Maternal Mental Health: Keli’s Story - OC87 Recovery Diaries

Maternal Mental Health: Keli’s Story


Keli was so excited to become a mother.

“I couldn’t wait to meet Maya. I knew that it was all just going to be really natural and really easy, and that I was going know her and she was going know me. And our bodies were going know each other.”

Of course, that’s not what happened.

Instead of some kind of storybook fantasy of first motherhood, Keli experienced fear, anxiety and depression after bringing her daughter home from the hospital.

“I just remember feeling so overwhelmed, like I had made the biggest mistake of my life that I couldn’t take back. Just begging my mom to take me back to the hospital. I needed somebody to take care of me. I just felt completely and totally terrified. I handed the baby to my mom and I said ‘Get her away from me. I can’t do it. I can’t be her mom.’”

At her daughter’s first check-up, an astute pediatrician observed Keli’s symptoms, and recommended she see someone right away for help. Soon after, Keli was diagnosed with postpartum depression, prescribed medication, and started seeing a therapist who helped her understand that what she was experiencing was actually quite common, and that many women dealt with these issues.

“One of the things that really helped to get me through was to hear from my therapist how normal all of the feelings that I was feeling were, and that I didn’t have to be ashamed of that, because there’s so much shame. There’s so much shame associated with taking medication with not breastfeeding because you’re on medication, with feeling afraid of your daughter. . .”

For Keli, the combination of therapy and medication helped her immensely. Because of these steps, her postpartum depression lifted. She also reached out via social media to friends with her struggle and was overwhelmed by the response from men and women who had had similar experiences. Hers was a difficult, heartbreaking journey that ends with healing and hope. Today, Keli’s proudest achievement is being Maya’s mom.

“I want to share my story because I want somebody who’s going through this to know, like, you’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. You will feel that sunshine on your back. And I don’t know when it’s going to happen for you, but it will.”

“Keli’s Story” is the first in our five-part OC87 Recovery Diaries series titled “Holding Space: Stories of Maternal Mental Health.”  The series presents five individuals who tell of touching, challenging journeys with postpartum depression and perinatal anxiety and mood disorders (PMADS). We hope you enjoy these stories and share widely.

Special thanks go to Perri Shaw Borish, psychotherapist, founder of Whole Heart Maternal Mental Health and project advisor to this series.

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITOR: Glenn Holsten | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

Glenn is an award-winning director who loves to create compelling documentary story experiences of all lengths for screens of all sizes. He is an avid reader, studied literature in college, and his passion for stories with strong characters and interesting narratives stems from those years. His career as a visual storyteller began at WHYY (the public television station in Philadelphia) where he worked for 15 years before becoming an independent filmmaker. In addition to his PBS documentaries about arts and culture, he has directed films about justice and human rights, and now, mental health. He was emboldened to undertake his current documentary project, Hollywood Beauty Salon, a colorful feature-length documentary about surviving mental illness and finding the courage for recovery, after his transformative experience directing OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, along with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston.