When I started writing my story for ‘We’re in This Together’, I began with the early days. I wrote about the trauma and confusion of those dark times; my sadness about not being the kind of mom I wanted to be; my heartbreaking inability to breastfeed; the unrelenting feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy; how I felt I’d never be ”normal” again.
However, reliving those difficult memories brought me to a realization: I’m not that fearful new mom anymore. My eldest is now 12 and my youngest 9 (how time flies!)and I thought, “Why not instead speak of the joys and triumphs of motherhood – in spite of, and yes, even because of PPD/A?”
This is the part in my PPD/A journey where I give back. I’m the older, experienced momma now. It’s my turn to give reassurance and comfort, and to share my hard-won gifts of experience and passage of time. I hope my story serves as the light at the end of the tunnel for you. You WILL emerge from this dark fog and feel the sun on your face again. Take my hand, and we’ll go through it together…
I experienced PPD/A with the birth of each of my two sons. In those dark moments when I was scared and lost, I wondered what life would be like on the other side – life after PPD/A. Would I ever feel happy again? Would I finally enjoy being a mom like I’d always thought I would? I wish I’d known then what I know now – that the answer is an unequivocal YES.
I want you to know and believe right now that you WILL be whole again (maybe even more whole than you ever thought you could be.) You’ll learn to trust your “rational” voice and let go of the persistent, negative ones. The fear and worries won’t totally go away, but they’ll slowly shrink to the normal size they should be. (Just enough to motivate you to be the best mom you can be, but not so much that it debilitates you.)
You’ll start to feel fleeting moments of peace and pure contentment as you emerge from the darkness. Those moments will become minutes, hours, days, and before you know it, years. You’ll not only survive this, but you’ll thrive, as will your children along with you.
Your little ones will become less and less a source of fear and worry and more and more a source of joy. You’ll begin to say to yourself, “Yes, I’ve got this. I AM an amazing mom.” You’ll get there – I promise. Just keep fighting.
As you continue on this journey, this biggest battle of your life, you may notice a strange and oddly uplifting thing about PPD/A. You’ll start to see how much you’ve grown because of your experience with it. You’ll become a better mom and a better you.
I had to look within and truly, finally heal so many of my past hurts. PPD/A forced me to see how I was inflicting pain on myself with old irrational beliefs and unhealthy expectations. I had no choice but to work through my issues of perfectionism and low self worth. The way past the pain wasn’t around it, but through it. This is what PPD/A taught me.
I’ll never say I’m glad I had PPD/A. It’s something I’d never wish on anyone. It took away so much from me when my boys were babies. It was a cruel and unfair punishment. Why did I have to go through that? Why me? There are no good answers. PPD/A IS cruel and unfair. No mom should ever have to suffer with it.
However, I AM glad that I used it as motivation to fight to heal myself and make myself whole. I’m so much stronger and happier because of my journey. I believe that you can get here too.
Don’t let the darkness win. Take it one moment at a time. Stop dwelling on the days ahead or the days that have passed. Focus on the moment you’re in right now. Just get through this moment, then the next, then the next. You CAN do this.
Lean on the support from PPPSS. Talk to moms who make you feel good, and give yourself space from the ones who make you feel like less. See the beauty and joys in your small child. Deal with the challenges, then move on (don’t get hung up on them). Ask your partner, family and friends for help – they’ll be glad you did. They love and want to support you. Let them.
You’ll want to give up over and over… and over again. Be kind to yourself and remember that this journey is a series of two steps forward, one step back. (Sometimes even three or four steps back!) This is normal. Keep fighting, and remind yourself often of the progress you’ve made (and have loved ones do the same for you.)
You will make it through, and you will be a better you. I know you will. I believe in you, and I can’t wait to read your story of triumph one day.
Dora would like to dedicate her story to the memory of Florence Leung.
I tearfully followed your story and wished so hard that you would be found safe. I wanted to find you myself and give you a great big hug, tell you that you weren’t alone, and reassure you that it would all be okay one day. So many of us did. With your passing, I feel like I lost a sister. It is utterly tragic that we lost you, but it will not be for nothing. Your story will do so much good for so many moms. I will always remember you and keep you in my thoughts and heart.
This is Dora’s Story:
I love this photo of me and my sister. We are both PPD/A survivors so this photo is a wonderful memento of our journey, and a reminder that we made it. My sister’s fight with PPD/A came before mine. So when it was my turn, she became my greatest source of strength. Read her story and you’ll get a sense of what an incredible inspiration she was to me.
I decided to be part of “We’re In This Together” because I want to give comfort to all moms who are going through PPD/A. I especially want to reach out to moms who aren’t getting the support they need because of the stigma of having a mental illness. People from Asian cultures like mine can have an especially harsh and negative attitude towards mental illness. This has to change. No mom suffering with PPD/A should be stigmatized, especially not by the people in her own family.
I am so grateful that my husband, parents and siblings all “got it” when I was suffering through PPD/A. They were completely supportive and understanding, through thick and thin. Disappointingly, others in my extended family didn’t get it. I often felt like the elephant in the room and even endured outright shaming. Their reactions were so hurtful and made me feel so isolated. I sought comfort from my immediate family; and, through their love, I grew resilient. I refuse to feel stigmatized or ashamed any longer.
Never let anyone minimize or dismiss your pain or what you’re going through. Never let anyone make you feel ashamed to ask for help. If your family and friends aren’t giving you the understanding and love that you need, get in touch with PPPSS. You will find someone who will understand, listen and care.
When I was in the depths of PPD/A, it felt like life would never be good, happy or worthwhile ever again. Now that I’ve come through it, I can tell you with certainty that the good days do come back, and life will continue to get sweeter, the more healing you do. Hang in there – it will get better.