How Instagram Helped Me Heal From Postpartum Depression

With my firstborn, my husband worked from home. If I needed something or just wanted to talk to someone, I had him. But with my second, my maternity leave was very lonely, he now worked out of the house. I was suddenly alone with two kids under 2.

I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety and felt very ashamed of my diagnosis. I tried to get the help I desperately wanted, but there were many obstacles in front of me: unhelpful doctors, waiting lists for other doctors, and even terrible counsellors who made me feel worse. I spent a lot of my time nursing my daughter while trying to entertain my son with whatever I could. Unfortunately, because of how I felt, I used the T.V. to keep him busy while I nursed. Meanwhile, I scrolled Instagram.

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Instagram is known for its curation of beautiful images. What makes it different from Facebook or Twitter is that it is an image-based social media tool. Users scroll the feed and are drawn into others’ photos. Sometimes you can get sucked into how perfect everyone’s lives look online. With it, you can share the pieces of your life that you want to share.

But it’s just that: a snippet of a time in your life. Not your whole life. Thinking everyone has a perfect life or that they are managing their lives way better than you can take a toll on your mental health. There have been studies conducted revealing that Instagram can have a negative impact on your mental health. The unrealistic expectations posed by those users depicting the perfect life leaves other users with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. 

My initial experience with Instagram was admiring the mothers who seemed to have it all together. They showered daily, they put makeup on, they were fit and put together; they looked amazing wearing their babies while picking apples in the fall. They were able to make a living while staying at home with their children.

I longed for that; I longed to have even part of motherhood figured out; I longed to look somewhat presentable. I would beat myself up for not being more like that, which probably just contributed to my feeling of failure and inadequacy.

Then I read an article that depicted exactly how I was feeling in motherhood. The authour of the article also had experienced postpartum depression when she had her children, and it was the first time I read something that made me feel like someone got me. She made me feel a little less alone in this world. At the end of the article, it included her Instagram handle and I spent the next few days reading all her posts, especially those relating to her struggle with PPD.

I felt a little less scared knowing there was someone else out there who felt like I did. I mustered up the courage to tell her how much her article meant to me and that I had been struggling with PPD myself. She was so sweet to me, encouraging me to keep reaching out for help and not to give up and that I would feel better eventually.

Her response was exactly what I needed to hear and I began looking up other moms with PPD through different hashtags. I got lost in reading their experiences and encouragement for other mothers to seek help. It was a beautiful community that allowed me to heal a little bit and pushed me to get better help; that I wouldn’t always feel like this.

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It is estimated that 70-80% of all mothers will have the ‘baby blues’ within the first two weeks after birth; 1 in 7 women will experience the more severe version, postpartum depression within the first year of birth. Sadly, that is only the statistics for women who have been treated for PPD; it’s hard to know how many women actually go undiagnosed even though they are experiencing the symptoms of PPD.

Some experts have even said that the amount of those women who suffer from a perinatal mood disorder could be double what the current statistics show because of the women who do not get help.

So why would a mother who was suffering from depression and anxiety not get help? There are very many reasons for it. Admitting you need help or even that you are not feeling quite right can make you feel like a failure or a bad mother. It’s why so many women don’t speak up; they are afraid a diagnosis will label them a bad mother or their children will be taken away. So, they suffer in silence, not reaching out, not getting help and simply hiding from the world.

Sometimes the smallest step is the hardest one. By reading about other mothers’ experiences, it can allow you to reach out for help, because you no longer feel like you are alone or a bad mother. There are others like you, feeling the same thing, worrying the same worries, but they received the help they needed.

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There are so many positive Instagram posts encouraging women to seek help for their postpartum depression and users who are posting on the platform as a means to educate others on the effects of PPD. While there are a lot of perfectly curated accounts, there are just as many women trying to change the world by offering hope, encouragement and education about meaningful issues.

Without having found this community, I’m not sure where I would be. It allowed me to research ways I could help myself and eventually how I could help others. It’s how I learned more about becoming a postpartum doula and it led me to my training. While it has its downfalls, it also has its bright spots, such as bringing hope to the hopeless and being the light when everything else feels dark. It provides a community all in support of one another and their healing and to me, that is more important than the perfect photo of the mother wearing her baby, looking fit and happy.

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