I don’t remember exactly when I found Postpartum Progress and Katherine Stone, but it was probably during my son’s naptime in late 2008. I was googling “postpartum psychosis,” desperate to find someone who could tell me I wasn’t a monster because of what had happened to me. My mind was still raw, my emotions fragile. I was scared. What would people think of me when they found out? Are my friends going to turn their backs on me? Am I ever going to be able to be a good mom to this beautiful baby?
In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but remember the story plastered over the news during the summer I graduated college (2001) and how the mom who was so severely sick from postpartum psychosis that she committed an unthinkable act and her five children were gone in an instant. We shared the same diagnosis, and yet I still had to search. If I looked hard enough, knew I’d find what I was looking for.
Postpartum Progress was one of the first websites generated from my search. Once the blog came onto my radar screen, I knew I had found the answers I was seeking. The community Katherine had built reassured me that:
- No matter how isolating it felt at the time, I was not alone in what I was going through.
- With proper treatment and support I could recover and lead a successful, fulfilling life.
- There were thousands of other women across the globe who wanted to talk about postpartum mood disorders in order to break down the stigma.
- My story was important and I should share it to help other women and families.
Having lost complete touch with reality for several days, being forced into the hospital to get the treatment I needed in order to bring me back, and missing out on a week of my newborn’s life is enough to make any woman doubt her abilities as a mother. Especially a mother living with a mental illness.
I had been expecting postpartum depression to deplete my new mama energy and excitement. I was prepared for the baby blues which never came. I had read all the literature on PPD in the pregnancy magazines and pamphlets in my OB’s office. Several times.
With my diagnosis of bipolar type 1 in the spring of 2006, I should have anticipated the onset of psychosis after the birth of my first child in September of 2008. Especially given to the teeny amount of sleep I was (barely) surviving on during those four weeks when I was trying my hardest to be a breastfeeding mom. I should’ve known. I should’ve been ready. But I wasn’t listening when my psychiatrist said we needed to have a plan for the inevitable and instead was left beating myself up over what happened until I found Postpartum Progress.
I spent many a naptime reading the blogs of the women who were featured writers on the site. Each time I read a new post, I felt my spirits lift a bit, the weight on my shoulders growing a little lighter. Eventually I found the courage to start talking more openly about my own mental health with my close friends.
Katherine showed me the beauty in bearing our scars to show other mamas we’re still here. We’re making it because we have each other and because we want to change society’s perception of maternal mental illness.
I applaud Katherine Stone and Postpartum Progress for the incredible work they’ve done over the past ten years. Because of the blood, sweat and tears Katherine and her volunteers have poured into the organization, they have been able to offer the following amazing resources to mothers and families seeking support and information about postpartum mood disorders:
- PostpartumProgress.com – the most widely read blog in the world of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- “Plain Mama English” guides to understanding postpartum mood disorders – lists of symptoms for the various PPMDs written in language moms can use to recognize whether something is wrong.
- Climb Out of the Darkness – Postpartum Progress’s annual worldwide fundraiser, raising awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- Mother’s Day Rally for Mental Health – held on Mother’s Day each year, contributors post letters to new mothers – one an hour for the entire 24 hours of Mother’s Day – to let moms who are struggling know that they can and will get through a PPMD.
- Private Peer Support Forum – a safe place for moms who are not yet ready to talk publicly.
I am in awe of everything Katherine has done for the good of all moms who experience postpartum mood disorders and I am so very grateful for her passion which fuels Postpartum Progress. In her I found the relief I so desperately sought out. The beauty in sharing my story to help others which led me to where I am today. Thank you so very much, Katherine!
Happy 10-year Anniversary, Postpartum Progress!!!