Caitlin Gallagher
March 18, 2019 9:11 am

Pregnant women and new moms have to go to so many health checkups. But oftentimes, maternal mental health is overlooked. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is seeking to prevent pregnancy-related depression, and it recently announced, after conducting research, that particular types of counseling can help to prevent depression during pregnancy. But not every mom has access to that kind of support, so to understand just how essential early intervention is for prenatal and postpartum depression, HelloGiggles spoke with 12 moms who have dealt, or are still dealing, with perinatal depression.

The task force’s report noted that perinatal depression was found to impact 180,000 new mothers in the U.S. (11.5%) a year in 2012. Postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) are more widely recognized than depression during pregnancy (prenatal or antenatal depression). But overall, these maternal mental health conditions, where mothers have feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that interfere with their daily lives, are not given enough attention. Especially considering how common they are and how devastating they can be.

“It is essential that all providers caring for the maternal-child population screen all women for perinatal depression to promote early recognition and treatment services,” said Dr. Marcia Clevesy, a nurse practitioner and assistant professor of nursing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has been working to improve PPD screening rates in Las Vegas. “The reason screening for perinatal depression is so important is to provide women with some hope and relief for the anguish and despair that depression itself causes. The use of a validated screening tool identifies the actual symptoms and the degree of depression that the woman may not discuss when simply asked if she is depressed. Early recognition of depression is key in providing treatment options and continued follow-up to aid women through this emotionally difficult time during the perinatal period.”

The women who spoke to HG didn’t necessarily have the early interventions or screenings that are being recommended, but whether it was through therapy, medication, articulating their thoughts and feelings out loud or in writing, or using some other coping mechanism, they have found a path to healing. So let their stories serve to remind you that you can recover from pregnancy-related depression—and also that health care professionals should be focused on preventing perinatal depression so that other women don’t have to go through what they have.

1“My therapist took the weight of feeling like all my horrible thoughts were my fault.”

“I went to therapy fairly quickly after feeling like something was off. I noticed something wasn’t right the day after I got home from the hospital. I said something to my own mom (who is a therapist) and that started what I call a scavenger hunt of sorts for the right therapist. The first therapist I went to made me feel worse. All she wanted to do was talk about what I could do to be and feel like a good mom. Not helpful at all. I didn’t even want to be a mom then and I had no idea what was ‘wrong’ with me.

After that, I googled ‘therapist postpartum depression Charlotte NC’ and I stumbled randomly upon a therapist who specialized in perinatal mood disorders. I called her immediately and she scheduled me to come in the next day. That appointment was a breath of fresh air because not only did she diagnose me and talk to me about postpartum depression, but she explained to me and showed me a list of risk factors, which I had tons of. She told me about all the other moms like me she has treated, and I felt less alone. She took the weight of feeling like all my horrible thoughts were my fault, and she got me on the path to recovery, which included a psychiatrist she recommended who prescribed medication that I still take today almost six years later. I even brought my husband to an appointment with her, which helped him understand better about that I was going through and ways he could help.

Day to day, I had a very hard time getting out of bed. Each morning, I made myself walk laps around my neighborhood, sometimes in my pajamas, because it calmed my anxiety a bit. While I did that I usually sobbed on the phone to my mom about how I would never get better, but she promised me I would. Twice a week I went to therapy appointments. I had one friend come over almost every day and sit with me and hold my baby. And I had a daytime nanny while my husband worked because I couldn’t function like a normal human.

I wish someone had told me while I was pregnant that if postpartum depression or anxiety or any mood disorders hit, you must see someone who specializes in maternal mental health because not everyone is educated on this subject. I created an online platform and community after surviving my battle with PPD and realizing how many moms suffered, ashamed and alone, like I did.”

—Jen, North Carolina, founder of MOTHERHOOD-UNDERSTOOD

2“Knowing that I had a doctor who took it seriously and believed me was HUGE.”

“As much as I would love to tell you that talking my feelings through with loved ones was enough, it really wasn’t. For me, coping with postpartum depression ultimately came down to medication. I have a history of OCD and anxiety disorder and have been on medication for years to keep those under control. I think, in many ways, I was very lucky that this was the case. Because when the PPD set in, I didn’t have to go searching for a therapist and forge a new trust with a stranger. I just had to call my existing therapist and say, ‘Something is definitely not right.’ My challenges truly were chemical, so talk therapy had no bearing on me. However, knowing that I had a doctor who took it seriously and believed me was HUGE. At the onset, I thought everyone would think I was just overreacting. The validation of a professional saying, ‘This is not right. This is a problem. And we can fix it’ is enormous.

