The Benefits of Postpartum Depression

Yes, you read that title right.

I have long been an advocate for postpartum depression awareness, understanding, and education. I’ve helped hundreds of mothers and families heal through warmline support, support groups, education, and therapy. I’ve written articles about postpartum depression treatment, about the spectrum of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, about postpartum OCD, the stigma of postpartum psychosis, and produced an internationally-sold DVD, Postpartum Couples (now free online, click here). I’ve even shared my own experiences with postpartum depression and anxiety, including my biggest struggles and what I believe others most need to know.

But today, I want to take a different approach to this topic that’s so near and dear to my heart. Today, I wish to focus on the benefits of PPD.

 

After baby #3, happy in the hospital. PPD & anxiety set in just days later.

 

PPD is HARD.

If you’re in the thick of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, or psychosis, you’re probably thinking I’ve lost my mind. How could there be benefits to this thing that intrudes into your life in the very moment you most want to be at your best, that attacks your identity, sense of self-worth, and the ability to connect and bond with your baby, partner, and family?

If you’re mid-way through the healing process, you might feel some of these benefits, or you might not—yet.

If you’ve made it safely to the other side of PPD, you’ve hopefully experienced some of these benefits and understand first hand what I’m talking about, but again, maybe not. Each of us is different, and our experiences are unique.

Wherever you are in your PPD experience, one thing is abundantly clear: just because I’m writing about the benefits of postpartum depression in no way takes away from the pain, suffering, and heartache of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. It in no way takes away from how hard it is to finally find a way to overcome these disorders, to find the right treatment, and to do the work required to heal. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are absolutely among the most difficult of life’s challenges.

Loving my baby girl, but exhausted. This is reality.

 

The PPD Paradox

The paradox is that while postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and psychosis are gut-wrenching experiences for the whole family, they are also some of the most fertile soil for personal growth—if we “plant ourselves and grow.” (As I write in This is How We Grow.)

Yes, PPD is hard. AND, it also yields fruit, gifts for our growth and development. As a psychologist working with postpartum women and a 4-time PPD survivor, I’ve seen it over and again. Just like the “gifts” of grief and loss and heartache and other life challenges, of which I have also personally experienced many, if we look for and see them, the benefits of postpartum depression are plentiful.

 

Just weeks after our family went from three to six kids, I posed us for a Christmas card pic. Can you see the fear in my eyes as I pulled myself together to be the mom everyone needed me to be?

Top 10 Benefits of Postpartum Depression

So, what are they–these gifts? The following is my top 10 list of benefits of postpartum depression. You might have some of your own to add to my list. I hope you do. If nothing else, I hope this gets your mind focused on the belief that perhaps I’m right. Just maybe, postpartum depression can end up bringing benefits that somehow make it all worthwhile.

1) Understanding. Not only do we understand postpartum depression, or anxiety, or whatever it is we’ve gone through after childbirth; we understand similar experiences better, too. Experiences like death and loss and heartache and illness and pain and general life distress become more real and relatable after going through PPD.

2) Compassion and Empathy. This understanding brings greater compassion and empathy, which I’ve long believed to be one of the greatest benefits of going through PPD or any major life challenge. We simply “get it,” because we’ve been through it. That makes us more likely to know how to be there for others, as well, in ways we otherwise couldn’t have done.

3) Humility. When you’ve hit your lowest point, there’s no other way but humility. Humility in admitting something’s wrong. Humility in seeking help. Humility in letting help in. Humility is, ironically, one of the most powerful traits we can develop. It means we are teachable. It means we’re willing to see what needs to change and change it. It means we’re letting go of the ego and achieving personal growth.

4) Character. We’ve all heard how life challenges build character; sometimes we might roll our eyes hearing this, especially while in the midst of those life challenges. But it’s true. We develop newfound strength, fortitude, skills, and abilities through overcoming PPD. This has the potential to make us into someone even greater than before.

5) Self-confidence. Watching ourselves overcome PPD shows us we can do it, and if we can do this, we can do anything. We have the ability to do hard things. PPD can show us just what we’re made of, which in turn can lead us to overcome other life challenges, too. As we strengthen our self-confidence, we’re more likely to speak up when we need something, to ask for help before we get to a breaking point, and to talk to others about PMADs so we can help them do the same. (Watch “How to Speak Up, Ask For, & Receive What You Need,” or listen on Motherhood Radio/TV.)

 

6) Self-worth. Self-confidence is just one aspect of self worth, which is often crushed by perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Feeling embarrassed, guilty, self-hateful and worthless are part of these heart-wrenching disorders. I’ve found I almost always need to work on rebuilding self-worth my postpartum clients. However, doing the work of postpartum healing can lead to a deeper sense of self-worth, which can fuel your confidence, belief in, and even love for yourself moving forward. Such an important gift!

7) Charity. When we understand something like postpartum depression and have that newfound compassion, and empathy for others, along with a stronger self-confidence, character and self-worth, we often desire to give back. So many of the best PPD support persons, organizations, treatment providers, and advocates are PPD survivors. We’ve been there. We get it. We want to help others. This help is invaluable, showing others they’re truly not alone and modeling for others that healing is not only possible but we can flourish after PPD, too. (Watch “When the Bough Breaks: The Reality of PPD,” or listen on Motherhood Radio, here.)

 

8) Appreciation and gratitude. Those who have suffered greatly often find a new appreciation, awareness, and gratitude for life. We recognize the good and work to never take for granted when things go well. We feel grateful for ours and our family’s health and wellness, because we know how easily it can be taken away. We express that gratitude more, knowing how important gratitude is to our own, and others,’ healing and happiness. Yes, appreciation and gratitude are keys to flourishing.

8) Joy, hope, and love. Starting off with so many challenges may seem antithetical to hope, joy, and love, but in truth, it is an opportunity for greater abundance of these things. Being without hope or unable to feel joy or love shows us just how valuable these gifts are and just how badly we desire them. Working on feeling these things again can lead us to never take them for granted once they are replenished, and can lead to a greater ability to share these powerful experiences with our family, friends, and others, creating a cycle of joy, hope and love that repeats.

10) Deeper sense of who you truly are. All of these things help us see and feel and experience our true potential. We’ve overcome PPD. We’ve become more of who we’re meant to be, and now, we can use these experiences to flourish! Postpartum depression just might be the thing that leads us to become our best self; it certainly has been for me. PPD has fueled my work and compassion and service and love–for my family and for all others. As we receive all these gifts, these benefits of PPD, we just might find that without PPD we wouldn’t be who, and where, we are today. I know I certainly wouldn’t be.

This is us, Christmas Day, 2016. Hard to believe how far we’ve come–and how far I’ve come, because of the gifts of PPD.

 

What benefits of PPD have you discovered? Do you agree that PPD, as with all other major life experiences, offers gifts? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings, so leave a comment, below!

 

 

 

 

 

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About Dr. Christina Hibbert

Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. She really hopes you’ll join the Personal Growth Group and choose to grow together!

Comments

  1. Hannah Stearley says:

    I love, love, love this. I truly feel that I have received all of these gifts. Compassion and understanding being huge ones. I used to be judgmental of things like bottle feeding and leaving your baby with a sitter overnight. But I HAD to do those type of things to survive and I will never judge another mom for doing whatever it is she has to do to be happy. 🙂 I also have a huge amount of love and appreciation for those that helped me and through their help I know that they love me.

    • I know that they love you, too. Thank you for this comment, Hannah. You are a wonderful example of putting these gifts into action and helping others. You have made a huge difference in the lives of many because of all you’ve been through! xoxo

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