Unspoken Horror: Postpartum Depression
by Mary Parker
As a lifelong horror fan, I’m used to seeing all kinds of horrors, be it monsters, violence, or otherworldly. Even psychological horrors run amuck (one of my personal favorites). I also find horror therapeutic. After watching a horror film or reading a horror book or story, I feel a sense of release. When I went into recovery for postpartum depression and anxiety, I looked for horror films and fiction that identified with that pain. There weren’t many to be found.
Sure, there’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” But that was written in the late 1800s. I couldn’t find anything more modern. There are lots of horror films that feature mothers in peril or evil babies, or evil/murderous mothers, but that wasn’t quite was I was looking for either. I wanted something that identified the horrors of a new mother’s own mind and showed her triumphant. It seemed that there was an unspoken horror in the genre – and culture at large.
Postpartum depression is not widely talked about, despite being one of the most common birth complications. Recent studies show that between 15-20% of mothers will experience postpartum depression. If left untreated, the condition can worsen, leading to postpartum psychosis. This is, unfortunately, where most media about postpartum depression can be found: true crime. The effects of the illness can be devastating. Research has suggested that there is approximately a 5% suicide rate and a 4% infanticide rate associated with the illness.
As a young mother, I knew plenty of women around my age who had children. I was, seemingly, the only one who had these feelings. So, I set out to write down my story. I would embellish the more horrific moments, of course, but the heart of the story is my truth. The heart of the story is my experience with postpartum depression. We need truth in our fiction. I wanted to show how the best, most rewarding experience of your life can also be the most challenging. I wanted to show the very real, dark thoughts a mother can have. I wanted readers to experience how deeply depraved a mother’s brain can get. I also wanted to show the depths she can bring herself up from. I wanted to show that a mother’s love can conquer all.
We need to speak about these things; we need to break the stigma around them so women can have better access to help and resources.
I have more friends and acquaintances that are mothers than I can count. Yet only one of them was open with her struggles with postpartum depression. When I finished writing The Endless Hallway, I asked her to read the draft. She told me that she was making her husband read it because the story exemplified all the horrible things she felt – and how she rallied against them to stay alive for her family.
That’s all I really want for The Endless Hallway. I want the novella to be a light and a safe space for mothers who live in the darkness. I want mothers who have overcome their demons to see themselves truthfully represented in horror fiction. But most of all, I want the world at large to experience the very real horrors life has to offer.
If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression, help is available. Go to postpartum.net or text HELP to 800-944-4773
The Endless Hallway, by Mary Parker
The Endless Hallway is currently available on:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Mary Parker is a horror author and journalist from Southern Illinois. She has worked for examiner.com and horrornews.net. A collection of short stories, Predilection, was published in 2009. Her work can also be found in the anthologies Vampires Aren’t Pretty and Slaughter House: The Serial Killer Edition, Vol. 2. Her story, Sweet Nightmares, placed in the top 100 of Wattpad’s Horror Contest sponsored by TNT. She is a proud contributor to, supporter of, ans past ambassador of Women in Horror Month. Visit her Amazon Author Page at: Mary Parker.