Recently, a mother, wife, daughter and neighbor took her life along with the lives of her two young children and their dog. Her husband was deployed. For me this was far too close to home, not because she was my neighbor, not because I spend my days trying to help other moms get through the hard stuff, not because she was a fellow military wife, but because I have battled (am battling) with my own issues.
May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. It seems as if more and more you are hearing the words Postpartum Depression and celebrities like Brooke Shields and Hayden Panettiere have worked hard to bring it to the mainstream by talking about their postpartum struggles and I’d like to think that I have a small part in that too. This is an area where there is far too little research and an enormous stigma. These moms have gorgeous, sweet little babies, right? These moms are just vying for attention in our “look at me” world, right? They just need a nap, right? Wrong (well yes, a nap does wonders but it’s not a cure). A woman’s body is physically and chemically altered during pregnancy and childbirth. For most this is temporary, the baby blues. For some it lingers, Postpartum Depression. For others it becomes a dangerous, life threatening situation, Postpartum Psychosis.
I’m at a place now where days are generally good. I have more good days than bad days and bad days don’t turn into bad weeks, months, or years. I can help people by sharing my story, I can listen to their stories and not feel triggered to spiral down into the darkness, but after hearing the news of this tragedy, I pulled out my letters. The ones I wrote my children and my husband when I was in the darkness.
I am sorry I get so sad and angry and say terrible things to you
You deserve a much better mother than me
I love you so much
I blame you
I feel incompetent
It is not your fault
These are the themes that flow through the letters. There is so much pain there on the tattered notebook paper. But why keep them? Why hold on to that pain? They are a reminder of how far I’ve come and how close I am, still, to the darkness. It’s always there, but I can see it for what it is. I don’t have to listen to it.
I wish I could have helped my neighbor, but maybe you can help yours. Pick up the phone, IM, text, do whatever you need to do and invite that mom out to the park. Don’t let her shut herself in her home. Don’t let her succumb to the loneliness. She will probably decline your invite. Try again. She will probably want to vent and complain if she does come. Let her. Bring her dinner unexpectedly. They say, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” (Aesop). And if you are in need of help. Take action now. Don’t wait. Life is far too precious and wonderful to go through it feeling alone.
Postpartum Support International Warmline and Website 1.800.944.4773 www.postpartum.net
National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Website 1-800-273-8255 www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org