I am certain I would not have survived my postpartum depression and anxiety without the supports I received. The depression was so difficult, because connection with others was what I really needed, but all I wanted to do was isolate and be completely alone. Motherhood was isolating. I could no longer connect with friends and family on my own schedule. I was completely exhausted, hormonal, stressed, and everything was based around my daughter and her schedule.
Support from my family and friends came in many different forms. My husband was my biggest support in that he helped me through each day and he took over the majority of the childcare. Just knowing that my daughter was safe and in good hands was the biggest relief I had. It was frustrating, at times, as he just wanted to fix what was happening, and there wasn’t one obvious answer or quick fix. In hindsight I think the biggest help was his being there for me each day, not leaving (which was a huge fear of mine), not making me feel guilty for feeling the way I was feeling, and reminding me on the bad days that they were just that – bad days – and that I would get better.
I had a large group of family and friends, both near and far, who were supportive in many different ways. People called daily, dropped busy lives and came to help when I needed it the most, sent emails, brought meals, took care of my daughter, and just listened. When I felt my lowest, I found comfort in knowing that people were there, without necessarily having to talk with them frequently. The phone calls seemed like too much effort, and at the time I felt some guilt if I wasn’t able to report that I was feeling considerably better. I gave myself timelines for when I should feel better, and I was certain that others were doing the same thing.
One specific thing I recall doing, based on a suggestion from a woman in my weekly support group, was a “gratitude email” with a friend. The idea is to have a daily email exchange with a friend to identify one thing you are grateful for each day. In the midst of the difficult, emotional, raw feelings I was experiencing, it was nice to change perspective a bit and focus on something positive, no matter how small. I still read through them at times, and smile at what I wrote (e.g. sunshine on my face, a warm bath, a delicious cookie, a smile or laugh from my daughter, a nap).
My weekly support group was immensely helpful, both because of the expertise and support of the facilitators, and also because of the friendships I made with the other women in the group. It was comforting to hear things said out loud that I had thought but never verbalized. It was amazing to see a bit of myself in each and every mother I met in the group, and to see the strength, courage, and willpower in each of us. I still remain in touch with many of these women, and I believe it is a bond that can’t be broken because of what we experienced and helped each other through.
I think it was most helpful when I was able to be specific about what support I needed from others. So many people wanted to help, but didn’t know how. Telling them “I need meals for the week,” “I need a break on Wednesday,” “I need laundry done,” or “I need help cleaning the house” was very helpful, both for myself and for those offering support. On some days it was also “I need to be alone” or “I appreciate your calls and messages, and I will call you when I am feeling better”. When I wasn’t able to be specific about what I needed, my husband could be, and that really helped.
Support was crucial to my recovery, and I don’t think I would have made it through my PPD/A experience without it. While every individual and experience is different, these are the supports that worked for me. The most important thing, in my opinion, is finding the type of support works for you and using it for as long as you need it. This is an awful, vulnerable time – but it is also temporary. Support is a huge part of recovery.
Kelley lives in Vancouver with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.
If you want to receive more information about the support groups offered at Pacific Post Partum Support Society please contact us by telephone at 1-855-255-7999 or via email at [email protected]