I've been participating in a discussion about Post Partum Depression/ Post Partum Anxiety over at F&F Live started by the courageous Kate Wicker and also over at Kate's blog. There are a few things I feel as though I need to say here in this safe, comfortable space. Maybe I need to get them off my chest or maybe someone needs to hear them.
Some of you already know that I struggle with an anxiety disorder. I've been through some really difficult times and still have moments when I recognize that certain corners of my mind are like a bad neighborhood that I shouldn't be allowed to wander in alone especially at night. While I was not diagnosed with PPD specifically, my most recent problems did begin when my youngest was 6 months old, although that wasn't the only contributing circumstance. Looking back on all of my post partum experiences, I can say with a good amount of certainty that I was suffering from various levels of PPD/PPA during all 4 with the most notable instances occurring after babies 3 & 4.
The discussion over at F&F has included stories of triumph over this illness using different prescription therapies like progestrone or anti-depressants. Women have also admitted to feeling as though their pride and fear kept them away from accepting the chemical intervention for longer than was good for them. That just breaks my heart. There is a certain stigma attached to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, which PPD/PPA is classified as and that needs to change. We need to do whatever we can to destroy that prejudice, especially in Catholic circles.
Why especially in Catholic circles? Because the guilt we inflict on ourselves can be overwhelming. As faithful Catholic moms, we are all trying to live a truly pro-life lifestyle and we are taught by our Church that children are a blessing to be cherished, welcomed and treasured. It's the Culture of Death that says babies are a burden, motherhood is a millstone, parenthood is something to be endured. When you find yourself sad, crying, miserable, angry, or anxious after giving birth to this helpless creature whose coos and gurgles bring you no joy, the guilt is crushing.
Have I given into the culture of death mentality? I am a terrible mother. I am unfit for this noble vocation. Everyone else can handle motherhood just fine, why can't I? Was I just fooling myself? Am I going to break my children and damage them forever? Don't they deserve better than me? If I just prayed more, if I was a better Catholic, if I was a better person, I wouldn't have this problem.
Every woman thinking thoughts like these whether you have a newborn or not needs to know... that's not really you. That's not who you are! If you've recently had a baby, it might just be your brain's response to a chemical cocktail gone wrong. There are ways to come out of that fog. Ways to find your real self again. There are a whole host of ways these days to treat this illness, one of them is bound to work for you. I pray you have the courage to get the help you need and the support of people you trust. It's a tough road, but it's worth it!
(Next post I will talk a little about what worked for me.)