According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some 15% of women who give birth will experience a moderate-to-severe form of postpartum depression. One in seven women. That’s a frightening statistic, but it means nothing to anyone if you don’t know what to look for.
When I gave birth to my first son, I knew I needed to be constantly vigilant for signs of postpartum depression, or PPD. What I didn’t know, was how radically different my symptoms could feel in comparison to the way I’d seen PPD portrayed in books, tv, and movies – or even described to me by friends and family. This was a secret monster, a quiet cancer that stole my happiness slowly, over the course of many months. Realizing I was living with this illness was an arduous process filled with bad days next to good days, peppered with moments when I felt like putting a permanent end to things.
Here, I list 5 questions I wish I had asked myself in the beginning, before my personal darkness flew wildly out of control.
1. How do I truly feel about my child(ren)?
This question is brutal, but it requires complete and total honesty. No one wants to admit to negative feelings toward their children, but this is one of the most common ways postpartum depression can manifest. These complex emotions are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but if you look inward and discover that you’re harbouring a resentment for your new baby (or babies) that persists, you must seek professional help.
2. How do I feel about my partner (wife, husband, parenting partner, etc)
This one is also difficult, because (as everyone will tell you) your baby will take precedence at first, and it often takes some extra work to rekindle your connection to your partner when baby’s needs are constantly pressing in the early months and years. If, upon reflection, you realize that your relationship is suffering in a deeper way than feels normal, consider speaking to a mental health professional – possibly together.
3. When was the last time I laughed out loud?
You would be amazed at how long you can go without truly laughing when PPD is plaguing you. At one point, I looked back and realized it had been literal weeks since the last time I found something truly funny. If this is you, take a break. Plan some time off, watch a funny movie. You must, must, must loosen up, it’s crucial to your physical and mental health.
4. How far into the future am I able to see myself and my family?
One of the most common feelings associated with postpartum depression, and depression in general, is the inability to look to the future. Instead of daydreaming about your hopes, wishes and goals for yourself and your family, you see a blank expanse of darkness where the future should be. Talk to someone.
5. How do I truly feel about myself?
This is the most important question you must ask yourself. Stress, fatigue, and the flood of hormones that comes after giving birth can certainly skew your view of yourself, but if you find yourself wrestling with feelings of self-loathing on a daily basis, it’s time to look outward and seek help.
What do you think? If you have some experience in this area, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. Or, if you know someone who is struggling, and may benefit from this post, share below!