Uh what!?! Why in the world would anyone think they’re a bad mom because of a real and true illness like postpartum depression?
Unfortunately when you’re trudging through the midst of it, you may not even know you need medical attention. Inside of the illness, “feeling” like a bad mom is very commonplace. And that guilt and shame can keep you from reaching out.
I know I felt like a bad mom, and at the time for what felt like very good reasons. Most days I was so overwhelmed parenting two children. I was endlessly on the defense protecting my newborn daughter from my terribly jealous 2-year-old son. I watched helplessly as he destroyed the living room as I nursed her, the dog barking all the while. It felt like a nightmare and I just wanted to wake up. I wanted to run away, fly right out of the front door screaming. What. Did. I. Do?
There were days when anger flared so quickly my fist would hit the floor hard just to release some of the rage. Days when all I could bring myself to do was stay in bed. When the stress built up so intolerably high that I would be physically, as well as mentally ill. My husband forced to stay home from work, again. When all I could do was ask myself through tears, why can’t I handle this?
I can NOW say with no guilt and no shame…
I am NOT a bad mom because I had postpartum depression and anxiety.
Period. End of story.
So how did I get to this place where I can honestly say that I am not a bad mom for having PPD?
I finally asked for help, and I got it. It took time and it wasn’t easy. But it was so worth it. Truly it’s not easy to reach out, but saying I needed help was one of the strongest things I have ever done. And now I know how important it is to continue to reach out and seek medical attention every. single. time. I need it. It takes constant vigilance from me and from my husband. But that’s okay. Life is better when I’m getting the help that I need.
Today with a 20-month-old daughter and 4-year-old son, I have more good days than bad, and that helps remind me that I’m okay. I can look at my children most days and be filled with a sense of love for being their mom.
I rarely want to run.
I rarely punch the floor.
I rarely need to stay in bed.
And it’s all because I sought treatment.
It was scary but so worth it to ask for help. I truly believe it’s never too late, even if you have a 3-year-old and are still not feeling yourself. Postpartum depression can hang on. It’s like gaining weight: goes on easy, comes off hard. But worth every second to focus on your health for you and for your family.
You are not a bad mom. You may feel like a bad mom today. But trust me when I say it is a temporary feeling. With the right treatment and therapies, you can get past it and walk right through postpartum depression and find hope. And maybe someday in the not-too-distant future, you will be the one telling your story and helping others.
You will be able to say. “I am not a bad mom because I had PPD.”
Period. End of Story.
Thank you so much Katherine for allowing me to share my story and become a contributor on your absolutely invaluable blog. I'm so proud of the work you do and that I can be a small part. xo
*round of applause* Bravo! I wholeheartedly concur! PPD can be an ugly beast – an all-consuming black hole that robs you of your joy and happiness if not tamed.
But that never makes you a bad parent.
I know your pain. I feel it. Really loved this.
Thank you Lexi. You are so right!
This story was exactly what I needed to read first thing this morning. I feel this way everyday, I am about a month into treatment but it is a slow process and I still feel like I will never get better. Reading other mom's stories gives me hope, and helps me know there is someone out there that feels like I do, and understands what I am going through.
I am very thankful my doctor refered me to this website, at times I think it helps more then the medication they have given me.
I wish all moms the strength and hope to continue to see the light, and for better days. 🙂
Stephanie, I am so glad you are getting treatment and especially that your doctor referred you here. How wonderful. You will get through. I've got your back. So many mamas go through this and we are each one of us not alone. Hugs to you!
