Depressed Mothers Are Not Unfit

There is a stirring in the atmosphere in the wake of the recent, highly publicized maternal suicide of one of our warrior moms; I can sense it. There is fear. There is disgust. There is judgment.

I am reading comments, terrible comments of how women with depression should not have children. How dare we try to carve out a place of joy in our life? People, other women even, who have never suffered from this disease are pushing all of us into a corner. They are waving their fingers at us. They are saying words like “unfit mothers,” “selfish,” “dangerous to society.”

This will push some of us to our breaking points; it will force us into hiding. It will make us afraid of what is going on within our own bodies—not because we do not think we can handle it, but because, clearly, the world cannot. The world is telling women who suffer from depression that they should not have children. The world is telling a certain type of person with a certain type of illness that they do not deserve a normal life.

This is a problem.

What about women who suffer from other, sometimes fatal diseases. What about women with cancer? With brain tumors? With cystic fibrosis? Their struggle will be real, as well. When these women bear the burden of childbirth and raising that child, no one points fingers. They applaud their bravery. These women walk around knowing that they are doing hard things and that the world is behind them if anything goes wrong. If, god forbid, they die, at least they tried. At least they got the chance to be a mother, even if just for a little bit.

I am so tired of being a victim of an invisible illness. People make comic strips about it, explaining how differently moms like us—women like us—are treated compared to people with “conventional” and “convenient” diseases. But, it’s not funny anymore.

When a women suffering from PPD or any type of depressive disorder takes her life, it is not because she is selfish. It is not because she is a bad mother. It is not because she wanted to ruin Christmas for her family, and it is certainly not because she wanted to harm her children. She took her life because she lost her battle with her disease. She fought; she took medication, she sought treatment. But, she lost.

No on in their right mind would point a finger to a mother who had died from cancer. No one would remark on how dare she abandon her family like that. Her attempt on life would be celebrated.

Since the suicide, I have felt very strange. I have felt frustrated. I, too, have been trying medication and treatment for years with little to no success. I know what it is to feel suicidal. It is a monster that clings to your back and does not let you rest. I have felt angry at the media and ignorant people for turning this mother into a monster; an anomaly. I have felt sad in a way which I feel as if we all, in this community, pour our words out into the internet to help women like this and one fell through the line breaks. My words didn’t reach her and neither did yours and that makes me feel like I am standing in the middle of a field with my palms held open to the sky.

Once upon a time, they burned women who suffered from mental illnesses. Our armor has never been the thickest. This death has opened a flood gate of accusations.

I feel afraid.

I feel afraid for the mother who is in her house right now, holding her screaming child and feeling numb. I feel afraid for the mother who doesn’t yet love her child and is afraid of what that means but won’t pick up the phone and ask for help because women who feel like that kill themselves and hurt their babies, right?

We will have to work harder this year, warriors. We have to find hidden sufferers. Our beacons will have to be brighter. No one is going to wave a banner saying they have postpartum depression and that they need help. No one is going to feel the power of owning your own disease instead of letting it own you. They will be afraid of themselves.

There is a quote, from Tyrion Lannister—who is one of the most clever of all literary characters written. He says, “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”

You are a woman. You are a mother. You are a warrior.

And you are never, ever alone.