To The Mama With PPD or PPA

Dear Mama with Postpartum Depression or Anxiety,

When my daughter was just a few weeks old, family members and friends would ask me if they could hold her. I was so relieved that someone wanted to hold her, I would happily hand her over...but the second that she was in someone else's arms, I would be flooded with anxiety and visions of them dropping her on the cement patio, or accidentally banging her tiny, fragile skull into the corner of the table. I could see the blood running from her tiny head, and it sent waves of panic through me. I was terrified they were going to accidentally kill my newborn.

I was so confused because I wanted physical space between myself and my daughter, but I was even more afraid once I actually got it. There was no winning. So I sat there, frozen as people held her, and unable to tolerate it for long. When my mother-in-law would urge me to take some time to lie down and rest, I couldn't. I was consumed with what was happening in the next room. It took more energy to will myself to lay in bed than it did to hold her.

A few months later, I put my bopping daughter in her excersaucer, this big, ridiculous contraption where she could bounce and spin, and I started on dinner. I was cutting carrots when I was suddenly overcome with fear that I might cut off her finger. She was no where near me, but I struggled to complete the task of cutting these carrots because I could swear, they were her fingers. I knew that something was deeply wrong, but I was so horrified by own thoughts that I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone about them.

Each day when I opened my eyes, it didn't matter how much I had slept, I was beyond exhausted. I was paranoid about people's intentions, and I was literally dizzy all the time. When my husband would leave for work, fresh panic would wash over me...what was I supposed to do all day long? I would lay on the floor and play with my daughter because I felt so dizzy that I sure I was going to pass out and drop her. I would watch the walls and I could swear they were narrowing in on me. I thought that perhaps they would crush us.

I would count the hours, sometimes the minutes, until my husband would arrive home. If he was late, I would begin nervously pacing, wondering why he was late...I would worry he was never coming back, or that he didn't want to be with me. Was he dead? Should I text him? Was I acting desperate? I felt desperate, but I was also desperate to hide it. Everyday when he would leave, I would trick myself into thinking that when he came home, I would somehow feel better, only to discover that I didn't feel better. And that devastated me freshly each day.

All of this was happening during a time when well-meaning people--people I loved and respected-- would look at my precious, beautiful baby and declare, "Isn't this the best time?" or tell me, "You are such a good mom." These complements served to further disjoint the experience that I was having on the inside because on the outside, I was smiling, and doing all the right things. But on the inside, I was secretly wondering what was wrong with me, and why I couldn't just "snap out of it." Why wasn't I happy?

I cried alone. I blamed myself, and even my husband. I hated people who told me how they enjoyed having babies. I thought I was defective because I wanted more puppies, but not more children. I worried that it would never end, and I felt robbed because I thought I was supposed to be happy. I thought that being a mom was going to be joyful and that I would be better at it. I felt enraged when people said, "you seem fine," because I was not fine, I was just good at hiding how utterly demoralized I was.

Why am I telling you all this, Mama? Because I don't want you to suffer as long or as hard as I did. I want you to read these words and if you recognize yourself in them, I want you to see that it's not normal, and it's not okay, and most importantly: that you can reach out for help. You can stop breastfeeding, or put your child in daycare and go back to work, or phone a friend or family member and schedule your damn breakdown. You can see a therapist or go to inpatient care if you need to. You are ALLOWED to reach out if the darkness is too much and too thick for you see your way out of. This happens to some Mamas.

I also want you to know that this doesn't make you a bad mother. It doesn't mean that you don't love your child. I know you love your baby, and you don't have explain that to anyone. This only means that something clinical and real is happening to you, and there is tangible help. And I want you to know, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for every second that you've lost because of this. It sucks, and there are some people who will not understand what you are going through, but I understand. I understand how robbed you feel by PPD or PPA, but I don't want you to lose hope because you have a lifetime with your baby. That is why you have to reach out NOW and ask for the help you need.

You can do this, Mama. There is help and there is hope. You are important and you matter. You don't have to bear the unimaginable weight of PPD or PPA alone. This Mama's got you, and I'm here to say,  I love you and I want you to tell someone. TODAY. Do it for yourself so you can be the Mama you need to be. Read someone this blog post, if it helps to explain what's going on for you. Read this through the tears you deserve to cry, and let them see how hard it is. Allow your strength to be in the breakdown because sometimes the strongest choice we can make is to stop being strong and let ourselves fall apart.

I love you, Mama.


Bossy Italian Wife


When I was a teenager, my family would take winter vacations to mountain resorts that included seasonal sports like skiing and snowboarding.  I was never particularly good at snowboarding, but it was trendy, and I went a few times. Where I lacked in ability, I made up with enthusiasm and blind confidence, which is what lead to me to strap onto that flexible board of plastic and hurl my body down the side of a mountain.

One such time, all strapped in and feeling not only secure, but optimistic, I adjusted my rented board from the parallel position to the vertical “downhill” stance and began down the trail. As I quickly started to pick up momentum, I felt cool for a millisecond until I suddenly realized that I had no clue what I was doing. Sure, I was going really fast and appeared to be navigating properly, but it was an illusion. As I wizzed past unsuspecting skiers and snowboarders,  I was lucky not to hit anyone. The speed was building to a point that I could no longer safely sustain. Then, a horrible reality dawned on me: I didn’t know how to stop.

