postpartum depression, mental healthDear new moms:

Sometimes we get a feeling that we are not ourselves. Maybe we ignore it, thinking it is nothing … but what if it’s true?

Recently, I had that feeling. I had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I was in high school, tried to commit suicide seven times, and constantly battled with mood swings. Still, I never thought that I would also have to deal with postpartum depression. Not me. I thought I was done dealing with my chemical imbalance. Living with Bipolar disorder/Manic Depression is forever, but postpartum depression is not.

I found out I was pregnant a month before my wedding in 2011. This good news explained my weight gain within the last two months of planning and it explained why my hormones were at war. I was prepared to marry the man I loved and the man who stuck by me through my bipolar episodes, but was he ready for the storm that would come?

After my wedding, my life began to move pretty fast. My husband was creating his new firm, I was graduating from college with my B.A., and that summer we were expecting this new person who would change our lives forever. I had also recently dealt with two friends dying from AIDS, and a good friend dying in a window accident at the W Hotel here in Atlanta. Additionally, when I married my husband, I became a stepmother, a role which has helped me to understand how blended families must have structure and how we must communicate in both households.

When my son was born everyone was happy, but I was not. I was very confused about why I could not enjoy him coming into our lives. I could smile and say that this was the best day of my life but it was also the worst.

I had an emergency c-section and my husband was there for me every step of the way. My birthing experience was not a good one. I was alone through the process and only my mother and siblings visited me at the hospital. You would think that I was happy that I had a husband who wouldn’t leave my side, but I started to wish he had. I experienced so many emotions while in the hospital that I started asking to be evaluated for postpartum depression.

I recognized the symptoms and feel blessed I saw that I needed additional help. I had already been working with a therapist and I work with a mental health research group at Emory University. I learned that the additional help that I needed was medication.

I had to have a family conference call to discuss my options after I talked one-on-one with my husband. I felt if I was going to take medication I would have to wait until I was done breastfeeding.

I have always been able to discuss my Bipolar disorder and what my family experiences with it, but I was more afraid that people would judge me because now the “bipolar model” was dealing with postpartum depression, too. I began to think of the women who do not have the support system I have or the loving husband who just wants to know why his wife’s moods are inconsistent. I began to think that if my grandmother was alive she would push me to educate myself more on postpartum depression and African-American women the same way she did when I was diagnosed Bipolar. I began to wonder whether my sadness, crying episodes, feeling worthless and consistent headaches would keep me from being the best mother, wife and stepmother. I wondered if my decision not to take medication would make me lose the best man in my life, and if God would say to me, “I sent you help so many times and you didn’t take heed.”

After I waded through all of this I decided I wanted to LIVE. To be treated. I wanted to be happy with my life. I should not apologize for my blessings and the things I have been through. I decided to turn my mess into a message and to testify about my test. I do not mind someone thinking I am weak because I have a mental illness. God knew I was the strongest person on this earth to handle this and He knew that I would use it to show that He never leaves us. He is always there and with the talent He has given some doctors He has given us help.

Do not be afraid to recognize something is not right with you even if everyone else does not see it. I cannot help anyone if I do not help myself. I have learned that the older I get the same techniques or therapy I have done in the past may not be effective anymore. That is okay. I have options and so do you. You are not alone. We are in this together. Be strong and love yourself enough to make sure your mental health is priority.

~ Dawn

Dawn Montgomery-Greene lives in Lithonia, Georgia with her husband and her five children. Dawn is a Commercial Model, Mental Health Advocate, blogger, and college sports fan while being a loving wife and mother. Dawn is currently seeking to become a certified peer specialist that will along side of Mental Health professionals. Follow her on Twitter @MississippiDawn.

The 4th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit 501c3 that raises awareness & advocates for more and better services for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Please consider making a donation today, on Mother’s Day, to help us continue to spread the word and support the mental health of new mothers.