Y’all, I’m beat. Like, worn-out, ran-a-marathon, swam-the-English-channel and then did it all in reverse beat.
This rally? Has been awesome. And exhausting. But mostly awesome.
Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress and I met in March and people, she’s fantastic.
I asked her if she’d be interested in writing something for the rally a couple of weeks ago because I think that what she is doing matters. What she has to say matters. The way she gives and gives to help moms matters.
It matters to me. It’s mattered to others. It will continue to matter in the future.
Warrior moms don’t give up.
I never gave a hoot about mental illness until I realized I had one myself. I just didn’t pay attention. I mean, why should I?
It’s not like I learned about it from my parents. It’s not like anyone ever told me in school that emotional health was important and that there were things I should look out for. At my annual appointment each year my doctor may have brought it up in passing, but it never seemed like a high priority or something I should learn more about.
That bums me out. Given how prevalent mental illness is, why isn’t it required that everyone learn, in some shape or form, how to maintain their emotional health and what to do if they find they can’t?
Instead, we arrive, bewildered, at the bottom of the barrel, sick and miserable and scared out of our wits, wondering how we got here in the first place and feeling alone and ashamed.
That’s certainly what happened to me when I had postpartum OCD in 2001 after the birth of my first child. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t calm down. I had horrible thoughts that convinced me I was a monster, all the while having no idea they were a common symptom of a treatable illness.
It was only because I thought my life was over that I reached out for help. It wasn’t even like reaching out for help, exactly. It felt more like I was turning myself in, if that makes sense. I figured the therapist I went to see would call the police and have me arrested, or call the psych ward and have me committed. I was so miserable that it didn’t really matter to me that I’d be locked up one way or another; I just couldn’t keep it inside anymore.
Why did I have to feel that way? Why does the stigma and lack of awareness persist? No one locked me up. They gave me help and I got better. Why must I and so many others suffer so long without knowing? It makes me want to sit on the steps of Capitol Hill naked and stay there, refusing food and water and shelter, until the world takes notice. Except I can’t, because I have a husband and children, and I have work to do helping other pregnant and new moms with postpartum depression and related illnesses. I can’t quit my life to make a point.
I wish there was a tidal wave of understanding and empathy that would allow for the massive funding and attention needed to do right by mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Until it comes, we will continue to chip away, bit by bit, at the barriers and the stigma and the ignorance.
Warrior Moms are forged out of the strength of struggles and pain and perseverance and love. We don’t give up.
Katherine is a little firecracker of energy and awesome and the occasional expletive at just the right moment. And she hugs like a bear! I’m thankful to know her and grateful for the work she’s doing to help mothers.
Katherine is the author of Postpartum Progress, the most widely read blog on perinatal mood disorders. She’s also the President of the Board of Postpartum Progress, Inc., the non-profit charity for improving the support and services available to new mothers perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. To find out how you can help their efforts, read here.