It’s not an addiction. It’s not an injury. It’s not something that is easily seen yet is extremely dysfunctional and can be fatal. No one chooses to experience it. The timing of it’s existence isn’t planned. People who suffer through this don’t do it on purpose and don’t want to hurt you or mess with your life or plans. Believe me when they say it affects them much worse than it affects you.
Many people don’t notice and more often choose to ignore it. Much the same way as when multiple people hear a gun shot and say, “Did you hear that?,” yet don’t call the police to check on it; those suffering through it are ignored. They are often dismissed when they mention they are struggling, “get more rest, do less, stay strong, this too shall pass.” It’s as if recovery is easy.
Yet, the people suffering through this, don’t see an easy path. They see discombobulation, inconvenience to others, a burden, worthlessness for needing help, and some see themselves as a failure. Even the best laid plans to help get through it or prevent it; fail. Even when you can tell people, “I struggled through it last time and I am afraid I will struggle through it this time,” and those people you shared with say, “I will be there for you. I want to help you. I don’t want you to have to suffer again. Just let me know.”
They will forget. You will be a burden. You will be an inconvenience. They will ignore.
Oftentimes these will be the same people who say, “Why didn’t she tell me? Why didn’t she say something?”
But their busy lives or the uncomfortable thought of having to inconvenience themselves, their family, their vacation, their trip, their work, their plans, their lives…comes over the triage and treatment of someone suffering through postpartum depression. Because the illness can’t be seen and can’t be easily noticed, the women continue to suffer. Sometimes, we don’t even realize we are suffering with an illness that we are so far into the destruction, it’s hard to fix or back out.
The irrational and impulsive nature that can come with postpartum depression might be fatal if it is not recognized or noticed by a loved one AND that same loved one reaches out and ensures help is given. Follow-through is important. It is crucial. Waiting or ignoring leads to poor outcomes. Thinking, “It will get better. She is going through a rough spot. It’s her hormones. She is strong and will survive;” all of those statements from those on the outside are damaging to her.
She is strong, but right now her strength is the reason she hasn’t sought help. Her strength is actually her enemy. And a woman who is believed to be that strong, who is believed to survive anything, who is believed to have survived worse; well…by the time she reaches out for help, she is in the depths of despair and needs immediate attention, support, help, treatment, and love.
Her thoughts can be dangerous yet if she shares them, her biggest fear is her children will be taken away so she keeps the thoughts suppressed, furthering the danger she is in. She continues to suffer in silence, hoping someone will notice, just enough, to reach out and step in. “I’m here for you’s,” are ignored because it’s not direct enough. It’s open-ended.
“I’m bringing you lunch or dinner or coming over to clean or hold the baby so you can shower” are better. A friend said it like this to me which made it hard for me to say no “How about I come over after my meeting at 1:30?” Then she asked if I was okay for dinner because she was going to bring something.
You can’t tell a mom has postpartum depression by looking.
But these require the other person to be inconvenienced in some way and many people won’t do that. Many people also don’t want to really know or hear what’s going on because it requires follow up, follow through and maybe more support than they are willing to give. It also makes them uncomfortable for a variety of reasons but they likely don’t know how to support someone through this. It’s not an addiction, it’s not an injury. It’s unseen and uncomfortable.
All of this makes postpartum depression worse. At least it does for me.
Society also makes a woman believe she is weak for asking for help. The medical field furthers these thoughts by only “testing” women within the first six weeks of having a baby. At the first newborn visit (2 days postpartum) a few questions might be asked. At the 2-week newborn visit, the mother fills out the Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale.
Both of these tests are administered very early in the postpartum period. At the 6-week postpartum visit, the test is given again. Keep in mind, the test at the newborn visit and the test at the postpartum visit are given by different practitioners who most likely do not talk with each other. If something came up at the 2-week visit, the OBGYN would most likely have no idea. After the 6-week appointment, assuming the mother did not score a 10 or above on the scale, the assessments are complete.
Any help needed after 6-weeks postpartum the mother would have to recognize on her own.
I noticed a random question on the well-baby check-up sheet for my daughter at her 4-month visit, “Is anyone at home irritable, angry, sad, or depressed?” I marked YES. During the 45-minute visit, it was never addressed with me. Why?
It requires follow-up.
Because the doctor never explored the question with me (keep in mind he is a pediatrician, I feel the question is merely a band-aid. It’s not a solution. It’s fluff to make it look as if someone cares but it’s not real. Because no one asked a thing when the box was checked. It was ignored. Little did they know that it took everything in me to check that box YES. I was ready for an uncomfortable conversation but I didn’t want to initiate it. If you asked me during the appointment you might have received tears and seen that something was up and that your probing could have helped. You could have potentially saved me from going deeper into despair.
Postpartum Depression – Part 2