Today, I am thrilled to feature guest blogger, Caitlin Lowry-Shegog, who shares her personal journey with postpartum depression. You can follow Caitlin on her blog, What Wondrous Love is This.
“Mother and baby are fine.” Four words that often accompany a photo of a newborn baby, shared by a new dad in the blinding haze that surrounds the birth of a new life; four words to sum up a completely life-altering experience. Mother + Baby = Fine.
The truth of the matter is that many women are not fine for weeks, months, or even years after giving birth. In fact, in 2015, one million women will develop Postpartum depression, or another related disease, such as postpartum PTSD, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis, or postpartum anxiety. Left untreated, these diseases pose lifelong issues for both moms and babies. Sadly, 85% of women will NOT seek treatment, due to a lack of knowledge and proper screening, and the stigma and judgment that so unfortunately surround mental illness.
In 2012 I became part of this statistic, after the birth of my son, Gideon. Within 48 hours of my 48 hour labor, a heavy cloud settled over me. The best way to describe my depression experience is to compare it to drowning. I felt completely aware that something was clinging to me, dragging me deeper and deeper, suffocating, all-consuming, but I couldn’t escape. Most days it was all I could do to stay alive. I was consumed with sadness and rage, often crying for hours at a time. My son never slept, which made it nearly impossible to rest, and the trauma that resulted from my labor experience caused what little sleep I did achieve to be filled with night terrors and flashbacks. I developed paralyzing social anxiety and would have panic attacks when forced to enter the grocery store. But worst of all was the constant, nagging fear that I would harm my son, or harm myself. Many days I felt unsafe using knives, walking up and down the stairs, driving my car, or giving my son a bath.
I had disappeared. I felt like all of me had gone away, like I had no value, no purpose, that anyone in the world would have been a better caregiver for my child than me.
Two months after my son was born, I began researching, pouring through every piece of information I could find regarding post-partum illnesses. Postpartum Progress was one of the first resources I tapped into on my road to recovery. Their website provided me with the tools I needed to better understand what I was experiencing and to connect with others who were suffering around me.
Today, I am 2.5 years postpartum. I survived, but there are thousands of women who do not. In fact, suicide is the most common cause of death for new moms, in the United States. This is NOT okay. Help is available. Treatment is available. Healing can happen!
Postpartum Progress is dedicated to educating women in the United States, and around the world, about perinatal mood disorders. They also promote screening for PPD in Ob-Gyn offices, as well as in pediatrician’s offices. Women are suffering alone and it’s just not good enough.
For the past two summers, on the longest day of the year, Postpartum Progress has hosted an event called Climb out of the Darkness, to raise awareness for maternal mental health issues, and to raise money to better educate and screen women in our communities. This year, I am hosting team Pennsylvania -- New Castle. If you have loved someone with postpartum depression, are currently battling, or are a survivor, please consider joining my team! If you are unable to walk, and would like to donate, that would be great as well. Every penny goes back to Postpartum Progress, so that they can further educate and support women, and families struggling through these debilitating illnesses.
And if you are reading this and my story resonates with YOU, if the symptoms I experienced are symptoms YOU are experiencing, seek help! There are doctors in your area that can help you begin to heal. You are NOT expendable. You are priceless. You are the best mother for your child. You are a warrior, and you can beat this. I know you can.
Do you think you might have PPD/OCD, or anxiety? Check out the symptoms, here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english
Looking for a doctor, in your area who is a PPD specialist? Here’s a list of professionals who can help: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/womens-mental-health-treatment-programs-specialists-us-canada-australia
Want to join my team, and walk to raise awareness for perinatal mood disorders? (You can donate here as well) https://www.crowdrise.com/caitlinlowry-COTD2015/fundraiser/caitlinlowry
Want to find a climb in YOUR area? http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of-the-darkness/find-a-climb/
To learn more, please check out this video from last year's climb: