In August of 2015, I received the news that a friend of mine had taken her life. She was a remarkable young woman who had fought the toughest battle I think anyone on this planet might face. She was kind. She was funny. For all intents and purposes, she was ‘recovered’ and had ‘survived’. An advocate for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, she shared her story with others to reduce stigma and encourage women to seek the treatment they deserved.
I had just been messaging with her. Our conversation was still on my computer screen.
It’s been 18 years since I experienced postpartum depression. I have written about it, studied it, published research about it, lectured on it, tried to advocate for better screening, more resources, and more research to help those who have no direct experience with it—get it.
Women who have had a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder know what it is to hold a baby we love more than God and feel ourselves slip away into despair as a result of a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder gone undetected by care professionals, untreated by providers who should know better, and waiting out time until we fall altogether off of the edge. We know what it is to be on the ledge (some of us literally), perched over life, surveying surviving with eyes involuntarily leaking. In short, we know death. Or at least some piece of it. The unthinkable we have thought. The unimaginable we have imagined. We have known the space between life and motherhood in our bones. If we survived, we know more. We know more. We are deeper. We are wiser. We are endless.
To the mothers who have never had the experience, some reminders:
- You don’t get it.
- Don’t tell us you do.
- Understand we are different.
- Respect our pain as it is everyday.
- Refrain from judgement as to our connection to each other.
- Never underestimate the sheer power of what we have been through and what it did to us.
- Know that this is where our compassion and conviction were born.
- We are badasses because we had no choice.
- We will be there for you if it happens to you or anyone you know.
- Some of us don’t make it.
I think about my friend nearly every time I log into Facebook. She didn’t make it. And I understand her decision completely. But I miss her dearly.