I have been thinking about this idea of "bad mom" lately after hearing a few moms at my local MOPS group joke about "worst mom of the year award" or "oops, bad mommy", etc. I think we as moms can be so self deprecating sometimes! Whether its for a laugh or not, I think the negative talk affects us. We don't have to be perfect to be a good mom. I am a great mom, but I am far from perfect. So…. some days my kids eat fruit loops for dinner, they won't eat veggies, sometimes they watch disney channel for too long, or they leave the house with crazy bedhead, my youngest ate cat poop as a baby and my oldest fell off the changing table as a baby. None of those things make me a bad mom or my husband a bad dad – they make us imperfect parents. We as moms need to understand that we will never be perfect – and let that take some of the pressure off! We also need to be able to say with confidence "I am a great mom" 🙂
Kim, you've hit the nail on the head. we can be great parents for our kids because we are trying our best and we love our kids. And we are particularly never bad parents because of an illness. Thank you for commenting!
I think your article opened up a fantastic conversation Cristi. While I had PPD I felt like such a failure. And your comparison of weight and PPD (goes on easy, comes off hard) is spot on!
Even though I have mostly recovered from PPD, I STILL feel like a bad mom all the time. I think a lot of the blogs and parenting books I've read make it seem like other moms have it all together. Thank you for your post…we need to be more honest about what "real" moms are like, so we can stop beating ourselves up for not being "perfect" moms.
I think its so common to have those feelings, but you're right its so important for us to stop beating ourselves up. We are our worst critics by far. But we're still good moms. Thank you.
It IS very common to have those feelings! One of the best quotes I have heard is "we always compare our worst to someone else's best" and I think that really applies to blogs and comparing ourselves to other moms. I personally know bloggers who look perfect on their blog, but are struggling in areas behind the scenes. People tend to put their best up there, but every mom is a real person, with real challenges and real life issues. I don't think any mom "has it all together" no matter how it may appear – we are all doing our best on this crazy parenting journey full of twists and turns and we all need all the grace we can get 🙂
Absolutely no mom is perfect no matter how much she appears to be. We do our best and get help when needed. It's so true that it takes a village to raise children but PPD can feel very isolating. We judge ourselves. We feel judged. But there is hope by reaching out.
Love this and so glad to see you sharing this perspective here.
I'm glad too. I hope it's helpful to others.
Love this! It was really good for me to read this today…I have a hard time not telling myself "I'm a bad mom, I'm a bad mother." Really working at changing that to "I'm a wife and mother with PPD, and I will get better."
Yes you will Kaleena. You will get better. Hugs.
Great article. As I continue to recover from PPD/Anxiety/PTSD, I still have days where I struggle with feeling like a bad mom especially as I continue to try to make sense of everything that has happened to me or that I did when I was in the vice called PPD/Anxiety/PTSD. Thanks for sharing.
You are so right…our illnesses do not make us horrible at all…
So glad to see your face and insight over here 😉
Thank you for that. It is so true. I had a hard time this past summer with the thought of being a horrible mom to my second son because I didn't suffer PPD with my first and enjoyed my maternity leave with him. I felt like I had robbed my second son of all that time and enjoyment because I have PPD. It took a lot ot realize it doesn't make me a bad mom. My PPD has been almost a blessing in disguise as now I know it is ok to ask for help. It is ok to put myself first and it helps me ensure I am making time for myself and things I enjoy. All of this is making me a better mom, wife and in the long run, person.
Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. In recognition and celebration of this I thought I would chat a bit about my walk with a mental illness (ooh, I said those words… no turning back now!) and all the stigma around it.
When I was 11 years old I changed. Something in my little body was broken, more specifically, something in my head. I was too young to know anything about mental illness, I just knew the FEAR like I never had before. All day, everyday, I was just afraid.
My poor parents. They did all they could. The worried, they prayed, they got the best help they could. Having said that, in 1993 the doctors knew less than they do today about dealing with an anxiety disorders in children.
Mom & DJ, Dad & Star, I love you. Thank you for advocating for me.
This disease made me miss a lot. So many hurts I have over that. Holiday trips (fear of travel), eating out (fear of various foods)(eating disorder), friendships (fear of loss or rejection). I missed things. I remember one night when I was supposed to go on stage in front of 400 people at the Memorial Center, I was 14 years old and one of the stars in our high school play. 14 members of my family were there. I had a panic attack so massive I couldn't go on stage. I sat in the backroom while my Dad held me in hysterics and I felt the first real humiliation of my life while my drama teacher stared on, and my classmates gawked at me. I realized that night what "low" was. I was so sure my Dad (love you Dad) was SOOOO disappointed in me. I realize now in my bit of parenting wisdom how wrong I was. If only I could go back and tell 14 year old me that Dad wasn't disappointed in me… only heartbroken, like any parent when they see their child suffer. And my Mom, my sweet Mom, of infinite patience. I know God put her on this earth to BE MY MOTHER. She got it. She knew how to be loving but strong with a child with difficulties and struggles like mine. She protected me when I needed a shelter, and nudged me forward when I needed encouragement. She picked me up of the ground so many times I have lost count. She never once lost faith, never once thought I would be defeated, and her belief through it all was some nights, the only reason I survived.
When I think back over the last 17 years of all the incidents regarding my mental illness its honestly just a blur. An Effed up mess of ER visits, hiding in closets, institutionalizations (yes, its true – gasp), and tears. They all mix together after a while. I am often vague on the blog. Not because I feel embarrassed (at least not anymore), but more because I am better than these low moments. I don't want people to know me for my Achilles heal, I just want them to know Caryn. I am not this illness. I am a beautiful person who has beaten down so many times by this problem that chatting about at times just feels like I am trying to make a spectacle. If you ever want to hear some gore, take me out for Starbucks and I will spill it all… frankly some of it looking back now is funny.
But my journey has been messy. So, so, messy. (No, I didn't kill someone.) I have held the following diagnosis (many incorrect) over the years, as various Psychiatrists have tried to figure what the hell was wrong with my head; Depressed, Panic Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative disorder, OCD and everyones favorite when you can't figure out why a person is acting all over the place, Bi-polar.
All of these but one were wrong. I have General Anxiety Disorder, compounded by a several phobias. I also have Thyroid disease and a VERY screwed up endocrine system from years of starving myself through high school compounding my G.A.D. so the diagnosis took A LONG FREAKING TIME.
And during that LONG FREAKING TIME I was wrongfully medicated for over 14 years. (Oh dude, the tears that flow when I write that sentence). Those 14 years weren't "lost" per se, but I resent how so often the medication I was on (trusting mainstream docs alone) were not only damaging my body, but not helping me at all. (And at many times making me worse in my opinion.) I won't list all the drugs I have been on, but lets just say it way too many.
I have never talked on here about my times in hospital. Because those times were the absolute lows of my life. I fear writing about my hospitalizations on the blog for fear of losing my job (even though that would be illegal), and losing friends (even though those aren't the friends I really want to keep anyway.) And you know what. I'm sick of it. I hate that I have this massive corner of my life that I HAVE to hide. I hate that I have to hold my shit together for all of you… because you know what, you are just sitting there reading this trying to hold all your shit together too. Screw that.
The very reason these illnesses are so stigmatized is because no one shares their battle. No one who is "normal" (which I actually, even through all of this, think I am!) ever tells people, "Hey, I've battled that problem, and I'm okay! I have a kid, and a job, and a marriage, and guess what!? I am not going to lose ANY OF THESE WONDERFUL THINGS by sharing the fact that the GABA, Norepinepherine, and Serotonin neurotransmitters in my brain are not properly hitting the synapses of my Cerebral Cortex.
So fear of stigmas be damned.
My times in hospital helped me at times, but at other times hurt me further. Any shred of self-esteem I had left going in there the whole process of admission alone took away. One time they made me take my bra off and lock it away in storage because apparently a "girl tried to hang herself from her bra once," and I wasn't allowed to brush my hair unless I was being watched… not to sure what the logic behind that one was. I always thought they just took those things away because it made me look more the crazy psych patient type after a couple days without my brush and with saggy boobs. They also "checked" in on you every 15 minutes. It didn't matter if you were in the shower, changing, pooping, sleeping… you were "checked on." I got really hurt a few times with some of the "didn't get it" nurses that were assigned to me. They would show up while I was naked in the shower and cheerfully pull back the curtain, smile, and say,
"Oops, sorry, just checking on you!"
"Oops?" WTF, what you didn't know I was naked in here!?!
…if you weren't crazy when you arrived, you were after a couple nights…
When you are "mentally ill", you are treated like an animal. I've never been to jail, but I'm sure it is similar. Only wait… PEOPLE IN JAIL COMMIT CRIMES. I'm sure the Ombudsmen of the province of Alberta would argue, but in reality, on the cold floors of the psych unit, the Ombudsmen are no where to be seen, and Nurses pull curtains back on nude patients just to "check" on them AKA – take away their last cell of dignity. Sure lady you want to look at my saggy skin and watch my shower-cry… have at 'er.
In hospital I received the change in medication that was essential at the time. And NOTHING ELSE. (and heck, a few of those hospitalizations even changed my meds the WRONG way.)
The fact that this can't be done on an outpatient basis for low-risk individuals infuriates me.
At times after my stay in hospital I felt worse off than I arrived. I've seen so much there that I wish I could delete from my memory. I watched a room-mate repeatedly stab herself with thumb-tacks that she had smuggled in on her smoke break from the community board downstairs, just so she could bleed all over the place. I frantically pulled the call button as I hid in the washroom and then watched her get put in restraints as she called everyone the "C" word, including me. I've been sexually harassed in the common area by another patient. I have been threatened by a PSYCHIATRIST STILL PRACTISING IN THE PROVINCE OF ALBERTA that if I didn't comply with his pharmaceutical wishes that he would lock me up in Ponoka (the mental institution in Northern Alberta) and throw away the key. (and yes, a BIG FAT letter got written to the DTHR about that incident). I watched a girl get tackled by security as she screamed that she was going to stick a pen in her eye.
Summary: I was often hurt as much as I was helped simply due to the environment opf the ward.
I was not a schizophrenic or a psychopath. I was battling a (serious I admit) anxiety disorder. I often wonder why the up-to-date in-patient treatment for anxiety and depression is in this sort of mad house. Where is the room for healing in a place like that?
So, yes. I've done my "time."
It's funny to me that after sharing all that I feel like I need to prove that I can still tie my own shoes and buy my own groceries.
Its as if admitting to these "horrific" skeletons disqualifies me from so much in life. Surely a person with these "things" in their past couldn't be a wife, a mom, a friend, an employed citizen, or if they were they are surely sucking at all of those things. RIGHT!?
WRONG. GET THIS PEEPS. I actually generally kick ass about 98% of the time. True story.
I'm about as safe and normal as it comes. It's just that my shitty 2% might look a lot worse than yours. Perhaps your 2% probably looks like a box of kleenex or a tub of ice cream. Mine just happens to look like a combination of Lady Gaga, Heroin, and an Atom Bomb. (** no I have not ever done heroin). And because of this fact I have spent WAY TOO EFFING LONG thinking I am disqualified for all awesome things in life. But lo and behold, I do get to be a Mom, a Wife, and all sorts of other wonderful things, and I get to have a great time doing it. I am not disqualified just because my 2% isn't as socially appropriate as the next person's. (You know who taught me that?) Dan. Dan the Man.
Side Note – –
God, thank you for my husband. There is no way I will ever convey how Dan has saved my life. SAVED IT. He has grounded me when nothing else could. He beats down stigmas around this whole thing like they are houseflies, and somehow through it all, he has NEVER EVER lost track of his love for me. I love you.
And Silas, you are the reason that Mommy wants to be well. You make me better everyday just by being my little boy. I hope that when you are Mommy's age that the world is much more open and loving about these issues. Mommy will keep fighting for that for you. For you and all of your future friends and family. Thank you for being the beacon that keeps me focused on the big picture Bud bud.
