10 Things I Wish My Partner Knew About My PPD, Without Me Having To Say It
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is so hard to explain to people who haven't been there. Especially your partner, who is likely scared and anxious and trying to parent while simultaneously support you. Sometimes even just saying the words "I'm not happy" or "I feel depressed" or "I need help" feels impossible, even if you're saying those words to the person who knows and loves you best. There were so many things I wish my partner knew about my PPD, without me having to actually say it.
Things like how exhausted I was trying to keep up with breastfeeding, how scared I was that motherhood was going to feel that bad forever, and how lonely I was trying to cope with it all by myself. Was I a bad mom? Would I ever love being a mother? How did things get so bad, when we are supposed to be happy?
Being a new mom is seriously hard anyway, and on top of the normal level of hard, so many of us (as many as 25 percent) also experience postpartum depression. There's little you can do to prevent it, and doctors don't always know the cause, but some combination of giving birth, postpartum hormone changes, sleep deprivation, anxiety, recovery, previous mental health issues, and even challenges with breastfeeding can trigger postpartum mood disorders, including anxiety, depression, and psychosis. The good news is that there are treatment options and many parents (including me) are able to get help and move forward with their lives. The lucky ones have supportive partners to help see them through these dark days.
Here are just a few things I wish my former partner had known about my PPD, and hope my current partner knows when our baby is born, without me having to say them out loud.
I Can't Help It
I can't help it and I can't just "snap out of it." Seriously. I'm not doing this on purpose. If I could be happy, I would, but this is likely more complex than taking a walk, getting hug, or all the chocolate in the world can fix.
I Don't Want To Feel This Way
I seriously don't want to feel this way. I wish I could be happy and "normal," whatever "normal" is. I want to love my baby and being a mom. I want my life back.
I Need A Break
Even if it's just for an hour or two, or one night time feeding, or a shower, can you step in and take the baby and say, "I've got this"? Please. I need a break. Postpartum depression can cause serious anxiety and insomnia, so even when I can sleep, I can't sleep. I need help.
I Need You To Listen
Please hear me, even if you don't want to hear the words I am saying. Please just listen. Having someone hear me say these things out loud and validate that they are normal or something we can fix would seriously help.
I Need To See My Doctor
I know we don't always take mental health issues seriously in our culture. We are constantly expecting people to try harder and "snap out" of their depression. Funny how we never tell someone to snap out of strep throat or heart disease. We tell them to go see their doctor. I might to hear that from someone I trust. Also, don't wait for me to same something. I might never tell you. I might not even know.
I Need To Hear That I Am A Good Mom
I will try to remember to tell you when you are being a rock star dad, but can you do the same? I need to know that I am doing OK. I am so scared and worried. I need to hear those words.
I Love Our Baby
I wanted to be a mom. I love our baby. I really do. It's just hard to realize that through the fog of exhaustion, sadness, and self-doubt. I know it might seem like I don't want to touch her or be around her. That's the depression talking.
Please Don't Give Me "Helpful" Advice
Just take a walk, just eat, just take a shower, just take a nap, just get out of bed. Easier said than done. Empathic responses don't start with the word "just." Nor do they start with a summary of all the things I should feel happy about. Didn't you want a baby? At least you can have babies. Aren't you happy now? No, I'm so not.
You Can't Possibly Understand, But That's OK
I can't really describe how I feel right now any more than someone can describe any complex human emotion. What is happy? What is sad? What is love? For me untreated depression is like 1,000 pounds of weight on my chest. Life seems impossible. Death seems easy. It's OK that you don't understand, as long as you can sympathize or empathize and be there for me when I need your help.
I'm Doing My Best
Seriously. Being a new mom is hard, and I am doing my best. Some days, my best is awesome by anyone's standards. Some days, my best is not weeping uncontrollably. Give me time and space. Give me hugs. Give me kindness. I know I can get through this, but I need your help and understanding. I need you to know that I am trying my hardest to beat this, and I need you.