I stopped recognizing myself.
Shortly, after my second daughter was born I knew something was going on with me. The anxiety and quick temper were more than just typical ‘new mom’ stress or baby blues. My husband encouraged me to talk to my doctor, but I was hesitant. Besides the stigma of postpartum depression (PPD) and feeling like I was a failure for having this mental disorder, I also worried about his career. I knew that treatment would go on my medical record, which could affect future orders and PCS moves. Rather than risk impacting our military life, I huddled down and kept my mouth shut for the next few months with hopes that the issue would pass.
The Overseas Screening Process for Military Families
You see, if you are sent overseas for your next duty station everyone in the family must go through a screening process. This includes medical testing and an extensive look at medical records. Many people are denied overseas orders or their orders are changed to unaccompanied because someone in their family does not pass the screening process. The reasons for denial can be something as simple as asthma or as extreme as mental disorders. I knew that if I were treated for postpartum depression that my husband would be denied overseas orders, or he would be going alone.
Eventually my postpartum depression got better, but like an unwelcome friend it returned with a vengeance after my third daughter was born. This time it was stronger and harder to contain. People outside my family could see I was struggling, but I still didn’t want to visit a doctor about it for fear of how it might change upcoming orders for our family. My husband convinced me that my health was far more important than a set of orders, so I finally, after three rounds of trying to fight this on my own, spoke to my doctor.
As I sat in the waiting room, I began to think of how many other women have been in my position. How many other military spouses or service members have not sought the help they needed for fear of repercussions? It took me almost five years to have the courage to step into the office and admit that I needed help. Would I have gone sooner if I wasn’t worried about my husband’s career?
What the Military Says
Each person who is listed as a dependent on the service member’s overseas orders are required to complete an overseas screening process. Due to the different resources available on different bases and locations, each screening process and reasons for denial of orders are different. However, for most locations on-going mental care, especially those requiring therapy and/or medication is something that is cause for immediate denial of orders simply because the overseas medical staff is not equipped to handle such cases.
One out of 7 women experience postpartum depression, according to the American Psychological Association. That number only reflects reported cases. It is likely that a higher number of cases go unreported for a range of reasons, to include similar examples to the one cited in this article – fear of the impact of coming forward. The Centers for Disease Control reports the following symptoms as to be associated with PPD:
- Crying more often than usual.
- Feelings of anger.
- Withdrawing from loved ones.
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
- Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby.
Where to Get Help
Despite postpartum depression being a common discussion point in prenatal care, many women still do not understand the broad range of symptoms that can stem from it. If you would like to learn more about postpartum depression and how to find help, check out some of the resources below:
- Postpartum Progress: A wonderful website that explains the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety as well as specialists in your area that can give you the help you need.
- Tricare: Tricare’s coverage on mental health disorders including postpartum depression.
- Military One Source: Military One Source has several services available including counselors who will speak with you over the phone 24/7. This is open to both dependents and active duty members- 1-800-342-9647
If you or someone you know may be suffering from postpartum depression, please do not be discouraged. Help is out there for you, and you are not alone.
* This article does not take the place of any medical advice. Please seek help from your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms related to postpartum depression. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or someone around you, seek help immediately.