Shreya Mitra, a postpartum depression and cerebral thrombosis survivor, shares her journey towards recovery with us.
A postpartum brain hemorrhage, multiple anxiety attacks and palpitations – were just some of the postpartum challenges that Shreya Mitra faced 7 years ago when her son was born. Today, the 32-year-old has built her identity as Raising Shaan, a maternal mental health advocate on Instagram, hoping to help others overcome the roller-coaster ride of emotions that come with motherhood.
Jamshedpur-based Shreya Mitra began her tryst with social media in 2019. She is know for spreading awareness about postpartum depression and parenting, as well as clubfoot – a birth defect in children – based on her personal experience and journey. She runs a postpartum support group as well as takes workshops to help spread awareness about the challenges of the fourth trimester. Besides this, she is also suicide helpline volunteer and has done her diploma in counselling psychology.
In this Health Shots She Slays interview, Shreya Mitra shares her tryst with PPD and why more women need to acknowledge and seek therapy for long-term wellness.
“I didn’t know if I would come back alive”
While Shreya Mitra’s pregnancy was not medically challenging, many events in her life led to a very stressful pregnancy. She lost her grandmother, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, she dealt with temporary deafness for a month, and her unborn son was diagnosed with clubfoot. All this culminated in her going through brain hemorrhage on the fourth day since her delivery. “I had to leave my 4-day old baby at Jamshedpur and go to Chennai for my treatment. At that point of time, I did not know if I was going to come back alive or not,” she recalls.
“I told myself that my mom fought through cancer and came back alive. I cannot die like this! If I had been 24 hours late, I would have had an attack and then things would have been bad. I was bleeding into my brain. I was temporarily paralysed, I felt numbness. Probably, my hormones were the reason and I was stressed, so maybe that triggered my Cerebral Thrombosis,” she recounts.
“Something had changed in me after I delivered”
The biggest risk in postpartum depression is the fact that the patient might not realise what she is going through. And this was what happened with Shreya Mitra too. “Something in me had changed after I delivered. My husband kept saying, ‘You are so different’. My first anxiety attack was when my son was 21 days old. I didn’t even know it was an anxiety attack back then. But I had all symptoms of PPD; not being able to bond with my child, palpitations, headaches, loss of appetites. My biggest struggle was getting through the day. Just waking up was such a struggle for me. I would wake up and think, I hope I can survive the day. It was very difficult,” she tells Health Shots.
“I thought I was the problem”
New mothers often blame themselves for the the symptoms they experience in PPD. For Shreya, it was no different. “I felt it was me, I was the problem, it was my behaviour. These symptoms are very behavioural in nature; postpartum rage, not wanting to live anymore…It is not visible like an injury. I was losing my willingness to live,” she says.
While she did manage to gather the courage to ask for help, initially it did not work out the way it should have. “I remember posting in a mom’s group asking if anyone had gone through something similar? Someone suggested me to get screened for PPD, and that’s when I looked online and I realised that this resonated with that I was feeling. I went a gynaecologist, who told me that there is no such thing. All the courage that I had gathered to ask, felt like lost hope now,” she says.
Finally, it was her neurologist who came as a beacon of hope. “He said what I was going through sounded like PPD. He educated me about it. It was just so safe to know that it wasn’t me. That’s when my treatment finally began,” she says.
“I want to die, can you help?”
Today, Shreya Mitra shares that she gets at least 10- 12 direct messages on Instagram daily. These come from new mothers wanting to end their lives. Talking about one such call, she says, “It was this mom who hated her baby and husband. She lived abroad and she kept telling her husband, who didn’t know what was happening, to stay at home. She sent me a message, ‘I want to die, can you help?’ The training that I have got is to keep the caller engaged, so I kept talking to her. I got her husband’s number. They lived abroad and eventually came down to India for treatment. That was a close escape as she had it all planned,” she says.
Shreya now wants to reach out to as many women as she can, encouraging them to get help during their postpartum struggles. “I have created a postpartum support group where people can talk about what they are facing. I have a database of good psychiatrists, who people can go to. I have workshops where I talk personally. But I don’t offer therapy as I don’t have a professional degree in that. I have been trained under a psychiatrist to identify and screen for PPD. I also give them guidance on where to go, how to go, hand hold them to make lifestyle changes and guide them to therapy,” she says.
“Mental health screening of new mothers should be made mandatory”
Shreya hopes that through her work, she is able to motivate women to get a mental health screening done at six weeks postpartum. However, she wishes that this becomes the norm as well. “It is time that during your six-week checkup, doctors don’t just see if your uterus has gone back to normal and clear you for sex. It is important that they talk about mental health. That conversation can be a game changer for new parents and for families.”