As I started to research more about postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, I discovered that depression and anxiety have a genetic component. I started doing my research and polling all of my relatives. Had anyone struggled with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like I had? None of my aunts had struggled like I had. I knew that I was missing something.
I realized that my grandma had two nervous breakdowns before she was even twenty years old. Grandma took “nerve medicine”. I finally found out that she was on anti-anxiety medication at the same time that I found out she had struggled with postpartum depression after one of my uncles was born. I just remembered pills that were two different colors – black and turquoise. Grandma had her medicine, and it never occurred to me to ever take those pills.
As I look back on her life, she practiced the ultimate form of self-care – an afternoon nap. She has been gone over twenty years, and I can still hear the echo of her voice in my ears. As I struggled to come to terms with needing to stay on my medication for the rest of my life, I realized that this is part of a chemical imbalance in my brain. It is genetic. I wish I could go back and talk to her about what it must have been like to struggle with postpartum depression when no one acknowledged it, when people only whispered about mental health. My grandma had a number of risk factors – a miscarriage, an alcoholic father, an unplanned pregnancy, and a previous history of a mood disorder. I cannot begin to comprehend how she raised seven children while helping my grandfather run our family business. An accomplished piano player and a former schoolteacher, she adored watching her children and grandchildren perform. I relied on her steadying influence as I struggled with the transition of my mom going back to work full-time. Grandma always made me feel like I was her favorite. I received her undivided time and attention. I feel her influence every time I sing and dance with my girls. She truly was a Warrior Mom whose love is reflected in her large extended family who still tell her stories years later.