May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We at TMC are passionate about Maternal Mental Health. One in 5 women are affected by a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Rather than seclusion and shame, we want to bring awareness and education to this very important matter, and provide support and hope to the women experiencing it.
This was sent to us from a mama who wishes to share her story but also remain anonymous. We are honored to share it with you on our blog. THIS is why we do what we do.
Over the last month or so, I have met a handful of mommas with babies, who have been struggling (mostly alone) with the trials of motherhood, compounded by varying degrees of postpartum mood imbalances, overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, uncontrollable anger/rage, depression, anxiety and/or all of the above.
I always invite them to join me at The Motherhood Collective's Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) Support Group, and, when it seems appropriate, I share a bit of my story with them.
I share my story openly with these mommas simply because, it's very much a part of who I am now, and because I'm an open person who hopes to make others feel safe, in case they want to share their own experiences with someone who has already "been there."
I also realize that I may initially come across as someone who is thriving in motherhood and someone who is really enjoying every moment of being a mother. Especially to those who may only "know" me through Cafes or via my Facebook profile. I have come to learn that there is a great deal of shame and denial associated with PMAD (which I admit to feeling both) and I feel that this leads to a great amount of unnecessary and/or prolonged suffering for the momma than there really needs to be. I hope as a society we can someday normalize this affliction as we realize how very common it is, and I share my story because I don't want my outward appearance to cause another momma who is suffering needlessly to not come forward for help.
So, while it is true that I love my son and my husband with nearly all of my being, and I am (finally...) healing from the pits of despair, feelings of complete inadequacy, intrusive thoughts, and crippling anxiety that are the classic symptoms of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders, I am still struggling-- even at 18 months postpartum.
I can now say that I have more "good days" than "bad days" (thank GOODNESS) but even just yesterday I had a near full blown panic attack because my son was crying for a "need" that wasn't being met (by my husband) while I was trying to get a little extra sleep in (he "needed" a donut...) and I have since self-medicated with an entire box of chocolate frosted mini-wheats in less than 24 hours....
I'm glad that these types of days have grown less and less lately, but they used to be my new "normal." I used to have panic attacks on a regular basis. I used to think about jumping from a bridge on a regular basis and wonder if my life insurance policy would be enough to provide my son with the life that I had always dreamed of for him. I used to obsessively wash my hands and use hand sanitizer (I still do to some extent) and feel helpless as if germs were closing in around me and my baby. Intrusive thoughts made me envision my baby in the PICU hooked up to all sorts of machines because he caught some horrifying disease that I couldn't "protect" him from because my breasts didn't make enough milk to breastfeed him as I had wanted to. (I cried and cried and cried and CRIED over this particular thought.) I used to imagine the earth cracking open in a great earthquake and swallowing me and my child into a giant hole whenever I walked into my kitchen... This is what PMAD does... THIS is PMAD.
I used to feel like I wasn't a good mother. I used to feel like I was not deserving of my child. I used to feel out of control. I used to feel like I was crazy... And I used to feel terribly ashamed of all of this...
BUT, the most IMPORTANT part of my story, at this point, is that I can now use the words, "I USED to...."
It is through The Motherhood Collective's PMAD Support Group that I have learned to identify my symptoms and triggers, to normalize and come to terms with my own "journey" as a new mother, and to gain coping skills that are helping me heal.
The journey is long, slow, and hard...
Not one mother I know has "asked for" or even expected to be afflicted by PMAD. But the GOOD news for PMAD mommas is, with the right help, it gets better- it really does.
Even if you can't imagine what tomorrow will look like, and your despair is soooo thick that you can barely breathe... There IS help for this, mommas. Thankfully, PMAD is treatable- you can (and you will) get better.
I am incredibly grateful for the PMAD Support Group. And I'm so glad that we are on this journey together.
No one is alone.