Many of you Honest Mom readers struggle or have struggled with PPD, depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.
Maybe some of your Mother’s Days in the past have been less than ideal because of it. Or maybe this year it’s going to be a really hard day for you.
As I’ve said many times here on this blog, you are not alone.
There are so many women around the world who aren’t going to have a happy Mother’s Day because they are struggling with mental illness. To reach out and help these moms – especially new moms – the wonderful Katherine Stone at Postpartum Progress created the annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health.
And this year, I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
The Mother’s Day Rally features 24 letters written to struggling moms – one letter posted each hour of the day, starting at midnight of Mother’s Day. All the letters are written by survivors of PPD, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, depression after weaning, and/or postpartum psychosis.
The Rally participants wrote these letters to inform and encourage pregnant and new moms who are struggling with their emotional health. I wrote about PPD, rage, and having the courage to get help, because I know the anger that often comes with PPD and depression isn’t talked about enough.
Many mom bloggers you may recognize are part of the Rally this year: Lauren from My Postpartum Voice, Miranda from Not Super Just Mom, Cristi from Motherhood Unadorned, Robin from Farewell Stranger, Jen from The Martha Project, Lori from I Can Grow People, and Jaime from James and Jax. And that’s just a sampling of the amazing and inspiring women who are involved.
And if you are struggling, or you know someone who is, take some time to read through the amazing Rally letters. Even if you’re not specifically dealing with PPD, I am sure you will find some words of comfort in the voices who are speaking out.
I hope all of you – battling PPD or not – have at least a few moments of well-deserved peace this Mother’s Day.
Sending all you mamas love and hugs,
(Image from Postpartum Progress)
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Once again, the conversation about moms and meds is stirring up controversy. And once again, I’m thinking many people are simply missing the point.
The reason I went on Katie Couric’s show this week to talk about moms, meds, and depression was the same reason why I write about it: to help lift the stigma and let other moms know they aren’t alone.
I felt going on Katie’s show would put a face to depression and help people to understand that regular, normal people deal with it. And from the countless messages and comments I’ve received from moms, I know many women breathed a sigh of relief when they heard my words, realizing they are not alone.
The problem is, there are still plenty of people who do not get it, and voice opinions like these about me and the other women on the show:
…that depression or anxiety can be solved by just relaxing a little: “I’m a mom of three and understand the stress of being the perfect mom … but wouldn’t take a pill or drink to make things better. When stress hits, meditate, take a break and relax.”
…that we take medication or have a glass of wine to be able to “tolerate” our children: “I can honestly say I loved being with my kids when they were small … never felt like I needed anything to be able to tolerate my children.”
And my favorite … that we’re actually a bunch of whiners and maybe should never have had kids: “these mom’s don’t know what work is, 50 years ago it was a lot harder & nobody whined about it or Used to cope.”
“What is wrong with this generation??? I had 3 kids, spread out in age, kept a clean house, cooked meals from scratch, volunteered in the schools and worked part time. Never had the thoughts of drinking taking meds. Buck up, girls. You must have too much time on your hands…”
“If you cannot deal with being a mother, without drinking or taking medication, perhaps you should not have had them. This is pathetic. Try exercising with your children…like going to the park?”
MISSING. THE. POINT.
Let’s get something straight. The women on the show who need medication for ADD, anxiety, and/or depression aren’t “taking drugs” for kicks. We have chemical imbalances in our brains that require medication.
We’re not whining. We’re not having a hard time due to lack of exercise. WE HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION.
And you know what? Occasionally having a glass of wine with friends while the kids play does not equal alcoholism or bad parenting, people.
All these women commenting online who “never have to resort to pills” or whose own mothers “lived in a tougher time without all the stuff we had today and did just fine” – well, that’s just great. I’m happy for you. Truly.
I’m happy that your mother didn’t have PPD or depression or ADD or anxiety.
I’m happy that if she did, she managed it successfully so you’d never know.
