Struggling with postpartum depression? You're not alone. And this photo series from The Honest Body Project, featuring true stories from real moms, proves it.
After Florida-based photographer, Natalie McCain gave birth to her second child, she struggled with postpartum depression. Though she was already a mother, the feeling of sadness surprised her. "I struggled so much that at times I wasn't even able to drive. I thought I was losing my mind until I started talking to my doctor about what I was struggling with," McCain told Fit Pregnancy. "After opening up to friends, I realized postpartum anxiety is actually a common struggle with many mothers and I wish I had spoken up about it sooner."
She's speaking up now with her new photo series, "The True Faces of Depression," another piece from The Honest Body Project, which has highlighted everything from extended breastfeeding to what real women's bodies look like after giving birth. This cause is special to McCain's heart, not only because of her own experience, but because depression—postpartum or otherwise—is so common, and yet, so unrecognized as an illness. "When we are silent about mental illness it makes the stigma even worse. We try to struggle in silence and don't realize that others are struggling the same way we are," McCain says, "particularly with postpartum depression. Women often feel so alone while going through postpartum depression and don't realize how common it is to go through it. When we speak up and share our experiences we help others to feel supported and they realize they aren't alone."
This latest photo series features many forms of depression, including one woman who was sexually abused and another who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, in addition to some mothers who battled PPD. Some moms talked about how guilty they felt about being depressed, after they were given the beautiful gift of a child. Others wished that they would have taken their illness more seriously and that health care systems did, too. But when you look at these stunning photos, you would never know how much these women fought for happiness, which is exactly what McCain set to do with her project: "I wanted to create a series that focuses on this to help show how there are so many women struggling with this and they don't necessarily 'look' depressed. Most people struggle in silence, which is so hard to do."
If you—or someone you know—is struggling with postpartum depression, take this mother as your inspiration:
"It will get better. Repeat after me: 'It will get better.' You are strong. You have been through and are going through a major life and hormonal change. Your feelings are valid and you deserve to be heard. You deserve to feel better. Many things are contributing to this stage you are at. And you have the power to take control of yourself and make a change. Keep 'it will get better' as your mantra."
As McCain hopes to prove, it will get better. But we need to start talking about it first.
"When he was about 15 months old things started getting really dark. I started noticing that as I would get ready for work that my heart would start racing, I couldn't breathe, I would start to feel sick and as I was driving to work I would have these panic attacks. I didn't know at the time that they were panic attacks I just thought I was really stressed out. I was constantly missing work because I just couldn't get myself together. Finally one day as I was getting ready for work my husband happen to be home and walked in on me a while I was having a major panic attack. He told me that it wasn't normal to be feeling this way and encourage me to see if I can find help somewhere."
"I should have known what was happening the moment I felt the first pang of worry and sadness. I am a nurse who worked Ob/gyn for 15 years. I knew the symptoms. I brushed it off as the baby blues longer than I should have. I mean, my child free life of 36 years had just changed drastically and forever. This baby girl was everything I had prayed for. Surely everyone worried and had sadness. But this worry and sadness quickly consumed my life."
"I was so happy when I got pregnant, I was nervous, but happy. I loved being pregnant. After the twins were born and I had to leave them at the hospital and then when we had to go have an extended stay at a children's hospital, I had such guilt. I worried about losing my son, I worried about not bonding with my daughter, I worried about my breast milk supply, I worried all the time! I still struggle with the guilt and that the way I dreamed about motherhood was not the reality."
"Since I already suffered from depression there was a very good chance I would get PPD. I tried to write off the tiredness and moodiness as fluctuating hormones,which is normal. It wasn't until I started having trouble even functioning in daily life that I knew I needed help."
"After our first daughter was born, I was in a fog. I felt overwhelmed by my perfectionism and scared of not being enough for this most precious being. I felt like a failure frequently despite her loving gaze at me. My dream, my prayer, my heart was in my arms and I felt unworthy to be her mother."