If you are a new mom and you haven’t seen this week’s episode of Black-ish, I recommend you go watch. They addressed how the character, Bow, played by Tracee Ellis Ross experiences postpartum depression, and they actually did it right! So many times mental illness is depicted in media in such negative ways that anyone actually dealing with it feels the need to hide what society decides is “shameful”. Black-ish did a great job showing what it is actually like to not only deal with postpartum depression, but also how to deal with getting help for it. Plus they were able to add in some humor along the way!
Personally, I was nearly moved to tears to see how Bow struggled and how members of her family helped (while some didn’t help) to support her in her down times and in her journey to feeling like herself again. For those dealing with postpartum depression in their actual lives, it can be a lot harder to find that support and get the help you need to get better. Here are some tips to help combat that dreaded postpartum depression.
Become aware of how common it is and what to look out for.
1 out of 9 women will experience postpartum depression after birth (CDC, 2017). And symptoms can look like depression, lack of interest in things you usually enjoy, strange eating habits, lack of sleep, inability to bond with the new baby, feeling agitated, low energy, hopelessness, anxiety, feelings of guilt, inability to concentrate, or even suicidal thoughts/feelings. If you are feeling any of these things, but find yourself feeling better after a few short days, that is what is actually referred to as “Baby Blues”. Having these symptoms for weeks on end is what upgrades this feeling of sadness to postpartum depression. Going to a therapist, psychiatrist, or even just your Ob/Gyn can be helpful. Though they all provide different services, they all know what to look for in order to properly diagnose you.
Don’t seek help alone.
When you do decide to seek professional help, bring your partner (or other support person) with you. This isn’t just for you, but for your partner as well since they will most likely be educated about what postpartum depression is and how they can be of help to you in this difficult time. Although you may not feel the need to reach out, having someone there to advocate for your concerns and fears can make a big difference in the type of care you receive. This also allows for you to have someone to help explain things to others, which brings me to…
Educate your family.
Whether that means having a discussion with your older children about what you are dealing with or asking your mother-in-law to stop making light of a serious situation. Educating your family can empower them to help assist you in starting to feel like yourself again.
Don’t believe the common misconceptions.
Suffering from this often debilitating mental disorder does not make you a bad mother. It makes you a normal mother, and potentially a stronger mother once you are able to overcome it and educate people along the way. This is not something you can, “just get over” as often as people may say this to you. It is something that needs to be taken seriously and dealt with as a family. Admitting that you are struggling with postpartum depression means you are taking care of yourself and your family. If you were suffering from a broken leg, no one would hesitate to help you get around and get things done. And just like other mental illnesses this should be treated like any other impairment to your body. It is just an impairment of your mind. Also, work with your psychiatrist/doctor to make sure any medication you might use is not impairing things that are important to you, such as breastfeeding a newborn. Just make these concerns clear to your psychiatrist/doctor and they can work with you.
Know things will get better.
Creating some hope in this often hopeless time will allow for progress to be made. Between therapy, medications, and support from those around you, things can and will change. If you need even further help, finding support groups for mothers dealing with postpartum depression can be extremely helpful as it creates a community with women who know how you feel and don’t need an explanation from you. Remember you are more than a diagnosis!
Lastly, I would like to commend the writers and producers of Black-ish for making a very real topic accessible to many more people. Raising awareness is an important part of breaking the stigmas.
Postpartum depression is many things, but one thing it is not is easy. If you are dealing with postpartum depression or know someone who might be, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Support can be found in many places including the following:
Postpartum Support International WARMLine at 1-800-944-4773
PSI Weekly Online Support Groups at http://www.postpartum.net/psi-online-support-meetings/
Nickerson, C. (Writer), & Whittingham, K. (Director). (10 October, 2017). Mother Nature [Season 4, Episode 2]. In A. Anderson (Producer), Black-ish. Burbankc CA: ABC Studios.
Center for Disease Control. (2017). Trends in Postpartum Depressive Symptoms — 27 States, 2004, 2008, and 2012 [66(6);153–158]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6606a1.htm?s_cid=mm6606a1_w