No one told me.
Not my doctor.
Not my mother.
Not the other women at my church.
Not my friends.
Not any family members.
Not a single person told me about postpartum depression as I came to experience it. Sure, I received pamphlets from my OBGYN about it, but they only mentioned feeling sad, depressed, and having the “baby blues.”
They didn’t mention the uncontrollable rage that would explode in my chest when I least expected it.
The pamphlet said absolutely nothing about the sweat-inducing anxiety that made me jumpy and left me wanting to crawl out of my skin. I was unaware anxiety would hit me like a wrecking ball, immobilizing me.
Nothing about how the slightest noise, the tiniest cry from my infant son, would grate on my nerves and slice through my body like a machete.
Nothing told me I would spend hours on my bathroom floor, body heaving, tears pouring down my face as my mind and emotions were tossed to and fro in waves of guilt.
No one told me I would want to hurt myself … or my son. No one told me about the graphic images that would flash through my mind, about the desire to want to run away and never come back.
No one told me my moods would swing back and forth from one extreme to the other at a frantic and chaotic pace.
No one told me I would feel “crazy.”
No one said I would feel detached from my children.
No one told me I would want to die.
And I told no one I felt this way.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
I tried. I really did try. I attempted to reach out to family, friends, church members, my partner. But all I encountered was being misunderstood or not being taken seriously. I reached out to my doctor and was put on Zoloft, with him telling me, “this will go away in a few weeks.”
I saw a therapist paid for by my state insurance who told me that anyone in my position as a single, African-American mother, would feel the way I did.
I was told by people at church that my struggles with motherhood were either the result of my not having a family the “right” way, or just due to circumstances. “I don’t think you’re depressed. I think what you’re experiencing is normal considering your circumstances,” one of my pastors told me.
My mother told me to give it time. Told me I just needed to pull myself up by my bootstraps and everything would be fine.
You see, in the African-American community, that’s what we do.
When we’re hit with pain, adversity, trauma, or some form of devastation, we throw on a giant pair of boots and pull ourselves up by them, one strap at a time.
The unwritten rule if you’re going through hell is to just deal with it. If you can deal with it with a minimal amount of complaining, that’s even better, more commendable.
We “don’t have time to be depressed.”
We are “too blessed to be stressed.”
We don’t talk about our problems, we just deal with them. Silently. To vocalize your inner pain, hurts, struggles, and imperfections is to be weak, to be seen as a complainer, a “drama queen.”
The reasons why we don’t talk about pain and trauma go all the way back to slavery and is a much too complicated history to try to explain in this post alone. But the point is if we could survive slavery, segregation, lynching and struggling for our basic civil rights, then we can survive anything…
The stigma surrounding mental illness in the black community is strong. So strong doing so means you’re “crazy.” So strong that most think it’s something that only “happens to white people.” So strong that going to therapy and taking medication is frowned upon. So strong that no one speaks up about it.
No one … or at least not enough.
And that is why I had to suffer in silence until I found Postpartum Progressand the other Warrior Moms in the #PPDChat Army.
And it’s also why I speak out about it now. Because no one should have to go through hell alone.