THEY DON’T WANT TO BE LABELED
Once I realized that I was suffering from postpartum depression, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband or my best friend. I suffered silently because I didn’t want to be labeled as someone who was battling a mental illness. Sadly, that label exists because our society has stigmatized mental health and mental illness. I could, rationally, tell myself that the stigma is fallacious at best, detrimental and and dangerous at worst, and that there was no reason to be ashamed. Still, when I was in the throes of postpartum depression, that shame was something I couldn’t shake. I didn’t want the label of “depression,” even if it was something that was beyond my control. It made me feel weak and vulnerable, two things I’m not accustomed to feeling.
Feeling emotionally exposed caused me to become almost reclusive, afraid of what someone might think if they caught a glimpse of me in shambles. Instead of talking to my friends or family or husband about it, I did my best to conceal the side of me that wanted to cry and scream and run away. I was so afraid of what people would think if they knew how I really felt. The truth felt too ugly to share.
THEY THINK PEOPLE WILL ASSUME THAT THEY DON’T LOVE THEIR BABY
I smiled through many awkward visits with friends and family after my first son was born. I didn’t want anyone thinking that I was “in over my head,” or that I couldn’t handle my new role as a mother, so I laughed and made jokes and put on a happy face for the crowd like all was well in “paradise.” Then, in the middle of the night when it was just my son and I, I would lose it again. When I should have been holding and rocking my baby to sleep after he ate, I would just sit him down next to me and wrestle with the confusion and the indescribable pain that I felt.
I was able to provide everything for him (a roof over his head, a warm blanket for his bed, plenty of food to keep his belly full), but I felt like I wasn’t capable of nurturing him in the loving way I was supposed to. Instead of allowing myself to feel my emotions, I was just going through them, mindless.
THEY’RE AFRAID OF BEING JUDGED
Our society puts so much pressure on new moms. We’re made to feel like we should look a certain way and act a certain way and feel a certain way, and that if we didn’t or don’t, there must be something wrong with us. We’re made to feel like failures if the pictures of our own lives don’t compare to the picture society has arbitrarily painted for us. We’re made to feel weak and unfit and unworthy of motherhood if we don’t meet the standards that someone else determined . It’s not fair, and no one should have to hide in the darkness when they’re suffering. No one should have to pretend that they’re holding it together when, in reality, they’re just hanging on by a thread that could break at any moment. No one should be made to feel ashamed or alone or week when they’re suffering from postpartum depression. No one. Not me, not you, not anyone. No one should be afraid to talk about it. So, let’s talk.