‘You are not alone’: nurses share their stories of postpartum mental health struggles

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 6:45 PM EDT
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WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - A pair of local nurses are sharing their stories of postpartum mental health struggles in the hopes of helping others.

Their message: you are not alone.

“My story, it was tough, it was a struggle, but it brought me here today and I’m truly so thankful to be able to help even just one mom,” said Amanda Brown, RN, postpartum mental health advocate.

After years of infertility and miscarriages, Brown’s pregnancy was a dream come true. But what followed the birth of her daughter in 2014 was a nightmare.

“I started having hallucinations and delusions. I was actually talking to a man in my bedroom that nobody else could see, nobody else could hear,” Brown said.

On top of postpartum depression and anxiety, Brown was experiencing postpartum psychosis.

She was admitted to a mental health facility, started therapy, and thanks to a strong support system, got the help she needed.

“It was the scariest time of my life, but it saved my life and it saved my daughter’s life,” Brown said.

“It really all started when I was a teenager. I became pregnant with my oldest child, Hunter,” said Sarah Cook, RN, perinatal mental health advocate.

Cook suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety and, likely, postpartum OCD after the birth of her first son.

She wasn’t diagnosed until years later.

That’s one reason she became an obstetrics nurse - so she could be there for other vulnerable women.

“I have been able to help teach a lot of patients and their families what to look for, and I have seen them come back later saying I’m so glad that you know, you told me about this and told me where I can seek help because I did experience this,” Cook said.

“I knew my story had to mean something. I knew something meaningful had to come from it,” Brown said.

Brown, too, is using her training as a nurse to help others.

She helped start a weekly perinatal support group, Tree of HOPE, that’s growing within the Northern Light system, and still facilitates the program. She also started working as a Maine Postpartum Support Coordinator for Postpartum Support International. It’s a free resource available 24/7.

And Brown and Cook aren’t done yet.

They’re both organizing public awareness events called Climb Out of the Darkness.

“It’s just a walk down the riverfront. Gathering, sharing stories of recovery, giving hope to moms who might be currently struggling, and offering resources to families,” Brown said.

The Climbs are happening right in the heart of the community as a public display of support and encouragement to those struggling.

“There is hope and there is support around,” Cook said.

Brown will be hosting a Climb Out of the Darkness event on June 24 in Waterville.

It’s scheduled from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at North Street Recreational Park.

To register, click here: https://www.classy.org/team/473210.

Cook is having her event this fall in Belfast.

We’ll share more details as that gets closer.