One other aspect of this whole journey for me has been self-acceptance. I know that every Christian out there want to tell me right now that "I was knit together in my mothers womb," and yeah… I know. I know God knew what he was doing when he made me, even though at times it has hurt like hell being stuck inside this broken body. I trust him. I trust his plan for my life. But that doesn't take away the fact that when someone reassures me that "I was perfectly and wonderfully made", I just want to punch something. I have so many questions for the big guy when I get to white pearly gates. SO MANY. But until that time I know one thing for sure. In order to accept the journey I have been given, I need to do something with it. My struggles have put a fire under my butt for all things mental-health related, especially when it comes to equality, fair treatment, and research into new therapy and treatment methods. In addition to this I am becoming really passionate about the idea of a more holistic style of mental/physical health care. I mean, we are one psychosomatic unit after all… why is the system so divided between the two branches?
In terms of loving myself. Well that is kind of what this massive post is all about. I do love myself (finally) once again. But with that love come great grief at times over the parts of me that don't work properly. And I don't know that that ever goes away… that's okay.
We are allowed to hurt over the things in this life that have…well, hurt us.
Also, I've learned that I am allowed to get the shit kicked out of me every once in a while by this beast. That's okay. It is going to happen.
So where am I now? Well I am not going to finish this post by telling you all about how "I was that person, but I'm not anymore," because my journey with this isn't over. I've accepted that this is a lifelong for me. For so long I fought to get to the "end" of my battle with mental illness, and only recently have I realized how that idea in itself set me back so far each time I would struggle. Having said that though I am happy to say that I am so much farther down a path to health than I have ever been. It's beautiful. It really is a story of healing. You can't tell me that someone who was once as low as I was can be where I am today (on only 1 medication, and a whole sheit load of natural supplements!) and not awknowledge God's hand in it all. I do. I try to everyday.
So no. I'm not ashamed. I hope everyone I know reads this… heck, I hope my boss reads this.
Because there is nothing to be scared of.
I've hurt alot. More than many my age I might say (and believe it or not, my hospital stories were the edited version)… and hurt isn't something to hide in shame about.
For everyone who reads this and has hurt, or is hurting, as cliche as it sounds… know that you aren't alone, and that you too, aren't disqualified.
Love to you all, as you too walk your path,
Those effing hospitals smack you in with any group of any type of patients. And lord forbid you don't socialize in the common room, if you don't you stay longer. 5 minutes(maybe) with a psychiatrists and bam! I'm diagnosed. After saying I cannot take ssri's here I'm going to prescribe an ssri. If you don't take the meds the longer you stay. Share a room with a person who was either so medded up she couldn't remember what day it was or just couldn't remember what day it was, the 15 minute cks esp when you're sleeping they just decide to turn on the lights. The lady that admitted me even said this isn't the place you need to be. You need treatment, but not here. If you didn't go to communal therapy, more time in the hospital. And that's just it that stigma is just awful. I've got to the point of being able to tell everyone I'm on meds but never mention the hospital, except to my boyfriend-son's father. He has been the greatest help. He really tried/tries to ubderstand. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I got help 6 weeks after my son was born because I had one horrible thought and then guilt. Up until he was 2ish I thought every day how horrible I was as a mom. I kind of freaked out when I was alone with him. He's now almost three I'm a lot better, but there are still bad days every once in a while but they are so much less. I was damn near impossible to medicate. They were on the verge of shock therapy (which luckily the head therapist decided I didn't need). Finally a med that was very rarely used worked best. I'm just glad to know that it can last for a longer time than most people say
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have no words to say how much that means to me
I’m currently struggling with PPD. I feel like a bad mother always I feel like nobody understands me not even my husband. I feel like a peace of garbage. I’m a first time mom and its hard my sons crying drives me up the wall some times I feel like crying I’m so stressed out and overwhelmed with being a house wife and having to pretty much take care of everything. Thank you for sharing your story…
I’m so sorry to hear this Jennifer. I know what you mean when you say you feel like garbage. I’ve been there. But it’s the illness that’s telling you that – I promise you that you are NOT garbage.