If I could place a face to mental illness, I would describe postpartum depression is the most scared and frightened dog I’ve ever met.
We have heard of the analogy of postpartum depression being a dark cloud. It follows you around and seemingly only rains on you. You can’t see ahead or behind, because all you know is the dark cloud that is surrounding your life. As you start to practice self-care, self-love and incorporate proven methods that combat depression (medications, exercise, healthy eating), the could starts to lift and you can see the light.
Here is how I see postpartum depression and anxiety.
Before you experience the shift of PPD and anxiety, you are relaxed and enjoying your life. Maybe sitting in a park, breathing in the fresh air and sunshine. You see a stray dog in the distance and don’t think much of him, because he has not impacted your life yet and quite frankly— you don’t have time for a stray dog in your life.
Then the dog comes closer. You can see the dog coming but assume he will keep walking. You have never really been a dog person anyway and you’ve never cared for a dog before so you’re sure he won’t come walking up to you.
You glance over out of the corner of your eye and the dog has now come to sit beside you. Now he is interrupting your picnic and you would prefer if it kept moving, so you try to push it away.
Nope, the dog won’t move. Well then you try to push it away further. Still won’t move. The third time you try to push it away it starts to growl, bark and show his vicious teeth.
You didn’t ask for a dog to come and sit beside you and growl. You were just enjoying your day.
The dog continues to become frightened and starts to push back at you. You become equally as frustrated that the dog is not responding to your requests to leave you alone. There are people all around you who are walking by and no one is helping you. You try to ask but feel silenced by your desire to do this on your own. After all, why would you want to burden anyone with your struggles?
You and the dog seem to interact in a negative way and then you decide to take a different approach. Maybe the dog isn’t angry, maybe he needs more love? Maybe this lonely puppy needs food, and water and warmth. Instead of fighting with him, you feed him. Instead of running away from him, you open your home to him. Instead of being angry every time your newly adopted dog seems to revert back to his frightened and defensive self, you ask a trainer to help you manage him. You and the puppy learn to coexist and eventually, you begin to love each other.
Does this make sense mamas? Let me break this down for you.
You didn’t ask for postpartum depression. You didn’t cause postpartum depression. Of course you would rather be sitting on the grass, enjoying your morning without the growing dog sitting beside you. But you know what does not work when you are experiencing PPD— fighting it! You can tell yourself over and over that you don’t need help, or that mental illness is not a part of your life. You can tell yourself that no one else will understand. But at the end of the day, you will get much more by being kind to yourself and the angry dog of PPD. Practicing love and understanding, mindfulness and self-care— this is what will change this scenario, mamas. And when you need more help, there is always professionals who specialize in this specific condition that are ready to help! You don’t have to do this alone. You are NOT alone.