Episode 4: The Power of Storytelling

In this episode, I talk about the healing power of storytelling and how telling people I had postpartum depression helped me recover.

When I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, I was full of shame and did not want anyone outside my inner circle to know I had it. We were supposed to go to Nebraska for a wedding and had to cancel. Nathan told his family that he was too busy at work. I felt so guilty that we he had to miss the wedding and thought everyone would hate me if they knew the real reason why we stayed home.

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression in July 2013.  In Fall 2013, I slowly started telling people about my illness. I mostly told people over email. This had its pros and cons. On the one hand, people had the chance to process this information before reacting – which helped me avoid any negative reactions. On the other hand, most people responded to my news by not responding at all. That hurt. Now that I have some distance, I understand why people did not know how to handle my news. Mental illness is highly stigmatized and not something we often discuss. People did not respond to my emails about having PPD because they did not know how to respond.

In January 2014, I told a Mommy & Me class that I had postpartum depression. I had been attending this class since September 2013 and felt like I was missing out on some authentic friendships because the moms did not know about my illness. We were bonding over parenting issues, but I was concealing my biggest issue. Postpartum depression was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. If people don’t know I had it, then they don’t know me.

When I told the class about my bout of postpartum depression, I felt so relieved and happy. Afterwards, lots of moms hugged and thanked me. One mom told me I had just described her postpartum experience. She had not realized she had postpartum depression. Another mom told me I was very brave for being so vulnerable with the class.

I guess I was brave, but it did not feel that way. I had to share my story, just like I have to breathe air and drink water. I felt like I had to tell my tale or I would burst.

Shortly thereafter, I posted on Facebook that I had had postpartum depression and wanted to find a way to help other moms who have it. I received some likes and comments, but for the most part, my post was ignored. Again, people just don’t know how to talk about mental illness so they ignore the subject. At the time, I was devastated by the mediocre response. Now I realize I was relying too much on the approval of others. Fuck approval! Confidence has to come from within or it’s not actually confidence.

I started a meetup group and got to talk about my postpartum depression adventures with other moms who had suffered like me. That was wonderful and very cathartic. It is important to be heard. It is even more important to be understood.

At first, telling people I had postpartum depression was scary. Now, it’s a non-issue. I love talking about it. It feels so good to talk about it. That’s why I started this podcast.

I truly believe that talking about traumatizing experiences helps reduce any subsequent shame. Brene Brown talks about the healing power of storytelling in her wonderful book The Gifts of Imperfection. This book is not about postpartum depression, but I think it’s very helpful to anyone suffering from PPD.

So you want to share your story to help you heal from postpartum depression? Here are my tips:
Know your audience. Share your story with a compassionate listener- think fellow mom who is open-minded, not your gossipy co-worker who thinks mental illness is a hoax.

  • Therapy is a great place to talk although it can get pricey.
  • Start a blog and write your story for the entire world to read.
  • Tell your journal.
  • Tell me! Email me at courtney@ppdadventures.com.
  • are you feeling super brave and pumped to tell your story? Tell it on my podcast! I want to interview moms about their adventures with postpartum depression and also have guest co-hosts to discuss the myriad of issues involved with PPD.
For further information about postpartum depression, check out Postpartum Progress.
Postpartum depression is a lonely illness but remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
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