Warning: this is a sad post involving postpartum depression and physician suicide.
I had a friend from medical school come visit this weekend with her husband, which was absolutely wonderful and much needed for all of us. They played with my kids and cheerfully put up with a quick park stop (because lord knows a 3 year old can never pass a park without stopping). Unfortunately, she also shared with me that one of our medical school classmates and a friend of ours had recently ended her life after a struggle with severe postpartum depression. She had a daughter a few years older than my son, a newborn son, and a husband. I checked her Facebook to see if there were any updates there - and all I saw was a glowing maternity photo of her husband’s arms wrapped around her, and a warm photo of her snuggling her daughter and newborn infant. I couldn’t imagine how much pain she had been in to leave these faces behind.
It made me think back to earlier this year when I found out one of my very best friends also had postpartum depression - she posted it on Facebook that she was seeking help, and I was ashamed that I hadn’t called or texted or done anything to see if she was ok in the last few weeks. We talked on the phone afterward about how the loneliness of COVID made pregnancy and the postpartum period so difficult, and how so many people had reached out to her after that Facebook post, opening up about their own personal struggles. And of course it made me think about my own recent maternity leave. 12 weeks of maternity leave in the winter of COVID was the loneliest thing I have ever experienced. It was both lovely and awful in its monotony - it felt like one long day of sitting on the couch with a newborn and watching a preschooler play legos. I was lucky to have my husband working from home and a support network that was open to late night zoom calls with a bouncing baby on my chest. I had to frequently remind myself that this was a time like no other, a time to shelter my children from the rising COVID trends, and I would never get this much time alone with my children again - but there was definitely more than a little relief in returning to my job and a more consistent schedule.
This is not the first physician suicide in the medical school classes surrounding mine - and I really haven’t been out that long. Learning of my friend’s death was a harsh reminder of the terrible frequency of physician suicides and how deadly postpartum depression really can be.
Last night, I spent the evening snuggling with family and holding my little ones a little tighter. I wanted to make some space for my friend, but really didn’t know how - so I’m sharing her story here in this community, where my fellow mothers in medicine can help remember her and hold space for her with me. So if you’re reading this, light a candle, say a prayer, close your eyes and send warmth to her family - but most importantly, check in with the moms around you, because sometimes people are just not okay.
Love to all,