“There were others!”
I thought as I cried tears of relief while reading the stories of two other mothers who had similar postpartum symptoms to the ones I was dealing with. Before that moment, I had no idea perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) even existed, let alone what they looked like. So, there was zero chance that I would have been able to recognize the multiple warning signs (as obvious as they may have been) within myself.
This was 25 years ago – I was completely unaware not only because I had never experienced the inner world of someone with mental illness, but also because it was 1998. Back then, there was a total lack of postpartum health education, and even had there been some, the internet was hardly available to the public, so quick and easy access to information was very limited.
There I was, 27 years old – deep in the trenches of postpartum depression and anxiety, and also dealing with an undiagnosed (and misunderstood!) case of postpartum OCD – terrified that I had turned into a crazy psychopath, and wondering if my baby and I could even coexist on this planet. And though my husband and I had (and still have) wonderfully supportive families, we were living alone in Berlin, Germany, as expats at the time, so reaching out for support was complicated, with my husband’s family being settled on the East Coast of the US and my family residing in Belgium.
My journey of healing and recovery ended up being long and hard. But in the end, it led me to finding a career I am passionate about to this day – a career as a therapist working with other parents coping with PMADs. It also led me to being bold enough to have another child 6 years after the birth of my son T., a baby girl in 2004, through open adoption.
This is my story. I’m sharing it with you because it may stand as a “There were others!” for you too (or for someone else you may know who could benefit from my story somehow.)