I’m happy that you have no problem sailing through life and enjoying every minute.
And I’m happy that you can simply meditate your everyday stresses away.
Really. I’m glad that you had a rosy childhood and that things are going well for you.
But not everyone’s like you. And your words sound kind of mean and like you’re rubbing your happy, perfect life in our faces. So please be more kind and stop with the judging, m’kay?
(Gosh, it’s just so hard to understand why women are afraid to admit they deal with mental health issues, huh?)
You know, at the end of the day, there will always be controversy over this topic. People are still not comfortable with depression and chronic illnesses that reside in the brain.
Yet what gives me hope is, from what I’ve seen, the positive comments about the women on the episode of “Katie” that I was on FAR outweigh the negative.
Honestly, it took me this long to write a follow-up post about the show because I’m still reading through all the lovely comments people have left on my Facebook page. I’m still responding to thankful emails from people. I’m still going through messages of support, hope, and optimism overflowing from my social media accounts.
The controversy is what attracts attention. But in the end, it’s not what will last.
What will last is the caring, the support, and the kind words that so many women have been showing each other as they courageously talk about their depression and other battles.
What will last are the communities of like-minded, supportive moms on sites like Moms Who Need Wine, Honest Mom, and countless others.
What will last is the hope that the more we talk, the less we’ll judge.
One day I was just hanging out, writing blog posts about moms and depression, hoping I was helping some other moms with my words.
Then “Xanax Made Me a Better Mom” – a Parenting Magazine article I am in – got picked up by CNN.
And all of a sudden, a whole lot more people were reading my blog.
Which led to some opportunities to take my message to a national stage – and the best one was to be interviewed by a woman I’ve always admired: Katie Couric.
It may sound like a no-brainer. I mean, being interviewed by KATIE COURIC? Who would pass that up, other than maybe Sarah Palin?
But it wasn’t an easy decision for me.
I have always flown under the radar here at Honest Mom. And I’ve been comfortable writing in relative obscurity. Being unknown is safe – and what I originally wanted.
But as I was debating the pros and cons with the Hubs, it dawned on me…
My whole goal in writing about depression is to help lift the stigma, while helping other moms feel less alone in their battles.
Yes, it’s nerve-wracking, putting my face out there.
Yes, it’s scary to open myself up to a larger audience, and therefore more potential criticism.
But speaking with Katie was a huge opportunity to reach even more struggling moms and help them to know they’re not alone – and also educate the general public about depression. As I wrote in this post:
I want to grab a megaphone and let everyone out there know that regular, everyday moms like me have depression, work hard to successfully manage it, and live happy, normal lives.
Katie’s show presented that megaphone. So I took it.
On Tuesday, March 5, I’ll be appearing on Katie Couric’s show in an episode called “Mommy’s Little Helper.” The show examines both the negative and positive ways moms deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. And in it, I do a one-to-one interview with Katie on moms, depression, and medications.
Here’s a clip (and it sounds super-dramatic. One part of the show is, but my part is a very honest and frank discussion)…
Excuse me while I finally squee with excited and nervous glee. Squeeeeeee!
Now, let me answer some questions that I’d want to know if someone I knew was going on a national TV show. You know, the really pressing ones:
Is Katie as nice as she seems? Yes. Completely. She was professional, kind, and adorable, all at the same time. And she’s really funny! Katie cracked jokes with her audience between taping and had everyone laughing. And I could tell she is truly interested in helping women with depression. I was so thrilled to talk with her!
Was I nervous? Um, yeah. Totally. I can’t even remember what I said when Katie and I talked. So hopefully I won’t look like an idiot on the show.
Did they do my hair and makeup? Yep. My hair doesn’t normally look like it does on the show. It’s much frizzer and curlier. And holy makeup – wow, I had a lot on!
Is the green room really green? Yes! And it’s pretty cool, too. They had food and stuff out, but I was too nervous to eat.
