate all of the symptoms that plagued her mind. However, life would become manageable. The most important thing that happened is she sought help. And, to this day, she continues her mental health journey with medical professions.
Unfortunately, during her pregnancy, little emphasis from her health care providers was placed on the importance of understanding the signs and symptoms of Postpartum Depression. After giving birth to her son, as she was signing discharge papers, she was given a brochure about baby blues. In the chaos of becoming a new mom, overwhelmed with surging hormones, she shoved it in the back of the diaper bag. It was never looked at again.
During follow-up care, she was casually asked if she felt sad. No. She was tired, worried, irritable, scared, and hopeless. At her last check-in, there was no concern for her mental health. It was about her body’s ability to heal and if she could resume activities such as bathing, driving, and intercourse.
She had no energy to voice her concerns, and saying them out loud meant that she was a failure as a mother. The system failed her. The doctors that were responsible for her wellbeing neglected to ask more questions and dive into the importance of her mental health. It should not be the sole responsibility of the mother to detect PPD. Fathers, parents, friends, and family, please pay attention to new mothers. If you suspect anything, reach out to her. Fathers, husbands, partners, go to their follow-ups and alert the doctor.
Be her voice.
Most importantly, to all the future moms or mothers that cry in silence, there is a community here to support you. It is filled with other moms that have sobbed in the dark, questioned their worth and value as a mother. You, my dear, are not alone. Seek help.
To find resources and information, head over to https://www.postpartumdepression.com to learn more.