Mia has a backbone. She is strong and creative. She is sarcastic, witty, and authentic. She is a master when it comes to organization (truly, she could give Marie Kondo a run for her money). She bears her burdens with grace, but does recognize that they are indeed struggles.
Mia was one of the first women to volunteer her story when I announced this project. She has two children. Her first child only triggered what she calls “true baby blues,” a short stint of mild depression, which is abnormal due to the huge drop in hormones. However, with her second child, Mia desperately needed assistance, as her postpartum depression and anxiety were unbearable.
She chose to not breastfeed her second child, Gio, after a horrible experience with her first. Thus, by the third week, her breasts were engorged, and she felt completely overwhelmed by the onset of depression. Mia mentions that she thought about running away, and notes on several occasions she left the house without telling anyone where she was going. The other side of her depression brought her to her bed, where she uncontrollably cried and did not speak.
Mia stated that she had the mindset was that her family would better off without her. She recalled saying to her husband, “I just bring down the family. Everyone is just better without me. If I don’t leave, you’ll leave.”
She describes this stage as darkness.
“I was in this black hole, and it’s so dark there is no such thing as light. My husband would just hold me and tell me that it’s okay, that I was okay, that I was and am needed—he just kept repeating it over and over.”
It was after I recognized this mindset that I realized I needed help. After that really horrible night, I called my OBGYN and made an appointment. She gave me Zoloft and a strong suggestion to see a therapist.
The Zoloft sat on my counter for two weeks. The denial set in again: “Maybe I’m not as bad as I thought I was, maybe I don’t need to take medication for this.”
Mia notes that she grew up in a household where you “didn’t need to take medication for mental health issues.” The overall mentality was that if you need antidepressants or psychologists “you aren’t trying hard enough.” This mindset made it difficult for Mia to initially embrace the medical help offered to her.
Over the two weeks, Mia’s rage issues worsened, as rage is a common emotion for women experiencing PPD/PPA. Mia stated the her rage would emerge when things as little as her daughter spilling her cup sent her into an absolute fit of anger, resulting in her “verbally unleashing” on her daughter. After her rage subsided, Mia’s guilt would set in, and this is ultimately what drove her to start getting “better.”
Still, there were other obstacles to getting help. Getting into a psychologist proved to be difficult, as they require full payment up front, and then you could personally bill your insurance following the session. Mia had to scrape the money together to get help, which is often extremely difficult once a family welcomes a new baby because with a new baby there are many other medical bills to worry about. Mia saw her once, and ultimately, concluded that she couldn’t afford to see a psychologist, but it was through her psychologist that she decided she needed to start taking her prescribed medication, Zoloft.
Taking Zoloft had a sedative effect on Mia, so Mia’s husband had to take over night feedings; this made for a difficult time for her husband, as he would leave for work at 5 AM everyday, but he did it because that’s what she needed. Mia stated, “He truly did it for me.”
Mia described the experience a trial that brought she and her spouse closer together.
“It was such a big trial for us because of this big emotional instability I was going through, but before that I couldn’t imagine loving someone more, but then we went through this trial together, and I was proven wrong, because our love and our marriage was so strengthened through the sacrifices he was making for our family—never complaining, just doing. “
Over time, Mia got better. She was on her mental health medication for about one year, at which time she was able to wean off of it.
Mia was open about her experience with her five-year-old daughter.
“When I had bad moments, and I still do have bad moments, I would tell her about my struggles because I wanted her to know why and what was happening because she would go to the pharmacy and the doctor appointments. I told her it was something I was doing because I needed help and taking medications is on way to get help. Now that I’m off the medications, I tell her that I’m seeing a psychologist, and I tell her that this is another way I can get help and be my best self.”
Looking back, Mia would tell herself that her experience wasn’t unheard of, and in some ways, it was normal, and if anything, she wasn’t alone in her struggles.
Mia said, “No one is alone in their struggle with postpartum depression. You are never alone. Anyone reading this, you are never alone.”
Reading such phrases are often what got Mia through her difficult days, which is why she feels an obligation to be outspoken about her postpartum depression and anxiety.
“We, as women, regardless of race, and politics, and anything else, we are moms, and we need to support each other I this amazing role, regardless is you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom or whatever mom. Postpartum depression is no joke because you are emotionally getting beat up and taking care of a brand new baby at the same time.”