Was anyone famous there? No major celebrities, nope. Except, you know, KATIE.
Did anything go wrong? Ha. Yes. Everything went wrong the day I traveled to NYC. I had to check my bag because of an expensive hair product (that turns out, I didn’t even need). My flight sat on the runway for over an hour. My luggage got lost – the bag WITH MY DRESS IN IT that I should have never checked in to begin with. I sat at LaGuardia for hours waiting for it to show up. Seriously, I was wondering if fate was telling me not to go. It was a stressful day. But the day of the show … well, it went perfectly. Thank God!
Would you do it all again? Ask me after the show airs. I am so curious to see what I looked like on camera and if I sounded ridiculous. If I did okay – then yes! If not, then I will commence hiding out from all things media forevermore.
So set your DVR for the “Katie” show on ABC, Tuesday, March 5, spread the word, and please think happy thoughts for me! I’ll need all the good vibes I can get.
PS: “Katie” runs is on at 3pm in my area, but airs at different times in other markets – so check your listings! Find “Katie” on a station near you by entering your zip code HERE.
PPS: I may or may not be hyperventilating a little bit right now.
I had expected to feel down, sad, and grumpy. Which I did, that’s for sure.
But rage? That was not something I expected from postpartum depression.
And the rage is what drove me to get help.
About five weeks after my second daughter, Grace, was born, my husband could tell I was not doing well. So he decided to surprise me with a half-day at a local spa.
I was thrilled. Nails, facial, massage … and no baby or toddler attached to me for a few blissful hours. Heaven.
But when I came home, I could hear Grace’s crying the second I walked into the house. My body tensed immediately and the relaxed feeling was gone. Hubs told me that Grace didn’t eat the entire time I was out. She took a little milk from a bottle but then wouldn’t accept the bottle again.
She didn’t accept a bottle EVER again.
And I could feel the rage start to build from that day.
I felt trapped by my colicky, non-sleeping, no-bottle-taking baby. I was frustrated with my toddler, Anne, who was throwing tantrums constantly. And I was really questioning my decision to leave my full-time writing job for the occasional freelance gig.
I felt overwhelmed, sad, anxious, and angry. Every. Single. Day.
Then one night I really lost it on Anne when she was having a tantrum. I couldn’t control the words flying out of my mouth. I wanted to smack her and make her stop (which thankfully, I didn’t). I wanted to be anywhere but there.
The rage coming out of me was other-worldly. Thankfully Hubs was there and was able to intervene. I feel physically ill when I think about how I acted and what could have happened.
It was the most terrifying feeling I had ever experienced.
I called both my primary care and OB docs the next day. Working together, they got me on Zoloft and into therapy right away. And I felt better within days. The sadness, the lack of interest in life, the anxiety … it all got better with the Zoloft.
The rage, though, took more work to get under control. The Zoloft helped. But the therapy was what made it much, much better.
Four years later, I am still managing my depression. The PPD got better, but then morphed into another kind of depression when my dad suddenly died. Who knows what it technically is now—but I’m still dealing with it.
And the rage is still there. It’s the most difficult part to manage and from my experience, the least-talked about symptom of depression.
That’s why I’m writing this post. I want all you moms out there to know that if you deal with PPD or depression—and especially the rage that can accompany it—you are not alone. You are not a bad mom. It can and will get better—if you get help.
Being a mom means doing hard things. And sometimes the hardest thing is asking for the help you need. I know that first phone call was incredibly hard for me to make.
But now I understand that depression happens to regular people. These scary feelings do not make me a bad mother. And with medication, therapy, and healthier life choices, I feel more like me again.
Yes, I’m still fighting the depression, sadness, and rage. But now, finally … finally I feel like I’m winning.
A version of this post originally appeared on Scary Mommy and got an amazing, emotional response from many women. You can read all the comments here. Many thanks to Jill Smokler for helping me raise awareness about PPD and depression.