This story hits really close to home. Postpartum depression affects roughly 1 in 10 women after birth, including those without a previous history of depression. I too have experienced the toll it can take.
After having a baby, it can sometimes be hard to tell if you’re just working through the expected emotional roller coaster from hormones and sleep deprivation—or if you’ve got a serious mental health issue.
Postpartum depression can be felt differently by different women. That’s why it’s so important for mothers to speak up about their experiences and raise awareness.
I’m so grateful to Ashley for sharing her raw and honest story of how postpartum depression affected her. She’s helping to normalize conversations about mental health and get women the help they need.
Included in this post are some great resources on postpartum depression.
Check out the rest of the Mom Triumphs series for more inspirational stories of how real moms have overcome serious challenges.
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Tips are based on personal experience and should not be considered medical advice. Full disclaimer.
Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What do you like to do? What is your family like?
Hello! I’m Ashley and I blog about imperfect motherhood and mental health at Everybodysfednobodysdead.com. Between blogging, speaking, marriage, and my insane toddler, I keep my days full, and I like it that way.
My husband and I met online nearly 10 years ago, and we’ve been inseparable since. If we’re not out shopping, hitting up the lake, or taking a trip to Mall of America, we enjoy binge-watching TV as we lazily snack on the couch. We drag our toddler all over, and she makes sure to keep us laughing!
I’m obsessed with Chick-Fil-A, earrings, Gilmore Girls, Jesus, writing, and finding new ways to connect with other moms.
What is a major challenge that you’ve experienced during your time as a mom?
I had no idea how much postpartum depression would destroy me. I lost all sense of self and felt scared and out of control. I couldn’t understand why I was going through something so horrible, and I wanted to end my life.
Postpartum depression was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’m so grateful that I made it through the other side.
What were your thoughts when you first encountered this challenge?
I knew something was wrong pretty quickly. I had severe mood swings, I wouldn’t get off the couch, I hated my husband (but that may not have been PPD. No one tells you how much having a newborn will make you hate your husband!), and I resented my daughter for ‘messing up’ my life.
Even though I logically knew that my newborn was an innocent baby that needed my help, I hated that she never stopped crying and always needed me.
I spent a lot of time fantasizing about running away. I just wanted to go back to the days when I was happy. And I thought my daughter deserved a better mother.
How did you figure out what approach to take in facing your challenge? Did your approach change over time?
At my 6-week postpartum appointment, I failed the PHQ-9 (the Patient Health Questionnaire is a standard mental health evaluation that many doctors and therapists use to determine how much a patient is struggling). My doctor prescribed a low-dose antidepressant and recommended therapy.
These things combined with my daughter growing out of the newborn stage resulted in some improvement, which made me hopeful.
Then when my daughter was 4 months old, she had to have hip surgery for Hip Dysplasia. My baby was put in a body cast for 6-weeks, and we had to give her narcotics for the pain. She cried constantly and couldn’t sleep, and since there was little we could do to help her, life became unbearable.
One night I cried in bed as thoughts of ending my life crawled into my brain and made themselves at home. It terrified me, and I knew I needed more help.
My husband and I made an emergency appointment with my therapist the next day. My therapist was able to better explain to my husband what I was going through, since I struggled to put words to it. We created an action plan in case I ever had thoughts that dark again, and my therapist recommended that I see a psychiatrist to discuss medication options.
What helped you during times when you were struggling? Did you have any support?
Being really honest with my husband and therapist about how badly I was struggling helped me feel more honest and vulnerable. I’d spent months in my head and closed off from the world because I hadn’t known how to live a normal life.
With honesty came strength, and I decided to share my story with the world. It was so cathartic; all the words I hadn’t been able to say came to life on my laptop.
I published my story at 7 Billion Ones, and so many people stepped up to offer love and support. I heard from so many women about their postpartum struggles, and I began to feel less and less scared and alone.
I sought out a psychiatrist who helped me adjust my medication to a higher dosage, and I started leaving the house more.
Healing wasn’t an overnight process. It took about two years to finally feel happy and healthy, and I still have to work every day to take care of myself and manage my depression.
How do you take care of yourself?
My priorities have changed so much in the last few years. I’ve had to learn to let go of what I thought motherhood would look like. I don’t stress about the little stuff and, as cliche as it sounds, I try to take life one day at a time.
I take my medications and see a therapist. I spend time with girlfriends, get pedicures, and make sure there are days on the calendar that are empty and relaxing. My daughter and I do regular playdates with friends and we try to go out and get some sunshine whenever we can.
I’m always looking for ways to make motherhood more fun and enjoyable. Making memories and spending time with my family is one of the biggest ways I fight depression. You can read more about how I find joy in motherhood in my post, What If You Don’t Love Being a Mom?
Did this challenge affect others in your family? How did you balance addressing their needs and your own?
I’m no longer in survival mode, thank goodness. It was hard on my family to watch me struggle, and it was tough for my husband to carry so much of the weight when I couldn’t do simple things like laundry or making dinner.
As hard as it was to get help, I knew I had to in order to help take care of my family.
How are things today versus when you first encountered this challenge?
I’m not the same person I was two years ago. Postpartum depression destroyed me, and I had to figure out who I was when I came out the other side.
I’m confident in who I am and I know how to take care of myself. I have the tools and knowledge to help me when times get tough, and the incredible supporters in my life are watching me and checking on me to make sure I never struggle that badly again.
What advice would you give other moms going through something similar?
Talking about what you are going through and admitting you’re struggling is incredibly hard, but it’s crucial to getting help.
If you believe you could be suffering from a postpartum mood disorder (PMAD = Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, the official term for mood disorders like postpartum depression), please speak to your family doctor or medical provider.
Be honest about your struggles, and don’t stop until you feel like you’ve gotten enough help.
Are there any helpful resources you would recommend?
If you think you might be suffering from a mood disorder, Postpartum Health Alliance and Mental Health America offer online assessments to determine if you should seek help. You can also check out the Glossary on my blog to find more resources and learn more about some of the different mood disorders.
Though mainly focusing on resources for new moms in Minnesota, STMA Postpartum Mental Health Resources provides some national resources for mental health, and it can give you an example of the kinds of help available to you. You might be surprised at some of the options that you (and even your doctor!) weren’t aware existed.
You can also check out my blog for real, raw stories from other moms who’ve struggled, and I have a free ebook coming out soon called How to Talk to Your Doctor About Your Mental Health.
What’s your superpower as a mom?
Keeping my kid alive!
What have you learned or gained from this experience?
Postpartum depression taught me so much about mental health and vulnerability. Because of my honesty, I’ve been able to help build communities, both online and in person, and I’ve met so many moms like me. My experiences also led me to find a passion in blogging.
I’ve also discovered a lot more about my health. In my quest to find answers, I received a diagnosis for sleep apnea and PCOS. These are both things that could play a major part in my depression, and I may not have discovered these issues for years if I hadn’t been looking for answers.
You can follow Ashley’s crazy adventures on Instagram and Facebook, and if you’re a mom looking for friends and support, you’re invited to join Raw Motherhood. Follow Ashley on Pinterest and be sure to check out her blog!