After consideration, we chose to take several steps. We doubled the dose of my existing daily medication, added Xanax on a more regular basis, and layered on a third medication that is actually an antipsychotic. All of these things got me to what I would call ‘normal.’ Normal for me meant still slightly OCD and likely worrying about things, but no longer plagued by thoughts that I had made a terrible mistake with my life. I was also very fortunate that I had a lot of support from my husband, my parents, and my in-laws. They were all very attuned to what was going on and encouraged me to go to the doctor.

My personal mental illness centered around anxiety and panic attacks. While I was pregnant, my obstetrician explained that when a person has a panic attack, their body goes into flight-or-fight mode, which means blood is diverted to the brain, heart, and lungs and away from a non-essential flight-or-fight body part, i.e. your uterus. This meant that having a panic attack would have been more potentially dangerous for my baby than my daily medication. So I did stay on my daily medication while I was pregnant, but I did not take Xanax.

Having been through PPD with my first, I was quite concerned about a repeat performance with my second. The smartest thing I did was tell my doctors (OB and therapist) early about my concerns. My therapist was with me every step of the pregnancy, checking in and watching for changes in mood. Even though none appeared, we made a game plan for post-birth. We decided to proactively put me on the double dose of my daily medication immediately following delivery. We also had prescriptions for the other two medications filled and ready to go in the event I started to feel symptoms. Happily, I didn’t, and I was able to step back down on my daily medication shortly after.

Personally, I found out way after the fact that I’d had several of the risk factors for PPD (including a history of depression or anxiety, previous miscarriage, complications in delivery which led to a C-section, difficulty breastfeeding, a sick baby, and more). Had I known these risk factors before I would have sought medical help much sooner.”

—Danica, California

3“In hindsight, what helped me most was therapy.”

“I knew getting hit with postpartum depression was a real possibility, but it wasn’t until I was deep into it that I even recognized what was happening. Getting back to feeling like myself was a process. But in hindsight, what helped me most was therapy. The funny thing is, I was therapy-resistant. Having a new baby, getting to yet another appointment wasn’t exactly high on my list. After doing research, I found Talkspace, a virtual therapy app. Talkspace made it so much easier as a new mom to get the help I needed. I could message my therapist when it was convenient based on my schedule (or lack thereof given I had a newborn). I didn’t have to leave my house or worry about childcare, and my therapist checked in and responded daily. With consistent work, it didn’t take long to feel markedly better. I would hope any mom who is facing postpartum depression can find support and to know they aren’t alone in this struggle.”

—Lesa, Oregon, Founder of Pajama Marketer

4“I was wary but slowly started talking about everything I kept bottled up.”

“When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was 19 and only married for a few months. During the pregnancy, everyone decided to voice their opinions on what I should be doing before and after I had her, how to parent, and how I should feel. The stuff I constantly heard was, ‘You should be happy!’, ‘A baby is the best thing in the world!’, ‘You should give her a sibling right after you have her, it’s best to have two kids close together.’ No one really wondered how I would be after I had her.

When I was 40 weeks, I broke down in my centering pregnancy group. I sobbed to the midwife and assistant because I was so tired, I was so depressed, and I just wanted to have my daughter already. The first thing out of their mouths was, ‘Don’t cry, it’s bad for the baby.’ After that, it was like a switch. I was worried to voice any of my feelings or opinions to anyone, even my husband.

Once my daughter was born, my depression worsened and I had a hard time doing anything. All I wanted to do was lie in bed and be left alone. After two weeks, I couldn’t take the burden of breastfeeding anymore because it was aggravating and stressful. So I switched to pumping exclusively so I could get help and not be viewed as food. I thought switching would ease my depression, but it didn’t. I looked at the pamphlets I received from the hospital briefly and just assumed it was baby blues that would go away soon; I was obviously wrong.

The thing about postpartum depression is that no one tells you about the rage or the late nights where you’re awake feeding your baby and crying in the dark while your significant other sleeps next to you. No one tells you how alone you feel even when you have friends or your S.O.—you just feel so alone. It’s horrifying. You could be a happy and optimistic person before PPD and a person who can’t even get up in the morning to brush their hair afterward. I had so much trouble voicing any of my thoughts to my husband because I didn’t want to hear him tell me to get over it or how I should be happy because I have a baby. I knew deep down he wouldn’t say that, but the anxiety told me otherwise so I kept it bottled in until I couldn’t do anything anymore.

