Since I have launched this website and blog, I have had many positive responses from other mothers, all who have been terribly grateful that they are not alone on this journey. Not surprising, many of the moms struggle with a myriad of chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, endometriosis, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, chronic fatigue and others. Can you imagine the compounding effects of running around with babies, toddlers and/or children while struggling to grasp your own breath – or having to rest, ice and massage your inflamed, stiff and very painful joints? I can. Because I have dealt with decades of chronic fatigue on a daily basis.
If you are reading this, I hope that you can relate in your own manner as well. Even if you do not suffer from a chronic illness, or an invisible condition, you most probably have been sick many times throughout your journey of motherhood. Now imagine waking up feeling flu-like symptoms 365 days of the year. This is what chronic fatigue has been compared to. Now imagine being a mother in a constant flu-like state, all while keeping up with the journey of not just motherhood, but with work, your friends and your family…this is unfortunately what it is like to be a mother who isn’t feeing well, dealing with a chronic illness. And this is exactly why I decided to launch this website and blog. So that other mothers who do not feel well, do not feel alone.
One particular area that has been asked of me several times since the launch, is if I am going to touch on mental health in the sense of *postpartum blues. While I did not personally experience this myself, I do have a personal interest in bringing this topic to light because unfortunately I have seen firsthand how postpartum blues are not well-supported, and how mental illnesses are just as shunned as invisible illnesses. I partly believe postpartum blues are not well-supported because most people do NOT understand HOW to help. In general, people with invisible illnesses, (physical and mental) are sometimes shunned because you cannot see the problem. People see you looking normal on the outside and expect you to snap out of it. But when it comes to a physical or mental illness, like postpartum blues, one cannot simply “snap out of it”.
Here is an example: After my second child, I was bedridden at times due to extreme fatigue, I even dropped below 100lbs due to a peak in my illness (at the time undiagnosed and untreated). When my husband, friends and family tried to continue to push fulfilling our lives with child-driven activities, social engagements, etc, I could barely keep up physically. My husband would be on his way out the door for a day of golf with his dad and I would be in bed, while our baby and toddler were in their rooms waiting for mommy to drag herself down the hallway. His dad would often wonder why I was’t snapping out of it, as if I could help how my body was dragging me down. My body was failing me so much, that sometimes I would put movies on repeat for hours at a time, while I laid on the couch trying to grasp enough energy to go from making them breakfast to lunch and then dinner. When all this was happening, my physical inabilities, (which were invisible to others), wore my husband down. It even wore down some of our friendships because we said no to a lot of engagements. This got to a point where some friends started to question if I was postpartum. Which actually would not have been a bad thing. But you know what, they asked my husband, and not me directly. And they asked rhetorically. Without much support and more of a shun.
Honestly looking back, even though my issue was physical and not mental, bottom line, I wish these friends or family would have acted beyond the whispers. What would have really helped if I was postpartum (or not), was if they engaged in actively “helping to offer support” instead of “whispering or shunning the issue”. If they would have directly asked me, “are you doing okay? and is there anything they could do to help?”. And then my suggestion would be even more, to then follow up with tangible supportive and suggestive actions. “Can I take your older child out of the house for bit, while you rest with the baby?” Or “can I deliver dinner one evening and help with bath time ?” These suggestions can only take a few minutes out of your day to support someone else, whether it be mental or physical support. Looking back, I can see how the unspoken stigma of postpartum blues can really hurt a situation. And I can only relate to how people must feel when it comes to managing postpartum blues.
If you know someone who might be struggling with postpartum depression, reach out. Ask them how you can help. Offer them tangible supportive and suggestive actions, and if they say no at first, follow up! Don’t be afraid to ask more than once, to keep your line of communication open, and to follow up. Your two minute conversation with them could change the outlook for this person for an entire day or even week!
Did any of you suffer from postpartum blues? What was your experience? Did you have to deal with both debilitating affects of a physical condition while trying to stay mentally afloat? Did you hide your blues to friends and family? How were you able to get support? I’d love to hear your story.
*This article, as with all articles on this site are not medical advice. This is simply a personal account and one person’s opinion. If you are struggling with postpartum blues, or what you think might be postpartum blues, please seek professional help immediately. Talk to your primary care physician or obstetrician. Ask a family member or friend to help you with an appointment, or to accompany you to the doctor as soon as possible.