While writing the previous post regarding the sleep study, I remembered something.
When I was hospitalized, the one thing the nurses emphasized to me over and over and over again was that I didn’t have to tell anyone where I had been UNLESS I CHOSE TO DO SO. We even had a cover story for where I was that weekend as I was supposed to be co-hosting my sister-in-law’s baby shower. I was very ill and unable to attend. Everything was kept very quiet at the time and only immediate family knew what was really going on. My mother drove down from VA the night I was hospitalized so Chris could go to work and we would have someone to care for the kids (THANKS MOM!)
I don’t know why we kept it so quiet then. Fear? Shame? I wasn’t well enough to feel either of those things and honestly, I am obviously not ashamed of having been hospitalized because if I was I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now.
As far as my hospitalization goes, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I rested and it was the beginning of what I do today. It opened my eyes to what a specialized population mothers with mood disorders are and strengthened my resolve not to let any mother go through the experience alone and unguided. If there is anything worse than a Postpartum Mood Disorder, it’s going through it alone, feeling misunderstood by everyone around you, wondering what on earth is going on with you and getting scared out of your mind.
You don’t recognize the person in the mirror – who is she and when will she leave? You learn to cope with her but still wish she would disappear or at least stop showing up so much. Eventually she does fade but the fading takes time when you wait for it to happen all alone in the cold. With the warmth and strength of others, you learn how to get her to fade much quicker. She stops standing in between you and your baby, stops yelling at your husband, stops soaking your cheeks or re-organizing the cabinets for the twentieth time today. There is something to that power in numbers thing. It works.
Stigma is a very powerful force in the human world. It’s peer pressure gone horribly wrong. Peer pressure that encourages you to be miserable, silent, and hang your head down low should not accompany any new mother. Instead, the peer pressure should be that it’s ok to talk about your feelings and open up, it’s ok to hold your head high and know that as long as baby is fed, diapered, and has a warm place to sleep, you’re doing the best you can with what you have at the moment. Peer pressure should be the warmth of another person who KNOWS what you’re going through because she’s been there too.
Don’t let the stigma keep you from getting help. Don’t let the fear keep you from getting help.
Getting help is the absolute best thing you can do for YOU and for your family.