It got to the point where I would sob uncontrollably, keep away from people, rarely showered or took care of myself, moved slower, and gave up the things I loved the most. I just didn’t want to be here anymore, I was exhausted physically and mentally. One day, my husband realized how bad it was and got me in the car and took me to go talk to a counselor. I was wary but slowly started talking about everything I kept bottled up, terrified the entire time worrying she’d call me crazy or lock me away. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone anymore—my husband and daughter needed me here.

I still have my PPD today as my daughter is about to turn 9 months old, but I still get up every day and keep moving forward. Of course, it’s not something that goes away instantly and I want people to know that. I want people to know it takes time, it takes strength to fight it, and it’s okay to ask for help. You’re important and cared about and let your voice be heard. Postpartum depression shouldn’t be taboo to talk about, it’s real and thousands of mothers and fathers have it. You will get better and feel yourself again, this too shall pass. Don’t be afraid to speak up.”

—Alex, Texas

5“I learned how to imagine life with my daughter beyond the sleep-deprived moments.”

“When you have a baby, you’re forced to get to know not one, but three new people—your baby, yourself, and your vagina. You’re holding a new stranger, your inner labia has fallen apart, and you feel like your old self died. Well, at least that’s how those of us with postpartum depression feel. It’s lonely. It’s confusing. And for most of us, it’s shameful. Luckily, long before I had a baby, I knew I needed to pay for someone to listen to my problems, so Dr. Olson and I had history! It was her, my therapist, who diagnosed me with postpartum depression and ultimately had me check into a psychiatric facility for treatment.

The psych unit was amazing. I was alone, I didn’t have to do anything, and I didn’t have to listen to a baby crying. I felt like I was on a game show and had won a seven-day, six-night all-inclusive trip to the Bahamas. It was the best vacation that health insurance could buy. In the mental hospital, I learned how to imagine life with my daughter beyond the sleep-deprived moments and envision her taking her first steps, how to cope when I’d hear the cries, and most importantly how to ask for help. Before I checked into the ‘resort,’ I was so hung up on doing everything ‘the right way’—no screen time, homemade pureed veggies, very strict routines. But when I got home, I realized that my sanity was the ‘right’ thing to give my daughter and the other things meant nothing if I wasn’t my best self—even if that meant a new and improved redefined self.”

—Angelina, California, comedian and advocate for maternal mental health

6“I assessed my life and tried to determine what I was doing when I was healthier.”

“I was 21. I went on the pill to avoid pregnancy and immediately got some blood clots. Shortly after going off the pill, I got pregnant. My hormonal imbalances led to two prematurely delivered babies. Post-pregnancy with the first child was the most difficult of all. The baby didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep, the postpartum depression was tremendous, and the hormonal imbalances persisted. A second pregnancy within two years compounded the issue. The marriage did not last because I could not stop cutting myself. One colleague told me that what happened to me after the pregnancies was a postpartum psychosis. I really feel that it was more postpartum depression with extreme emotions. I did not have the hallucinations that often occur with postpartum psychosis nor the desire to hurt my children. I was cutting myself because I was so distraught. Every day was a struggle. Family members told me repeatedly that there was nothing wrong with me, I was plenty smart enough to figure this out, and that I had everything to live for. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to function. I desperately wanted to raise my two children properly, but it was a struggle to be sane. I was completely amazed at how easily I was put onto medications, all of which had no real benefit. Although they might seem to help for a short period of time, ultimately, I had to get off all medications and take a new approach.

Six psychiatric hospitals later, I walked out of a hospital ICU unit after harming myself and away from a therapist who had treated me for four and a half years with no resolution. I decided that I had to fix the situation myself. At my wit’s end, and knowing that I wasn’t this person, I assessed my life and tried to determine what I was doing when I was healthier and felt better. I investigated supplements such as Omega 3s and L-tryptophan that I had taken in my younger years. I assessed my diet throughout my life and recalled feeling best on a high-protein diet. I found a therapist who helped me with several cognitive coping mechanisms, including a support group for women with extreme postpartum depression, journaling, walking by myself, and going back to work to find a healthy balance to feed my brain. My therapist worked with me to build a support group amongst my friends and family. Generally uncomfortable with asking for help, through therapy I was ultimately able to call upon friends and family to assist with the children a couple of days a week. My therapist recognized that I was suicidal every month around my period. I began researching hormones and suspected that my thyroid might be playing a role along with progesterone deficiency.