Eventually, I would have to stop, and unfortunately for me, the only way to accomplish that on my own was to willfully fall. By that point the only choices were fall or crash. And because I like my face, and because I knew the conscious falling would do the least amount of damage to my face, I had to take a deep breath and tuck my body and hit the hard snow.

This is exactly what my self-professed "breakdown" was like.

The choice were clear: fall or crash, so I chose to fall. The thing about choosing to fall is that at least you are the one in the control, and this is a small comfort. You are the person doing the falling, and so you can choose the manner in which you would like to tumble. Though, I learned, one can’t predict what will happen once they do hit the ground. Sometimes you bust your lip on the hard snow, and other times, the damage is worse. For me, this was incredibly scary because having my breakdown meant choosing myself. It felt selfish in a way....It also meant I would have to come face-to-face with all of the emotions I had been unsuccessfully trying to outrun.

Now, when I say breakdown, I know that term can be off-putting to a great many people. They start thinking: white coats and straight jackets. Which is precisely why I needed to write this piece. Why in the fuck are we so afraid to admit we are not okay? We are suffering endlessly in silence. Who amongst us hasn't felt DONE? This was me: done. Emotionally and physically. I felt that I literally could go no further. I had been living with the same narrative in my head each morning… “How many hours do I have to pull before I can close my eyes and go back to sleep?” Somewhere in the midst of my days, I would wonder with genuine fascination, “Is this the day I will finally, once and for all, have a mental breakdown?” Each day, it felt as though a little more water was being poured into a quickly filling receptacle, and it was becoming too full and too large to ignore.

Complicating all of this was that I am a mother to a highly intuitive child who at the time was 3 years old. She could probably tell that something was deeply wrong with her mommy. Mommy could no longer pretend that everything was okay, and it was showing. This painted a fresh layer of guilt over the gloss of my mounting anxiety. Looking at my daughter, I knew I had to fix this before it got any worse and stole anything else from us.

So, in late 2017, with the walls quickly coming in on me, I phoned it in. I cleared my schedule, called in my helpers (who showed up with help and without judgement), and prepared to plant myself firmly on the couch and not get up until I was done crying, questioning, and eating snacks in badly coordinated outfits.

There were days when my face was swollen and sore from crying. I had days where all I could manage to do was make it from my bed to the couch. There were dinners that never got made. There were stretches where my daughter cracked out hard on iPad. There was a day when I wore an outfit so truly awful that there were no words. But I was also working it out. I was actively getting in the pit with my own despair and wrestling it to the death.

It took two weeks, more than one viewing of Little Women, and a lot of grace, but by the time I was done, I was good and broken down. During those two weeks, I systematically and painstakingly removed the layers of expectations that I had for myself, as well as the ones that others had for me. I gave myself permission to think, for the first time, about what self care meant, about how I wanted to actually show up in my own life, and what kind of family member and friend I wanted to be. I gave myself permission to cry and to not be okay. I was able to admit that trying to be everything, all at once, resulted in me not really being of any use to anyone at all.

By the time I could once again stand upright, I realized that the heavy release of emotion over those weeks was more like a prerequisite than the actual college credit. I had stopped moving long enough to see that without me, the world kept right on turning. All of the “things” I thought I needed to do, or participate in, really didn’t need to me function, and this was a distinct relief. Once I had enough room to breath outside of those things, I began to ask myself, “are these things really even all that important to me?”

I made a list of the things I had to do…like, HAD to do. I was shocked at how simple it was:

Show up to work, so we can pay bills.
Love myself.
Love my family.

Everything else was optional. Like, truly optional. This was my starting point— a new beginning. And like I said, the actual event of moving through the emotion was more like a prerequisite because coming out of all of that, I was surprised to find that I needed to rediscover what it meant to be "me." My breakdown lead me on a year long journey to unfold into a new, more realistic, and tailored version of my life. It also helped me reimagine what beauty really means in the context of a well-lived life.

In the day and age of social media, we are conditioned to participate in the crafting of our images. Naturally, this spills over into our everyday lives in subtle, and often harmful, ways. I believe that modernity predisposes us to become passengers on the runway train of “I’m fine—let’s stay busy and look successful.” I, like so many do, became obsessed with the notions of being perceived as strong and busy. This lead me down a well-intentioned path to hell. And that, my friends, is some bullshit.

Simultaneously, parenthood catapulted me into an arena I thought I was prepared for, but when I arrived, I had on the wrong type armor, and my weapons were those party balloons shaped like animals. Instead of throwing my hands up, and asking for help, or simply saying “what the actual fuck is going on here?” I tried to use the balloons and broken armor, while frantically running to outpace my enemies in the arena. The inevitable end was exhaustion and confusion. Perhaps as parents we are more susceptible to subscribing to illusionary expectations. I don't know.

What I do know is that nearly two years out from my famous couch-in, my life doesn't appear any different on the outside, but it is radically different on the inside. I changed the way I did business from the way I conduct friendships to family time, parenting, and even the way I work. I don't always feel happy, but I live with a ton more joy than I could have ever imagined. If you’ve been frantically trying to avoid the truth of yourself, or your life, by staying busy and outrunning the dragon, I implore you: schedule the damn breakdown, already. While it will feel like hell at first, a well-planned fall is better than an unplanned crash.