Holding Space: Stories of Maternal Mental Health
“Holding space” is a term used often in the therapy community. A quick Google search and a chat with a therapist friend tell us that it means all good things — being physically, mentally, and emotionally present for someone; putting your focus on someone to support them as they feel their feelings; being with someone without judgment, but with empathy and compassion.
Hopefully, this new OC87 Recovery Diaries series titled “Holding Space: Stories of Maternal Mental Health” honors the term and the women who courageously chose to participate in it. Our series presents five individuals who tell of heartbreaking and challenging journeys with postpartum depression and perinatal anxiety and mood disorders (known as PMADS). Their stories of sadness and struggle are counteracted by each woman’s steely resolve to get better.
“There are a lot of myths about motherhood,” says Perri Shaw Borish, psychotherapist, founder of Whole Heart Maternal Mental Health and series project advisor. “So, when your expectations don’t match reality, there’s a lot of anxiety in that. And that’s often the case when someone has a baby. Right? Because your life is turned upside down. It’s not at all what you imagined because who could imagine that? And, if you don’t meet your own expectations or your own sort of fantasy of or projection of what you thought you were going to be like as a mother, or what motherhood would be like, there can be a lot of guilt and shame in that.
“What we hear over and over again is that they feel isolated, they feel alone, they think they’re the only person that’s having this experience.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, postpartum depression affects up to 15% of people. People with postpartum depression experience emotional highs and lows, frequent crying, fatigue, guilt, anxiety and may have trouble caring for their baby. The good news is that postpartum depression is treatable. With informed care, women can prevent a worsening of symptoms and can fully recover.
According to Perri, telling these journeys of recovery is as important as telling stories of hardship. “The thing that is also really important to point out is that all of [the women in this series] got well because they got treatment,” she says. “They didn’t stop asking for help, and along the way some provider said ‘Hey, this is not how you have to feel’ and pointed them in the right direction to get on a path of wellness.”
I’m incredibly grateful to the fierce and brave women who are featured in this series: Jabina, Liz, Keli, Samantha, and Regina. We all have a lot to learn from each person. I’m inspired by their activism, thankful for their belief in the project, and appreciative for their willingness to share their stories so openly.
I’m also indebted to Perri for being such a great support for this series, and for her help on the days of filming. “Storytelling is how people make meaning of their lives,” says Perri. I couldn’t agree more. These stories help us make meaning out of our lives and, hopefully, help us feel less alone as we hold space for one another.