May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, and in honor of this impactful occasion, we want to raise awareness of the mental health issues that are often overlooked. Specifically, we looked to moms, one in seven of whom cope with postpartum depression. To amplify these voices, we asked women to tell us how postpartum depression feels in just one sentence. While these 19 mothers use different words to describe their experiences, they all show that even if you are experiencing the isolating feelings that come with postpartum depression, you are far from alone.
As the National Institute of Mental Health explains, postpartum depression is a mood disorder that causes women to experience sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion after childbirth. These depressive feelings are so intense that they may interfere with the mother’s ability to take care of herself or her baby, and symptoms range from feeling irritable to thinking harmful thoughts.
PPD is a pervasive condition, and no one should feel ashamed to speak about it. But that’s not always easy because of the stigma attached to postpartum depression, not to mention how it makes a woman feel.
So if you’re experiencing your own symptoms or want to better understand this disorder, here are 19 mothers’ personal experiences with postpartum depression, in their own words. Remember: as overwhelmed as each of these women has felt, they were able to overcome their PPD.
“Living with postpartum depression essentially felt like drowning and not being able to do anything about it, while having some of the happiest moments of your life.”
— Larisha, 32, New Jersey, coauthor of www.wereparents.com
2A fog of guilt.
“Living with postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis felt like walking through a fog of guilt and failure, and it triggered PTSD from my own childhood.”
— Lou, 39, North Carolina
3Climbing Mt. Everest.
“Postpartum depression made even the most mundane and regular tasks seem as difficult and overwhelming as climbing Mt. Everest; I could stare at my favorite item, feel what it’s like to begin to use that item, but stay seated because I felt like I couldn’t move.”
— Erika, 34, New York
4An overwhelming amount of nothingness.
“[Postpartum] depression muffled my perception of life the way water muffles sound…the highs and lows of motherhood were muted; I didn’t feel overwhelmingly sad, I just felt an overwhelming amount of nothingness.”
— Meagan, 36, Florida, author of Babies Are the Worst: A Memoir About Motherhood, PPD, and Beyond
5Being buried alive.
“I felt like I was buried alive — I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t stop crying.”
— Jennifer, 45, Texas
6Feeling distantly void.
“PPD was knowing and expecting to feel a certain way about my new babies, yet being distantly void of that joyous feeling while hiding behind a quivering smile.”
— Danielle, 33, Georgia, author of Thoughts & Prayers for the Postpartum Mom
“Postpartum depression feels like loving your child fiercely and also hating everything about motherhood. And yourself. And everyone.”
— Emily, 30, South Carolina
“Having a messy home gives me anxiety, so I clean frantically in my free moments instead of caring for my babies or practicing self-care, which makes me feel guilty and causes my anxiety to get worse.”
— Amy Lou, 27, Virginia
9Living in a glass box.
“It was like living in a glass box with tape over your mouth; people could see you, but no one could hear you.”
— Lauren, 30, California, creator of the Sanity Saver
10Feeling intensely unworthy.
“Having postpartum depression created intense feelings of unworthiness, as I felt guilty for not being in love with my motherhood experience. But my healing journey helped me remember that I was not alone, at fault, or unworthy of the help I needed to overcome a serious mental illness.”
— Crystal, 33, California, Crystal Karges Nutrition
11A black hole.
“Postpartum depression felt like a black hole, sucking all the joy away from what I was supposed to feel with my newborn baby.”
— Maria, 43, Canada, author of Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year
12Hating a baby’s cries.
“When my daughter was born, like many moms, I was afraid to share my truth — that I hated every second of those cries; I hated being in a constant state of hypervigilance, barely making it on no sleep or food.”
— Angelina, 30, California, comedian and activist
13A dark cloud.
“You’re filled with more joy and love than you’ve ever felt after having a child, but postpartum depression feels like a dark cloud that makes you second-guess your happiness.”
— Caity, 28, Oregon
“Postpartum depression and anxiety made me feel terrified (of my baby and of my own mind), completely alone, and incapable of being a good mother to my son; now recovered, I feel confident once again.”
— Laura, 34, U.K., author of The Butterfly Mother blog
15An ocean freezing.
“It’s like being trapped under an ocean that suddenly froze on top of you — the fear is paralyzing, isolating, and all-encompassing.”
— Sara, 38, California, postpartum doula
16Hoping every day that the mental strains of yesterday no longer exist.
“Before my recovery process began, postpartum depression was like waking up every day hoping that the mental strains of yesterday no longer exist, only to find that they do and having to find the strength to push through the day both mentally and physically.”
— Kay, 39, Texas, founder of Shades of Blue Project
17An inability to function.
“I felt run down all the time and I blamed it all on sleep deprivation, never understanding that one of the many different ways PPD can manifest is as chronic insomnia and a resulting constant fatigue. I still loved my baby, but I felt unhealthy — like something was wrong with my body — rendering me unable to function as I should.”
— Natalie, 32, Connecticut, founder of Better Postpartum
18Being trapped in a dark closet.
“Living with postpartum depression was like being trapped, alone, in a dark closet with walls lined by broken light switches, always taunting me because no matter what I did to fix them, I could never get them to turn on.”
19Never feeling more alone.
“I never felt more alone, no matter how much help and support I knew was out there; I literally looked around my life, knowing and reminding myself that I had everything I wanted, but felt the heaviest hopelessness I could ever imagine.”
— Merritt, 38, South Carolina
Some of these interviews have been edited and condensed.
As the CDC notes, postpartum depression is treatable. So even if you’re experiencing symptoms like the women above, you can get help. Visit the CDC’s postpartum depression resources page to find assistance in your area.