One Asheville Photographer Mama doing her small part to start the conversation, in an effort to remove the stigma.
Asheville, North Carolina has a population of around 92,000 people & while the city is undeniably growing larger by the day, it still feels very much like a small town in so many ways…
For instance, when tragedy happens — Everybody knows about it. Everybody’s talking about it & Everybody has an opinion about it.
Fact: Asheville is a Mental Health town.
Fact: Asheville has more Mental Health (& Substance Abuse) providers per capita than any other city in the South East.
Yet somehow, when something like this happens, a lot of people go online and reveal how much work there’s still to be done in terms of educating our friends and neighbors about Mental Health issues, particularly those pertaining to Women & Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety and Postpartum Psychosis.
So, in the wake of the shocking events that occurred with a new mother and her 7 week old in our community a couple weeks ago, I felt compelled to use my skills and my platform to do what I could to further this conversation. An Awareness & Education Initiative to get people talking about this, to Humanize it, to Reduce the Stigma & to Encourage other Mothers who may be Struggling, feeling alone and helpless in the wilderness…. to let them know that it is okay to ask for help, that they’re not alone, that there are resources out there for them and that they will come out on the other side!
I reached out to the MAMAS on the Facebook Mom’s Groups pages in Asheville & the response was incredible! For the remainder of the year, each Monday, I’ll be sharing the stories and photos of (new) and old of normal, regular mothers in our community who have struggled with a range of postpartum issues, symptoms and severity & have come out on the other side!
If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (we have 10 available spots left!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute
Throughout the series, I’ll also be sharing Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a professional Mental Health Provider , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com
Fun Fact: I actually met our first contributor, Desiree, when she asked me to photograph her Wedding to Chaz, a few years ago out at Taylor Ranch in South Asheville! We were also pregnant at the same time & our children are a month apart! I love Desiree… we had a natural, easy friendship from the moment we met. I had no idea Desiree was struggling. That’s how much we don’t talk about these things! I want to change that! Let’s talk about it! Let’s lean on our community and our friends and family for support — because we CAN talk about it! 🙂
First Up: Desiree
My name is Desiree, I am a married, 30 year old, stay-at-home mom of two amazing kids.
My life is good. For the most part, I can’t complain. My family is healthy, my husband is a great guy, he is helpful, kind and is an amazing father to both of my daughters! My girls are so magical, they are sweet, caring little souls & they are everything to me! I have a beautiful life and after my second baby was born I had Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
My second pregnancy was not easy, I was sick the entire time. I developed Gestational Diabetes that was difficult to control even with exercise and diet. My blood sugars were always high, leading to constant headaches and exhaustion. My oldest daughter was finishing pre-k for the summer before heading off to kindergarten & I felt like a failure for not having the energy to be more involved. I was put on bed rest and had to have contractions stopped, twice.
When baby number two arrived, the cord was wrapped around her neck and she wasn’t breathing…. looking back, her traumatic birth & hospital stay was a breeze compared to the darkness that was to come.
When C was about 2 weeks old I had my first panic attack which marked the beginning of my Postpartum Anxiety and Depression. We were having trouble breastfeeding and I felt like such a failure. I couldn’t even nourish the child that I had been blessed with. I was terrified she was starving to death. From that point on, I was constantly so sure that my babies were going to die. I couldn’t let go of the thought, no matter how hard I tried. I spent most nights awake, thinking of all the ways either of my girls could die. When my oldest would go off with her grandmother, I would imagine all the ways fate would take her from me. Freak accidents, kidnappings gone wrong, fire, sickness. I was constantly checking the baby to make sure she was breathing. My body was tired from not sleeping, my brain was fried from trying to take care of two kids while keeping my mental state a secret and my heart was heavy. I lashed out when loved ones would express concern & I was angry at everyone for no reason at all. I was Angry at my husband for trying to help, angry at my mom for basically existing & angry at my friends for not being around. I was pushing people away and simultaneously angry at them for not trying harder. I think my eldest really got the brunt of this, I just didn’t have it in me to connect with her how we used to. I would fly off the handle over things that didn’t matter. My older daughter would spill something and I’d lose it. My husband wouldn’t take the trash out fast enough and I’d freak. My mom would try to help and I would scream at her for trying to over parent me. I was horrible & I’d feel so guilty afterwards, I would hide away and cry. I don’t think anyone in my family knew what to do with me.
In November of that year, my eldest daughter lost her biological dad suddenly. I was slammed into this horrific nightmare of trying to explain to her that he was gone. I threw myself into that protective mom mode and did everything I could to make sure she had the help she would need to get trough it. Weekly therapy, in the next county, just so she could have the best therapist. I made it a priority. I never once thought about therapy for myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to process any of it.
I was spiraling out of control, spending money we didn’t have – that was my self medication. I was also eating my feelings, just to have some sort of control. I had lost my identity. I didn’t want to be around my kids because I felt like a failure. I was mentally checked out. I used to be an active, fun mom but I avoided going outside, avoided household responsibilities if I could & I tried to stay in bed as much as possible with two kids.
I spent my days in such a fog. I was in zombie mode and moved through the house auto piloted by need. Death wasn’t my only anxiety trigger…going to the grocery store, how I looked, judgement from others…it was basically any little thing that stressed me out would send me into a tailspin. I would spend my days and nights hyper fixated on death. It was eating me alive.
I went from imagining all they ways they could possibly die, to imagining suicide. I was so sure that something would happen to my kids and I needed to be dead before I had to live through that. I was spending more and more time crying alone in my bedroom.
My husband, frustrated with me for checking out mentally, kept trying to get me to engage and admit that something was wrong. He saw it and I still refused to bring it to light.
I ignored my dark thoughts until I couldn’t anymore. One day, I went into the bathroom and turned the shower on, I sat under the water, and sobbed until the water ran cold. I pleaded with God to end my life because I was too chicken to do anything myself.
I cried for the rest of the night. And I finally was able to share the pent up sadness, fear, and anxiety that I had been holding in. When my husband got home and I told him what was going on. I told him I wanted to die & that I had been planning on how I wanted to end my life, that death was a better option than living in the dark and constant fear.
The next day I was in my OB’s office asking for help. Spilling out my emotions to my doctor was hard, I sobbed through the whole thing. She put me on Zoloft and within a few weeks I felt better. I wasn’t magically cured. Medication isn’t a fix-all – but it helped me. I didn’t feel so numb. I was able to feel like myself up because I could see a little clearer. My babies were getting their mom back.
I spent almost a complete year lost. I lost valuable time with family, myself. The Postpartum Depression was an ugly liar, feeding me dark thoughts, controlling my life. The anxiety was too much to live with.
With the help of my doctor and my family, who thankfully were there to help me, I got help. I feel so very lucky to have family and friends who questioned me about my mental state. I don’t know that I would be here without them.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Rage or even Psychosis, there are local, community resources that can help you!
A Link for: Postpartum Support International
*I personally know Joy Molina (info below) — she is PHENOMENAL, you’ll Love her, give her a call!
828-357-7425 TEXT OR CALL
Elisabeth “Lis” Mitchell
Northwest NC: Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, Surry and Alleghany Counties
828-610-8431 TEXT OR CALL
Gloria Maria Llanser
Southwestern North Carolina
Speaks Spanish and Some Portuguese
828-708 7993 TEXT OR CALL
248-238-0804 TEXT OR CALL