By now you’ve probably heard of Lindsay Clancy, the 32 year old Massachusetts mom who took the lives of her three children and attempted to take her own life due to postpartum mental illness. The story strikes a chord with this mom of three because it could have been me.
When my daughter, my second child, was a few weeks old, I began having intrusive thoughts—thoughts of how fragile she was, how easily something could happen, the fact that I was physically capable of causing her harm. These thoughts absolutely horrified me.
I begin to ”reassure” myself that I would NEVER harm my babies, and that I would rather kill myself than my babies. As the thoughts of harming my children intensified, I became so afraid that I would give in, so I thought more frequently about harming myself before I could harm my babies. I felt like I was living a nightmare.
As terrifying as the thoughts were, I was afraid to say anything to anyone. I was afraid I would be institutionalized and my babies taken from our home. I began to research postpartum mental illness. Was I psychotic? After reading the description, I didn’t think so. I read about Postpartum OCD, and realized my symptoms aligned. I was relieved to see that women with Postpartum OCD rarely acted on the intrusive thoughts and were more horrified to be having the thoughts in the first place.
I reached out to my midwife, and I started medication and therapy. The journey to healing was long. It was not an overnight thing. I had to learn to fight, to fill my mind with the truth of God’s Word, to recognize that the thoughts were unwelcome and held no power. Even after the intrusive thoughts ceased, the trauma caused my those nightmarish days, weeks, and months remained. Three years later, I’ve noticed myself no longer dealing with the trauma induced anxiety. It’s been a long journey.
New Mama, if you are feeling off, anxious, down, hopeless, or are having intrusive thoughts, please do not suffer alone. Do not stay silent. Please reach out for help. I know even getting help feels scary and means being vulnerable, but you can do it. You are braver than you know. This nightmare doesn’t last forever. There is hope for your future. I’m here if you need to talk or if you need encouragement to take the next step towards healing.
New Dad, I know her hormones have her all over the place, but try to keep an eye on her. Check in with her. See how she’s doing, how she’s really doing. Don’t settle for surface level answers. Let her know that you are available and are a safe place for her. Be her advocate.
I share my story, not because I am brave or courageous, but because in doing so I get to redeem those dark days. My hope and prayer is that women who suddenly find themselves facing postpartum mental illness will see that they are not alone, be encouraged to take the seemingly scary steps towards healing, and see that there is hope for their future. I can’t change my story, but in sharing in it, I may be able to change someone else’s.
Now it’s your turn. What story do YOU have to tell? What have you survived, overcome, or experienced? Who needs to hear that there is hope on the other side of your experiences? Who needs to know they’re not alone and that you have also gone through what they’re going through? Who needs to be encouraged to take the next right step—just like you did?
Our stories are powerful. Our stories can change the stories of those around us—if we tell them. We need your story! Will you tell it?