At my therapist’s advice, I re-entered the workforce and eventually began working for a natural compounding pharmacy. There, I had access to professional-grade supplementation, including topical progesterone cream and a variety of at-home tests. I had previously suspected neurotransmitter imbalances and was excited to learn about a German scientist bringing neurotransmitter testing to the U.S. I tested my neurotransmitters to discover significant imbalances between my excitatory and inhibitory systems and began targeted amino acid therapy to help balance my brain. Around this time, I also recalled allergy testing from when I was a child and decided to remove gluten and dairy from my diet. The combination of coping mechanisms from my therapist along with balancing my hormones, neurotransmitters, and cleaning up my diet allowed me to regain control of my life. I feel so blessed that I survived this horrific postpartum depression.”

—Pam, Texas, clinical nutritionist and founder of Wellnicity

7“Dealing with PPD was made easier by opening up about having it.

“I think one of the biggest issues is that it’s not something most women talk about. You hear about PPD in the news but that can’t possibly happen to you. You planned and wanted your baby. Everything should be perfect! You’re prepared for the sore nipples from breastfeeding, the dirty diapers, and the sleep deprivation, but nothing can prepare you for the sudden overwhelming feeling of sadness, anxiety, and regret as you hold this beautiful little person you created and feel completely unable to properly care for it due to your mental state.

When I was pregnant, a friend of mine who was several months postpartum opened up to me about her struggles with PPD. So I was already aware of the possibility, but honestly thought I wouldn’t have any issues myself. I actually ended up talking with my OB at my follow-up and he prescribed me Zoloft. My doctor originally didn’t take me seriously because, in his words, ‘I didn’t look depressed.’ So I think it’s so important to reach out to women postpartum because some of us do a great job of faking it when we really aren’t okay.

The meds have definitely helped, but the main thing was the peer support of women who had also experienced it through my friends and a PPD/PPA Facebook support group. For me, dealing with PPD was made easier by opening up about having it. I was amazed by how many women I knew that had gone through it but never talked about it. Knowing that I wasn’t alone and that so many other women were experiencing it made me feel more sane and less guilty.”

—Jessica, South Carolina

8“Help is a self-care word, so my husband and I have asked for it.”

“I tell people, just like doctors aren’t immune to the common cold or cancer, therapists aren’t immune to mental health issues. I’m a psychotherapist and I have experienced postpartum depression with two of my three children. The first time I was unaware because my depression didn’t present itself as sadness and hopelessness but more as anger and agitation. It didn’t help that my son was born in January, so the cold Chicago winters did not help my mood. For my second, I was more strategic with my self-care and was able to have my sister stay with us for a month. I also had my daughter in May, so the warm weather was extremely beneficial. Then we had a surprise pregnancy. I mentally was not prepared for a third child as my husband and I believed our family was complete. I had a thriving practice and was growing my brand and accepting speaking opportunities. I was in shock that I would have to put things on pause. On top of that, my son was another winter baby due at the end of December. Also, there’s recent research that women who have boys are more likely to experience PPD than when they have girls. I knew that I had to be diligent with my maternal mental health because of all of the undesired variables. Sure enough, I began experiencing perinatal anxiety about his birth and what would happen postpartum. And a couple of weeks after delivery, I was tearful several days out of the week, feeling overwhelmed and anxious about how to manage a home with three children.

Help is a self-care word, so my husband and I have asked for it. Whether it’s playdates, drop-off and pick-ups for the older children, receiving meals, or having a family member come and care for the baby—we accept if all. I had requested for the first two months to have my husband go in a little later and come home a little earlier, so I didn’t have to leave the house with the baby to take the kids to and from school. I journal and am very vocal about my current experience on my personal Facebook page because I truly want to erase the stigma around mental health and what mothers experience during and post pregnancy.

I do my best to fit in things that make me feel like myself (writing, managing my social media, watching comedy, staying connected with friends). New mothers tend to get lost in the precarious role of ‘mother’ that they begin to lose their sense of self. I maintain my transparency. Whether I’m having a difficult day or a good one, I want to make sure that I am expressing myself and not holding anything in. I do my best to check my ‘negative’ thoughts (a cognitive behavioral intervention) and do my best not to judge them but acknowledge them and move on (mindfulness). If it’s sunny, I sit by the window or head out if it’s not too cold. I do my best to be healthy when I can, and stay hydrated. Everyone deals with sleep deprivation differently, but sleep is clutch and can increase or minimize symptoms. Unfortunately, we have a little one who is not the best sleeper, so on really rough nights, my depression and/or anxiety is heightened.

