She Is Me

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the news that Hayden Panettiere is battling Postpartum Depression and has checked herself into a treatment facility.  While it has taken me a bit to write about this, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t think it was incredibly important. I just needed some time to sit with it,and think about how I wanted to address it.

Hayden gave birth to her daughter, Kaya, in December, and has been open with her struggles. She mentioned her PPD in news articles, and again on Live! With Kelly And Michael. Those mentions never got a whole lot more than a blurb on the morning news shows, and talk in the PPD community, but this news?  This is big.

As you all know, I struggled for years, YEARS with untreated Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and what we suspect is PTSD. My postpartum mental health issues took me by surprise, though maybe they shouldn’t have. The deep and unshakable fear that my baby (and husband) would die, were not all that different than my life-long struggle with ALWAYS imagining the absolute worst case scenario.

But it would pass, right? It couldn’t be Postpartum Depression, because, in my mind, PPD meant that you wanted to harm your child, and I NEVER felt that way. I loved Avery, I was bonded to her. I wanted her with me. All. The. Time. But, something was wrong, I didn’t feel right, I didn’t feel good, and I certainly wasn’t happy. I was terrified, all the time. Every minute of every day. I knew this wasn’t good, but  I believed that if I tried to tell someone about my feelings, they’d take Avery from me, because I was, clearly, an unfit mother. I thought that, because it’s all I knew.  It’s all I saw on the news, or portrayed on TV show and in films.

So, I hid.

I didn’t tell anyone.

Here I was, surrounded people telling me how amazing motherhood was, and how happy I must be, and how every moment is to be enjoyed because it all goes so quickly.  And I was sitting there, wondering why I couldn’t enjoy it. Why I felt like I was being electrocuted, why the thought of another person holding my baby made me want to tear my hair out, why I was not sleeping despite the fact that my baby WAS, why I couldn’t find joy in anything, why I was scared all the time.  I put on a fake smile, I joked and laughed, and lied.

The problem is, the stigma is still there.  The stigma surrounds all mental illness, but it seems most harsh for moms with PPD because “How can you be sad?  This is the happiest time of your life?!”

And those feelings didn’t pass.

Because of that stigma, and my fears…because of PPD and PPA I lost the first year of Avery’s life. A year that I can never get back.  I have almost no memory of that time. Year two was easier, but I was still absorbed by that darkness, I still was not myself. It wasn’t until year three that I returned to myself, though I still have my struggles. There are good days, and GREAT days, and those are the vast majority, but there are still bad days. There are still days where I cry, still days where I think I’m doing it all wrong, where I feel the crushing weight of the world. And it never should have gone on so long. I should have gotten help, I should have reached out, but I was afraid.

I don’t want other moms to be afraid.

I thought I was alone.

I wasn’t.

And I don’t want other moms to feel alone.

I watch Nashville, the show that Panettiere stars in. Last season, her character, Juliette, gave birth to a daughter, and I could tell where they were taking the story line.  I could see myself in her. And it scared me. I worried they’d take it to that dark place, that stigmatizing place, that place that would push other moms even deeper into the hole. They didn’t.  While they did bring her story to a place that mine did not go, I felt, and still feel that they handled it well.  You could see that she wasn’t a bad mother or a bad wife, you could see that she was in pain, that she was struggling, that PPD had taken over. While watching, I thought of all my Warrior Moms out there who might be watching too, and feeling a little less crazy, feeling like they aren’t alone. I was glad to see PPD getting some more attention.

Hayden is Me. She is a Warrior Mom. While our journey may be different, while we may have very, very different lives, we have this one thing in common.  This common thread that ties us, and all Warrior Moms together. We fight.  But, we are not alone. We have so many other Warriors and supporters fighting with us, and fighting for us.  And I hope she knows that, and that all other moms know that. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!

What makes Hayden different, is her platform.  As a celebrity she has the ability to bring the issue to he masses, much faster, and with much more attention than I could ever do with this little blog. And her celebrity is important in other ways as well. While a mom may read something I write, and say “Yeah, I can relate.” it may not make as big an impact as hearing it from a celebrity. Because  “If someone so famous, can share her story, to MILLIONS of people, people who may judge so harshly, if she can tell the world, maybe I can tell my husband, or my sister, or my doctor or my friend.  Maybe I can reach out, too.”

I am so grateful for Hayden’s bravery. My God, she is so brave, just as ALL Warrior Moms are. I know that what she is doing will help her, and will help countless other new moms out there.

On Nashville, Panettiere’s character sings a song titled “Don’t Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet” and while the original meaning behind the song has nothing to do with her PPD struggle, I find them fitting (And it’s one of my Warrior Mom fight songs)

This time it’s goodbye trouble
I feel the light at the end of this tunnel
I get stronger with every step

Come Hell, come high water
You push on me I’m going to push back harder
I got a whole lot more than a little bit left
So don’t put dirt on my grave just yet.

So, Hayden, and all other Warrior Moms out there, there IS light at the end of the tunnel. You are strong and will get stronger. Depression will try and push  you down, it will lie to you, it will hurt you, but you can push back harder!

You have a whole lot more than a little bit left. 

You can do this, and I support you!!

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To learn more about Postpartum Progress, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders visit  postpartumprogress.org 

If you think you are experiencing postpartum depression, do not be ashamed. Get help, talk to someone–a loved one, a counselor, a nurse, anyone. Let someone know how you are feeling. Don’t let it go beyond the “Baby Blues”  While it is normal to feel some sadness and anxiety, if you feel that you want to harm yourself or your baby or if the sadness and negative feelings last longer than a few weeks after the baby is born, you need to reach out for help.  You can even reach out to me, if you don’t have anywhere else to turn!

One comment

  1. leigh howlett says:

    What a strong piece! I am amazed about this hidden and unspoken illness. You are an inspiration to women.. those who are afflicted and those who aren’t. Continue doing what you are doing Sarah… you ROCK in my book!

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