It is an honor to share Part 2 in our interview series with Kym Van Duren. Sharing such intimate details of our lives in an open forum can be scary. I’m so thankful for Kym’s brave spirit and generosity in sharing not just once, but twice with the Life Love Hustle community. If you haven’t read Part 1 of Kym’s story or the follow on interview with her husband, Cory, please go check them out.
Today, we turn our conversation to postpartum depression (PPD). It’s our hope that her story will give comfort to those feeling overwhelmed by or afraid to admit they need help shaking more than just the ‘mommy blues’.
Friends, if you’re human, you will go through a difficult season (or a few)–whether it’s dealing with PPD or facing something else. It’s just the reality of living. If you believe you may be suffering from postpartum depression or depression of any kind, please know that you are not alone and do not have to suffer in silence.
At the end of this post is a list of resources and helpful articles. However, if you need more immediate or urgent help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
Unfortunately, there have been some truly tragic instances of mothers with PPD harming their children and, let’s be absolutely clear, depression of any kind should never be taken lightly. However, drastic portrayals and a focus on extreme cases in movies and news media have created a stigma around PPD. A stigma that has caused some women to fear admitting they need help and others to dismiss more subtle symptoms because they don’t fit the stereotypical depiction of postpartum depression.
According to the CDC, 1 in 9 new moms suffer from PPD, which can affect new moms (and new dads) from the birth of the child to 2 years of age. Think about that: if there are 200 women reading this article right now, 22 of you will experience some level of PPD. Working moms, stay/work at home moms, the rich and famous–none are immune. In case you need proof, check out this heartfelt letter from everyone’s fav goofy gal, Chrissy Teigen and the personal stories of these real mommas who have all suffered from PPD.
Kym’s symptoms were subtle. She was tired. Foggy. Emotional. But who isn’t as a new mom, she rationalized. In her mind she had nothing to complain about. After years of struggling to get pregnant, she finally had the beautiful baby she’d wished and worked so hard for. Her husband, Cory, was an involved, supportive partner and her career at Boeing was taking off.
Nonetheless, she couldn’t seem to shake the heavy dark cloud that hung over her much of the time. Minor inconveniences and frustrations brought her to tears. At work, she doubted decisions she wouldn’t have thought twice about a year ago. Kennady, her sweet baby girl, was her everything, yet she felt detached. Juggling this new life seemed so overwhelming.
As many in Kym’s life will attest, this is far from the bubbly, confident and loving woman they know. Kym’s best friend, Ila, a Physician Assistant, noticed the change quickly. Concerned, she suggested Kym might have PPD. Kym was resistant. Her symptoms weren’t anything like what she knew PPD to be. And besides, she thought, she wasn’t depressed, she was just stressed. Still, Ila persisted, every so often encouraging her to consider seeing a doctor. In the meantime, she listened to and supported her friend through her ups and downs.
Kym’s struggle continued. After a while, it wasn’t just close friends and family that noticed the difference. Co-workers also saw a change.
On a particularly rough day, Kym was more withdrawn than usual. It wasn’t like her to cry at work. But today she struggled to hold back tears, feeling them hot and heavy before they finally trickled down her cheeks. ‘What is wrong with me?’ she thought.
The phone rang just as she was leaving her desk to hide herself away in a conference room so no one would see her cry. For some reason, she picked up. It was Ty, a colleague she’d been working closely with on an internal project. He noticed immediately that something was wrong. It wasn’t the first time he’d thought Kym’s mood had changed significantly since coming back from maternity leave.
Taking a bit of a risk, he gently asked how things were with Kennady. Kym tensed. “I don’t want to talk about Kennady.” The words surprised her, but in that moment even just talking about her brought forth the crushing responsibilities of life that Kym felt unable to manage. Ty was worried. Like Ila, he suspected Kym had PPD. His wife, Jess, was a nurse, and he knew how tough it could be for moms to face it.
Without asking permission, he invited Jess and himself to Kym’s house after work. They would bring dinner and a bottle of wine, he insisted. Kym, having little energy to protest, agreed. That night sitting at her kitchen table while the husbands watched sports upstairs, Kym finally sifted through her true feelings as Jess sympathetically listened without judgement. Maybe Kym was just at her breaking point, maybe it was the wine. Whatever it was, having exhausted her will to make excuses any longer, she finally accepted that she needed help to feel better.
Kym schedule time with her OBGYN the very next day. And, no surprise, after sharing her symptoms, she was diagnosed with PPD. Her doctor prescribed Zoloft (generic name: Sertraline) an oral medication used to treat mood disorders. Almost immediately the dark cloud that hung over her started to dissipate. “I don’t know if it was a placebo affect, but almost instantly I started feeling better.” she shares. “I’m able to handle things better now that would have really affected me in the past.”
Kym credits the simple generosity from Ty and Jess of just ‘being there’ as the crucial turning point in her decision to get help. Ila’s consistent support and judgement-free encouragement kept her afloat. “Friends like that are just so important.” she says.
Today, Kym is thriving. She’s back to taking on the world. But not without some simple strategies for balancing ‘all the things’, which we’ll share in part 3 of this interview series. Stay tuned!
What are some simple self-care tips for moms feeling overwhelmed (regardless of whether they have PPD)?
1. Take time for yourself: take a bath, go for a walk, get your nails done. Doing this is so hard for moms because we have so much on our plate. Social media makes it look like everyone does it all while looking flawless. Don’t think for a minute it’s reality.
2. Accept help. From the neighbors and friends who want to bring you dinner, the family and friends who offer to watch your little one. Just say, yes! This was so hard for me in the beginning. Don’t believe for one second that accepting help makes you any less of an amazing mom.
Can you share some advice for a mom who thinks she has PPD?
Know that PPD is completely normal and that you are not failing as a mom. But also, don’t ignore your feelings. Talk to someone you trust. For me, that was my best friend who also happens to be a Physician Assistant.
What should someone do if they believe their friend is suffering from PPD?
First, don’t discount their experience. Their feelings are real and valid. Secondly, be a good listener. If they seem consistently overwhelmed or sad by relatively small things, offer support. A pivotal point for me in recognizing that I needed help was when my co-worker and his wife saw that I needed someone to talk to and they were just there.
- BabyCenter’s Postpartum Depression Quiz
- Postpartum Support International
- Postpartum Depression Support Group U.S. & Canada