To fight the stigma of mental illness during and after pregnancy, these 7 women got very real.

Because getting help can change everything.

1 in 7 moms deals with postpartum depression or another perinatal mood disorder.

That's a lot of women who are facing a serious situation, many of them in silence and without help, because there's a stigma attached to this type of illness.

Now, these women want to show us the faces of everyday moms with the condition.

Seven real women, all of whom survived or are currently being treated for PPD or other perinatal mood disorders such as postpartum anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, opened up about their experiences in a video so that we can keep talking about the fairly common condition. (You can scroll to the end to watch it — it's worth your two minutes.)


Photo collage created from video by Jill Williams Krause of Baby Rabies.

Here are some of the very real and honest feelings they shared:

"Just the sounds of crying, it really started to get to me."

"And my stomach always felt like when you miss a step when you're going down the stairs and your stomach jumps. That's how I felt all the time."

"I really wanted to act out this anger on inanimate objects around my husband. And it was such a weird feeling."

"I found myself just getting fixated on certain things, extreme worry about his health."

"I felt like I could finally ... I would be able to rest if I would die."







What is postpartum depression, anyway?

Some women experience "baby blues" after giving birth. Those last for a few days or a few weeks tops and pass. According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms include the following: mood swings, sadness, anxiety, crying, irritability, trouble sleeping, and decreased concentration.

Postpartum depression is something else. It is one of the most common perinatal mood disorders, which can occur during or up to one year after pregnancy.


Photo by Thinkstock.

Mayo Clinic notes that "postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms of PPD are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks." They list the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

(For a list and explanations in "plain mama English," you can visit Postpartum Progress.)

Without treatment, PPD can last months — or longer — and interfere with your ability to bond with your baby (which can cause problems for your child later in life) and even turn into a chronic depressive disorder that extends well beyond your postpartum months.

I spoke to Jill Williams Krause of Baby Rabies, the woman behind this video, to learn more about barriers to seeking help.

"I experienced postpartum anxiety and OCD, which are two diagnoses I didn't even know existed until I read about them on Postpartum Progress," she shared. "I read it when my second was about 8 months old and, for the very first time, realized that I wasn't a 'bad' mom. I was sick."


Photo courtesy of Jill Williams Krause of Baby Rabies.

Why aren't more moms getting help? Well, for one, some "simply don't understand that it's not just feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts," Jill said. "They breeze through the six-week checkup not realizing that the obsessions, the visions, the panic are all things that they can get help for. Also, many moms are told they will get better with time."

Additionally, Jill says some moms "worry if they express that it's anything worse than a lack of sleep, they will lose their children."

Another barrier to reaching out for help is the way we've been presented with extreme stories of PPD in the media. "In many cases, their only exposure to a mom who has dealt with this is via a horrific news story. They don't want to be associated with that," Jill explained. Think: Cases where women tried to kill their babies (or actually succeeded).

But those cases are few and far between. We really need to focus on all the moms who are fighting this alone and silently — who can get better with help.

Because getting help matters so much.

Photo by Jill Williams Krause of Baby Rabies.

Here's what the women had to say about their lives after treatment.

"I started feeling like myself again, and I could tell that for six months, I had felt like a completely different person."

"I mean, it was really a moment where I felt like I'm kind of me again."

"I was doing things with the kids more. I wasn't over-analyzing every bad thing that could happen. And I wasn't crying as much."

"You will get better. You will feel better. You feel right now like you're going to feel like this for the rest of your life, but it does get better."





Watch these women talk about their experiences.

"The seven women in this video are each in various stages of recovery from various perinatal mood and anxiety disorders," Jill explained.

"We want women who are struggling to see this and hopefully see themselves, their struggle in another mom who is healing or who has come through the other side. We want them to see the photos of loving moms with happy babies and know that 'good' moms deal with this stuff. That they are good moms, too."

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's