“I don’t want to be the poster girl for anxiety.”
That’s exactly what I said during my last therapy session with my psychiatrist at the IWK. I remember it well because even as the words were leaving my mouth I didn’t feel good about them.
But in that moment, eight months into my second pregnancy, that’s how I felt. I had been seeing her on a regular basis during the second half of my pregnancy, committed to doing whatever it took to prevent another devastating run-in with postpartum anxiety and depression. Every two weeks I would sit on the little couch in her office and talk. I fancy myself a pretty good communicator. Hell, I’ve made a career out of it. Wanna know how I feel about something? Just ask me. I tend to tell it like it is – or at least the way I see it.
But I didn’t want people to know that I was struggling with a mental health issue. I thought if people knew they would walk on eggshells around me afraid that I was a ticking time bomb of panic that they could somehow trigger at any moment. So when I made the poster girl comment, it stayed with me long after my therapy sessions came to end. It wasn’t like me to shy away from difficult subjects. But there is such a powerful and far-reaching stigma associated with mental health, it silenced me too.
It occurred to me one day many months later why that statement bothered me so much. If I’m not willing to talk about my mental health, how can I ever expect other women, especially mothers, to feel any different? By staying silent, I was part of the problem. By speaking out I become part of the solution.
Although you won’t see my face on any posters (and trust me, we can all be thankful for that), I will be speaking out about my own postpartum mental health experiences at the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women on Sunday, May 4th in Halifax. I am so honoured to be a part of this event because all money raised goes to IWK’s Reproductive Mental Health Services and its goal of treating pregnant and postpartum women who might otherwise not get the help they so desperately need. Women like me.