Mums open up about postnatal depression in an honest photo series.

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Depression doesn’t always look sad.

It can be the forced smile on a new mother’s face, or your best friend who keeps cancelling plans. It hides behind your friend saying she is “okay” when you know she isn’t. Mental illness affects approximately 1 in 5 adults in the Unites States, yet the stigma against mental illness is so powerful that many struggle in silence and never seek help. This series was created to help break down walls and encourage those struggling to speak up and get help. I hope that those of you reading who have never experienced this will come away with a new understanding and help others you may know who are struggling.

Why are the women showing their bodies? Because The Honest Body Project photographs women in a new light with untouched portraits to help fight the messages society sends that all bodies must be “perfect” and look a certain way.

WATCH The Honest Body Project. Post continues after video…  

Video via Natalie McCain

*TRIGGER WARNING*

This series contains stories about depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illnesses.

“I have been suffering from PTSD since I was 19 years old. The reason I suffer from PTSD is because I was sexually assaulted. Once at a house party when I was 19, by a “friend” and again this past year, outside of a bar, by another supposed friend.

"What helps most to cope with my depression and PTSD is writing and venting to my closest friend or my counsellor. I also work out, which tires me enough to where my mind won’t race and I am able to sleep at night.

“I urge anyone with depression, PTSD, and anxiety to please reach out for help. It is detrimental to your life. You’re not a freak, even though some people may never understand."

"My pregnancy was a very difficult and uncomfortable time for me. I didn’t have that pregnancy glow or that feeling that women say that they have when they’re pregnant, that they’re just so elated. I can truly say that I just didn’t enjoy being pregnant. I went back to work when he was six weeks old, and I cried the whole way to work (which is very unusual for me). I think that was the beginning of me being truly depressed.

“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 learned how to pray and meditate that way when I feel overwhelmed or when I feel like I’m starting to slip back, I can stop and focus on what’s important and know that I am bigger than my depression. It’s doesn’t control me anyone. I am no longer a slave to the darkness.”

"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.

“Those early days, I maybe slept a few minutes at a time. Sleep deprivation was getting worse. I didn’t eat. I finally broke down and bought Ensure for some nutrition. I shook all the time. It was Florida summer and I shook and dressed in multiple layers and under blankets. I had to hold my baby and bond with my baby.

"Seeking help saved my relationship with my daughter. She is one of the best things to ever happen to me and I love every moment with her."

“I have had low self esteem and been self hating since I was 7 years old. I always feel like people are laughing at me and making fun of me because of my weight and the way I look. I am currently on medication for ADHD, anxiety disorder, major depression and bipolar disorder, I have even been suicidal. The only time I truly felt comfortable in my own skin was when I decided to go to collage at 33 years old and became pregnant with my twins. I felt like it was finally okay that I was heavy, and even then some students in the automotive program with my husband, were telling him they didn’t understand why he married such an ugly cow. I am even in tears writing this and I hate that it all still affects me this much.

"It is an everyday struggle. Even with medication, it’s not like taking Tylenol for a headache and it goes away, it just makes the struggle manageable. We are not lazy and we are not crazy."

"I was first diagnosed with situational depression in 2005, although I believe there were other periods of this in my life prior that were never properly managed. It is nearly impossible to capture that in a written story. I just don’t think there are even words to accurately describe that time in my life, even though I have spoken about it and written about it for over 10 years now.

"I am INFURIATED by the way our healthcare system and insurance companies handle mental health coverage. Although it is improving since I first started seeking help, I know many people: women, mothers, family members and friends who simply cannot afford to see a therapist or get the help they very much need because they can’t afford it. I have so much compassion for these people and I can only imagine the incredible positive impact the right treatment could have on their every day lives.

"Maybe once this country starts treating mental health as a very serious issue, real need and priority (even!), we will see less seemingly senseless tragic acts of violence. It is so much bigger than treating one person.”

“I can’t really explain depression to you but I can tell you it’s one of the worst feelings I have ever felt in my whole life. You think you’re not worthy, you think you’re not doing things right, and you’re not quite sure what’s wrong with you.

"What helped the most honestly was the medication. I talked to a therapist for about 3 years. But when I really felt a difference was after I started medication. I am so glad I took that step. I didn’t take it like I was supposed to one time and I saw myself going down again. I got angry easily, I was mean, I was crying all the time. I’ll never do that again.

"I wish more people knew how serious depression was. People like myself just blow it off like its nothing. Like its someone looking for attention or them just not being happy. But it is so much more than that."

“I gave birth at 35 to boy/girl twins. We spent the first 6 days of their life in the hospital together. My son had stopped breathing the day he was born and not eating well. My daughter was doing better, but having trouble learning to nurse. The depression started when they sent me home from the hospital and I had to leave both of my babies.

"I worried about losing my son, I worried about not bonding with my daughter, I worried about my breastmilk supply, I worried all the time! I still struggle with the guilt and that the way I dreamed about motherhood was not the reality.

"Postpartum depression is more common than you know. It is debilitating and can steal the wonderful joy of having a precious newborn, but don’t let it! This is perfectly normal, think what your body and mind have been through with pregnancy and childbirth. Being a new mother is a wonderfully, scary experience. Be kind to yourself, if you need help, ask!"

“I’ve struggled with depression my whole life, for as long as I can remember.

"During pregnancy I surprisingly did not have any feelings of depression. It wasn’t until post partum that it really hit. 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.

"Depression doesn’t just go away. It’s something you manage and deal with. You use tools such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation to keep calm and center yourself. You have to constantly remind yourself that you have help and that you are not alone."

“I have a family history of depression. Both my paternal grandmother and mother suffered from depression and anxiety. I was a sophomore in college when I first knew I needed help. I noticed I was out of sorts and I knew I needed to do something. I felt like a crazy person. So I went to counseling and my journey of self- knowledge and self-love began.

"Seven years later, I was pregnant with our first child. With my history of depression and anxiety, I was aware that I might suffer from PPD after the birth. I remember talking about it with my husband and reminding him to look for the signs the birth instructor talked about during the birthing classes. We were ready for what could come or so we thought. 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.

"We decided it was time to get help again. That “crazy” feeling was back and screaming at me to get help. This time, I went to a naturopathic doctor and started a holistic regimen which included a homeopathic remedy specific to my symptoms. Hours after my appointment, I found out I was pregnant again. It was a huge shock to my emotional state. I remember thinking, “how am I going to do this again?” The remedy helped take the edge off and allowed me to focus on what I could do to help myself. The PPD went away until a few months after I delivered our second daughter.

"Now, I see it as a cyclical learning experience. Someone once said, “nothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” My experiences with depression, anxiety, PPD have been the struggles that given me opportunities to add experiences to my life tool box."

Have you suffered from PND? How did you cope? 

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