Because of the tools I have as a clinician, I’ve been able to manage my maternal mental health, however, it is not off the table for me to seek therapy myself either for my postpartum experience or for adjusting back to work.”

—Farah, Illinois, licensed clinical professional counselor

9“After a few sessions, I slowly gained some confidence.”

“My postpartum depression started three weeks after my first baby was born. At first, I was on cloud nine, tired but loving being home with my new little girl. I got mastitis and everything changed. I couldn’t even lift her for three days. I went through weeks of a deep, dark depression that felt like I was smothered in a room with a dark cloud of smoke or a black cape was wrapped around me, suffocating me. I went from having tears of joy and tears at beautiful moments to drowning in tears of sadness because I felt like I was watching someone else raise my baby while I stood in the corner paralyzed. A month of spouse resentment happened, and I didn’t even know it was a thing. Then I got worse and became fuzzy on details, on talking, on remembering basic words. I couldn’t function anymore or even make phone calls for myself to get the help I needed. My husband had to take an emergency week off from work and let me sleep every night. That is when I knew the PPD and PPA was really bad, because even with eight hours of sleep each night, I was getting worse. My husband asked me what month it was, and I didn’t even understand what the word ‘month’ was.

The worst part is, when we tried to reach out for help, the earliest psychiatrist appointment was six months away. I was crying every day. I would say to my husband we needed help, he would call, and they would say they weren’t accepting new patients. It was so frustrating. One night I was just scrolling online and crying in my black well of silence and I clicked on an article about PPD that had a link to Postpartum Support International. I stumbled across a link to help in my area and the lady in Sarasota emailed me contacts in Tampa. I BARELY had the energy to follow up on any of them, but I shot off one email that said, ‘Help me.’ I didn’t even have the energy to call so she replied that she would call me and brainstorm. It was such a relief, and she came up with PPD-specific counselors to help in the meantime. I got in immediately, and the talk therapy helped so much. After a few sessions, I slowly gained some confidence and was able to call around and make an appointment even though it was close to an hour away. I also got in to see my general practitioner. At therapy, we worked on grounding techniques and how to dismiss intrusive thoughts, which previously ran my life and paralyzed me.

I’m now starting to make some progress with my new medicine. It doesn’t make me as cloudy. I’m not ashamed to ask for help anymore. I can laugh a little bit. The depression doesn’t feel like getting ice water dumped on me. Now it just feels like someone hugged me and I didn’t like it but it was over pretty quick.”

—Tina, Florida

10“Writing my thoughts down and getting them out of my head helped me a lot.”

“I remember my experience with counseling through the group method as a long, hard process. And because at the time of my postpartum depression issues I could not afford the one-on-one session, it was my only available option. So I tried my best to stick with the group. But honestly, I didn’t feel like the sessions were there to help me because I could not identify with those that were in the group. Being the only woman of color in the group, I eventually felt that my needs were not being met, which pushed me to create a space where women of color can come and talk about their maternal mental health experiences in a setting that was comfortable and with women that they could identify with. I am a firm believer that counseling and therapy are great options to address maternal mental health complications, but it is only effective when the woman feels that they are being heard and that progress will be the outcome of sessions.

Journaling also helped me in the recovery process. After group counseling was not working for me, I remembered that, as a child, writing my thoughts down and getting them out of my head helped me a lot. So I took that and created a journal method that is structured but also free for the women to have a place to clear their mind and they are able to learn to INSPIRE themselves daily by using the journal. The breakdown is, Involve Others, Nourishment & Exercise, Spirituality & Prayer, Patience, Initiate Change, Rest & Relaxation, and Each Day Is A New Day To Start Again. These are things that women are able to do daily and repeat each day. Our organization has also been able to take this method of recovery for maternal mental health complications to an international level as we have been able to expand our work to Nairobi, Kenya, and there they operate as the Shades of Blue Project Kenya as these maternal mental health complications are worldwide.”

—Kay, Texas, founder of The Shades of Blue Project

11“Connection is the antidote.”

