Warning: This story is a bit more vivid than others and may act as a trigger for people who struggle with separating the idea of harm from reality.
Allison is a new friend. I classify her as such, despite only meeting her once, because once you hear about someone’s struggles on this level, you feel deeply for them, and you feel bonded to them, as if they understand you fully and reciprocally as you understand them.
Allison felt anxiety upon arriving entering the market at which we had planned to meet; what impressed me most is that she outrightly expressed this, which takes confidence and security. I instantly admired her and recognized her as a kindred spirit, as I, too, felt my anxiety swell as I surveyed the room, crammed with mothers and children.
We chatted as we weaved through the various vendors. She mentioned that her postpartum depression began at ten days postpartum when her son’s doctor discharged her son from the NICU. Allison described those first ten days in the hospital as relatively easy: nurses were always ready to jump in and show you what to do. The hard part started when she, her husband, and their newborn son arrived at home.
Her relationship with her husband strained, but he acted as a support to her. Allison was open about her difficulties to her friends and family, and that provided a great deal of help and support. There was an established support team that helped her cope and feel loved. She told me of her mood fluctuations and how she would yell at her husband because no matter what he did, in her mind in that state, he was always wrong.
She stated that the onset of her PPD felt like she would never get better—that her endorphins were completely broken. She said, “I was obsessed about everything. I felt that I couldn’t do anything right. I felt like a failure already as my son had to spend time in the NICU for hypoglycemia, and I wanted to be perfect to make up for it, but still, I failed, and I wanted to die. I had thoughts of suicide, and I vividly envisioned myself overdosing or cutting my wrists.”
It was difficult to imagine Allison in this state. It’s a state in which is difficult to imagine anyone.
Her saving grace? A prescription for progesterone.
After starting progesterone, she felt much better within a week. Progesterone was her missing puzzle piece.
In order to boost her recovery, Allison also saw a PPD therapist for a couple months, which she felt was extremely helpful.
Looking back, Allison wishes she could have told herself the following:
“You’ll get through this. You can do this. Just do the best you can and stop comparing yourself to others. You are a great mom. Go on the progesterone right after you have the baby, stop worrying about everything, love the baby, let go of control, listen to your instincts, and oh, you are doing a great job.”
I can stand as a witness. Allison, you really are doing a great job.
Special thanks to Allison for sharing her story. All names have been changed in order to protect the identity of the interviewee.