being a mom
Mind Over Mommy: Is It The Blues, Or Is It Depression?
I was curious as to how moms can put some of their fears at ease and be able to tell when it truly is time to ask for help, so I sought some answers from Dr. Jessica Michaelson, a Clinical Psychologist at Honest Parenthood, who agreed that it can be difficult to measure emotions in the early postpartum period, but that it’s completely normal to experience a pretty wide range of feelings at first.
The birth process and early postpartum period are so complex — physiologically, psychologically, socially — that I expect most women to have a wide range of emotional experiences in the first weeks, with high highs and low lows.
The problem, she says, is when time goes by and those feelings aren’t winding down, to the point that they begin interfering with your every day life.
Clinically speaking, we want to know if the anxiety or emotional stress is causing the mom significant emotional pain or making her life unmanageable. In terms of the subjective suffering, this means she is in emotional pain for a majority of the time or with episodes of intensity that are overwhelming… All new moms need a lot of help, so we’re talking about issues where the anxiety or emotions are interfering with her most important relationships or making it difficult to complete basic tasks, like driving or being alone with the baby. Of course any time a mom or someone else is afraid for anyone’s safety, it’s essential to get help immediately.
Michaelson stresses what I learned the hard way, which is that postpartum illnesses themselves often make women feel like their distress is normal and/or that they don’t deserve help. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘depression lies.’ Well, it does. Truly.
If you think you would benefit from meeting with someone and discussing your symptoms, Dr. Michaelson recommends Postpartum Support International, an organization that provides referrals to qualified mental health professionals and resources for women to get help remotely if no one is available in their geographical area, or if it’s just impossible for a mom to find time for a physical appointment.
There’s also Postpartum Progress, an online community started by Katherine Stone that gives women a safe space to share their stories and get support from peers. The blog post I read that tipped me off to my own postpartum anxiety was actually on Postpartum Progress. Katherine Stone gave me my ‘me too’ moment.
The bottom line is that it’s normal to feel anxious, insecure, exhausted, and even frustrated, but feeling lost, in constant distress, and like you can’t get through your day-to-day isn’t just something you have to live with. You don’t have to suffer in silence. There are resources out there that can help you on your terms, and as Dr. Michaelson told me, there are many people out there ready to support you.
Mind Over Mommy is a biweekly column devoted to mental health and self-care for moms. As someone who formerly failed to make myself and my well-being a priority, I hope to create a safe space for women to share stories, learn, and encourage one another.