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What Not To Say To A New Mom With Postpartum Mental Illness

Because it's not always "the most joyful time" of her life.

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Hi, I'm Morgan, and within three days of my daughter's birth I started to experience extreme symptoms of postpartum depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder; emphasis on the obsessive.

Sara Moe

This photo was taken when my child was 10 months old. I'd lost the ability to enjoy myself, and was struggling through a weekend trip with my semi-estranged best friends, who didn't know I was ill. At night I'd lie in bed and hope I didn't wake up.

And still, people assumed I was experiencing the most joyful time of my life — and had a lot to say about it.

All of the photos throughout this post are of women in the midst of experiencing postpartum mental illness, ranging from depression and anxiety, to PTSD and psychosis. They were submitted via this Facebook thread.

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1. "So was it love at first sight?"

Rachel Matos

For so many moms, even those who don't experience mental illness after giving birth, bonding with a new baby is hard. For moms with postpartum mental illness this can throw them into a tailspin of guilt and self-doubt.

2. "You must be so happy."

Graeme Seabrooke

Yes, I seem happy because I'm expected to perform happy motherhood. But actually, a lot of us are fighting back intense, confusing, and terrifying rage most (if not all) of the time.

3. "Has [insert partner here] changed any diapers yet?"

Laura Brown

The spouse of a person experiencing postpartum mental illness is frequently carrying the weight of not only caring for the new baby, but also their sometimes incapacitated partner. There's that shame and guilt again.

4. "Oh, you have to join a baby class. I was so depressed until I met other new parents."

Robin Farr

If a mom is dealing with social anxiety, this is akin to asking them to scale Mt. Everest. Same applies if they are just too depressed to get off the couch.

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6. "Why haven't you called me back?"

Neisha Weiseth

I am overwhelmed by the thought of refilling the toilet paper. I don't know what to say. I don't want you to think I'm a bad mom. I can barely breathe.

7. "Just let me know how I can help."

Laura Pryor

I literally can't. But I assure you that anything you do will be appreciated. Most of all just come over to talk to me, or just sit in silence with me. Please know I need you even if I am too lost in my mind to express it.

8. "But your child is over a year old."

Jenni Bost

There's no timeframe on recovery. Some women are in treatment for years. Some can't access treatment and continue to spiral in silence.

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13. "Maybe if you started working out and lost that baby weight you'd feel better."

Morgan Shanahan

Great idea. As soon as I stop vomiting from anxiety I'll get right on that. Also, thanks for pointing out that my body looks different."

14. "You worry too much."

Jill Krause

Again, disordered thinking. Things are misfiring. Trust me I'm more worried about my worrying than you are. In fact I can't stop worrying about it.

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So what can you say?

Heather Hunter

* Ask them about how they're adjusting, and watch the way they behave. When you're lost in the abyss of postpartum mental illness, your life is often in the hands of those around you.

* Pay attention to changes in behavior. Letting a new parent know that you can see they are struggling may be that person's first step to recovery.

* If your friend isn't calling you back, check in, guilt-free. They may need you more than you know.

To learn more about postpartum depression, check out the resources at the National Institute of Mental Health here.

And if you need to talk to someone immediately, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. Suicide helplines outside the US can be found here.

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