Our Postpartum Depression and Anxiety support group has been running for 4 months now and it has been incredible to see these mothers come together and bond over shared thoughts, feelings, and fears. It has also been interesting to see that many of the women attending our group are second-time moms. When introducing themselves, they’ve voiced a similar motive – they didn’t want to make the mistake they did with their first child and attempt to endure postpartum alone. Many of these women have expressed regret that they didn’t seek support sooner and that they didn’t share more openly about their struggles; instead feeling paralyzed by shame, fear, and confusion.
Breaking the Stigma of Postpartum Depression by Speaking Up
Unfortunately, this reveals to us that there is still a negative stigma attached to mental health struggles. Many are afraid to reach out for help because they feel like they will face judgement or that no one will understand. And many become fearful to speak up, because the one time they found the courage to try they received a response that seemed to minimize the intensity of their pain.
Support is crucial for the treatment of Postpartum Mood Disorders yet resources are incredibly limited. The people in your corner may not understand the extent of your struggle, or may not know how they can truly help you. So these tips are for new moms struggling to ask for help and for those seeking to support new moms who may be in the thick of Depression or Anxiety. Hopefully as you begin to reach out for help, and the people in your life learn how to help, we can come together to eliminate the stigma associated with PPD.
How to Find the Courage to Ask for Help (For The Mamas)
Validate Your Struggle
If you’re going to be willing to ask for help, you must first validate the reality and intensity of your struggle. Call it what it is. Postpartum Depression isn’t just a phase. It’s not the “Baby Blues”. It is not something to be glossed over. It is real and it is powerful and debilitating. See yourself as worthy of seeking support, and recognize that a Postpartum Mood Disorder is something you cannot and should not fight on you own.
Bring Your People with You
Bring your spouse, partner, or whomever you consider to be your support system with you to your doctor or counselor. Bring them into the fold so that they can hear from a medical professional the extent of what is going on to promote understanding.
Don’t make Permanent Decisions in a Temporary Season
Marriages struggle where PPD thrives. Friendships lose their footing. New moms feel isolated and it becomes hard to separate the darkness from reality. You may not trust the people around you or feel they have your best interests at heart in this moment. This is why open communication is so essential. Be sure to give yourself and those around you time to adjust and work together towards healing through this difficult season.
Realize that trying to do this alone may only extend the life of Postpartum Depression
The sooner you reach out, the sooner you will gain the resources you need to find freedom from Postpartum Depression. It may feel terrifying to reach out, but your “future self” will thank the “present-day you” for not putting off what you need most.
Ask the right people for help
You may reach out to a well-meaning person and get a response that only adds to your shame. Reach out to your friends and family, but also remember to contact those who are trained to identify and treat medical and mental health struggles. A combination of mental health counseling and continued care from your primary care provider, midwife, or OB/GYN is your best bet.
How to Offer Help to Someone Battling a Postpartum Mood Disorder (For Husbands, Partners, Parents, & Friends)
Validate Their Struggle
If someone close to you broke their leg, you wouldn’t tell them to just give it time and focus on the positive. You would run to a provider, get an X-ray, and seek to meet their needs – both emotionally and physically. Mental illness needs to be seen in the same light. Postpartum Depression is rooted in the physical. Hormones are imbalanced, sleep is limited, the body is healing, and isolation is thick. Help your person out by validating the diagnosis and believing that they genuinely feel powerless to stop it.
Don’t Try to Fix It
In our love for others, we tend to seek quick solutions. “Take a nap.” “Go meet up with a friend.” “Focus on what you’re thankful for.” Unfortunately, these quick fixes create more frustration as the person feels both minimized and helpless to do these seemingly “simple” tasks. Try to listen first. Seek to understand, empathize, love on, and validate. Then together you can seek out strategies to form a treatment plan.
Remind Them of What’s True
Postpartum Depression lies. It will tell your partner she is an awful mom. It will tell her you are an awful partner. It will tell her she is failing at life. It will tell her this will never get better. Try to remind her lovingly and gently of what’s true. Try to offer hope for what’s to come.
Be Patient with the Process
Healing takes time. There is no “right” amount of time in which things should progress. Again, this is where open communication is key so that you don’t make this new mom feel “rushed” to get better.
Take Action Rather than Simply Offering
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!” These are well-meaning words that we’ve all said, but words that fall short when someone is in a dark place. Instead of waiting to be asked, take the initiative to do things that would be considered helpful and loving. Pick the person up and take them out for coffee. Do a few loads of laundry for them. Take the kids to the playground so they can take a nap. Bring them a meal without imposing your company on them. Take action (within reason) to help remove some of their burden.
Do Your Research
A simple Google search of Postpartum Depression and Mood Disorders will give many people a world of insight. Spend time understanding your person’s struggle. Research the causes of PPD, possible triggers, what things help and what things don’t help. The more understanding you have about the nature of PPD, the more you will be able to meet your person where they are at.
Come to our next PPD support group at Breath of Life on Monday, August 6th at 6:30pm. We will build more on the importance of asking for help and how to do it, as well as give you a tip sheet to give to your partners and support people to help with supporting you. This list is very much not exhaustive, so it will be great to learn from one another about how we can offer support to other moms and how your loved ones can better support you.