Recently I had Martina Maseko, the Outreach Coordinator with Elemy ask if I could add these valuable resources below to my site and after looking them over I was more than happy to share. I have also added these to the About Section of my site. Elemy is an innovative, tech-forward provider of in-home and online applied behavior analysis to help children on the autism spectrum meet their unique needs.
They recently created a free educational guide on autism and suicidal thoughts. This resource explains how to recognize warning signs in neurodivergent individuals and discusses suicide risk factors and prevalence. Important topics, such as treatment options and advice for parents, are also covered.
So yesterday, I finally rented the movie A Mouthful of Air on Amazon. It is a movie about a woman who gets postpartum depression. There will be major spoilers in this if you have not already seen it and there are so many triggers in this. If you are easily triggered by discussion of suicide or suicide attempts, please do not read ahead. I am trying to be more understanding of people’s triggers, but I personally like to be triggered so I can face things head on. Many don’t understand it, but it is often part of how I heal. I already had seen and heard spoilers before I watched this movie, but they were much needed to emotionally prepare me to watch it personally. I was told before watching that the character takes her own life, and when I saw that the movie was rated R, I expected some graphic scenes I did not want to watch, but that was not the case. I am honestly not sure why it is rated R. I guess you cannot even openly discuss suicide without it being rated that, but why? I think it should be PG-13 personally.
There is a warning at the beginning that if you have a history of depression and anxiety this may be hard to watch and there are tons of warnings elsewhere warning many they may not want to watch. I do have that history, and it was hard to watch, but I am still glad I did. I personally am far enough in the healing process I thought I could handle it and I could. Not only did I handle it, despite the sad ending, relating to the character still comforted me in ways, that feeling again of not being alone, but it also brought so many emotions back for me again. I cried during the movie, and I cried for a little bit after the movie had even gone off. I know I am making a truly hard sell on watching this, right? But hear me out. I often feel that those close to me probably think I dwell on the worst time in my life, but that is not the case. I will never stop talking about it because it would have helped me if others had talked about, if others had warned me, that is it. I am happy now, my life is great, and I am thankful that my story ended with my daughter reading a book about how I conquered it instead of the book the daughter in the movie got. I also hope that one day my story, or at least one more like it, will become a big movie to show people the happy ending you can have, but I do also think it is important to see the possible unhappy endings too.
I am going to try to possibly get rawer in this post than ever before, which those of you know me know that is pretty raw, and I will try to turn this into a podcast soon for those of you who prefer it to blogs. I did not have a happy ending because I was braver or stronger or a better person than the woman in this movie. I also did not have one because I had more support than her, she actually had more than I did because no one around me knew what was going on because I was even better at the character at hiding it for a very long time, but even once I no longer did, most did not seem to understand and seemed angry at me instead. Even though I had never been the person it was all about, it was always about everyone else, I think for once I wanted it to be about me, I needed love and help and attention and I was treated the same as people who act like that their entire life, even though I had never acted like that before. I thought it was my turn, but instead I eventually learned to set boundaries and take better care of myself.
I never tried to take my own life. I prayed to go to sleep and not wake up, that way it would not be my fault, and no one would be mad at me, but I could still have peace and the pain could go away. I had thoughts about if an 18-wheeler swerved into my lane and hit me I would not care when driving alone and the thought of driving into a wall or off a bridge sometimes crossed my mind for a moment, but I am not sure if I could have ever actually acted on it. People are often called cowards for committing suicide, but I honestly think being a coward saved me. Recently watching the Yellowstone Prequal 1883 with my husband, a character who lost her husband and 7 children to death ends her life with a gun to her head after her last remaining child dies. While burying the character, Sam Elliott’s character mentions how brave she had to be to do that, and Tim McGraw’s character disagrees at first, but Sam Elliott continues to basically say that it took guts. I knew what he meant. We don’t want to say that because it feels like we are encouraging suicide, but that is not what he meant nor is it what I mean. The thought of cutting myself or shooting myself or doing anything else painful to myself just never truly crossed my mind and never has. However, if there had been a pill in front of me that I could have taken and known it would have happened quick, I might have done it. I had heard of people taking a lot of pills but often that did not work and resulted in them waking up in the hospital upset they were still alive and now everyone was mad at them, and they were in physical pain as well.
