I think one of the reasons that we don’t see a lot of candor out there about postpartum depression struggles, is a fear that our children will see these things that they don’t understand and can’t process. These adult themes will traumatize our children, because they can’t understand them.
Several people have asked me about what I would do if my little guy were to read some of the more cringe-worthy feelings and experiences that I had.
It’s a fair point. As some of you have noted, I’m not exactly pulling any punches.
Writing was a necessity for me to process what had happened. But as some of you are aware, originally I was writing anonymously. I also could have written in a journal. I’ve been getting active in postpartum support groups, which is another quasi-anonymous environment; you share your story and confidentiality is expected and required. There certainly were outlets for me.
But what I just couldn’t wrap my head around was that horrible feeling in my stomach. A feeling like I was alone. I was the only one who felt that way. I wasn’t meant to be a mother. And then – when I realized those feelings were postpartum depression, I thought maybe other women had treatable postpartum depression, but I didn’t.
And I was so wrong. As I expanded my group and opened up, I found that more and more women were nodding their heads.
Vulnerability, it appears, helps open others up.
It was if they were reading my thoughts as they recited feeling and thinking the same thing. When I got better, I told my friends that they would too. None of them believed me. Then when they got better, they shared how they just thought they had untreatable postpartum depression.
As I reflected on the suicidal impulses that depression had gifted me with, I realized that the silence was deadly. I thought if I can get these feelings and experiences out there, perhaps I can save a life.
So how do I balance my need to help other women with my need to protect my son?
Open, continuous dialogue.
My son will know that he had nothing to do with his mom’s mental health illness. We will have an age-appropriate evolving dialogue about mental health, what it is and how it affects people. He will understand that mom was sick – that she wasn’t herself. He’ll know that when mom got better she was able to see him for what he was: the best thing that ever happened to her. He won’t learn about love from just a couple of blog posts. He will learn what love is by years of living with two parents who adore him. He will learn about love when he visits his Aunt in Europe and learns how to order in French. He will learn about love when he visits his Uncle on the West Coast and crashes an RC airplane. He will learn about love in the hours of time that both sets of grandparents lovingly set aside as they play with him, sew him little outfits, teach him how to fish, listen to political podcasts and go to the Nationals game or watch the Penguins play.
Yes, balancing my honest advocacy with my son’s tender heart will be tough at times. But I’m not protecting him by avoiding talking about mental health. He’s got mental health history on both sides of the family. I’m protecting him by telling him about mental health. I hope that if he ever struggles with mental health, he’ll feel comfortable and confident coming to us for help.
And that’s why I believe that it will be so very worth it.