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If you’ve read previous entries on my blog over the past six months, you’ll know that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and have been on the rollercoaster of recovery. It is with gratefulness that I say that having PPD has been the hardest experience of my entire life because I know that there is always someone out there who has it worse.
This horrible mental illness cast me into the darkest pit, caused me to search the very depths of my soul, made me cry to God for help in absolute desperation, turned me into someone unrecognizable to myself or my family, and stole the treasured first moments with my daughter, replacing them with the heavy weight of guilt and shame. PPD has made me tired and weary, cost me countless tears, and left me wanting to die—me, the ever optimistic woman.
So needless to say, I was looking for solace between the covers of Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields—a memoir about her experience with PPD. This book was written in 2005 partly because Shields wanted to spread awareness about PPD because it’s one of those things that many women suffer from but that nobody talks about.
Here we are 10 years later and it’s still something we’re not talking about as women. There are still many misconceptions about PPD. While there is greater awareness, there still isn’t enough being done in regard to screening and education.
My husband and I took all of the classes, I read all of the books, and we were as prepared as we could be for our baby girl’s arrival. It wasn’t that we failed to educate ourselves, it’s simply that everything I read or that we learned about in our classes did not fully describe PPD and so we did not recognize the symptoms. While every woman’s experience with PPD is different, I’m grateful to Shields for her bravery in writing this memoir which gives a more accurate picture of what living with PPD is like.
As I was reading, there were many times I found myself nodding in agreement. Is there anything more validating than someone else expressing the emotions and thoughts that you thought were uniquely and horribly your own? I found myself wanting to say “me too”. And this is why speaking out about maternal mental illness is so important. No woman should suffer alone and in silence.
I cannot imagine being a celebrity and suffering through PPD. There are times that I don’t want to leave the house. There were times that I left the house (because I had to) and my hair was a mess, I hadn’t showered in two days, my clothes were frumpy, and my eyes were red from crying. I was lucky that I didn’t have paparazzi snapping my picture! To be in the public eye and expected to put on a face for the camera would add to the anxiety from PPD, and that is an experience I know nothing about.
The only disconnect I felt while reading this book was not being able to identify with some of the luxuries of being rich. She hired a nanny who could care for her baby so that she could sleep or otherwise recover. She had a cleaning lady who could keep up the house. She had a home in California where she was able to live for a while, letting her enjoy the benefits of a warm climate and sunlight.
The first sign that I am slipping back into depression is when my house becomes a disaster. I can’t keep up with the housework and that adds to my anxiety.
I was lucky to have my mom come stay with me for quite a while when I was first diagnosed, but that’s a little different than having a nanny who you wouldn’t feel guilty when you asked for help at all hours of the day because it would be her job.
The worst part of my depression was in the bitter and cold winter. The only sunshine I got was from laying on the living room floor near the window and letting the sun shine on my face.
In many ways, I could not relate. That doesn’t make her struggle any less—just different than mine.
It was encouraging to read that she did recover. It gave me hope. It assured me that the way I felt was not my fault, but from a medical condition. It made me feel less alone. I would recommend this book, especially if you are dealing with PPD, but also for those who want to learn more about this terrible illness.