“My perinatal and postpartum depression was born of an unexpectedly complicated pregnancy, the crashing reality of the physical and emotional toll pregnancy and birth takes, and the sheer overwhelmingness from how drastically life changes with a baby. Not to mention hormones. Because we’re told it’s a time of goddess gowns and flower crowns—a time to be treated delicately and feel serene—I felt entirely wrong for experiencing such dark emotions. I felt entirely lost in the demands of motherhood.

Coping with these issues was complex, but absolutely possible. By finding and connecting with other moms in a new moms support group, leaning on my personal support system, and writing about my experience, I slowly emerged from the darkness. When I had other new moms to talk to, compare notes with, and get tips and advice from about new motherhood, I realized so much of my depression and anxiety was from sheer isolation. I had friends again who normalized and validated so many of my concerns. In writing about it and starting my blog, I reconnected with my purpose in life as a writer, my identity outside of motherhood, and with so many women going through it, too. Connection is the antidote. It takes great courage and such vulnerability to share your darkness with others. But it was only then that I realized I never was, and never will be, alone. It was only then that I found the road back to joy, back to the light, back to myself.”

—Eva, California, creator of the blog Brimming

12“Each week I gained clarity and most importantly, I started to feel empowered.”

“I have two kids, both boys, 19 months apart in age. When I had my eldest son in 2017, I was hit with a lot of unexpected feelings and trials. See, I’m an only child and don’t have my mom in my life, so I really had no one to look to for the support I desperately needed. Learning to breastfeed (which did NOT go well), the lack of support, the life I gave up and knew I would never get back, the major sleep deprivation, the lack of adult interactions, the constant crying (on both our parts), and the constant feeling of inadequacy soon got to me, and I was spiraling. But I didn’t know if this was normal. It didn’t feel normal, but I felt like I just wasn’t as good of a mom or wife as others.

At 10 months postpartum, I got pregnant again and this time it wasn’t planned and I was instantly terrified. Would I go through the same emotions? Would I lose myself completely? I felt a whole mixture of things—a part of me still thought everyone would be better off without me around and the other part of me knew I couldn’t harm myself with a growing baby inside of me. I thought I was getting better because there were some okay days, but with all these new feelings, I was at rock bottom. Then one day, I handed my son to my husband, ran upstairs, got in the bathtub with every pill bottle in my cabinet lined up on the side of the tub. I was sobbing and contemplating what the best thing to do was. Do I take all of these pills and put my family out of their misery? My kids could have a better mom and my husband, a better wife. What if taking the pills only put me in the hospital and cost my family more grief? There was guilt and shame, but luckily I had a single moment of clarity where I texted my husband and told him I needed to make an emergency appointment with my doctor the next day and wondered if he would be willing to stay home from work. I expected him to say no, and I had decided that if he said no, that was just the end for me, there was no hope. To my surprise, he responded with, ‘Of course I will, babe!’ I took the biggest breath I had ever taken and let it out. And for the first time in a long time, I felt relief.

The next day I called my doctor the moment her office opened and begged for her to see me. When I went in that morning, I cried for an hour. She listened. Then she prescribed me Zoloft and gave me a business card for a therapist to see. I was nervous but, again, felt relieved. I chose not to take the Zoloft. Though I’m sure it has its benefits, I wanted to try therapy alone, first. I called that afternoon and had an appointment later that week. I began weekly therapy sessions and noticed, in the beginning, the therapist oftentimes would ask me questions I didn’t think were relevant. I would have to sit and think about the answers and often wouldn’t know how to answer. Over time, I realized she was making me think in a different way. She made me realize I do a lot of negative self-talk and helped me to realize things about my past and my relationship with my mother and how that affects my life today.

Over the course of a few months, I saw her every single week and with each week I gained clarity and most importantly, I started to feel empowered. Like I had some control in my life again by changing my perspective and my outlook. I was given homework in the first week to share with my husband—three things I accomplished every day and three things I was proud of myself for every day. It was SUPER hard at first, and I sometimes didn’t believe what I said. By week two she told me to make it factual and don’t overthink it. This was helpful. Instead of saying something like, ‘I was a good mom today,’ which was far from my feelings at the time, I would instead say, ‘I was able to get my son to say “please” today.’

Positivity goes a long way and I’m proof of that today. Because of talking with a therapist, I didn’t experience PPD when my second son was born, and I feel stronger than ever. I’m superwoman.”

—Paige, Texas

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

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