Postpartum Support International has declared May as National Maternal Depression Awareness Month. It’s an initiative designed to bring awareness to the estimated one in seven women who will suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), encouraging them to “speak up when you’re down.” One mom has taken this step with a brave post on Facebook that has resonated with so many women, it’s received over 67K shares.
Kathy DiVincenzo begins her post with a simple request for those who read it: “push past the discomfort society has placed on postpartum mental illness” and hear her out. She admits to having suffered from PPD, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
DiVincenzo writes, “I feel like it’s time to show you what that can really look like, not just the side of me that’s ‘Facebook worthy.'” Most of us have a habit of wanting to show only the very best sides of ourselves when we post online. It can become a somewhat airbrushed version of our lives, giving others the mistaken impression of perfection.
DiVincenzo tells Babble that she was inspired to create the post when she realized that although she was going through a very dark time, her Facebook page was full of smiling pictures of her kids. She wanted to show what postpartum depression looks like, and was encouraged by her friend, photographer Danielle Fantis, to be brave enough to do just that.
Fantis took a series of breathtakingly honest photos of DiVincenzo with her children. The women then posted the two very different pictures that DiVincenzo says “represent my life depending on the day.”
In her Facebook post, DiVincenzo admits she would normally only be comfortable sharing one of the photos. But showing the other side of motherhood — the stress, the mess, those days when you are counting the minutes until bedtime — can be liberating, and may help others know that they are not alone if they aren’t “enjoying every moment.” Showing what it feels like to struggle beyond the challenging side of motherhood with conditions like PPD, anxiety, and OCD is even more powerful.
“The only thing more exhausting than having these conditions is pretending daily that I don’t.” DiVincenzo writes. “I work twice as hard to hide this reality from you because I’m afraid to make you uncomfortable. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak, crazy, a terrible mother, or the other million things my mind convinces me of and I know I’m not alone in those thoughts.”
No, she certainly is not. As someone who suffered with postpartum depression, I can attest to this personally. Women like DiVincenzo, who are willing to speak out, help let us all know that we are not alone in our struggles.
Her post continues with some valuable advice:
“We need to stop assuming that the postpartum period is always euphoric, because for 1 in 7 it’s not. We need to start asking new parents how they’re doing in a deeper way than the normal, ‘so how are you doing?’ that triggers the knee jerk, ‘everything’s great!’ response. We need to learn the signs, symptoms, risk factors, and support plans for postpartum conditions.”
I couldn’t agree more. The pressure to pretend that everything is blissful as a new mother is real. If we don’t delve deeper, we won’t be able to help those who are suffering.
For all the mothers out there, DiVincenzo ends her post with this declaration:
“In case no one has told you, you’re doing an amazing job. You are loved and you are worthy. You’re not alone. I know how unbelievably hard it is to reach out, but I promise you it is worth it. YOU’RE worth it.”
The reaction to her post has proven mothers relate with thousands of women sharing their stories or commenting with a simple, yet telling heart emoji.
When asked how she feels about the response her post has received, DiVincenzo admits that she had been initially terrified to post the pictures, but now has “no words for the response on this.” Adding, “It has been life changing to scroll through those thousands of comments witnessing people sharing their stories in such honest ways and other women responding to support them.”
Perhaps the biggest reward has been what has happened since. DiVincenzo tells Babble that she and Fantis have received private and public messages from women telling them that they’ve received help after their post helped them realize what they suffered through — or are currently suffering with — has a name. Some even relayed that the post saved them.
As for Fantis, who took the beautiful photos, she says that she has been inspired by her friend as well. In fact, with DiVincenzo’s encouragement, she decided to share her story with a powerful Facebook post of her own.
It is women like these two, who are willing to speak up about their struggles, who will help eradicate the stigma of mental illness and encourage others who are suffering to seek the help they need. The knowledge that you are not alone, and that help is available, can make all the difference to a mother in need.