I’m a Postpartum Survivor—but I Could Have Been Lindsay Clancy

The Lindsay Clancy tragedy brought postpartum psychosis into the spotlight. It’s time we give parents the support and care they so desperately need.

A sad mother sitting at home suffering from postpartum depression.

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Postpartum Resources for Parents

If you or someone you know is struggling with a perinatal or postpartum mood disorder, know there is both help and hope. While you can (and should) reach out to a physician, OB-GYN, or a licensed mental health professional, there are other resources too, including:

Many states also offer supplementary support. The key is to speak up and ask for help. You cannot and should not go through this alone.

​​I, like millions of Americans, cannot get Lindsay Clancy out of my mind—and it’s not for the reasons you may think. There are the charges, to be sure. Lindsay faces several counts of murder. Of strangulation. Of assault. Her children are gone. There are three dead littles. Three beautiful babies whose lives ended too soon. And there is her husband who is grieving on so many levels. In so many ways. But my thoughts are with Lindsay because I was her. Because, in many ways, I still am her. Her story could have been mine.

I was just… lucky.

Well, sort of.

You see, in 2013, I gave birth to a healthy and happy child. A beautiful baby girl. Things were great for awhile. I was doe-eyed and sleep-deprived but very much in love. I held her. Kissed her. Sang to her. Nursed her. Our connection was strong, at least for a few days. For, maybe, a month. But then, things changed. I felt distant. Cold. It was like I was coddling and caring for a stranger, one who I despised. I felt angry. All. The. Time. I resented my husband. My baby. My life. And I thought the world would be better off without me. I genuinely believed that to be true.

But, and here’s the big but—the thing I’ve never spoken about or admitted to my husband or therapist or even said out loud—for a while, I thought my daughter would be better off with me… on the other side. I had intrusive thoughts, ones which could and should have ended both of our lives.

"Intrusive thoughts are actually one of the most common symptoms reported by those who manage postpartum mood disorders," says Niya McCray-Brown, LPC, Mental Health America’s community engagement manager. "Although there are a range of conditions that can be classified as postpartum mood disorders, intrusive thoughts are a symptom included in the criteria for almost all of them. Intrusive thoughts look different for each unique individual," she adds. "Examples can include a range of experiences from pervasive negative self-talk to suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Related symptoms such as excessive guilt, sadness/irritability, and loss of pleasure in things that used to bring the individual joy are other very common symptoms of postpartum mood disorders."

Now, I said I was lucky because I was. I recognized something was amiss and spoke out. I tried to get help, but it took eight weeks. For 56 days, I white-knuckled it. I prayed. I hoped. I walked a lot and cried. For 56 days, I slunk around shamefully. I hid behind a smile. A lie. And for 56 days (and then some), I lived minute to minute. We stayed alive because we were lucky, not because there was help or hope.

Kimberly Zapata

It is time we do better—and more—to help the new parents in our lives. It is time we do better—and do more—to help those living with mental illness, and it is time for us to remove both shame and stigma. Let’s change the system for the better.

— Kimberly Zapata

The mental health system is a mess. It is designed to work against us, thanks to insurance obstacles and a lack of providers. Accessibility is a problem. Many cannot get to their appointments due to a lack of transportation. Financial barriers are another concern. Last year, I needed extended care and was told it would be $700 a week—and this with insurance. With a good health plan. And, when it comes to postpartum and perinatal issues, there is shame. Stigma. There are expectations. You should be happy. You are #blessed.

“Stigma and a general lack of understanding of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are one part of the problem,” says Abbie E. Goldberg, a psychology professor at Clark University and clinical psychologist in Massachusetts. “Despite affecting individuals of diverse educational, racial, and cultural backgrounds, new parents who struggle with these conditions are often blamed for them. Access to treatment is also a challenge, especially for those in rural or low-income areas. And people of color, as well as queer parents, may hesitate to ask for help.”

Time is also a barrier, adds Lauren Kerwin, a clinical psychologist in the state of California. “When you're barely managing to get through the day, your physical needs  (eating, sleeping, showering) take precedence over your emotional needs." Who will care for your child is also a cause for concern.

"New parents have a lot going on," McCray-Brown adds. "Often, new parents prioritize the needs of their baby over their own personal needs, and this can be a huge barrier to getting help." This is not ideal, of course, but it is a reality many face.

So while I know many are judging Lindsay, while I know some are condemning her in so many ways, I ask that you remember that she loved her babies. She cared for them, with her whole being. Her whole body. Her whole heart. Her husband spoke out saying, "I want to ask all of you that you find it deep within yourselves to forgive Lindsay, as I have. The real Lindsay was generously loving and caring towards everyone: me, our kids, family, friends, and her patients. The very fibers of her soul are loving.” But her brain was sick. Her chemistry, flawed. And, as such, her judgment was impaired. (I say this not only as a postpartum survivor but as someone who lives with bipolar, too.)

It is time we do better—and more—to help the new parents in our lives. It is time we do better—and do more—to help those living with mental illness, and it is time for us to remove both shame and stigma. Let’s change the system for the better. Let’s help our friends and families get the support they need to be their best and complete selves. Because everyone deserves that—not just those who are lucky. Not just those who can hold on and hold out for 8 weeks (or more).

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