I wish I didn't look back at pictures from that time and pity the pain the stranger that is myself was in. I wish I had accepted medication earlier. I wish people had pushed further, asked more than surface questions. I wish that people didn't assume that you only need help with your first baby and that you have it all under control with the next.
I wish those around me, then and now, had any understanding of what PP truly is instead of only the tragedies of untreated PP that unfold in the news. I could have so easily been one of those stories and because I couldn't tell anyone, I never reached out for help. Better education and information on what it actually looks like would be invaluable. I wish I had the strength to be more vocal about my struggles with mental health in my own life in order to help normalize it for others.
I wish I had the strength to tell people I experienced PP instead of just saying "it was a really hard time." The understatement there boggles my mind every time it comes out of my mouth. I said to myself every single day that I would deal with things the next day. I put off and put off and put off those negative and dangerous thoughts by thinking, I can do one more day. I ran a grueling mental health marathon by saying, just one more day.
I would advise someone in the same position to find one thing to motivate you, as small or seemingly insignificant as it may be to others. For me it was the smell of lilacs. I had to keep going, one day at a time, until I could smell them again in the spring. Lilacs didn't want anything from me. Even the most minimal and insignificant personal connection at that point felt like work, magnified hundredfold by closer relationships like my children and husband. Lilacs just existed without asking and that made them safe to dwell on.
It is only recently that I have allowed myself to look back on this time in a more than cursory manner. It was like reopening a wound that hadn't fully healed. Now it's more like a scar that has forever marked me but shows how I was broken and then healed, albeit imperfectly. Looking back at my experience with PP is showing me the ways in which it changed me as a parent. I wonder now how many decisions I make, what worries or concerns I fixate on, because of that long initial period of disconnect and turmoil. I will never unravel all the effects of PP, but I can try and see what aspects of my behavior now can become uncoupled from the guilt of then.
I wish I could have trusted that telling people my thoughts would not lead to my children being taken away, or my husband looking at me as unfit. I wish people looked at stories of mothers who have hurt their children due to PP and instead of saying “How could she,” or “I could never,” stop and think about what went wrong for that to seem like a logical choice for a mother to make. What happened, what pain occurred, what instability existed, for someone to think hurting their children was a logical and necessary option.
I’d like someone currently experiencing PP to know that while it is rare, it can be treated. You are not alone even though it is so utterly lonely. Take advantage of every treatment option you can.
I'm sending you a virtual hug, in case you struggle across this in the wee hours while thinking something isn't right, or if you are on the far side looking back on the journey you made out of PP. Hugs.