As a preface to this post, I’d like to share an excerpt from my book that reflects how the pain from postpartum depression (PPD) can fill a mother with so much despair and hopelessness–especially when she doesn’t know what is happening and why, and that there is a cure for whatever it was that is causing her to feel/behave/think the way she is feeling/behaving/thinking–that she would want to end her life.
One too many times, I gave Ed a miserable look and told him how scared I was that I didn’t know what was going on with me and I was afraid that I’d never get better. There would be tears in my eyes but I couldn’t cry. Most of the time, he didn’t know what to say. It was way after I had fully recovered from PPD that Ed finally admitted that he had feared I would never get well, never return to my old self, and never appreciate watching [our daughter] grow up.
Each day, I’d stand by a window, staring out at the snow and pleading for God to help me get through all this. I’d say over and over again, “Please, God, please help me get through this. My baby and husband need me … help me to be strong!” It was difficult for me to focus on any tasks. Often I’d sit there in the kitchen by myself or stand in the middle of a room, unsure of what to do next or not wanting to do anything at all. I felt like staying in bed all day long or in a tight ball hiding in a corner, rocking myself for comfort, but I couldn’t because I had to take care of [my baby]. During that time, I tried my best to interact with [my baby], to play with her, and talk to her.
…….. I thought I was never going to get better, I wasn’t going to be able to go back to work, and I wasn’t going to ever be well enough to take care of the baby. I just wanted to shrivel up into a tiny ball and disappear. I couldn’t bear the thought I was going to be like this for the rest of my life.
Although I never thought about actually ending my life, I constantly thought about disappearing because I just wanted all the misery to end. And I most certainly couldn’t imagine staying in my PPD state for the rest of my life. So it’s a good thing my PPD was cured when it was, as I’m not sure how much longer I would have lasted. I have heard many other mothers who suffered from PPD that thought about disappearing as well. I have also heard a few instances of mothers thinking about taking their own lives and/or actually attempting suicide. Each time I hear these stories, it makes me feel more committed than ever to continue blogging and trying to reach people who are struggling with PPD.
I’ve been wanting to share a couple of important articles about suicide as the second leading cause of death for women in the postpartum period….one article is from last June and the other is from 3 months ago.
The one from 3 months ago (5/2/2018) was written by Catherine Pearson on Huffington Post titled “Suicide is a leading cause of suicide for new moms but awareness is low.” The article focuses on the story of Kari who died by suicide back June 2010. Kari’s sister, Karla, shared the story to try to educate other mothers on how deadly PPD can be. Like some of the other stories I’ve shared on this blog, Kari’s family was unaware of how bad her PPD was until it was too late. Her family was getting her ready to move in with them to help her out until she felt better, but never had a chance to do so. Within 4 weeks of giving birth, she died by suicide. Her condition had quickly gone from giving birth to not being able to sleep (what happened to me) to feeling super anxious to wanting to harm herself. The day before she was going to see a doctor about her condition, she died by suicide.
The one from last June (6/5/2017) was written by Gina Louis for Medium titled “The Night Postpartum Depression Almost Killed Me.” This is the story of a new mother who, after struggling with feelings of inadequacy and feeling a failure of a mother and wife that her children and husband would be better off without, she planned to take her own life one night. She was going to let the dark hole of despair swallow her up. But she thankfully didn’t carry it out that night. She got help. She is now, like me, a survivor speaking up and trying to help others realize that PPD can be overcome with the right help. As my experience has made me feel stronger and more confident than before, her experience has made her feel stronger and more confident than before.
What Kari’s sister and Gina Louis are trying to do by sharing these stories is to educate folks on how deadly PPD can be and how quickly things can become deadly. PPD is a serious condition that can lead to tragic consequences quickly. If you or someone you know is suffering from PPD, please seek/get them to seek treatment asap.
For a country that is so advanced in medicine and technology, we must ask ourselves why American mothers don’t have enough access to, or education about, maternal mental health treatment and why American policy makers can’t do more to address the stubbornly high rates of pregnancy-related death and pregnancy-related suicides, which account for one in five postpartum deaths.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line.
Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.