This topic is one that is very dear to my heart, and simultaneously is also very hard for me to write about. It is an open wound that will always be tender; and with time, less painful, but it will always be there. It has, in a lot of ways, shaped me, shaped the way I think about other women, and about mental illness.

I am a survivor, and also a victim, to a devastating illness that can happen to new parents (moms, dads, and even adoptive parents). The cause is debatable; is it situational, hormonal, or both?

After the birth of my first child at age 21, I had terrible, terrible, postpartum depression. I remember feeling ashamed, and alone. Prior to my experience I thought that mental illness was a weakness, a character flaw that affected other people, and unfortunately, one that I did not show much compassion for. It was something I could overcome myself, by sheer "will;" that if I prayed enough, was strong enough, exercised enough, was positive enough, I could make it stop! It was something, at the time, that I knew absolutely nothing about, and my mother (who is a mother of four) never suffered from. I was terrified.

Being a mother was the single, most important thing I would ever do; it's all I ever really wanted to be. I knew that being a good mom would be the most everlasting imprint that I would make on this earth; I subscribe to the mindset that our children are our legacy. Beauty, is temporary, and will fade; just like fame, even fortune, but being a parent, loving a child, it will change this world. So, as you can see, being a mom is very important to me, and here I was going off the deep end, and losing my mind.

The type of Postpartum Depression I had, is what they call Postpartum OCD. It is characterized by awful thoughts. They're typical of people with OCD and are intrusive, meaning they just pop up. It's not something you are actively thinking about, or planning, nor is it something you want to think about, it just happens. It is normally "what if" type thoughts that quickly spiral out of control. These types of thoughts are thoughts that everyone has, but people with OCD or Postpartum OCD become affected by them, where the majority of people can just shrug them off as simply a "weird thought."

It didn't start until after I had my son, and was almost immediate; getting worse with time. It would be things where I was afraid I would abandon him, or I didn't sleep all night because I was afraid he would stop breathing. I would spend hours with my hand on his stomach while he slept, just to make sure. Then I would be on a walk, taking in the sunshine, and a car would pass, I'd be afraid at first that they might hit us, then I would be afraid that I would push the stroller in front of the car. Just horrible, terrible thoughts, that scared the daylights out of me, all the time. I was scared of everything, and even worse I was scared of myself. All I kept thinking was this is the most important thing I will ever do, being a mom, and I'm already a failure.

I thought that I didn't deserve this beautiful, innocent child; that he deserved better. In my eyes I was a monster. A terrible mother, who didn't want to be alone with her child, who didn't smile, who spent all day in the bathroom crying, praying for God to take me. It was a very bleak time for me.

It must have been apparent that I was struggling; looking back I think it had to be, but I couldn't talk about it. I couldn't admit to the terrible thoughts I was having. What would you think?

I was afraid I'd be judged as selfish, and ungrateful, a monster, undeserving, all these horrible adjectives described me. People can say and think the meanest things about each other, especially when they haven't experienced it themselves (prior I was one of those people). It isolates women, it tears apart families, it kills! It is a real issue.

Not speaking out was my biggest mistake, being afraid of what other people might think robbed me of my joy and precious, precious, time with my baby that I will never have back. That is what, still to this day, hurts the most! That is what prompts me to write about this. It's in hope, that by me sharing what I went through, it will give another women courage to get help. To know that she is not alone.

My depression, and anxiety, and the thoughts had gotten so bad, that I had started to consider suicide. I wasn't rational at the time, so far gone...my mindset was that my son deserved better, and all I could think about were situations like Andrea Yates, and what if that's what was happening to me, and if it was going to be him or me, it was going to be me.

How scary is that?

How sad?

When that type of thinking started to sound logical, when it stopped scaring me, thank God, I had the presence of mind to check my self in somewhere. Thank God, that I was still well enough to think that my child deserved his mother, I was still in there somewhere and I couldn't leave him behind.

I voluntarily stayed at Palmetto Behavioral Health for a week, long enough to get on some medication, and talk to someone, and come up with a game plan. It wasn't instantaneous: recovery; no, it was a long road ahead. I went to therapy for a year and a half, and took antidepressants (which helped me tremendously). It took a lot of time though to repair my self esteem as a person, and my confidence as a mother.

Once I started feeling better I went to the library, arming myself with information. I read Brooke Shield's book "Down Came the Rain: My Journey through Postpartum Depression," and Marie Osmond's "Behind the Smile," Dr. Shoshana Bennett's "Beyond the Blues." I needed to constantly remind myself that it wasn't my fault, I didn't somehow "bring it on," it wasn't a character flaw, and I wasn't alone. That was very important to me; to know that I was not alone in my suffering, that there is hope.

I contacted Helena Bradford, founder of the Ruth Rhoden Craven Foundation in Charleston, SC because I wanted to help somehow. At the time, I thought it would be good for me to surround myself with other women who were going through the same thing. The truth was, though, at that time, I wasn't well enough to hear about other people's struggles without it bringing up my own insecurities and setting me back some in my own progress. So unfortunately, I did not get to help. Helena's daughter Ruth's story is somewhat similar to my own. It's heart breaking, because I know that her story could've been my own.

Helena does wonderful things to bring awareness to Postpartum Depression. Please check out her website at PostpartumSupport.org .

I now have a daughter, too, who is 18 months old. I am happy to say that this time it was a completely different experience. There is quite a big age gap between them. We waited until my son was in Kindergarten to become pregnant again; just in case. I wanted to shield him from seeing any sadness, thankfully, that did not come. Like I said, the experience, it will always stay with you. There was a fear, on my part, to risk going through it again (even though I truly believe it wouldn't have been the same, I was armed, this time, to take it on). There are days, where, I feel a deep sadness for the blur of time while I was suffering needlessly with my son. Especially, because I, now, know the joy that I should've felt from the beginning. My only regret is that I didn't get help sooner.

I would like to let those out there know, who may be going through some of the same things right now, that there is hope, things do get better, and the most important thing you can do for yourself, and for your child, and for your family is SPEAK UP! There is no shame. It is not something that you did wrong. It just happens. It happens to so many of us.