Months after her second child was born Prish was diagnosed with postpartum depression. This is her courageous story.
For me, I feel like it really started with the pregnancy. We had an unexpected pregnancy and it was in the midst of what was becoming a chaotic work life, of me becoming an executive director (of a well established non-profit). I was a couple of months in when I found out I was pregnant and I was not ready for it but I charged forward and embraced it and had what I thought was a decent pregnancy. But with a lot of emotional roller coasters from the stress. And I did end up actually getting gestational diabetes, so it was a hard pregnancy so when he was born all those factors I think really stayed with me.
On top of everything I didn’t have the luxury to actually step away from my role as an executive director during my leave. I did have some time off but I was always available. And then I had to immediately rush back to work. I did the 12 weeks but I would be lying to you if I wasn’t on email. I don’t know, I think part of me really wanted to honor that role and everything that comes with being a woman of color and having this opportunity that I couldn’t fuck up. There was a lot of pressure that I had put on myself. The board of directors had really given me the vote of confidence and the previous ED had really advocated for me to have the position so I had moved up. It hadn’t been my plan to become an executive director as much as it is dope but then I got pregnant and time and energy was limited on top of having Mina who at that time was 2 years old.
I think from our families and culturally there are always these expectations of “be mother first” and I’m not hella domestic. Motherhood and mothering doesn’t come as naturally as we think that it is suppose to and I was really embracing this idea of how to become this organizational leader and it really threw me for a loop. I think it was really hard to translate what it meant to have all these responsibilities at home and pregnancy. You know you give birth and I don’t think my partner knew how to be helpful or how to be emotionally available. The second pregnancy was so different with our relationship than the first. He was so attentive with Mina.
Living with Postpartum Depression and Psychosis
The second one was like oh, I’m still doing the same amount of chores while you watch Mina and also he would be like, “why are you working so late?” Well it’s not because I want to but because I have to. I felt really lonely throughout the second pregnancy. I was like, “no, these reports are due.” There is a deadline. So that pressure wasn’t good and I held it in and that wasn’t good. This is what I learned because of the depression-that I need a support system and I didn’t have one. I think I manifested my mental health issues by working more. There was this period after I returned back to work where I was drinking three cups of coffee a day. I was staying up all these crazy hours. I was still breastfeeding. Still doing everything else and so it got to a point where not only did I have postpartum depression but I had postpartum psychosis. I dissociated with reality. It got to this point where I was just going and sleep became disposable. That all intersected and one day I woke up and I had no sense of reality and it was really scary. I had no outlet.
I was thinking irrationally. We lost funding and I had to do all of these layoffs. It was a lot of pressure and I started just creating all of these story lines around what may or may not have happened. I think people really cued into that and at one point I thought someone was out to get my partner or out to hurt our family and that’s when it was like you need to go in. You need to sit down and take care of yourself and that was when I was not in reality. They (the doctors) were like have you slept? And I was like maybe a few hours in the last three days.
It forced me to slow down. I had to take a medical leave. I had to really consider and sit with it -I had a really hard time, just feeling really shitty like motherhood is not my identity. Like it feels so hard to mother, to be present and to take care of everybody and feed everybody. I had my lapse when Pacal was eight months. So after eight months I hit a wall. I was just like go, go, go, do, do, do and there was no self care, no nothing. Then I was like oh shit I have all of these feelings.
I had a very overachieving idea of who I was. I was on medical leave for two months and during that time I had to reevaluate my priorities. As for being executive director, the idea of being a thought leader, a leader and moving on issues that I think are really important is really important to me but the kids really needed me and I can be of service to the world in a different way. So during those two months I made the decision to quit my work and create a plan around that but it was hard.
I kept getting all kinds of weird diagnosis so they tried different medications. You know what I really learned? I just learned the concept of getting grounded. The medication really helped but I had never taken the time to take baths, I went on a yoga retreat, I forced myself to do a lot of self care mind body spirit practices that I had never allowed myself to enjoy or participate in and it helped me understand my mind and my body. I was like I’ll try anything. Teas, I was drinking hella teas all kinds. My friend suggested reiki massages. It was about what do I know about my body and what is my body telling me? And what do I hold in and what do I release? There are certain emotions that I don’t express much and I learned through that process that I needed to, including grief.
I went to an orthomolecular doctor that my parents had found. I think they felt really helpless. I needed that to understand that it’s not just my mind and I am not just losing it emotionally, there are chemicals. Part of me was just really resistant too, like I can’t have a mental illness. I can’t fucking have anxiety and depression issues. I feel like going through all these things helped me understand myself and also like how there is the medical world but there are also other practices, vitamin B was a godsend for me. I started taking magnesium supplements and that helped. Walking barefoot in the park or on the beach. I didn’t know how helpful that could be. There are a lot of practices that I knew you have to do to be a healthy and balanced human but it wasn’t until I hit crisis mode that I actually did them.
It wasn’t until it happened to me that I learned that I had a history (of postpartum depression) in my family that no one talked about. My grandma had 14 kids but it wasn’t until I was hospitalized that we learned that my grandmother had had two postpartum situations that had to be hospitalized. And I was just like why doesn’t anybody talk about this? Why didn’t anyone know? Somebody randomly remembered. It was one of the great aunts that was like “oh, yea there was that one time.” I’m like, “her descendants need to know.” Nobody knew what it was, they just say that after she gave birth to one of my aunts or uncles she just stopped talking. That was her coping mechanism she just disassociated. I felt relieved it’s not just me. There is a reason and it would have been awesome to have known but now we know.