I watched the first season of 13 Reasons Why before they cut the graphic details of the suicide scene. I honestly never knew how people slit their wrists until seeing it portrayed in that show. I honestly thought people must just cut the bottom of their wrist and it is a spot that just bleeds so much you would die quick, but no she went all the way up one arm and then the other and died a lot slower than I thought. My arms hurt watching and not only did I not want to do that, but I had even less of a desire than ever before to ever think about doing anything like that to myself. In the movie, those around the main character were not aware of her condition at first until she tried to take her own life once and failed in doing so. When she is later explaining to her doctor and her husband why she did what she did, I did relate to that part though. She said that any time she was alone with her child she would constantly worry something was going to happen to him. If she got distracted at all while giving him a bath he might drown, something might fall on him, he might fall and hit something, etc. She thought he would be better off with someone else and someone else was on the way over to visit and she did it then because she knew that person would take care of the baby.
In another part of the movie, the main character can hardly hold a conversation with other adults because she is constantly watching her son and worrying about him even when around tons of other people. I was the same way. I worried if I looked away for a moment someone might take her, or everyone else might not be paying attention and she might run off or hurt herself or tons of other horrible scenarios and it would be my fault because I am her mother, and it is my job to protect her. My worst fear was something happening to her and the burden of constantly trying to stop or prevent that was too much to bear making me at times want to run away or wish I’d never had a child or making me wish for death for relief. In one line of the movie, I believe it is when she leaves behind a children’s book that she wrote to explain to her daughter why she did what she did, but how much she loved her, she says, “She knew the beauty she was leaving behind, yet her pain was so bad, death was her only option.” She discusses how the little girl, and her mommy were best friends, but the mommy got sick and could not get better. The mom had been on medication, but when she found out she was pregnant again when her first child was still a year old and not even out of diapers, she was afraid to take her medication because she thought it might hurt the baby and prevent her from breastfeeding and bonding with her child.
I have been in a lot of online support groups and often women have more children before they have even healed from postpartum depression. They also often refuse to take medicine despite the advice of their doctors and/or family and friends for the same reasons. This happened in the movie. So, despite having support from others, despite knowing medicine helped, she chose not take medicine but even that decision was not rooted in selfishness, it was out of concern for her child. Her OBGYN told her once in the movie that he now asked women how they were doing emotionally not just physically when they came in for appointments. When I say the movie brought back emotions, anger was one of them in moments like that one, like why was this not already a thing? But mixed with that anger was hope, that what she went through, despite the sad ending, did change people, people around her did grow from the experience and learned, but that is possible even with a happy ending I can say, speaking from experience.
I lost a fellow author and friend to suicide a little while back. This friend had already tried once and actually used that experience to blog and write books like me and try to help others. However, like in the movie, he had been through such bad childhood trauma he still could not overcome it and the second time he attempted, he did not fail. I don’t know that we can always prevent it. We want to and we often blame the person and/or ourselves, but I think our number one focus personally should be trying to prevent these traumas from happening in the first place, so people do not have to overcome them, and I do feel that overall, that is happening in so many ways. I think everyone has some trauma and some can overcome it, and some cannot, but it is not as simple as being a better person or being stronger or having more support. Support often can and does help and I still strongly encourage it, but when I say I have some childhood trauma it comes from many things, but I also still feel like I had a pretty good childhood overall. Also, when I went through what I did, my mom and stepdad did not understand at first, but like every other time in my life, they tried their best to be there for me and my daughter. We all made mistakes along the way, but we learned from them, and we learned from each other.
My friend who died by suicide was molested as a child by a neighbor and I don’t think much if anything was ever done to the person who did it. Yes, we have all been through trauma, but I had not been through as much trauma as he had been. You just never know who has been through worse and what people’s limits are. A person can only take so much. Despite the sad ending for my friend, he still impacted many lives before he passed, including my own. He helped me in being brave enough to share my story and he helped me become more confident in being my true self. Even in those unhappy endings, you can still find some good.
The estimates vary but it is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of women experience baby blues the first two weeks after having a baby. These go away on their own but another 10 to 20 percent develop postpartum mood disorders such as postpartum depression, postpartum OCD or postpartum anxiety. Approximately 10 percent of men do as well. These men and women could be your spouse, your child, your parent, your sibling or other family member, your employee, your boss, your coworker or your friend. Sometimes men or women develop more than one and how long they last can often depend on how quickly they get help. If you do not get help and continue to have more children, they can last for years and symptoms can worsen. Less than one percent of women develop postpartum psychosis which is what you normally see cases of on the news due to women harming themselves and/or their children. Even most women with this disorder do not harm their children. Usually the symptoms are more obvious, so it is caught earlier and they normally get help earlier. What this tells us is that most women get depressed if even for a short time after having a child, but most of them do not end up harming their child. The fear of people thinking they will harm their child is one big reason a lot of people do not get help sooner. They are scared to tell anyone and they feel ashamed for their thoughts, even if they cannot help it and do not act on them.
It is actually more common for the mother to harm herself. Suicide is the leading cause of death in new moms. Others suffer for years, never acting on any possible suicidal thoughts, but suffering in silence while it often starts to affect their entire life including their physical health, their marriage, their job, and their relationship with their children and everyone else around them. Some even abandon their children, but again this is rare. However, thinking it is a pretty common symptom. My daughter was planned, but I still thought I regretted having her at times and wanted to run away to the beach. I never acted on this, but even thinking it hurt my husband and also hurt someone else close to me. It hurt my husband for obvious reasons, but it hurt the other person because they had been told all of their childhood that their mother never wanted them or their siblings, so they were actually angry at me at first for saying it or even thinking it. Their mom truly did not ever want to get married or have kids and was forced out of their home as a teenager into marriage. They eventually saw that I did not truly feel that way and it was something I could not control thinking and did not want to feel. If anything, it eventually made us both more sympathetic to their own mother, whose mental health got worse with every child, and whose choices had never seemed to be her own as she was born in a different time. Her mother also never left, and could have, and she had some good moments as a mom, so where we judged her before, we now both tried to be more sympathetic.
Also, that person has always tried to be the opposite of their mother, always telling her children they were her biggest blessing and always wanting to be a servant to everyone. She is the opposite of her in so many ways and a good mother. However, she has sometimes shown that same resentment as her mother without ever even realizing it, because she has always taken care of others ahead of herself which always results in burnout, because everyone is human. This resulted in her daughter trying to do the same when she became a mom and quickly realizing she needed to take care of herself first, and she needed to teach her daughter to do the same if she was going to break this generational curse. My family and I knew nothing about postpartum mood disorders until I went through one myself, and it almost destroyed my marriage and I did not want to live anymore. After getting help and starting to educate others, older women in my family started to tell me they think they suffered from it too, but they did not realize what it was and just suffered in silence for years. We all now see so many generational curses that this caused or continued. I just want anyone going through this to know, you are not alone and you can get better. A lot of people do not want to talk about it because it is depressing, which is why my book has some humor in it and so do some of my blogs and posts on my pages. Learning to laugh about everything again was another step in healing for me. If mood disorders are not treated, the effects and aftermath can not only last years, the harm it does to individuals and families can last for generations to come.
I am part of a postpartum support group so I can try to help others going through postpartum mood disorders as I once did. I was in a different one years ago that helped me so much. Many times I read about women trying to tell their husbands or doctors how they feel. You would think this may involve them trying, but not being clear enough, because with men especially, you often have to be very clear and direct, they even often tell you this. I once read of a woman who says she told her husband she did not want to live anymore or wanted to run away (not sure how much more direct you can get than that, although she is advised to be more direct and repeat, repeat, repeat), and the responses I have seen from the husband in these posts are the following:
“He tried to reason with logic, I had said this before and he knew I would not do anything.”
“See, this is why I want out of our marriage, you are unhappy too.”
“He said I don’t need medicine, that in the past it made me worse even though I thought it made me better and so did everyone else around me.”
“He says I need to leave then and leave the baby with him, even though he works from home while I am on maternity leave, and he will normally only keep the baby about 30 minutes a week before giving him back.”
These are just a few examples of course. I will also say I have seen some women say the same to the doctors and often get a response that what they are feeling is normal. It is not normal to want to die or run away, and if your doctor says this and does not show immediate care or concern, you should find a new doctor. I know it may seem I should say the same about a husband, but with husbands it is more complicated. Husbands, and most people in general are not trained in postpartum mood disorders. We did not get any info about this when I was pregnant, or after that I recall, and my husband and I ,nor my family knew much about them. Yet husbands are expected to notice if something is wrong with their wife and try to get her to seek help. Often they do, but husbands are usually sleep deprived too, husbands are often missing your old life too and the old you and the old them too, and if you are depressed, your husband has been around you depressed for a while, and being around a depressed person is well, depressing. They may even get depressed themselves.
When I told my spouse, I got a response similar to the second one above. By the time I told him, it was already two years postpartum and our marriage was falling apart. He thought that is why I was miserable, because of our marriage. He thought I was praying not to wake up because of our marriage. He thought he was doing me a favor by leaving, we could both be happy now. Years later, now that I am in a much better place and my marriage is in a much better place, it still baffles me that my husband I both got to such a bad place in life and our marriage that I could tell him I was praying to not wake up anymore, and he did not seem alarmed or concerned and thought the solution was to end our marriage. Ironically, it kind of ended up being the solution. When he left, I got even worse and could no longer hide it from others. That was also the beginning of me openly sharing my story in a way that helped others and eventually helped me as well. My husband and I also eventually worked things out.
