Seven months after I gave birth to my son, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. Two emotions were at the forefront of my mind: shock and shame. I was shocked at the timing: How could this be happening seven months out? I thought I was out of the woods after the first few weeks. But I remember learning that PPD symptoms are highly variable from person to person and can hit anytime during the first year or so of your baby’s life. I was reassured that lots of women struggle with PPD and that I wasn’t alone. Despite this information, I took my deep shame and guilt and wrapped myself in it, weighed down and weary from carrying it with me each day. I was exhausted and lost.
For weeks, I walked with that heaviness surrounding me as if walking through thick molasses. It was hard to do my daily tasks. It was hard to be present in my life. It was hard to experience the emotional ups and downs and make sense of it all. After seeking help from my doctor, I was given a treatment plan that would work best for me. Part of that included talking to a therapist.
In one of my sessions, we discussed writing. She encouraged me to write during that time in a variety of ways: through journaling, through poetry, and through prompts.
I needed to remind myself that writing, especially when healing, does not have to be about expectation but, rather, expression. There doesn’t have to be an output for someone else to read; it can be an outpouring of emotion for only my eyes to see. When I started taking away some of the self-induced pressure to produce something polished, I got to create something cathartic.
So, I wrote. I wrote while I was in the thick of my depression. I wrote about the confusing ups and downs I was experiencing. I wrote about what I was learning and what I was unlearning about mental health stigmas and the healing process. Some of the poetry and writings from that time will reside exclusively in my heart, and that’s more than okay. Some parts of our writing journeys are just for us. But as we work through those emotions, it leads us to the poetry that is meant for us. The poems that hurt and heal and challenge and change us. The poems that allow us to be seen by others and encourage them to share their stories too. My later poems were a fight for faith and hope. I know so many can relate to that feeling.
hold it tight
hold on through
the darkest doubts
of the night
remember the light.
remember the light.
with all of your might,
remember the light.”
For me, poetry was a part of my healing process in a big way. So were prayer, medication, counseling, and a support system. If you think you may be struggling with PPD or any mental illness, please don’t feel ashamed. Please know that getting help requires immense strength and courage. Please know that you are not “less than” for struggling. You are not a bad mom, spouse, friend, or daughter for making your mental health a priority. Actually, quite the opposite is true. Your feelings are valid. Your experiences are valid. And you are so much more than your circumstances or diagnoses. Your story matters. Your health matters. YOU matter.
“Pain on paper,
I let it flow freely
Untangled all the
stories within me
And there it was
Oh, there it was…
I wrote this poem as a reflection piece when I thought back on the writing from the early days of my struggle. The writing from those days was the most painful, but it was also the most freeing to reflect on. It takes a lot of courage to confront your fears and your emotions head-on, but it is often the best way for us to move forward. Don’t be afraid to put the pain on paper. And don’t be afraid to ask for professional help as you process the pieces of your heart you find there. Our stories are worth telling and worth fighting for. Hope is worth fighting for. And sometimes, we can repurpose a little bit of our pain into poetry.