At November Campowerment (a weekend sleepaway camp retreat for women and my happy place), I was lucky enough to meet the fabulous Melissa D’Arabian. You may know her as the winner of the fifth season of The Next Food Network Star, but what you might not know about her is that in addition to being a TV host, author, speaker, wife, and mom to four girls (I love this badass woman!), she considers herself to be in the trench buddy business.
You’re probably asking yourself, what the eff is a trench buddy? I asked myself the same question when she mentioned the term during her workshop at camp. It turns out the term trench buddy articulates the very reason that I do what I do—write so openly and honestly about my experience battling and overcoming postpartum depression. A trench buddy is someone who can look you in the eye and say, “I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there too. You’re not alone.” How powerful is that—to build such a meaningful connection with another human being? In my case, with other moms who are struggling with postpartum depression.
To the moms with postpartum depression: I want you to know that everyday I am in the trenches with you, fighting next to you, fighting for you, looking you in the eye, holding your hand, embracing you, and telling you, “I know what you’re going through. I know it’s dark and lonely down there. I’ve been there. You will get through it. I got through it. We will get through this together. We are deeply connected through our shared experience and I want you to know that you are not alone and it will be okay. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually, it will get better. I know it will get better because I got better. I support you down there in the trenches. I fight next to you, with you, and for you down there in the trenches.”
I’m here to let you know there is nothing wrong with you. Your feelings are your feelings and they are real and valid. There are so many of us who felt and feel like you do after having a child, whether it’s your first, second, third, or fourth child. It doesn’t matter that you have a new baby and others say it should be the happiest time in your life. It doesn’t matter that others believe you should get it together because you have so much to be grateful for—a wonderful husband, a supportive family, and healthy children. No one chooses to get sick. You didn’t choose to get sick. You did nothing wrong. For whatever reason, you have an illness that needs to be treated, just like any other illness. You don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed for what you’re going through, for not immediately bonding with your baby, for not being overcome with a flood of ethereal emotions about becoming a mother.
I’m here to tell you it will get better. You have to do the work, but you will get better. For me the work was weekly therapy sessions, the right combination of medicine under the care of a psychiatrist, and asking for help when I needed it (and by the way, I still see a therapist three years later and I still take an antidepressant every morning when I wake up). I’m here to tell you it’s okay to ask for help. I remember sitting in my therapist’s office for months sobbing that I would stay sick forever. I didn’t. I am better. And now that I am better, I’m here for you.
I’m here to tell you that you are enough. That the most important lesson I learned from fighting and surviving postpartum depression is the importance of being and accepting myself as the mom I am, not the mom I thought I should be or the culture of motherhood tells me I should be.
And I promise to continue to always speak out about this very real illness that affects one in seven women, because that’s what a trench buddy does. I too am in the trench buddy business–a trench buddy for moms with postpartum depression—because we are all connected and we are all in this fight together. It’s not an easy fight, but the more we educate, the more we speak up, and the more we display our courage to talk about the things that don’t get talked about nearly enough, the more we lessen the stigma surrounding postpartum mood disorders and maternal mental health. And when you get better, just like I did, you can pay it forward and be a trench buddy too.