I personally was a very happy pretty bubbly person before going through postpartum depression. I did not change overnight, it was a slow process, easier to see looking back, than in the moment of course. When I now tell people I did not want to live anymore, that I prayed to not wake up, that I thought for a second about driving off bridges or into a wall when I was driving alone, that I almost ran away and even drove down the road once, that I no longer worried or cared if an 18 wheeler almost swerved into my lane and that if there had been a pill ever put in front of me that would have painlessly ended it all, I might have taken it, people were shocked. It does not matter if I ever did act on these thoughts or would have or not, the fact that I was feeling like this was not okay and I needed help. When you tell people this though and they don’t seem to think you need help because you have not actually either tried to kill yourself yet or been successful in doing so, you start to think that this is either normal and all mothers feel this way, this must just be how awful motherhood really is, or that you are just a bad mother.
I can say that my husband was very supportive of me taking medication and never responded negatively to that. He probably noticed my medicine helping me before I did, as my doctor even joked might happen. However, I did worry at first he might blame changes in my behavior on my medicine, since men often make jokes about you being on your period, or being an emotional woman when you voice an opinion they are not happy with. My advice to the woman who husband was saying her medicine made her worse was that her husband would find other things to blame her behavior on besides her medicine when he did not like it. She could probably even tell him she quit taking the medicine and he might say he noticed a positive difference. She could then tell him she is still taking the medicine and prove him wrong. My husband also never tried to take our child, or even insinuated doing so and thought I was a great mother. If anything, I wanted him to take her more than he did, because I was overwhelmed. I eventually moved in with my parents for a short time during our separation for some help.
Most mothers with postpartum mood disorders do not ever harm or neglect their children. Unfortunately in the rare instances when they do, the worst cases make the national or international news. When a woman does share that she has thoughts about hurting her child, usually she is sharing them because she knows this is not healthy, and she feels guilt and would never act on them. In most cases she just needs more help and support, not to be guilted, shunned or have her children taken away. It is actually more likely that the mother will neglect or harm herself, but when women share these thoughts, they are often ignored and that really needs to change.
So someone on one of the local city Facebook boards was commenting on a Robin Williams meme, and made some very insensitive comments about suicide, calling those who do it wimps, cowards and selfish. This person had even lost their brother and sister to it. I know some of you have lost ones you love to suicide. Some blame them, some blame themselves. When you go through the stages of grief, anger is one of them, so it is normal to go through a short time where you blame the person, others or yourself, but I think it is important to try and move on from this stage.
If you are blaming yourself and/or others, I have to admit, that when I first survived severe postpartum depression myself, at first, I was upset at those around me for not seeing it and helping, but in years since I have realized, you cannot always help, they do have to want to get better on their own and seek or accept help, but people around you can truly make it easier. Yes, we should reflect on what we might could have done, so that we do it for someone else next time, but you could have done all of that and that person might have made the same decision. I read a quote once that says. “Your wound might not be your fault, but your healing is your responsibility.” Feeling guilty for the rest of your life is not good for you, and is not what your loved one would have wanted.
For those of you blaming the person who is gone, I used to think suicide was selfish too, but now I understand, you actually start to think everyone is better off without you, you are doing them a favor. I also realized I had always had OCD with Anxiety, it just got severe postpartum due to having a baby, around the same time my father and grandfather died, and I was laid off from my job. Then, because of my depression, my husband and high school sweetheart eventually left me (we eventually worked things out when I finally got help). This kind of shame some people give is why I did not speak up. I thought if I just had more faith, prayed more, was just stronger or powered through, I would be okay, but I never was, and got worse, and this might have caused me to end up like those who have ended their own life.
I was always the strong one for everyone, always did everything “right”, so it is disappointing when someone is so miserable they no longer want to live, and judgment and blame are placed on them instead of sympathy, and instead of reflecting on what might could be done better in the future to prevent this from happening to others. Or maybe the person was wimpy and a coward for once because they were so exhausted from not being every other moment of their lives. A lot of times, these people are givers and just give too much of themselves to others, so they are quite the opposite of selfish. I actually decided to become more selfish after going through it, and to take better care of myself, and to “put on my oxygen mask first so I can help others.”
Mental health is as important as physical health, and when it is finally treated as such, I believe suicides can be drastically reduced; but no matter how hard some fight physical illnesses, like cancer, sometimes the disease still takes them, without it being the fault of them or any other person.