Severe postpartum depression latched onto my daughter. It was totally unexpected and initially none of us knew what was wrong or what to do to help. We just knew that a change had come over this precious daughter. I liken it to a monster taking over. I couldn’t phone constantly. Email didn’t work and I couldn’t lurk up the street, but I needed to know whether things were okay (or not). You might ask why I didn’t intervene. She has always been very independent. Her first sentence was “Do it self Mom”. She and her husband are adults and deserve to run their own lives. She already felt inadequate. It didn’t seem right to make it worse. So I watched Twitter. I monitored her tweets. She had her own list on my feed. You may think it odd but it was the only way I had of knowing when she was particularly stressed.
As well as working fulltime and housework she tried to look after her extremely busy and challenging child on Sundays so her husband, a stay-at-home dad, could have a much needed break. It was hard for her and meant she had no time at all to herself. Both young parents were sleep deprived with a child who didn’t sleep well at the best of times and the stress was elevating.
Ultimately she said that if she had called for help and I hadn’t been available, she would have fallen apart. The light came on. My job is unpredictable; I might have been out. So she rarely called. In addition she thought looking after the child was as hard for me as it was for her. It wasn’t but at that time we didn’t know why it was hard for her. I am a grandmother and can go home at the end of the day but most importantly, depression didn’t have me in its nasty claws.
So I used to monitor her Twitter feed. I learned not to call too soon or she’d say no. She felt that she needed to cope on her own. She has always been so competent it must have been a horrendous blow to find herself unable to resolve the problem. But I learned to know when she was having a really hard time. She tweeted hidden calls for help.
Eventually she found a Twitter community centered around postpartum depression. That helped her more than anything else, more than doctors who made it worse for a very long time by not diagnosing or medicating correctly. More than local family or friends, because those online friends had been there; they understood. They knew it wasn’t weakness, that it was a depression condition that needed time, medication and support. So that is the really important part of why Twitter is not useless, Part II. Those Moms are there for each other. A shout for help gets a response. They rally round each other. I believe they are saving lives. There is always someone online because they are all over the world. There are postpartum “graduates” who give back, helping others hang on just as they were helped.
On New Year’s Day she made a life changing decision: that she would be brave and bold and start blogging about her experience, being honest and putting herself out there. I will forever retain the image of her sitting in the light from the window telling us with a slight quiver in her voice what she was going to do. Writing helps. Sharing helps. She has come so far that she is now part of the group that can help others. She has come so far that I hope the Stranger is permanently gone. She has contributed to 2 published books on the subject which you can find through her blog, one ebook and one distributed through Amazon. It has led me to emulate some of her PPD friends and dye my hair blue to raise awareness. The support my son-in-law has given all of us is impossible to measure, but that is another post. Would it be blasphemous to say Twitter helped her as much as the medical people?