I began this story when my son turned one, though I had parts of it constructed in my mind many months before then. As my son’s first birthday approached, I began thinking about the amazing growth he had accomplished in one year. I also thought about the many joyful moments he had brought to my husband and me. And then I thought about the sadness, the fear, and the anxiety. I began writing, thinking I had a short story. I soon realized I had a full-blown memoir in the works.
Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (also known as perinatal mood disorders) are not discussed enough. In my experience, it seems that people are uncomfortable to learn about them and women experiencing postpartum mood disorders are too ashamed to discuss them. When I shared early drafts of my story with others, many women began telling me their own story, often admitting, “I’ve never told anyone else about these thoughts.”
Even though I speak about my experience openly, I know some people don’t care to learn more about it. After I brought up the topic once, someone said, “We should just pretend this is a chapter in your life that never happened.” Someone else once said, “It’s too horrible to hear about.” However, hearing about it is not nearly as difficult as living through it, and I will not pretend this chapter of my life didn’t happen.
By telling my story and talking about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, I hope to help remove the stigma and shame associated with this condition. Women can encounter a wide range of mood disorders during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period. Postpartum depression seems to be the most recognized and understood maternal mental health condition, but women might also encounter postpartum anxiety, postpartum panic attacks, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis. Each of these disorders has unique symptoms and characteristics. Each disorder requires different types of treatment, but often these lesser-known disorders are misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and mistreated. In my situation, this lack of knowledge and awareness added complications to my progress, and at one point, I regretted being as forthcoming about my situation as I was. Despite the challenge I faced, I still encourage women with postpartum mood or anxiety disorders to speak about their condition openly and to ask for help. However, I would also stress that as women seek help, they must also make sure that the people from whom they seek assistance are well educated about postpartum mood disorders.
Some people have asked me how I could possibly have remembered the events, conversations, and details in this story. First, I suppose I have an exceptional memory. Second, throughout all my troubles, I was writing in my journal constantly, so I drew from that. I was also always repeating this story to doctors, nurses, family members, and anyone who would listen, so it was sort of recorded in my brain for months before I even began writing. Finally, I have spoken to people and reviewed my medical records, and these sources have confirmed my memories. When the story includes dialogue, I obviously have not recorded conversations verbatim; I have tried to represent the general idea of these conversations as best as I could. However, as I said, I have an exceptional memory of these events because they were so emotionally charged, and I do remember certain powerful things that were said.
I have changed some names and other identifying details to maintain the anonymity of certain individuals and establishments.
Thank you for reading my story, my truth, and thus embarking on this journey with me toward the edge of sanity.
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