Postpartum Depression Didn't Look the Way I Thought It Would

And for nearly a year, I lived in that vacuum.

I wasn’t blind to the notion that motherhood was a struggle for so many. Fleeting mentions of PPD would show up in pamphlets and on websites, and it was briefly brought up by my midwife. But nobody in my life ever really talked about it. I didn’t know anyone who’d openly or overtly wrestled with it. And because I’d deemed my struggle purely circumstantial, I never reached out or sought help. I now know I should have.

In the years since then, parents in the public eye have been using their platform to acknowledge their versions of this struggle. And each time they’re sending flares out to others who might be looking at their circumstances the way I did: as some personal failing rather than a mental health issue that can be named, and then treated.

Chrissy Teigen talked, in her 2017 Glamour cover story, about how postpartum depression made no sense to her, because she had such a wonderful life; she blamed her discontent on situational anomalies. (Yes, same!) Adele told Vanity Fair in 2016 she had thought PPD meant “that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job,” and because she was “obsessed” with her child, she just thought something else was wrong. (Exactly!) If only I’d seen stories like theirs four years sooner.

Bryce Dallas Howard alternately described her experience with postpartum depression as “a nightmare,” “a black hole,” and then, in retrospect, “emptiness.” Alanis Morissette told People she felt the weight of it within seconds of giving birth to her daughter. And because I didn’t feel anything other than elation until the four-month mark, I’d tricked myself into thinking I wasn’t in that same boat.

It wasn’t until the fog began to clear that I was able to sit up, look around, and realize that, Oh—maybe that’s what that was. I’d missed every warning sign and every red flag only because postpartum depression didn’t look for me like one broad-strokes stereotype of the illness. That was my mistake.

And because I was overlooking my difficulties as struggles of circumstance, or not as bad as the news-making cases of PPD, I never did follow up with my midwife or doctor about them. I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression, and never received treatment for it. I just lived that way, in a mess of emotion that left me unable to tell elation from despair. And then it went away, and I was me again. It felt like sorcery.

The trouble with postpartum depression isn’t that nobody is talking about it—luckily, we are. Whether it’s in your newsfeed, in your doctor’s office, or in the book lying on your bedside table, we’re at long last being faced with more of the myriad ways PPD can present itself. There was a time in which we weren’t, and that’s how I ended up relying on the tired notion that it only ever looks one way.

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